Okay friends! We’re leaving the first five books and moving on to Joshua. I have to say, even though I rarely hear Joshua preached or taught on, I’ve discovered so many tasty nuggets in this book. Let’s take a look.
I love how we first find Joshua. He’s terrified! Well, it doesn’t specifically say he is, but wouldn’t you be? “Hi, remember Moses? The one I used to stand up to the Egyptians and deliver my nation from slavery and lead them through the desert for forty years? The one I talked to on a daily basis? Well, you’re taking his place.”
Plus, Joshua’s call isn’t to just lead the children of Israel in a desert circle; he will captain the conquering army of the Lord. Remember who he had to defeat? Joshua himself witnessed the giants when he spied on the land forty years earlier. He gets the near impossibility of this mission.
But the main reason we can assume Joshua shakes in his sandals is because God repeatedly commands him to “Be strong and courageous” and “Don’t be frightened.” Four times in one chapter. God knows Joshua’s heart, and says what Joshua needs to hear.
Woven throughout God’s words, we find the reason why Joshua has no reason to worry.
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Josh. 1:5b)
I will be with you! The Emmanuel Promise again. (I told you it’s all over the place.)
I love how Joshua embraces this promise. As he steps into his new leadership role, he doesn’t make a move until he hears from God. Like a child unsure of his first steps, he constantly looks to the Father for guidance. “Is this what you want me to do?”
We think of Joshua as a mighty captain of the Lord’s army, and he was, but his burly awesomeness came because he possessed a childlike, completely reliant faith. “Father, I can’t replace Moses without you! I have zero ability to conquer these giants. Tell me what to do. You are the mighty one. I will do what you tell me and trust you to work out the results.”
How much this relates to my life! When battles come, with every step, I must trust Him—cling to him—like a child. He doesn’t tire of my weak neediness. He wants me to rely on him, completely.
And God doesn’t tire of guiding Joshua. In the first six chapters, “The Lord said to Joshua” repeats seven times, each before a big event.
Huge, strongly fortified city. The Jericho-ites heard about how God led the Israelites through the Red Sea. They knew the mighty enemies the Lord conquered, and all this news caused their hearts to “melt with fear.” So they hunker down. “No one goes in or out. Don’t let those guys come NEAR us.”
But Joshua knows God called him to conquer even this unconquerable city. What to do? Joshua does what he’d done before. He waits for the Lord’s instruction. When it comes, it’s pretty weird.
Here’s what you do. March silently for six days. On the seventh day, march again seven times, then blow the trumpets and shout. That should do it.
Joshua doesn’t balk at this odd command like other biblical figures. He immediately obeys. They march. They shout. The city falls.
Joshua rocks! He obeys, listens to God, is strong and courageous. I wonder if the people think he’s the promised Messiah from Genesis 3:15–the one who would crush the serpent’s head. His name means, “God saves.” He’s got all the Messiah qualities you could ask for. Man, I want to be like Joshua.
But sadly, he’s not perfect. So no, he’s not the Messiah. He’s not Emmanuel. His obedience points to someone greater. And his disobedience…well…let’s see what happens.
What happens next? After Jericho falls, sin infiltrates the camp, and they lose the battle of Ai. Many Israelites die.
Yep, and in all the verses about this battle, never once do we see Joshua asking for God’s guidance. We find no “And God said to Joshua” here. This verse holds a key:
So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land. (Josh. 6:26-27, ESV)
Joshua became popular. The folks around him probably praised him. “Wow, Joshua, you really are as good as Moses. All the nations fear you.” And perhaps he started relying on himself. He pridefully took the reigns from God’s hand. “I’m a big deal now, God. Did you see that Jericho battle. I can do anything.”
What a dangerous temptation pride is! When God wins battles in my life–when I actually notice growth in my spiritual walk–oh, it’s too easy to let go of my Father’s hand and run into danger. “I’ve got this, God!” Then …
Just like when Joshua stopped calling on God, he lost the battle of Ai–and caused those following him great pain–so do I. Sin quickly creeps in. I struggle with self-righteousness. I struggle with impatience. Fear. Anxiety. How I must cling to my Commander to overcome these enemies.
Fortunately, we have a Captain even better than Joshua. That baby in the manger grew to manhood, yet never lost his childlike love for his father. He perfectly listened, relied on God, and obeyed—every day of his life, every moment. Jesus never let go of his Father’s hand.
And when a greater battle than Ai, or Jericho, or any other, came–the battle for our souls over death, sin, and Satan himself–Jesus fought to the death, and by his death, he conquered. He toke his people’s sins on himself and bestowed life onto those who lack the faith he had, on those of us like Joshua who let go, who forget to trust, who whine and worry, who live in fear.
What amazing love.
What about Joshua? God didn’t leave Joshua in his defeated state. He rooted out the sin in the camp, then called Joshua to repent. How like our Father. He loves us enough to discipline us. He lets us suffer for a short time, in order to increase our faith, our reliance on him. Joshua did repent and all of Israel gathered for a worship service of sacrifice and to hear the word. Then, God once again led them to victory, as they relied on him.
Jesus calls us to a childlike faith because a great battle wages for our souls. He knows our propensity to run into battle, like a child with a stick for a sword, not realizing the great danger around. To keep us safe, he, our leader, uses the stresses and tragedies of this life to train us up to trust in his skilled hand. He would have us hide in the shelter of his fortress, to guide and lead us. He knows we will never “grow up” to a point when we don’t need him every moment.
The Christmas season brings a whole barrage of battles, doesn’t it? Family conflict, stirred-up sadness over missed loved ones, money stress, striving to create the perfect holiday for your family…Dear friends, these aren’t yours to battle alone. Ponder the baby in the manger this day, and let his fragile infant state remind you of your own desperate need for him. Throw your arms around the Lord with abandon. He will never leave you or forsake you.
Remember he loves you like there’s no tomorrow.
Shine your light: What are your battles this Christmas? You’re not alone, and you’ll encourage others that they’re not alone either.