INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JOSHUA (Part 3)
Joshua the spy. When Israel arrived at Kadesh Barnea, on the border of the Promised Land, God commanded Moses to appoint twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan—Joshua among them (Num. 13). After forty days of investigating the land, the spies returned to Moses and reported that the land was indeed a good one. But ten of the spies discouraged the people by saying that Israel wasn’t strong enough to overcome the enemy, while two of the spies—Caleb and Joshua—encouraged the people to trust God and move into the land. Sadly the people listened to the faithless ten spies. It was this act of unbelief and rebellion that delayed the conquest of the land for forty years.
This crisis revealed some fine leadership qualities in Joshua. He was not blind to the realities of the situation, but he didn’t allow the problems and difficulties to rob him of his faith in God. The ten spies looked at God through the difficulties, while Joshua and Caleb looked at the difficulties through what they knew about God. Their God was big enough for the battles that lay ahead!
Knowing he was right, Joshua wasn’t afraid to stand up against the majority. He, Moses, and Caleb stood alone and risked their lives in so doing; but God stood with them. It has well been said that “one with God is a majority.” It would take that kind of courage for Joshua to lead Israel into their land so they could defeat their enemies and claim their inheritance.
Think of the years of blessing in the Promised Land that Joshua forfeited because the people had no faith in God! But Joshua patiently stayed with Moses and did his job, knowing that one day he and Caleb would get their promised inheritance (Num. 14:1–9). Leaders must know not only how to win victories but also how to accept defeats. I have a suspicion that Joshua and Caleb met each other regularly and encouraged each other as the time of their inheritance drew near. Day after day, for forty years, they saw the older generation die off, but each day brought them closer to Canaan. (See Heb. 10:22–25 for a New Testament parallel.)
Joshua the successor. Throughout that wilderness journey, God was preparing Joshua for his ministry as successor to Moses. When Israel defeated Og, king of Bashan, Moses used that victory to encourage Joshua not to be afraid of his enemies (Deut. 3:21–28; Num. 21:33–35). When Moses was preparing to die, he asked God to give the people a leader; and God appointed Joshua (27:12–23; Deut. 3:23–29). In his final message to Israel, Moses told the people that God would use Joshua to defeat their enemies and help them claim their promised inheritance; and he also encouraged Joshua to trust God and not be afraid (31:1–8). Moses laid hands on Joshua and God imparted to Joshua the spiritual power he needed for his task (34:9).
Like Moses, Joshua was human and made his share of mistakes; but he was still God’s chosen and anointed leader, and the people knew this. This is why they said to Joshua, “Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you” (Josh. 1:17, NKJV). God’s people in the church today need to acknowledge God’s leaders and give them the respect that they deserve as the servants of God (1 Thes. 5:12–13).
The secret of Joshua’s success was his faith in the Word of God (Josh. 1:7–9), its commandments and its promises. God’s Word to Joshua was “Be strong!” (vv. 6–7, 9, 18; and see Deut. 31:6–7, 23); and this is His Word to His people today.
Wiersbe, W. W. Be Strong. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.