More often than not, when an individual follows in the steps of some great person, whatever the situation may be, failure, or at least disappointment, is to be expected in varying degrees as critics compare the latter to the former. This was definitely not the case with Joshua following Moses as the leader of God’s people. While Moses remained unparalleled as a leader, a prophet and lawgiver (Deut. 34:10-12), Joshua came to be trusted as a great leader of God’ people in his own right (Josh. 1:16-18).
When we first meet Joshua (Ex. 17:8), he is apparently already a leader of some note. When Israel met their first foreign opposition coming out of Egypt in the Amalekites, Moses turned to Joshua to lead an army to defeat them. From the fact that out of all the men who came out of Egypt Moses chose Joshua to lead a group of men to fight, he must have already won a reputation as a warrior. The judgment as to whom Joshua would lead, was left up to his impeccable discretion (“choose out men”), implying that all things having to do with battle, could be safely entrusted to the capable hands of Joshua.
Joshua had been born a slave in Egypt and was relatively young (cf. Ex. 33:11), probably between forty and forty-five at the time of the Exodus. What circumstances lead to his being chosen as a leader are not revealed (just as Moses’ exploits are not revealed – Acts 7:22), but God seems to have had His eye on him early, for Moses was instructed to “rehearse” these things in the ears of Joshua and write them in a book for a memorial (Ex. 17:13). God would later charge Joshua to meditate in the things written in the book (Josh. 1:8). The great testimony to Joshua’s character and leadership is that during his days, and the days of those who lived with Joshua, the children of Israel served the Lord (Josh. 24:31).
Moses described Joshua as his “minister” or “attendent” or “servant” (Ex. 24:13; Num. 11:28). It was Joshua who went up with Moses into the Mount of God while Aaron and Hur stayed back to deal with the issues the people raised (Ex. 24:13, 14). It was Joshua who remained at the Tabernacle, presumably to gaurd it from desecration by sinful hands (Ex. 33:11). It was Joshua who, when Moses learned that he would not enter into the promised land, was appointed by God as Moses’ successor (Num. 27:15-23). It was Joshua who lead the children of Israel across the Jordan and into the promised land (Deut. 1:38; Josh. 3). It was Joshua who led the children of Israel in the taking of the promised land (Josh. 1:1-9).
When the time came to spy out the land, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who brought back a positive, good report (Num. 14:6-10). They said “let us go up at once and posess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). All the rest cried in despair that the land “eateth up the inhabitants” and is posessed by giants and people that are stonger than they (Num. 14:31-33). While the report of the other ten fomented doubt and insurrection, Joshua’s report, along with that of Caleb, exhibted trust, courage and faith in God. But Joshua’s report was also rooted in a military background and was not just a fanatic’s rave.
The one word that is often associated with Joshua is the word “courage.” He is exhorted to be strong and of “good courage” (e.g. Josh. 1:6,7,9). Perhaps the constant use of this term with Joshua suggests that he had unspoken doubts and fears. No good leader leads with abandon. With the sensible, there are always reasonable fears. But courage allows the righteous to be bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). Paul encouraged us to stand fast in the faith, quit like men, be strong (I Cor. 16:13). God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (I Tim. 1:7). Let us pray that we have the courage of Joshua.
The Bible tells us that the man we know as Joshua was originally named Oshea (Deut. 32:44). At some point, Moses changed his name to Jehoshua, either when he was sent to spy out the land of Canaan (Num. 13:16) or, perhaps, when he won his first victory over Amalek (Ex. 17:8-16). Oshea means “help” or “salvation.” But “Jehoshua” means the same thing with God’s name attached to the beginning, meaning “Jehovah saves.” Another form of the name is “Jeshua” (Num. 8:17). In the New Testament, “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent to this Hebrew name. The name “Jesus” means “Saviour” “because He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Just as Joshua brought the children of Israel into the promised land, our Lord Jesus brings us into the promised land of Heaven. In Hebrews chapter four, when Paul wrote about the rest that the Lord had promised to His people, the translators of the King James Version correctly translate this “Jesus” (Heb. 4:8). It was Jesus, the Angel of His Presence, Who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land (Ex. 32:20-23, 14:19; 32:34, 33:2, 14; Num. 20:16; Josh. 6:2; Is. 63:9; I Cor. 10:4,9) and it is Jesus which will lead us into Heaven (John 14:1-6).
Eric L. Padgett