Check out the other topics for this quarter here:
What is sin?
Overview of the Books of History
Conquering of Canaan
The Story of the Bible
Major Character: Joshua
Memory Verse: Joshua 1:7-9
While there have been many faith-heroes of the Old Testament, a man who stands among them as one of the most accomplished is Joshua. Though not mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, he was a part of a good number of the deeds of faith mentioned in that chapter. He was there when the Israelites celebrated the first Passover in Egypt, he was there when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, he led the Israelites as they marched around Jericho for seven days and saw the walls come down, he even took in Rahab after she helped the spies. Joshua, son of Nun, aid to Moses, foreshadow of Christ.
The fact that Joshua’s name is not mentioned in Hebrews is kind of fitting. Even though he has an entire book of the Bible devoted to his story, he is very much in the shadow of other biblical characters. He is essentially Moses’s sidekick for a large part of the Torah and seen by many biblical scholars as an apparent prefigure for Christ. This is a good analogy for much of Joshua’s work for his people, he was not the hero himself, Joshua was a faithful vessel for God’s will to be done through him.
Before Taking Leadership
Originally born with the name Yeshua, which means “Yahweh is salvation,” Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim, most-likely born in slavery in Egypt. He is first mentioned in Exodus 17, already close to Moses, as he was chosen to lead the newly freed Israelites in a battle against the Amalekites. Even then though, the main focus of this story is not on Joshua’s leadership abilities in battle, but about Moses having to hold up his staff towards heaven. As long as Moses held it up, Joshua was finding victory, but if he put his arms down, Joshua and his forces would lose. It was the first of many displays God put on for his newly minted people to show that their victory and conquest of the Promised Land is not based on their doing, but on trusting in God.
Joshua is then mentioned as going up with Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to speak with God. It is not mentioned whether Joshua went all the way to the top or not, but he was with Moses when he came down and was the first to hear the raucous uproar of the people worshiping the Golden Calf. Finally, before taking leadership Joshua is mentioned as one of the two spies who, after surveying the land of Canaan, advised that with God’s help they could take the land for themselves. He is also mentioned as tearing his clothes in mourning once the rest of the people are led astray by the other spies and ask to go back to Egypt. It is because of this faithfulness that Joshua is one of the few Israelites who left Egypt and got to take part in settling the Promised Land, as the rest were weeded out by the forty years of Wandering.
What set Joshua apart from most of the other Israelites in his time?
Why do you think someone like Joshua would make a good leader?
Bonus: What two bible songs are about Joshua?
Joshua Like Moses
In Deuteronomy 31 Moses declares to the people that because of his old age and God’s will, he will not lead them across the Jordan River into Canaan. That mantle will fall to Moses’s faithful servant, Joshua. Throughout Joshua’s time as leader he demonstrates very strong and purposeful parallels to Moses’s leadership. They both are recorded on more than one occasion fervently encouraging the Israelites to obey God’s commands, that this is the key to having blessings in this life. They both led as God brought the Israelites across dry ground, Moses over the Red sea and Joshua over the Jordan River. They both sent spies into the land, with Joshua sending his into Jericho specifically. And finally both were recorded speaking to Yahweh directly in some form. Moses did this on top of Mount Sinai, and Joshua did it on his way to conquer Jericho.
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15
Does that request by the messenger sound familiar? He would go on to give Joshua the way in which the Israelites would conquer the city of Jericho, which is an interesting story in itself, but is important to see the theme of Joshua’s story come through in this exchange. Joshua asks whose side this man is on, the Israelites or the Canaanites, and this man, the commander of the Lord’s army and Messenger of God, says “Neither.” God is not on your side Joshua, but it would probably be best for you if you were on his. Again, Joshua’s success for the kingdom is not based on the great things he does for God, but on the amount of times he trusts in God.
Battling for the Promised Land
The two main battles the Book of Joshua focuses on are the ones in Jericho and Ai. Both battles have very different outcomes but again display the same message that has been constant through Joshua’s life, trusting in God brings victory. In the battle of Jericho, the Israelites follow the directions of commander of the Lord’s Army to a tee and they easily conquer the city. Then they continue on to the city of Ai, where they are crushed and pushed back. It is then revealed that this happened because some of the Israelites did not follow God’s commands about taking some of the plunder from Jericho for themselves. Once this evil is purged they head back to Ai and, with God’s blessing, destroy it. A few other skirmishes over the Promise Land is recorded in Joshua, but we are not given many more detaila about this seven long year campaign. But again, throughout the story is this running theme for the Israelite army of finding blessings when they trust in God and finding defeat when they do not.
What are some of the ways Joshua’s story of leadership parallel’s Moses?
Can you think of other examples in the Bible of someone trusting in God and finding victory or not trusting in God and finding defeat? What about in your personal life?
The commander of God’s army saying to Joshua the he is neither for him or his enemies is an important lesson about people saying that “God is on my side.” What does this message mean for us in our life?
Dividing the Promise Land
The majority of the rest of the Book of Joshua concerns how the Promise Land was divided for all the tribes. At a glance while this may seem tedious and boring to read through, but keep in mind this is essentially the nuts and bolts of God’s promise to Abraham coming through. A promise hundreds of years in the making, back since Abram was called out of Ur, was finally being fulfilled. The fact that the act of dishing out of God’s promise fell to Joshua is no small feat.
Joshua’s Farewell Address
The book of Joshua ends with Joshua addressing the leaders of the tribes of Israel. His time as leader is at an end and he spends the last two chapters of the book encouraging them to stay faithful to the Lord. His sentiments ring similar to the theme of his story, that faithfulness to God brings blessings and unfaithfulness brings divine justice. In this speech is a key phrase that is posted on signs, billboards, stitchings, vintage looking wood posts, and Facebook pages everywhere. It is probably tattooed on a couple hundred people and written down on notebooks and displayed on desktop backgrounds everywhere. It is a phrase that by itself is a strong and meaningful declaration of faith, but when taken in the context of when it was said and who it was that said it, it was a mission statement of a strong man of faith.
In Joshua chapter 24 Joshua says the following:
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
How have you seen the theme of Joshua’s story run true in the lives of the people around you?
We can learn from Joshua that true faith is not wrapping God’s word around the things we already believe, but it is wrapping our trust around the things God declares to be true. How do you think that looks in a person’s life?
Joshua and the Israelites find trouble whenever they start living outside of God’s desire for them. What are some ways we can determine what God’s desire is for us?