Joshua Then and Now

Theme: The Importance of the Book of Joshua
This week’s lessons show why Joshua should be studied today, and what things God considers necessary for godly leadership.
Joshua 1:1-9
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”


Joshua is one of that class of biblical books that is named after its chief character. Not all of the biblical books are like this as you well know. Joshua is preceded in our Bible by five other books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And not one of those books is named after a major character, though some of the chief and most important personalities of the Bible are found in them. We think of Adam, and Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. And yet, none of those books is called after the name of those individuals.
Here we come to Joshua. And we find that this book is named after its chief character, and so it falls in a category of such other books as Ruth, First and Second Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and the book of Job. Now, it’s appropriate that this book should be named Joshua because, although it deals with other things, it most certainly introduces us to the character and accomplishments of this really extraordinary man. Joshua, as I say, deals with other things. But here is a character who excelled in his obedience to God and led the people of Israel during a difficult and transitional period.
It’s often the fate of characters in history who follow particularly prominent individuals to be overlooked. And that unfortunately has been Joshua’s fate. Who can remember the American president who succeeded Abraham Lincoln? Some people perhaps can. But it does not come leaping readily to mind. Not many people can think of the prime minister who followed Winston Churchill. Joshua followed Moses. Moses was the great leader of the people during the years of their wandering in the desert. And he was the one through whom God brought about their deliverance from Egypt. People focused naturally on Moses. Joshua was the follower. And so, Joshua has unfortunately--and I must say, without biblical warrant--often been overlooked. So, I say, it’s appropriate that the book be named Joshua because by that naming, it’s as if God is saying to us, "Have you considered my servant, Joshua? Joshua is an extraordinary man. He was faithful. He served me over a long period of time. He was wholly devoted to my ways. This is the story, and this is a character to which you should certainly take heed.” I suppose that’s what Philip Keller was thinking about when he wrote about Joshua.
He has seldom been given the credit he deserves as perhaps the greatest man of faith ever to set foot on the stage of human history. In fact, his entire brilliant career was a straight-forward story of simply setting one foot after another in quiet compliance with the commands of God. And that achievement, the achievement of setting one foot after another in quiet compliance with the commands of God, is hardly the way to command the attention and admiration of the world. And yet, it’s the key to success in the Christian life, which is the only thing that really matters. It’s simply a matter of obedience. And in that, this man, Joshua, was an outstanding, noteworthy example. But let me say, because I’m introducing the book and not just a character, that that is not the only thing with which the book of Joshua deals.
It's true that Joshua is the story of a man. But at the same time, it’s also the story of a conquest. It tells how these tribes that had been led out of Egypt by Moses, the great emancipator, now under the command of Joshua, who in turn was commanded by the Lord, actually entered into the promised land and possessed that which God had given to the people in promise so many thousands of years before. The first time that promise of the land is found in Scripture is back in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, where God calls Abraham. He said that He was sending him to a land. And He said, "I will give you this land to which I send you." But it has been more than 500 years since that initial promise. Yet here in the unfolding plan of God in history, that which was promised so many centuries before now rolls around to its fulfillment. And in the fulfillment of those promises in the possession of the land, we have this matter of transition. This is the thing that impressed Francis Schaeffer so much in his study of Joshua. And it’s why he called it, I think rightly, “a bridge book." 


  • Why is the book of Joshua important for today?
  • What are some leadership abilities that the secular culture considers essential?
  • In what ways might the church become more like the world by adopting these qualities?
  • Joshua’s effectiveness as a leader was not because of a rare combination of gifts and abilities. Rather, he was useful in the Lord’s service because he was committed to carefully studying and obeying the Word of God.
  • Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014).

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