‘MOSES MY SERVANT IS DEAD’ – what a blank this must have left in the hearts of the children of Israel. The one leader they had known had been taken from them at a most critical juncture – on the eve of the crossing of the flooded Jordan and the conquest of the Promised Land. There was no need for them to be concerned as to the future however, for one, fully prepared of God, was ready to take over the leadership of the nation. What greater encouragement could they have had than to be led by one who bore that name which is divine – Joshua, the ‘Salvation of Jehovah’? This was the one who was to lead them into Canaan and to apportion the inheritance.
Moses led the Israelites out from Egypt, Joshua led them into the land. These two characters were necessary to picture the Lord, who combines in Himself all of which they speak. He is both our Redeemer and our Leader into the inheritance, superior by far to these Old Testament saints, Heb. ch. 3 and 4. From time to time the companies of God’s people are faced with a similar position. Those who have faithfully led the local flock are called away and there is oft-times a tendency to assume that adequate successors cannot be found. To think thus is to limit the power of God, for if His Word has been obeyed He will have been preparing those who are to assume responsibility, just as He had done with Joshua. Therefore it will be rewarding to see just how God dealt with him.
His early history in bondage in Egypt is not recorded. It may be that his parents’ faith had been exercised and that this resulted in his bearing the name of Hoshea, meaning deliverance or salvation. He experienced the deliverance of the Passover night and crossed the Red Sea, and first appears by name in Exodus 17 as the leader of the army in the great victory over Amalek. He must have been marked out by his previous life as one fitted to be entrusted with this great post. Nor was he to forget that the source of the victory was in the One on high, pictured in Moses on the hilltop. Thus throughout all the battles that lay ahead he had the assurance that with Jehovah as his banner he could not fail.
So with us the essential foundation of successful leadership is victory in the conflict with the flesh, so that all natural thoughts and ideas are beaten down and only the power of the Lord known. T am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me …’.
There followed a long period during which he was seen as the minister or servant of Moses. What humility – the one who had been captain in a great victory content to take the lowly place of servant. He ascended Mount Sinai with Moses, Exod. 24. 13, 14, and then took his place with his leader outside the camp in the tent of the congregation where Moses spake face to face with Jehovah, Exod. 33. 11. Thus in the glory and in the trial he learnt that great truth that the Lord will always honour those that honour Him.
Are we as content to take second place as Joshua? – and this he did for forty years. How thankful we should be that we are able to learn from those older in the faith who set us an example in their knowledge of the Lord and by obedience to His Word. We should ever seek to follow their example so that like Joshua, when the time appointed by God comes we shall be ready to fill their places, Heb. 13. 7.
Moreover are we as ready as the children of Israel were to recognize and obey those placed in authority over us in the Lord?
His testing time came when the spies returned from the Promised Land with a good report of the country but fearful of the inhabitants. Heedless of personal safety (for the people would fain have stoned them) Joshua and Caleb stood forth, saying that the Lord would bring them into the land and give it to them. Divine commendation was theirs, ‘they have wholly followed the Lord’, Num. 32.12. Joshua proved himself worthy of the name he bore – do we?, 2 Thess. 1. 12.
This was God’s man to succeed Moses, and he could look back on these experiences to encourage him as he entered on his vast task. One of proven capability and of faithfulness to Jehovah, and only such, should ever have responsibility among the children of God, 1 Tim. 3. 10.
For the great trials that lay ahead he was not required to rest solely upon past experiences of blessing, for the Lord spoke unto Joshua saying, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee’. The whole land was there to be occupied but it could only be taken possession of according as the feet of Israel trod upon the ground, that is, it had to be personally appropriated and Joshua had the responsibility of leading and guiding them in this. All he needed to do was:
a. to meditate in God’s law day and night; and
b. to observe to do all that the Lord commanded.
This being so the promise was given, ‘thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success’, Joshua 1.8.
So with a shepherd of God’s people today (who is responsible to his Lord to lead them into the deep truths of God), full power and ability is available to him from the same source on the same conditions, 1 Tim. 4. 15, 16.
Like Moses he learnt the lesson of divine holiness, Joshua 5. 15, which enabled him to deal so faithfully with the sin of Achan. ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’ is still His word to us.
Through his knowledge of God Joshua was not afraid to call upon Him to exercise His creatorial power in halting the sun and moon in their courses, Joshua 10. 13, a day such as has never again been known. He asked this not for his own glory but that Israel might be able to accomplish the commands of God in the destruction of His enemies; an example of the things that faith can achieve when we are in the line of His purposes and ask solely with a view to His glory.
The effect of Joshua’s life is seen in that Israel served Jehovah all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders that outlived him, Joshua 24. 31, R.V. The same principle may be seen in chapter 11, verse 15, ‘as the Lord commanded Moses … so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses’.
How this should remind us of Paul’s instruction to Timothy, ‘the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also’. Are these younger faithful ones being taught the pure Word of God so that they may in turn instruct others? Only this will build up the saints and glorify God. The deterioration in Israel seems to have commenced with a failure on the part of the ciders to bring home to the people just what God had done for them. Is not tin’s so in some assemblies today? A sobering thought indeed, for the things which happened aforetime are written for our learning.