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Joshua the Son of Nun (1): Preparing for Leadership

N Mellish, Stoke on Trent

Joshua is a most interesting character. He is a definite type of the Lord Jesus, and a wonderful illustration of what believers ought to be as we walk with God. We notice that he lived for God without a blemish being recorded regarding his service or his character.

There are five ways that we can look at him: 1) How he was found; 2) How he was faithful; 3) How he was favoured; 4) How he fought; 5) How he finished.

How he was found

Like Elijah, Joshua suddenly appears on the page of Scripture without any previous reference to him, and also, like Elijah, he is introduced with conflict before him. Prior to the conflict, Israel had been blessed by receiving water from the rock (Ex 17.1-7), whereas centuries later Elijah prayed that there would "not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word" (1 Kings 17.1).

Joshua knew from experience of his life in Egypt what it was to be delivered from bondage, and he would appreciate salvation by blood. In fact his name, before Moses changed it, was Oshea (Num 13.16), which means "to save," or "deliverance". This he had known, but it is a fundamental principle to know how to be able to serve the Lord. Moses changed his name to Jehoshua which interprets as "Jehovah is salvation". Thus he not only knew deliverance but now appreciated the Person who brought about Israel’s salvation. There are three who bare this name and who had a bearing on Israel’s coming into the land. When Israel returned from captivity it was one "Joshua the son of Josedech" (Hag 1.1) who was among those instrumental in restoring the nation, and the Lord Jesus carries the same name, being Jehovah the Saviour (Mt 1.21). It is this Joshua who will finally cause Israel to realise their hopes as He establishes the Kingdom at His return.

His preparation for the land (Ex 17)

Here we have the first appearance of Joshua, and it is against the background of the first battle that Israel faced in the wilderness. The enemy was Amalek. It is significant that the man chosen by Moses to take up the battle is Joshua. He is to be used later to meet the enemies in the land and bring victory to the people; conquest seems to be his portion on earth. The fight was not his alone, for Moses, with Aaron and Hur, interceded on the mountain whilst the battle was fought in the valley.

When, after the death of Moses, Joshua was appointed to be leader of Israel he was not alone; the "captain of the host of the Lord" is revealed as the One who will give the help needed for victory (Josh 5.13-15). No Christian ever goes forth in his own strength to meet the enemy. All has been provided to make us victorious in the conflict with the principalities of darkness, as Ephesians 6.10-18 would encourage us.

Amalek was an offspring of Esau (Gen 36.12). Esau is always a type of the flesh and must gratify the flesh irrespective of the cost, as seen when he sold his birthright. It could not be recovered, and again a warning is set down in Hebrews 12.16 to those who do not value the blessing bestowed by God on His own. Amalek, as noted above, is from the same stock and brings before us the flesh in its activity. Moab is a picture of the flesh in its indolence, as Judges 3 portrays in recounting how Eglon sat in a summer parlour which he had for himself alone (v.20). Believers need to beware of any aspect of the flesh which is always seeking to deprive us of the riches we have received in Christ.

Amalek comes when that which speaks of the Spirit is being enjoyed by the saints, for the water that came from the rock after it was smitten recalls how the pouring out of the Spirit of God only came after the suffering of Calvary. But Amalek can only come when we lose sight of the Lord, for at Meribah the people said, "Is the Lord among us or not?". It is not enough to have the Spirit, we must walk in the Spirit as a habit of life so as not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5.16). The following verse reveals the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit and how they are contrary one to the other. The flesh and the Spirit are not compatible: they can never move together for there is no harmony between them. We must not allow the flesh to dominate and then expect to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit.

It takes a man who is ready to take a command from his leader to bring the flesh into captivity, for it is at Moses’ word that Joshua leads the people. Nothing was accomplished in his own strength - he was a man of obedience. Such are the men who will be a help to the saints so that they also can overcome. "Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword" (v.13); he "broke the power of Amalek and his people" (JND). The works of the flesh are many, and it is needful to control every aspect of it as it arises.

His association with Moses (Ex 24.13)

If with Amalek we find Joshua fighting, now we see him favoured as he ascended the mount with Moses on the occasion of Moses’ receiving the "tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them" (Ex 24.12). It was while he was in the mount that Moses also received the mind of God regarding the tent of meeting. He received the law to discipline the people, and the pattern for the tabernacle where they could express their devotion. It should not be forgotten that Joshua had the privilege of being in association with Moses at this time. Such experiences would be a blessing to him and inspire him in his future service for God. It was another aspect of his training to take up leadership. We cannot conjecture, as some do, how far Joshua went into the presence of God, for nothing is recorded. All we know is that he was with the Lord’s servant when Moses received these great truths. One cannot help but think of the divine revelation that has been given to the saints today as the Lord has unfolded His mind through the Scriptures.

His confusion (Ex 32.15ff)

After these forty days in the mount with Moses they together "turned and went down the mount". It was Moses who carried the two tables of the testimony written on both sides by the finger of God. As they approached the camp we see that the discernment of Joshua was as yet not sharpened, for he stated, "There is a noise of war in the camp". Moses ear was more finely tuned and he heard the sound of the world’s music coming Godward. A people who had lost sight of their leader and the power of God among them had gone a-whoring. How easily some will turn away from the desire to "wholly follow the Lord" and turn again to the beggarly elements of the world! By persuading Aaron, they had taken the gold that was needful for the future Tabernacle and profaned it by making a golden calf to worship. Moses, on seeing the calf, cast the stones of the law down and smashed them. Though the people had said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex 19.8), the law was broken before it came into the camp. They had broken both sides of the law in making the golden calf, for "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" (Ex 20.4), and "Thou shalt not bear false witness (lie)" (v.16). The law was broken both Godward and manward when they made the calf and Aaron spoke of the miraculous way in which the calf came out of the fire.

Such practice must bring the judgment of God upon them and three thousand were slain at the giving of the law (Ex 32.26-28). It is interesting to note that, on another occasion, about three thousand were saved on the giving of the Spirit (Acts 2.41).

To be continued.


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