Series: Learning from the OT Leaders | Title: Joshua – Strong and Courageous | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday January 28, 2018
Joshua – Strong and Courageous
Another great leader from the Old Testament is Joshua. The Bible talks about Joshua, who is an interesting character to study.
Joshua 1:1 After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Here we read a great promise that was given by God Almighty to Joshua as he was about to take on the leadership role. As we study about this great man of God, he stands as a great example and a role model. Every generation has its own need of leadership, at times it takes so much to be a leader to rule a nation – especially in times of struggle and of great turmoil. It is very challenging to rule the nation or even to be a leader in the kingdom of God. We tend to look at great leaders who prove their lives to be a great leaders and act as role models. What about the leaders of today?
When we read the books of Joshua, Exodus and Deuteronomy, much of Joshua’s achievements came from the way God used him in a supernatural way. God used Joshua to divide the river Jordan and God used Joshua to bring down the wall of Jericho. During the time of Joshua, the sun and the moon stood still. A mighty man of God, a great miracle worker, as he was leading the people of God through the wilderness. After the death of Moses, Joshua took the mantle upon himself and he continued to lead the children of Israel. Moses led the children of God out of Egypt and he pushed them into the wilderness. Joshua has been given a mandate to lead them into the promised land.
Who is Joshua?
- From the scripture, we can see that Joshua was the son of Nun, he was from the tribe of Benjamin. (Exodus 33:11, Numbers 11:28). He was born in Egypt like Moses did.
- Joshua’s name was originally Hoshea, as mentioned in Numbers 13:16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.
- The very name Joshua means Savior – the person by whom God is going to deliver. God is going to save his people – is what Joshua means. The Greek equivalent of Joshua is Jesus. Jesus means the savior of mankind.
- Joshua lived approximately for 40 years in Egypt under the bondage of Egyptians along with the children of Israel. He was in the wilderness for 40 years, working along with Moses as a leader. Until the age of 110, Joshua lived in the promised land of Canaan for 30 years. (Joshua 24:29)
Moses was forbidden entry into Canaan – a simple reason – Moses disobeyed God. As Moses died, the leadership mantle fell upon the life of Joshua. Joshua gets introduced in the Word of God for the first time in Exodus Chapter 17. There Moses is asking Joshua to lead an army as children of Israel were going to fight against Amalekites. The Bible says God used Joshua in a mighty way. That was not just an ordinary way, but God told them very clearly – when you capture the nation, you are going to annihilate them and kill every man, woman and child along with their animals. It was not as easy as capturing a city. But Joshua as a mighty warrior executed the order that Moses gave him. We find Joshua successfully leading this army and executing God’s command with perfection. Joshua then gained the confidence of Moses.
When Moses was sitting at the mount, as long as his hands were lifted up by Aaron and Hur, the army was moving forward under the leadership of Joshua. We can imagine the kind of influence that Joshua would have made among the children of Israel. At times it was not an easy task to lead God’s people, when we think about Moses or Joshua or any leader for that matter, they need to listen from God, take care of their children and lead them in the right way. They also need to get them engaged in these kinds of wars and missions that God wanted them to take. It was not an ordinary task. When we read/ learn about the Old Testament leaders, we are really learning about leadership, not the one that we see today, but the one which was filled with so much responsibility and commitment as they were leading the children of God in the wilderness.
Joshua gained great confidence among the people. The most important characteristic of any Jewish leader was to have faith in God and obey His command without questioning, no matter what it takes. They were willing to obey God, the moment He commanded them without thinking about the consequences. Such were the leaders of the Old Testament. Joshua was one among the twelve spies who went to Canaan. Two brought back good report and the ten brought back a bad report. The two who brought back the good report were Caleb and Joshua. They said this according to Numbers 14:7 – “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey. ’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them. ”
That was the report Joshua brought, and no doubt he was a great leader.
- A man of great vision, the moment he saw the country he got the vision.
- He had a pair of eyes that looks for opportunity. A great leader always looks for opportunity – where can we move and advance in the kingdom of God.
- Great leaders do not fear anybody. Joshua did not fear anyone; he was a leader depending on God.
- He spoke these words, they were not just from his own strength but from his dependence on God.
There are some great lessons we can learn from Joshua.
1. Leadership Development takes time:
Moses was Joshua’s mentor for 40 long years in the wilderness before Joshua took over. Joshua took the victory over Amalekites and when he gained the victory, Joshua could have done a couple of things. He could have sat back and reaped the reward of victory throughout his life. Joshua could have challenged Moses, and he could have climbed up in leadership ranking very quickly. But Joshua did not do that, instead he did the opposite. The Bible says Joshua was subordinating/ assisting Moses until he died.
- We can think about Noah and how he built an ark with no prior experience.
- But here we see that Joshua had to go through leadership training for over 40 years with Moses.
Joshua had a very great role in the leadership of the children of Israel. There are a great number of occasions where Joshua was assisting Moses.
