Joshua: A Prelude to Jesus

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The Life of Joshua in the Bible

Like all the Israelites, Joshua began in humble surroundings. He was born a slave in Egypt an followed Moses across the Red Sea to freedom. He first appears in the Bible as a military commander. Soon after escaping from Egypt, the Israelites confronted a new enemy, and Moses turned to Joshua to lead their very first battle (Exodus 17:9-15).

A month later, when Moses climbed craggy Mount Sinai to meet with God, Joshua was at his side. He first reported to Moses the strange sounds coming from the camp, sounds that turned out to be the Israelites’ great spiritual rebellion (Exodus 32:17). Joshua rose to become Moses’ trusted number-two man, an assistant who served him at almost every major crisis. Moses changed his aide’s name from Hoshea, which meant “help” or “salvation”, to Joshua, meaning “The Lord saved.” (The Greek from of Joshua is Jesus).

Joshua Becoming the Leader of the Israelites

On the verge of entering Canaan, Moses turned to Joshua again, choosing him as one of 12 spies sent to collect information about the land. Ten cam back frightened, with predictions of doom. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith that God would keep his promises to the Israelites despite the military odds.

Joshua learned about the hazards of leadership from that spy trip: On his return, thousands of angry Israelites called for his public stoning (Numbers 14). But he stood firm, and God rewarded him. Of all the Israelites who had left Egypt, only he and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land–not even Moses was granted that honor. As Moses’ death neared, God and Moses mad Joshua their uncontested choice for a new leader for Israel. It was time for number two to become number one.

Joshua made a remarkably smooth transition into leadership. In fact, Joshua’s life had many parallels to Moses’.  The miracle of the crossing of the Jordan River poignantly replayed Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea. Moses encountered God directly at the burning bush; Joshua met God’s special representative, the “commander of the army of the Lord,” and likewise took off his shoes at the meeting (Joshua 5:13-15).

Both Moses and Joshua wrote the law onto stones; Moses creating a permanent record for Israel, and Joshua erecting a monument for the nation to pass by on the way into the new land (Joshua 8:32). Both leaders pleaded with God on behalf of the people. And both ended their terms with stirring speeches that reviewed history and challenged the people toward a critical choice.

Joshua: A Faithful and Obedient Leader of the Israelites

Moses, who grew up in the courts of the Pharaoh, obviously received a better education than Joshua. He showed a philosophical bent. Joshua, on the other hand, was action-oriented and pragmatic, a perfect military man. He had the rare combination of knowing how to follow orders as well as how to give them.

The Bible, never guilty of glossing over its heroes’ flaws, reveals some of Joshua’s mistakes. In one incident in the desert, he was rash (Numbers 11:26-30). During the first battle of Ai and the treaty negotiations with the Gibeonites, he acted impulsively, without first seeking God’s advice. And, faced with his first major defeat at Ai, he uncharacteristically dissolved in fright, earning God’s stern rebuke: “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?” (Joshua 7:6-12).

Apart from these few incidents, Joshua’s life was marked by unusual faith and obedience. Joshua never let the press of military action interfere with worship and the renewal of the covenant. When he divided up the land (an immense bureaucratic burden that takes up the last half of the book of Joshua), he did so with wisdom and fairness, selecting his own portion only after all the others had chosen.

The Bible records this simple legacy: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua” (Joshua 24:31). History would show how rarely that occured in the life of this troublesome nation.

Taken from Student Bible with Notes by Philip Yancey & Tim Stafford

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