Let Joshua Help You Serve Jehovah Courageously!
“IN THE world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” You may recognize that those words were uttered by the man named Jesus. However, if you spoke Hebrew, the name Joshua might come to mind, for Jesus is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.—John 16:33.
Fittingly, being courageous is also a key idea in the Bible book written by Jesus’ predecessor, Joshua the son of Nun. But, you might wonder, how can we personally benefit from the book of Joshua? Well, let us begin with this idea of being courageous.
A Man of Courage
As Moses came to the end of his life, Jehovah selected as his successor Joshua, who certainly was not some novice or untried youth. Joshua had been born a slave in Egypt, but after the Exodus he distinguished himself as a valiant leader in repelling the unprovoked attack of the Amalekites. (Exodus 17:8-16) Joshua confirmed his valor and faith when, of the 12 men sent to spy out the land of Canaan, only he and Caleb fearlessly reported that with Jehovah’s help the immoral Canaanites could be vanquished and the Promised Land taken.—Numbers 13:1–14:9.
Since Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, he told Joshua: “Be courageous and strong, because you—you will bring this people into the land that Jehovah swore to their forefathers to give to them, and you yourself will give it to them as an inheritance.”—Deuteronomy 31:7, 23.
You can see, then, why we can expect to learn from the book of Joshua how he was courageous and how we can be. In fact, over half of the times that the words “courageous” and “strong” occur together in a Bible verse are in the book of Joshua or in comments about him. For instance, as we begin reading this book we find Jehovah’s advice to Joshua: “Be courageous and very strong to take care to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn aside from it to the right or to the left, in order that you may act wisely everywhere you go.” (Joshua 1:7) Let us take note of some of the instances where Joshua gave evidence of having the inward courage of faith as well as the outward courage of action. Then we can see what lessons we personally can learn from this.
Courageous Faith and Actions
Right after Jehovah urged Joshua to “be courageous and very strong,” he began preparations to lead Israel across the Jordan and into the land of Canaan. Joshua directed: “Get provisions ready for yourselves, because three days from now you are crossing this Jordan to go in and take possession of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you.” (Joshua 1:11) So courageous faith did not lead Joshua to feel that they could just sit back and wait for Jehovah to do everything. Personal effort was needed. Similarly, we need faith and courage to follow Jesus’ counsel to trust that God will help us find adequate food and clothing. Yet the promise of such help does not mean that we can simply sit back and do nothing to support ourselves.—Matthew 6:25-33.
The immediate problem facing Joshua was fording the Jordan River in the spring when the water was high and crossing was most dangerous. (Joshua 5:10) Joshua did not reason, ‘It may be better to wait until midsummer when the water level falls.’ God said to act, and Joshua did so courageously. Do you see a lesson here? When it is time for us to do something involving true worship, we need to act courageously, rather than being inclined to delay until things seem more favorable or convenient. Yes, act, as did Joshua.—Ecclesiastes 11:4; James 4:13, 14.
Showing that He was with Joshua, God directed him to have priests carry the ark of the covenant to the swollen river. When they stepped into the water, it parted. The nation could then pass over as on dry land. Rather than taking any personal credit for this, Joshua followed Jehovah’s direction and built in Gilgal (safely on the west bank) a memorial of stones taken from the riverbed. It was to emphasize that ‘Jehovah’s hand is strong, in order that he might be feared always.’ (Joshua 3:5–4:24) Though we are not personally in position to see that stone memorial, what Jehovah did through Joshua should build our confidence in God’s ability to act in behalf of His people. The significance of that memorial was certainly going to be meaningful for the Israelites who faced the fortified Canaanite city of Jericho.
Would Joshua, fearless army commander that he was, lead the Israelites in a mass attack against this walled city? You may know that instead Joshua followed God’s directions. To do what? To have his armed men silently march each day around the city followed by priests, some blowing rams’ horns and others carrying the Ark. On the seventh day they marched seven times, whereupon “the people shouted, when they proceeded to blow the horns. . . . Then [Jericho’s] wall began to fall down flat.” That allowed Joshua’s men to charge in and devote the city to destruction. Yes, complete victory!—Joshua 6:20.
Courageously Firm, Yet Reasonable
We can appreciate another aspect of Joshua’s courage from two events that next took place. The first involved the nearby city of Ai. When the Israelites came up against it, they were routed. Why? Because, contrary to God’s command, Achan had taken some loot from Jericho. Some people might excuse his actions since the things he took were useful and it did not seem that his taking them would hurt anyone. You may have heard similar reasoning about small thefts from an employer or other “minor” wrongdoing. How did Joshua react?
