All quotations are from the New King James Version
Joshua was chosen by God to succeed Moses and to lead the nation of Israel into the promised land. Born a slave in Egypt, he rose to become a prince in the tribe of Ephraim and was sent by Moses to spy out the promised land, Num. 13. 2, 8. Moses changed his name from Oshea meaning Salvation to Je-Oshea or Joshua meaning Jehovah is Saviour, Josh. I3. 16, thereby bringing God into his name. His was a life of steady, consistent obedience summed up in the final, divine eulogy, ‘Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of Jehovah’, Josh. 24. 29.
The call to divine service, in certain instances, was initiated by a theophany (e.g.Gideon); in others, the theophany was granted at a critical time later in their lives (e.g. Jacob, Moses and Joshua). The theophany given to Joshua occurred after years of preparation for leadership when he was preparing to invade the promised land, Josh. 5. 13-15. The events leading up to the divine visitation will be considered first.
The making of a leader usually requires years of preparation. A number of divinely appointed experiences were included in Joshua’s training.
As the time approached for Moses to die, Joshua was appointed by God, and approved by men, to take over his mantle. Both commendations are essential in the commissioning of God’s servants.
To take the leadership of God’s people at such a critical time required all the encouragement God could give him. This was the end of an era. ‘Moses my servant is dead’, Josh. 1. 2. Moses, the only leader Israel had known, was a man of outstanding qualities, who faced the might of Pharaoh and led the nation out of slavery; the great ‘lawgiver’ and author of the first books of the inspired Bible; the man who spoke face-to-face with God was dead! Imagine Joshua’s loneliness. Think, too, of the fact that he must lead this vast company across the River Jordan, face the walled cities of Canaan with an ill-equipped army and complete the task that Moses had not been able to do. The task was immense - granted it was a great privilege (divine service always is) but it was also an awesome responsibility. How did God encourage His servant? He presented him with three propositions which are as true today as then, one of which was a theophany.
1. A CHANGELESS BOOK
Poised on the edge of the promised land, Joshua is instructed, not to try to remember what Moses had instructed him, but to study, meditate in and rely on the written, changeless word of God.
‘This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success’, Josh. 1. 8. Already Joshua had been promised special guidance by means of the Urim and Thummim, Num. 27. 21, but the written word of God would set the limits within which divine guidance would be laid down.
2. A CHANGELESS POWER
Joshua recorded, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land, for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up before us until we had crossed over’, Josh. 4. 22-24. Joshua and Caleb, the two mature survivors from Egypt, would compare the events as they witnessed a demonstration of the same power as occurred on both occasions. God’s power was not limited to one period of history! So for us, the words Jesus said to His disciples on the mountain of appointment, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth’, Matt. 28. 18, are just as true today, since He is ‘the same yesterday, and today, and for ever’, Heb. 13. 8.
3. CHANGELESS PERSON
As Joshua faced the first major obstacle on entering Canaan he was given a personal revelation of the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts, the fifth of the Old Testament theophanies, Josh. 5. 13-15.
Joshua requests, ‘What does my Lord say to his servant?’, v. 14 - his submission. The Commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take your sandals off your feet for the place where you stand is holy’, v. 15 - revelation.
The same command to Moses at the ‘burning bush’, before he was sent to deliver Israel from Egypt, was now given to Joshua before the campaign commenced. This confirmed the promise God had made to Joshua earlier, ‘As I was with Moses so I will be with you’, Josh. 1. 5. What Moses began, Joshua would complete through the same changeless word, the same changeless power and the same changeless person.
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