Joshua (Published 1999)

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.

  1. Victory over Amalek, Exod. 17. 8-13. He learnt the balance between ‘prayer on the hill’ and ‘conflict in the valley’. Victory depended on God, not on men.
  2. He understudied Moses, Exod. 24. 13; 17ff. He became Moses’ servant and understudied this man of outstanding spiritual ability and experience.
  3. He lived by the tent of meeting, Exod. 33. 7, 11. The tent of meeting was outside the camp; Moses went there to speak with God ‘face to face’. Joshua, therefore, lived in the ‘presence of God’.
  4. He was a man full of the Spirit of wisdom. This fact is recorded at both the beginning of his ministry, Num. 27. 18, and at the close, Deut. 34. 9.
  5. He had faith in the power of God, Num. 14. 6-10; 32. 12. Together with Caleb he stood against the ten unfaithful spies; he believed that God was able to bring them into the land!


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.

  1. Joshua was called (appointed) by God, Deut. 3. 28; 31. 3, 14, 23.
  2. Joshua was approved and encouraged by his brethren
    • - by Moses, Deut. 31. 7
    • - by the people of Israel, Josh. 1. 16, 17.


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.


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.


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.


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.

  1. What was Joshua doing? Alone, he left the encampment of Israel to reconnoitre the city of Jericho and work out a plan of campaign. We read, ‘he lifted up his eyes’, v. 13, suggesting that he was in prayer. What happened in secret was to affect the future of the whole nation.
  2. The theophany he witnessed. ‘A man stood opposite him with a sword drawn in his hand’, v. 13. It soon became apparent that this Man was divine. God appeared to Joshua in the guise he most needed at that moment - as a Warrior.
  3. How did Joshua respond? It was immediate, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ v. 13. There was no retreat, hesitancy or fear. Joshua had previously shown his bravery when standing with Caleb against the other ten spies and the nation, even when the stones were flying.
  4. The Man’s answer ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord have I now come’, v. 14. Not Commander of Israel’s army - that was Joshua - but Commander of the unseen Hosts of God. It was evident that the battle for Jericho was not Joshua’s ‘but God’s’, 2 Chron. 20. 15. What a comfort for him and for us! We need to be reminded that it is His church, His service, His work - not ours. He carries the ultimate responsibility.
  5. The sequel reveals Joshua’s response. ‘Joshua fell on his face to the earth’, v. 14 - Joshua worshipped.
  6. 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.

  7. Obedience led to victory. Before the battle commenced the Commander assured Joshua of complete victory, ‘I have given Jericho into your hand’, Josh. 6. 2. It was His plan, His army, His glory - not Joshua’s. And we read, ‘By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled seven days’, Heb. 11. 30. And so it can be for us, ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world - our faith’, 1 John 5. 4.

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