Joshua 1: Dying to Lead


Questions: What must it have felt like to be Joshua? How can we lead men to fight the very shame that destroyed their fathers? Is having God with you the secret to being strong and courageous?

Read more to pursue answers in Joshua 1

[Joshua 1:1 NASB] Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD,

What must it have felt like to be Joshua?

To be born a slave; perhaps with many aunts and few uncles, due to the male infanticide that nearly claimed Moses?

To have lived through the Exodus; perhaps as a teenager? Experiencing all the terrors and all the triumphs as God delivered his people — just barely! — through signs and wonders.

To have become the right hand of Moses, his servant, general and confidant.

The shining glory of standing with Caleb in faith; the horror of watching the rest of his generation reject God, and die.

The agony of losing and replacing Moses, his mentor and perhaps the greatest leader of men the world has ever known, due to a moment of weakness.

What must he have been thinking about, there at the edge of the Jordan? Was he excited about finally entering the promised land? Eager to show what he could do with a new generation of fighters raised under his leadership?

Or was he consumed with fear and doubt? If the legendary Moses could not lead these fickle people without giving way to sinful anger, how would an ordinary man like him cope? Did he have what it took to help his people face the challenge that destroyed them a generation ago?

Would the God of Moses, Abraham, and Isaac come through for him? Or end up punishing him for falling short, as had happened to every older male he had ever known (except perhaps Caleb).

that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying,

As far as we know, this is the first time the Lord spoke to Joshua directly. God comes with blunt facts:

[Joshua 1:2 NASB] “Moses My servant is dead;

a commission:

now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.

and a promise:

[Joshua 1:3-5 NASB] “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. “From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.

More than a promise of professional success, God comes with an assurance of relationship:

Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.

More, God seems to know that Joshua is feeling weak and fearful:

[Joshua 1:6 NASB] “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

Enough that He repeats His encouragement:

[Joshua 1:7 NASB] “Only be strong and very courageous;

along with a warning:

be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

Though even that warning carries a promise:

[Joshua 1:8 NASB] “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

What must it have felt like to be Joshua, and see God show up, just when he needed Him most?

Before, he had apparently been trembling and dismayed:

[Joshua 1:9 NASB] “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Now, he is filled with the strength and courage to command:

[Joshua 1:10-11 NASB] Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'”

and to call people to live up to their past promises:

[Joshua 1:12-14 NASB] To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’ “Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them,

But he doesn’t just ask. He also gives his own promises:

[Joshua 1:15 NASB] until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

It seems to work pretty well. The people respond with enthusiasm:

[Joshua 1:16-17 NASB] They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you;

Though, with two caveats:

“only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.

[Joshua 1:18 NASB] “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”

If Joshua was fearful, what must have it been like for the men under his command? They didn’t have his intimacy with Moses, or the knowledge that they had stood for the right when everyone else fell away.

All they knew was that they were facing the very challenge their fathers had faced — and failed.

It is easy to do what we saw our fathers do. It is hard to imagine succeeding at what our fathers never dared try.

Yet these men were willing to follow Joshua into the teeth of their shame. All they wanted was for him to a) walk with God, and b) be strong and courageous.

Is that what you’re trying to teach me, Lord? That if I want men to undo the shame of their fathers, I need to walk with you like Moses did? That I don’t need to be clever, or wise, or productive? I just need to embrace the relationship and commission you offer me, and move forward in strength and courage.

Amen. May it be so, Lord Jesus.

Father God,
Thank you that you are with me; that you’ve always been with me. Thanks for the extraordinary deliverances and provision you’ve showered me with all the days of my life. Thank you that you know my shame, and my fear, and my weakness — and yet you still choose me to help lead your people.

Thank you that have promised to be with me, even as you were with Moses, and with Joshua. Help me to be strong and courageous. Show me how to lead men to face their greatest fears, to undo the shame that destroyed their fathers, and to take new territory for your Kingdom.

I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

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