by James T. Bartsch

"Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in  your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua - Devoted Servant of the LORD

We first encounter Joshua in the Biblical narrative when Moses asked him to lead Israel's military against the invaders of Amalek near the city of Rephidim (Exod. 17:8-16).While we cannot doubt Joshua's growing expertise as a military strategist, we certainly cannot exclude the supernatural element. When Israel obeyed God and relied upon Him, they were invincible. Joshua learned leadership principles from watching Moses. He is termed Moses' servant (Exod. 24:13). Moreover, Joshua evidenced a strong fervor for God (Exod. 33:11).

When Israel was about to enter the promised land of Canaan, Moses assigned twelve leaders, one from each tribe, to spy out the land (Num. 13:1-16). They departed from the wilderness of Paran. They were to check out the features of the land. Were the people strong or weak? Were the cities open or fortified (Num. 13:17-20)?

They returned and gave their report at Kadesh to Moses and all the sons of Israel, who had gathered to listen. They agreed that the land flowed "with milk and honey." They showed them a single cluster of grapes that was so large, two men had to bear it! But they also reported that the people who lived in the land were strong, and the cities were large and fortified. They listed some of the peoples against whom they would have to fight (Num. 13:23-29).

Caleb quieted the people, and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it" (Num. 13:30). But the majority countered, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us" (Num. 13:31). They dramatized their fears to the Israelis – "we are like grasshoppers compared to them" (Num. 13:32-33).

Consequently the people of Israel wept that night, and they grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They talked about appointing a new leader to return to Egypt (Num. 14:1-4). Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the crowd. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh tore their clothes. They said the land was exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with them, He will give us this land! Do not rebel against God, and do not fear the people of the land. They will be prey for us because the LORD is with us (Num. 14:5-9)!

The people would have stoned them to death, but suddenly the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting (Num. 14:10). God was extremely displeased with the faithless Israelis. He threatened to kill them off and make a great nation of Moses! But Moses pled with God that the Egyptians would hear about the debacle and would discredit God. Moses asked God to forgive them (Num. 14:11-19).

God said He would forgive them, but the adult generation from twenty years of age and older would all die in the wilderness. They would wander in the wilderness for forty years, a year for each day the spies had been absent. Their corpses would litter the wilderness! Only Caleb and Joshua of the older generation would be permitted to enter the land (Num. 14:20-38).

Almost forty years passed. By now almost all the older generation had died. Even Moses himself was excluded from entering the promised land because of his disobedience (Num. 27:12-14). Before his death, Moses requested the LORD to provide someone to lead the nation of Israel (Num. 27:15-17). The LORD told Moses to take Joshua the son of Nun "in whom is the Spirit." Moses was to commission him in front of Eleazar the priest and all the people. Moses did so (Num. 27:18-23).

Not unexpectedly, the name of Joshua (Yehoshua, 3091, Yah is Salvation) appears, in the book that bears his name, more times (168) than in any other book of the OT.

The opening chapter of the book is significant. The LORD speaks to Joshua, identified as Moses' servant. Since Moses, God's servant, is dead, he urges Joshua and all the people to cross "this Jordan" to the land which He is giving to them, the sons of Israel (Josh. 1:1-3). He recites the boundaries of the land (Josh. 1:4). Joshua will be impervious, for God will not fail him (Josh. 1:5). Joshua is to be strong and courageous (Josh. 1:6, 7). He is to be careful to perform all the law of Moses, not turning from it to the right or to the left. If he does that, he will have success everywhere he goes (Josh. 1:7). The book of the Law  shall not depart from his mouth, but he is to meditate on it day and night so he is careful to obey it. If he does that, his way will prosper ,and he will succeed (Josh. 1:8). God commanded him again to be strong and courageous. He is not to tremble or be dismayed, for Yahweh his God is with him wherever he goes (Josh. 1:9).

The book of Joshua describes the preparations for battle in the land of Canaan (Josh. 1-5); the southern and northern campaigns (Josh. 6-12); the tribal distribution of the land of Canaan (Josh. 13-21); and the departure of the tribes to settle the land of Canaan (Josh. 22-24).

Near the close of his life Joshua urged the people to fear the LORD and to serve Him in sincerity and truth. They were to put away the gods their fathers served beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. They were to serve Yahweh (Josh. 24:14). It it was disagreeable to them to serve Yahweh, they were to choose whichever gods they wished to serve. He concluded, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:15)!

There are several applications which I wish to make for us who live in the 21st Century.

(1) Joshua had a heart to follow and serve God (Josh. 24:15). Do you and I have that heart? There are some I know who do not appear to have that heart. For the God of the Bible they substitute the god of the Big Bang, the god of evolution, and the god of pseudo science. Some of them substitute the god of the prevailing culture, bowing to  political correctness and wokeness. Some of them freely use God's name in vain, employing it merely to punctuate their speech for emphasis. They appear to have little empathy for the people of God or for the Church that Jesus is building (Matt. 16:18). Do you and I have a heart to seek God (Jer. 29:13)? Do we have a hunger and a thirst for His Word (Psalm 119)? Do we seek to obey Him and recruit other people for Christ's Kingdom (Acts 1:8)? How do you get a heart for God? I don't know. To me, you either have it or you don't. I believe I have a heart for God, but it is something God has given me. As far back as I can remember, I have had a soft heart for God. If you do not have a heart for God, my best advice is that you ask God to give you a heart that is soft toward him. I don't want a hard heart. Do you? The solution to a hard heart is the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:7-12; Heb. 10:11-17).

(2) The Spirit of God was within Joshua (Num. 27:18). Is the Spirit of God within you? Are you yielding control of your life to the Spirit of God (Eph. 5:15-21)? If you are not, your life will be characterized by some or all of the following (Gal. 5:19-21). If the Spirit of God is controlling your life, you will be characterized by the following (Gal. 5:22-23).

(3) Joshua, along with Caleb, was not one to follow the crowd (Num. 14:1-10). Most often, the crowd wants to go the wrong way (Matt. 7:13-14). Joshua and Caleb were not afraid to be different. They were not afraid to vote for the side of good and of God, no matter what way their contemporaries voted. They were willing to be different for God's sake. Peer pressure is enormously powerful. Are you prepared to follow God completely even if it means being at odds with your culture? That is extremely hard for adults and it is even harder for children. What safeguards have you placed in your life to ensure that you follow God, and not the crowd?

(4) Joshua was a godly father who chose to lead his entire household to follow God (Josh. 24:15). God is the ultimate Father, and God invented the family (Eph. 3:14-15). In fact the Greek word for "family" (patria, 3965) contains the name "father" (pater, 3962). It has become increasingly fashionable in our country to marginalize and demean men and fathers, and to enthrone radical feminism as the goddess of equality. In so doing we have reaped a tragic harvest
– fatherless homes and feminized men who do not lead their families to follow God. We see the results in terms of violence on the streets and mayhem in the classrooms. Joshua did what good fathers do – they lead their families to follow and obey God the Father and his only-born Son (John 1:14, 18), Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Are you men leading your families to follow God and Jesus?

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB 1995)

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Posted July 6, 2022