- Exodus 24:13 Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. When God called Moses to Mount Sinai, Moses also took Joshua to a certain level. When Moses comes back the entire nation was into idol worship except Joshua. Joshua was waiting for Moses to come back while the rest of the crowd thought that Moses had died.
- Numbers chapter 14 says – When they spied Canaan Joshua brought a good report in the favor of God. When all the children of Israel were racing against the leadership of Moses, only Caleb and Joshua were standing with Moses.
- Numbers 11:28 – So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” When people came against Moses, Joshua was standing with Moses.
God raised Joshua as second in command and as a successor of Moses.
- Joshua was assisting Moses, under his shadow for 40 long years.
- He was very faithful, and he was executing all his responsibilities according to what Moses said to him and he was fulfilling all the needs.
- At times we say that leaders are not born but are raised. We see that Joshua was very careful to learn everything from Moses. Joshua learned from Moses on how to listen to God, how to make decisions that we can advance in the kingdom of God, how to be a good leader politically, military wise and the spiritual aspects, how to handle difficult situations when people come against the leadership. Joshua was observing everything from Moses.
- The Bible says Joshua was assisting Moses until the time comes. When Moses died, God decided to bring Joshua up in the leadership.
There is a time when God will lift us up.
1 Peter 5:6 – Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.
At times God expects us to be quiet and honor the leadership that God has given us – maybe in the church or our nation or our workplace. We know for sure that some of our leaders in our workplace are not godly, they do not even consider us, they ill-treat people. But as a child of God, God does not want us to raise against them, God wants us to be humble. The Bible says that the leadership is given by God – may it be in the church, political arena, or our workplace. We need to be submissive, if we do so, God will lift us up in due time. Today people do not want to wait. Joshua waited for 40 years being submissive.
- Pastor Balan was working with a pastor for three years in his early days of Christian life. From that man of God, Pastor learnt certain things. He learnt how to get things done by fasting and praying. He was a man of prayer. Things were getting done when he threw his knees down. He was a prayer warrior. When he preaches not everybody liked him but there is a great crowd, with miracles happening, demons being cast out – because he was a man of prayer.
- Pastor Balan got to work for another three years with another pastor and saw how boldly and courageously he stood oppositions. He recounts the beginning of his ministry – he was in the city of Bangalore and everybody in the streets were against him and when he does something, the next day morning, the people would come and destroy everything. They were all against him. He recalls how he was chasing an individual every time when they did something from one end of the road to the other end to beat them up. He forced the kingdom of God, the church, in his location by his strength. Everybody was afraid of him. He is still ministering there, and it is a great church today. One thing that Pastor Balan learnt was how boldly we need to establish the kingdom of God.
- For another three years, Pastor Balan worked with another Pastor who really helped him on how to establish a ministry in the North American context. All these years Pastor Balan was just assisting them and just doing what they wanted him to do. But Pastor Balan had to wait for a time when God would give him an opportunity to lead.
It may be true in each one of our lives. There are times we are called to follow. There are times we are called to lead. We need to know what God wants us to do – are we called as Noah? Are we called as Moses? Or Joshua? Leadership development takes time.
2. Leaders ought to be Strong and Courageous:
Leaders are to be strong and courageous. When we look at the leaders in the political arena, they are so courageous, the way that they talk, the way they address the crowd is all very courageous. God expects us to be courageous in what we do. In Joshua Chapter 1 as mentioned above, we see the word courage mentioned 4 times in all 18 verses.
- Verse 6 says – Be strong and of good courage.
- Verse 7 says – Only be strong and courageous.
- Verse 9 says – be strong and of good courage.
- Verse 18 the people say to Joshua – Only be strong and of good courage.
Even in the farewell note when Joshua was about to die, we read that in Joshua 23 – Joshua was addressing the crowd and telling them to be courageous. Do not be afraid, be courageous. Joshua was a man of great courage. Being strong and courageous is a great characteristic in a leader. Joshua spent two-thirds of his life assisting his master Moses and the remaining 30 years he was called to lead.
1. Courageous leaders value their past – Joshua has seen with his own eyes, the red sea parting and the plagues coming over the Egyptians one after the other, water gushing out of the rock, he was closely walking with Moses. According to our conviction, all of us are called to lead, we may be leading our child, our family or a team, or a student leader, etc.
2. Courageous leaders know their present – the current expectations, the challenges, the job that is not yet done and you are called to do that job. You are a leader because someone is expecting you to do something. Joshua’s challenge is to enter into Canaan, Joshua knows the size of the army that he has, the kind of resources that are given to him and the challenges that are in front of him – the river Jordan was in front of him. There were so many types of people who were living in Canaan. The Bibles lists that there were Amalekites, Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, etc. were some of the whites that were living in Canaan.
