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Joshua the Son of Nun (2): How he was Faithful

N Mellish, Stoke on Trent

His position with the tabernacle (Ex 33.11)

We see the affect that the sin of the people had in Exodus chs.32-33. Having failed, both doctrinally and morally, in the making of the calf, and also in making themselves naked, the judgment of God is seen because of this great sin. To his honour, Moses moves in supplication for the people, even to the extent that he is prepared to bear the judgment of God (Ex 32.32). The Lord must be righteous, and, as every man must give account for himself, He replies, "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (v.33). Yet there is a promise made that in spite of failure they would be brought "unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." (33.1). This had its consequences, for the Lord was to withhold His presence and send an angel before them (v.2), as a punishment to preserve them (v.3).

The remorse of the people is manifested when they mourned, and no man put on "his ornaments" (v.4). Their action had brought a reaction from the Lord with the possibility of a stiffnecked people being cut off in a moment and the call to put off their ornaments from them. This was to be done permanently and completely. It is against this background that we find Moses taking the tabernacle and pitching it without the camp (v.7) as the people were in no fit state to enjoy the presence of God. This was not the "Tabernacle of Meeting" that had yet to be built, but a temporary place that symbolised the Lord’s presence. He had the assurance of the will of God when the pillar cloud was now linked with a man who was moving for God (vv.8-10).

It is here that we come across Joshua again. There are only isolated verses that reveal his faithfulness in the word of God until we come to his anointing to service. However, when his name is brought before us it manifests what is in his heart for God. Such is his faithfulness and support for Moses that he links himself with this servant of God by moving outside the camp and separating himself from the sin of the people. Well might the Lord take up one like this who is prepared always to side with the Lord even as a young man (33.11). Would that we could find more young men who are prepared to look to those who prove themselves to be only interested in the Lord’s interests, and follow their example; such young men who can take the reins of leadership when those who have been a blessing to the saints pass to their reward.

His preservation of Moses’ honour (Num 11.28)

We do not meet Joshua again until we come to the book of Numbers. He is always seen in connection with the nation in their pilgrimage and not in their priestly activity.

Numbers 11 begins a series of chapters in which we see that failure hinders the journey of the people towards the Promised Land. There are lessons for the saints today to teach us in order that we do not fail to walk according to the Lord’s mind. Moses is finding difficulties as he alone has responsibility for the people. The Lord, ever gracious to consider the frailty of His servants, instructs Moses to cause seventy elders who are known to be elders (not just any men) to stand with him at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation (v.16). They are to move with Moses in accordance with the mind of God and in a spiritual fashion. These men are given the Spirit of God to bear the burden of the people. We need such men today, men known for their spirituality who will have a care for the flock and who, like Timothy, "will naturally care for your state" (Phil 2.20).

It is against this background that we find two men - Eldad, meaning, "God has loved", and Medad, meaning, "Would be loving" - who under the influence of the Holy Spirit prophesied in the camp. These men were not rivals to Moses but complemented his ministry (vv.26-27). A young man ran to Moses and stated their work, no doubt he also desired to maintain Moses’ status among the people, and it is at this point that Joshua sought to restrain these prophets. Some in a misguided way considered that for God to raise up others to bring His word to the people is to undermine those whom the Lord is already using to be a help to His own.

The spirituality of Moses is brought to the fore in these circumstances, and his stature as a true servant of God only increases. Proverbs 25.27 states that "It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory". Moses never seeks his own honour or glory; his interests are always God’s interests, and also the interests of the people. His desire is, "would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!" (v.29). How blessed if we found men like this who would encourage the saints to move in a spiritual way for the Lord. One feels that Joshua would learn from these experiences.

His commission (Num 13.1-19)

We cannot fail to see the faithfulness of Joshua in the incident before us, when, as one of the twelve, at the Lord’s command he went to reconnoitre the Land before the Israelites took possession of their inheritance. We know the sad outcome of this mission when they brought back an evil report resulting in refusal of the people to enter the Land to possess it. There are many lessons to learn from this incident.

We note that it was the rulers (v.2) who went up and that it was these same rulers who were not prepared to trust the Lord to bring the people into their in heritance. They had to agree with God that the land was everything that He had promised (v.27), but they saw the difficulties, particularly of the strength of the inhabitants, the walls, and the sons of Anak (v.28). Unlike Abraham in Genesis 13.14-15 they only saw the problems that faced them (vv.32-33). As a result of this they kept Israel in the wilderness for thirty-eight years, during which their pilgrimage turned to wanderings. Caleb and Joshua alone sought to encourage them to enter into what God had promised. The people’s refusal, however, was not only adamant but also hostile.

His invocation (Num 14.6-9)

Here we find both Joshua and Caleb pleading with the nation to trust the Lord and move into the good of the land, for the Lord would bring them in if He found pleasure in them (v.9). How sad it is when we find just a few who are leaders yet who can influence a whole assembly to turn against those who seek to be a blessing to us. It is at this point that the rejection of the will of God turns to violence - they seek to stone them. The Lord intervenes as His glory appears to preserve His servants. We need not fear standing for the truth, even against greater odds, for the Lord will preserve those who are faithful to Him.

Israel had cried, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in the wilderness!" (14.2). It is a sorry thing to utter such sentiments before God, for in v.28 the Lord takes them up on it and states, "as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you". The sad thing is that for the rest of the journey those who were faithful had to suffer alongside them. There are many today who, because of leaders who will not take the saints up, are held back from the precious things of God. Such leaders who know the truth but see the difficulties, and are not prepared to trust the Lord, have kept many a dear saint from fully enjoying that which the Lord has promised to us. Not only will the people wander, but Joshua and Caleb must endure the same sad years in the wilderness. Thankfully the Lord will ultimately bring them into the good of the Land.

To be continued.

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