Joshua 1:1-9, 1 Timothy 4:12, Matthew 28:18-20
This past Sunday, I preached on Joshua’s calling. If Joshua was anything like me, I’m sure he felt overwhelmed when he learned from God that Moses was dead and that he was the new leader of Israel. Moses, after all, was the greatest leader Israel had to that point. How in the world would he fill Moses’ shoes?
God cast a vision for Joshua that he would lead Israel to fulfill the promise given to Moses that they would inherit the land promised to Abraham. As part of that vision, God promised that no one would be able to stand against Joshua. He would be with Joshua just as he was with Moses. He would neither forsake him or leave him.
I would have hated to try to follow Moses as the leader of the nation of Israel. Those are big shoes to fill! They were a hard people to lead, but they’d come to trust Moses and his leadership. Furthermore, he led them for a long time and they were used to his style of leadership. Now, God was tapping a new generation of leadership to take the reigns and forward God’s plan to its next step of completion.
God knew, when the people were leaving Egypt, that Moses would not lead his people into the land. He knew that a generation would rebel and pass while wandering in the desert. Early in their voyage, he planted a vision in the heart of two young men who spied out the land of the Canaanites. They saw a rich land. It was a land to be desired and they knew that God had promised it to them. When the people refused to cross into the land, those two young men never lost the vision of taking the land that was promised to them. God knew he would use Joshua and Caleb to lead his people into the land.
Moses had a big job to do. God used him to free his people from slavery. He used him to lead them to a place where they would be tested and refined. Through Moses, God taught his people about faith, dependence, discipline, and revealed his love and character to them. But, when it came to actually leading the people into the fullness of that promise, God had someone else in mind.
Joshua Didn’t Have to Fill Moses’ Shoes
Joshua stayed close to Moses and learned about leadership. He saw him after he came down from the mountain still touched by the glory of having seen God. He knew the struggles that Moses had, the victories, and the failures. And, when the time for leadership to change hands came, God chose him to be the new leader.
Joshua wasn’t Moses. He had a different personality, a different style of leadership, and a huge job ahead of him. There is a reason why God tells him to be strong and courageous three times and assures Joshua of his eternal presence twice.
He is about to take charge of a people who were set in their own way of doing things. They had become comfortable in receiving manna and quail daily. They’d fallen into the routine of moving from once place to another in the desert as they sought water. In fact, most of the people he was now leading knew no other way of life. Moses led their parents out of Egypt, but now they were being called to go into the promised land.
Joshua would have to lead people as only Joshua could. He would have to convince them that the faith they’d and lessons they’d learned in the desert were the same faith and lessons they’d live while taking the land. This doesn’t mean he tossed out all Moses did and did his own thing. On the contrary, in verse 8, God cautions Joshua to follow all of Moses’ teachings, to meditate on them day and night, and to not turn from them. In this, he would find the key to his success in achieving the goal God had set him. He was to live and lead in a way that honored and acknowledged Moses. He was to teach the same lessons of faith taught by Moses, but he would do so in his own way and with the unique gifts God had given him. In Joshua’s story, we find three principles of faith for each new generation of leaders.
God’s Plan For You Is Already in Place
When God called Joshua to leadership, he already had the plan for Joshua in place. He was giving a land already conquered into Joshua’s hands. All Joshua and the people had to do was be faithful in taking that land. When God gave his promise to Abraham, God knew Joshua would fulfill that promise by leading the people into the land. Just as God used Moses to free his people from slavery, so he was going to use Joshua to lead his people into his promise.
When we think of the generations before us, we see great men and women of faith. We may even wonder if we’d ever be able to lead like they did. Yet, with the passing of time, we find ourselves in the positions they once held. And, it can be overwhelming to think that now we must be the leaders. It can be even harder if the older generation is looking on as a new generation take up the reigns.
But, we have a lesson in scripture that is seen time and again. Each generation is called to step out in faith to live the plan God has laid. Each new generation is responsible for teaching the next generation the promises of God, the salvation won in his Son, and how to live a life faithfully surrendered to him. The trappings of the faith may look different from generation to generation, but the substance of the faith is the same and it takes men and women of courageous faith in each generation to carry forward God’s kingdom plans. This is why Paul warns Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). Timothy was following Paul in leadership. He was young, but God’s plan for him was just as important and necessary as Paul’s own. He would be reaching people and advancing the gospel to a new generation long after Paul was gone.
God Is With His People
Just as God had been with his servant Moses, God promised to be with Joshua. It was a promise that covered every difficulty he’d face, every battle he’d fight, every failure, and every success. God had placed his man where and when he wanted him to be and promised to be with him. There is great reassurance, joy, and peace to be found in the sovereignty of the Almighty God.
I believe, more than anything else, that this promise drove Joshua. It was to this promise he turned again and again. All he had to do was look at his own life of leaving Egypt, God’s providence in the delivery of his people, and his sustaining presence throughout their sojourn to know God was with them. More, he had watched God guide and minister to Moses. Knowing God’s promise allowed him to step out into faith.
Be Strong, Courageous, and Faithful
God showed his sovereignty in Joshua’s life by calling him to fulfill the next step of his kingdom plan. Joshua’s response was to be one of faithful and courageous obedience. God warned Joshua that, not only would his calling be difficult, it would be scary. He is encouraged three times to be strong and courageous. In fact, the second time, he’s told to be strong and very courageous.
In following God, our strength does not come from within ourselves. It comes from faithfully knowing God and following his instruction. God cautioned Joshua not to turn to the left or the right from what he was taught. While his leadership may differ from Moses, the faith behind that leadership was to be the same. The promise is that, if he carefully follows God’s full instruction, then he will have success wherever he goes.
Further, he is cautioned not to let the Word of God depart from his mouth. He is to meditate on it (the HCSB translates this as “recite it”) day and night. This means that each day and each night, he is to read (recite) the Word, think about the Word, and make the Word a part of himself. In other words, he must desire God’s Word and actively pursue it so that he may be careful to follow what is written in it. The promise is that, if he dwells in and lives out the Word in this way, he will prosper and succeed in all he does to fulfill God’s kingdom plan.
Joshua’s life was marked by his faithfulness to God’s promise and ours can be as well. Each generation, God raises up new men and women of faith. With each generation, he furthers his kingdom plan.
Going Forward in Your Ministry
As you consider the ministry in which God has placed you, whether that is in your family, your church, your place of work or school, or the neighborhood where you live, know that God has called you to further his kingdom plan. You don’t have to worry about filling someone else’s shoes. He has a unique plan just for you that takes into account the way he created you and the gifts he gave you. He created you for just this time and just this place. As you answer his call, he promises to neither leave nor forsake you. His promise to you and his presence is eternally with you. However, you must make the decision to accept the responsibility he has given you. Serving him can be difficult, dangerous, and scary. The resistance and challenges you meet must be met with strength and courage and you find that by walking in God’s instruction and dwelling in his Word. So take up the ministry he has given you, go out and make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Teach and encourage a new generation to walk faithfully and courageously in obedience to God. And, know that God is with you always.