3. Courageous leaders carry God’s presence into the future –
Joshua 1:5 – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
As Joshua was leading and as he was moving forward, he was taking the presence of God along with him. Joshua was holding the presence of God as he was walking into the blessed land of Canaan. There were times Joshua had to make sure people were held accountable. He made sure Achan was held accountable for the loss they encountered as they were trying to capture the city of AI.
Courageous leaders had to conquer kings and kingdoms; Joshua was doing it. He was guarding himself from the enemies, from fear and discouragements. We are called to lead with great courage. In second Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy and he says, God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and of sound mind.
2 Timothy 7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
3. Leaders must stand on God’s Word and in Prayer:
Leaders must stand of God’s word and in prayer. The reason for Joshua’s success as a leader was his adherence to the Word of God. God spoke to Joshua saying, Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night that you may observe to do according to what is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success”.
When God brought Joshua into leadership, God told him one thing specifically – This book of the law shall not depart from you. God was referring to the word of God – the Bible. That is what God said to him – this book of the law shall not depart from in front of your eyes.
How do we keep this book of the law in front of us? We see that Joshua is fulfilling this commandment of God throughout his career.
We can see a couple of examples of Joshua’s commitment to the Word of the Lord:
- In renewing the covenant at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim: Joshua 8: 30 – Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron ” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.
- Joshua’s devotion is obeying God’s word. Joshua 11:15 As the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.
- Even at the end of his life, he encouraged the nation to heed God’s Word. Joshua 23:1-6
- We see Joshua praying for the people’s failure following the defeat at Ai. Joshua 7:6-9
- Joshua praying in the middle of warfare. When 5 different kings of the Amorites joined together and came to attack the city and the inhabitants of Gibeon, Lord sent hail stones and killed many of them. On that day Joshua made this prayer – Joshua 10:9-14
Joshua read all the commandments that God had given him. Leaders must stand on God’s word. Even at the end of his life, he was instructing people to read the Word of God.
Maybe you are called to lead someone, it could be your family, a group of people – you need to learn the Word of God, it is important. Without His Word, we fail to lead people. All the leadership qualities and characteristics that we need today are written in this law. To lead people in a life that is pleasing to God – it is all written in the Word of God. God is asking the leadership to come back to the Word of God. The Bible says that Joshua was not only reading the Word of God, but he was also a man of prayer. When Joshua was called to fight the city of Ai, they underestimated the battle and thought it was easy to win the city. What happened then? They had a major defeat after a great victory against the Amalekites. The reason for this defeat was because somebody did not obey God. God told them not to bring any of the valuables from that city and they should destroy and burn everything. But there was a man named Achan who took some of the Babylonian garments, silver, and gold. He took them to the tabernacle and hid them. Nobody knew about this. Let us look at the way Joshua is dealing with that.
Joshua 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?”
As Joshua was kneeling down, with his forehead touching the ground, this was the prayer he prayed. He is crying out to Lord asking why there was a defeat in his place. Why did this happen in my church? My family? Why is this happening in my nation? A great leader was down to the ground, on his knees crying out to the Lord – Why did you allow this to happen God?
Great leaders are called to intercede. Intercession is not a characteristic of a prayer warrior but that of a great leader. Intercessors stand in the middle of God and people. Here we see Joshua crying out and asking of how people will defame His name. What can I do Lord?
Joshua was praying in the middle of a warfare. Joshua was in the middle of the battlefield and the enemies were coming in the other end and the children of Israel are advancing. Joshua is leading as a great leader and in the middle of everything, he stopped and started praying. Can we see such a leader today? Let us look at what Joshua is doing. There are five different kings of the Amorites that are joining together for an attack against the city and inhabitants of Gibeon. The Lord is sending hailstones, so they were all getting killed by it. Now Joshua:
Joshua 10:9 Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly, having marched all night from Gilgal. 10 So the Lord routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword. 12 Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. ” 13 So the sun stood still, And the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge Upon their enemies.
When we go back and check the history of Joshua, we find that the Sun was standing stationary in the middle of the day for the entire day when Joshua prayed to God. Great leaders must stand on the Word of God and they must stand in prayer.
Sometimes we may feel this sermon does not really make sense to you. But who knows, you are a leader who is coming up and the Lord has already marked you. You may be asked to lead down the line. You may also be leading right now. God is asking you to lead in prayer and on the Word of God. You may be leading prayer in the church, or leading a children’s ministry, you may be leading worship or an outreach ministry. But God is asking you to lead as you stand on the Word. So, it is important to study the Word of God and it is important to pray. When you give importance to God, God will honor you. Try it out, start studying the Word of God and you will see that God honors you. There are witnesses right here at the church, who will be able to come up and give their testimony on how God honored them when they went to a Bible study or when they prayed fervently. You will become an effective leader when you develop a passion for praying. Any part of the work that we do in the kingdom of God, let us do it with prayer.
We have learnt from the life of Joshua:
1. Leadership development takes time
2. Leaders ought to be strong and courageous
3. Leaders must stand on God’s Word and in prayer