With divine assistance Joshua singled out the wrongdoer and confirmed the crime by locating the stolen goods. How paltry those items must have looked! But Joshua got to the heart of the matter, telling Achan: “Why have you brought ostracism upon us? Jehovah will bring ostracism upon you on this day.” (Joshua 7:25) Joshua, firm for righteousness, had the sinner executed, opening the way for Ai to be conquered. With Joshua’s handling of Achan’s case in mind, we might consider, ‘Am I as resolute when associates on my job or at school make light of illegal or immoral acts?’
Now consider the second event, which involved the Canaanite inhabitants of Gibeon. Hearing of Joshua’s success against Jericho and Ai, they shrewdly sent men posing as travelers from a distant land who wanted to, and did, conclude a covenant of peace with Israel. Then it came to light that the men actually were from nearby Gibeon, and many Israelites began to murmur over how the matter had been handled. Would Joshua fly into a rage over the trickery and order Gibeon destroyed?
A covenant had been made, and Joshua respected it. He directed that the Gibeonites henceforth be assigned to draw water and gather wood for God’s house. The Gibeonites agreed to honor this arrangement, and events soon showed that Joshua, too, would honor it. How? Well, five Canaanite kings from the area formed a league and marched against Gibeon. Joshua acted quickly, and, after an all-night march, attacked the confederacy. Jehovah assisted by raining down lethal hailstones on the Canaanite army and then miraculously keeping the sun motionless for a day so that the Israelites could complete their rout. Remembering the Gibeonites, if we enter into an agreement or give our word on something that is not contrary to God’s principles, will we be as firmly courageous as Joshua was? Do we keep our word even if it is difficult or inconvenient?—Psalm 15:4.
Significantly, after the fighting just mentioned, and as the five enemy kings were to be executed, Joshua urged his people: “Do not be afraid or be terrified. Be courageous and strong, for it is like this that Jehovah will do to all your enemies against whom you are warring.” (Joshua 10:25) Being strong and courageous would stand the Israelites in good stead as they pushed the God-ordained conquest first to the south and then up north where the king of Hazor also formed a futile alliance against Israel. Though not as advanced technologically as the Canaanites, who had fortified cities and armed chariots, the Israelites courageously carried out Jehovah’s will.
Other Lessons From Joshua
We have particularly taken note of lessons in the book of Joshua related to his courage. But as you read through the book you may well find other useful lessons.
For example, many women have been impressed with the attitude of Rahab, who protected two Israelites who came to spy out Jericho. Most of the Canaanites, hearing of God’s great doings in behalf of Israel, became defensive and fearfully opposed Israel. Not Rahab. She was willing to put herself at odds with her own people and to risk her life in order to receive Jehovah’s loving-kindness. She also did what she could to help her relatives learn what they needed to do to have their lives protected. We certainly could use that account to help women today to sense the priority of true worship over connections with their neighbors or even their nation.—Joshua 2:8-14.
You will find a good lesson in Joshua about not misjudging others’ motives. It involves the time, after much of Canaan was subdued, when Joshua had apportioned the land according to tribal inheritances. Men from two and a half tribes were returning to their territory east of the Jordan. As they did so, they erected an altar. The other tribes jumped to a conclusion—a wrong one—as to what the altar meant. Intertribal warfare threatened. As you read the account in Joshua chapter 22, note the lesson about being careful not to assign bad motives to the actions of others. And observe, too, what it would be good for you to do if you feel that another has slighted you or acted improperly.
No overview of the book of Joshua should omit its emphasis on learning about and sticking to true worship based on God’s Word. God advised Joshua to read His word regularly and not depart from it. (Joshua 1:8) After the victory at Ai, Joshua led the whole nation up north to the area of Shechem, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. There he built an altar for sacrifices, and then “he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses.” (Joshua 8:32) Further, he read the law to the people. “There proved to be not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read aloud in front of all the congregation of Israel, together with the women and the little ones and the alien residents who walked in their midst.”—Joshua 8:35.
Later, after Joshua had lived for a time in the town that he modestly had requested as an inheritance, he reassembled the people, saying: “As for me, I have grown old, I have advanced in days. And as for you, you have seen all that Jehovah your God did to all these nations on your account, because Jehovah your God was the one who was fighting for you.” So he urged them: “You must be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses by never turning away from it to the right or to the left . . . But it is to Jehovah your God that you should cleave.” As a stimulus to that end, he reminded them: “You well know . . . that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true.”—Joshua 23:2-8, 14.
Finally, he again called the people together for farewell exhortations and pleaded with them: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, . . . but as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” When they assured him that they would, too, he concluded a covenant with them. The divine record says: “It came about that after these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Jehovah, gradually died at the age of a hundred and ten years.” Certainly this loyal worshiper of Jehovah provides powerful incitement for us, too, to be courageous and strong as we “fear Jehovah and serve him in faultlessness and in truth.”—Joshua 24:14, 15, 29.