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Joshua the Son of Nun (3): How he was Favoured (Num 27.18-23)

N Mellish, Stoke on Trent

His consecration to leadership

The ministry of Moses was now coming to an end. The price of not moving correctly according to the revealed will of God is very costly, and we do well to consider the Lord’s dealings with Moses. His disobedience in not speaking to the rock to bring forth water (Num 20.11) was the event that kept him from bringing Israel into the Land of Promise. Too often we fail to recognise the necessity of implicit obedience, and think anything will do for God so long as it is near enough to the truth. This incident teaches us that we must adhere to the will of God without deviation, or it can have great consequences, especially at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The failure of Moses spoilt a beautiful type of the work of the Lord Jesus. The first time Moses struck the rock (Ex 17.6) it was a sharp boulder and spoke of the Christ of God being smitten on the cross to bring in the good of the Spirit of God for His own. On the occasion (Num 20.10-11) which resulted in preventing Moses entering Canaan (Num 27) it was a high rock and speaks of Christ in exaltation. The Lord exalted will not be smitten again and Moses spoilt a lovely type.

Payment God will not twice demand, First at my bleeding Surety’s hand, And then again at mine. (Augustus Toplady)

On the first occasion when Moses smote the rock Joshua was introduced, so on this second occasion once again Joshua is brought forth to take up the leadership of the nation. It is not now to fight Amalek, but to confront those giants whom he had seen forty years before, who would now be an obstacle to him. Moses represents the law, and the law cannot bring us into the blessings of God. It must be a Joshua who, as we shall see, is a definite type of Christ.

The consecration of Joshua to leadership involved a number of things that marked him out for his future ministry. We notice, first, that it was a divine call (v.18) separating him to the work of God. Joshua did not take the responsibility of leading the Israelites in the flesh as did Abimelech in Judges 9. The latter was a man who sought pre-eminence at any price, even to the slaughter of his brethren. The people could not overthrow him until it pleased God to cause a woman to drop "a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head" (9.53) at the battle around Shechem. Sadly we still have such among us today and we must leave them in the hands of God.

The call of Joshua was altogether different - it was the Lord who appointed him and made this known to Moses. He was brought to prominence by God Himself. It was not only a divine call but a definite call. There was no mistaking the fact that the Lord desired Joshua, and no one else, to do this work. Moses was bidden to "Take thee Joshua the son of Nun" (v.18). This was not an "any man" ministry, nor was it according to Moses. At times we find men who are chosen by men and do not have divine approval for the great work of guiding God’s heritage. With Joshua no mistake is made as to who was to be God’s man to take the people into the land.

Joshua is also seen as a devout man, "in whom is the spirit" (v.18); such is this man of God. His experiences of being with Moses in the mount, of standing with Moses against the people’s sin and abiding in the tabernacle (Ex 33.11) reveal the spiritual nature of Joshua, and we now see that it was because, as noted above, he was a man "in whom is the spirit". Joshua is one of many in the Old Testament who were filled with the Spirit, as was John the Baptist (Lk 1.15), his mother (Lk 1.41), and his father (Lk 1.67), who all belong to the Old Testament economy. The difference in the two periods of God’s dealings with men is that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit could leave those who were filled with the Spirit, whereas in this present age "he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (Jn 14.17).

When we come to v.19 Joshua is marked out as a dedicated man. He is set before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and one can see a man who is going to walk under priestly guidance. The flesh has no place in the things of God and those who take up the reigns of leadership must move in a devoted and spiritual way for all the people to see. When he is to divide the land unto the people, again it is to be with a priestly eye looking on and helping to manifest the will of God (Num 34.16-17).

We see in the following verse (v.20) how he becomes a designated man. Moses is to put "some of thine honour upon him". This recalls the occasion when the mantle of Elijah was taken up by Elisha, who, going forth, smote the waters of Jordan to enable him to pass over (2 Kings 2.14). Joshua was soon to act in the same way for the Israelites to go over into the Promised Land. Whatever took place between Moses and Joshua (for we are not told what occurred), it was evidently carried out in the midst of the people for it was, "that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient". They were to recognise that Joshua was now the official leader, and the responsibility for taking them into their inheritance rested upon him.

For such a man to take up leadership he must be a dependant man, one who looks for divine guidance in all he is about to accomplish. It is for this purpose that "he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord" (v.21). Unlike Esau who moved in the flesh to lose all he should have received, Joshua is to be guided by the Urim that was in the High Priest’s breastplate. This stone was to unveil the purpose of God for the saints in every circumstance through which they were to pass. Joshua will not take up responsibility without first seeking the mind of the Lord at the hand of the High Priest. It was the Lord who was going to lead the way: "at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation". If the will of God was going to be brought to fruition then all must move according to divine revelation. We are called to "obedience…of Jesus Christ" in our conversion (1 Pet 1.2). We see that the Lord had only the Father’s will before Him when He moved in this world. If we are going to do anything for God as Joshua was, we must always seek the mind of the Lord before we venture on any work for Him. Concerning the assembly we must always move according to His revealed will. Many seem to be abandoning the right way of the Lord and make every excuse for their actions.

We now find that Joshua is set before the people as a displayed man (vv.22-23). Moses set the example of obedience when he "did as the Lord commanded him". These expressions should be a source of guidance for us, causing us to seek always to move only according to the will of God. In the setting forth of Joshua as the next leader it is noticeable that prior to being set before the people he was to stand before Eleazar the priest (vv.19,21,22). This campaign is not of men, it is according to God, and all things with Him should be carried out with priestly discernment, recognising the mind of God in our movements. The hand of commendation is seen and the will of God is fulfilled in Joshua’s consecration.

To be continued.

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