What Joshua Remembered
“MOSES my servant is dead,” said Jehovah, “and now get up, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them.” (Joshua 1:2) What a task lay before Joshua! He had been Moses’ attendant for almost 40 years. Now he was told to step into his master’s place and lead the often difficult sons of Israel into the Promised Land.
As Joshua surveyed what lay ahead, perhaps trials he had already faced and overcome raced through his mind. What Joshua remembered was doubtless an invaluable aid to him back then, and it can be for Christians today.
From Slave to Commander
Long years of slavery were part of Joshua’s memories. (Exodus 1:13, 14; 2:23) Just what Joshua’s experiences were during that period, we can only imagine, since the Bible is silent on the particulars. Joshua might have learned to be a good organizer during his service in Egypt, and he could have assisted in marshaling the flight of the Hebrews and the “vast mixed company” from that land.—Exodus 12:38.
Joshua belonged to a family of the tribe of Ephraim. His grandfather Elishama was the chieftain of the tribe and apparently led 108,100 armed men of one of the three-tribe divisions of Israel. (Numbers 1:4, 10, 16; 2:18-24; 1 Chronicles 7:20, 26, 27) Yet, when the Amalekites attacked Israel soon after Israel’s departure from Egypt, Moses called on Joshua to organize the defense. (Exodus 17:8, 9a) Why Joshua and not, for example, his grandfather or father? One suggestion is: “As a chief of the important tribe of Ephraim, and as one already well known for his skill in organization, and one thoroughly trusted by the people, to [Joshua] Moses turned as the leader best fitted to select and arrange the combatants.”
Be that as it may, when chosen, Joshua did just as Moses commanded. Though Israel was totally inexperienced in warfare, Joshua was convinced of divine help. So when Moses told him, “tomorrow I am stationing myself upon the top of the hill, with the rod of the true God in my hand,” that was enough. Joshua must have remembered that Jehovah had just annihilated the greatest military power of the day. The next day, when Moses lifted his hands and held them high until sunset, no enemy could stand against Israel, and the Amalekites were vanquished. Then Jehovah commanded Moses to write in a book and ‘propound in Joshua’s ears’ the divine decree: “I shall completely wipe out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens.” (Exodus 17:9b-14) Yes, Jehovah would unfailingly execute that sentence.
As Moses’ Attendant
The episode with Amalek must have forged an even closer relationship between Joshua and Moses. Joshua had the honor of being Moses’ personal attendant, or “minister,” “from his young manhood” until Moses’ death, a period of some 40 years.—Numbers 11:28.
That office meant privileges and responsibilities. For example, when Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and 70 of the older men of Israel ascended Mount Sinai and saw a vision of Jehovah’s glory, likely Joshua was among them. In his role as attendant, he accompanied Moses higher up the mountain and apparently remained at a distance while Moses entered the cloud symbolizing Jehovah’s presence. Remarkably, Joshua seems to have stayed on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. He faithfully awaited his master’s return, for when Moses began his descent with the tablets of the Testimony, Joshua was there to meet him.—Exodus 24:1, 2, 9-18; 32:15-17.
After the incident of Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf, Joshua continued in attendance on Moses at the tent of meeting outside the camp. There Jehovah spoke to Moses face-to-face. But when Moses returned to the camp, Joshua “would not withdraw from the midst of the tent.” Perhaps his presence there was required to prevent the Israelites from entering the tent in their unclean state. How seriously Joshua took that responsibility!—Exodus 33:7, 11.
Fellowship with Moses, who, according to historian Josephus, was 35 years older than Joshua, must have strengthened Joshua’s faith immensely. Their relationship has been called “the contact of maturity and youth, of the master and the scholar,” resulting in Joshua’s becoming “a firm, solid-set man.” We do not have prophets like Moses in our midst today, but congregations of Jehovah’s people do include older ones who because of their experience and spirituality represent a real source of strength and encouragement. Do you appreciate them? And are you benefiting from their company?
A Spy in Canaan
A crucial episode in Joshua’s life took place shortly after Israel received the Law. He was chosen to represent his tribe in spying out the Promised Land. The story is well-known. All 12 spies agreed that the land was indeed “flowing with milk and honey,” just as Jehovah had promised. However, ten faithlessly feared that Israel could not dispossess the inhabitants of the land. Only Joshua and Caleb urged the people not to rebel out of fear, for Jehovah would surely be with them. At that, all the assembly protested and talked of pelting the two with stones. Perhaps they would have done so had Jehovah not intervened with a manifestation of his glory. For their lack of faith, God decreed that none of those registered in Israel from 20 years old upward would live to enter Canaan. Of these, only Joshua, Caleb, and the Levites survived.—Numbers 13:1–16, 25-29; 14:6-10, 26-30.
Had not all the people seen Jehovah’s mighty acts in Egypt? What, then, enabled Joshua to have faith in God’s help while the majority doubted? Joshua must have kept clear in his mind all that Jehovah had promised and done, and he meditated on these. Years later he could say that ‘not one word of all the good words that Jehovah had spoken to Israel had failed. They had all come true.’ (Joshua 23:14) Joshua thus had faith that all the promises that Jehovah had made with regard to the future would also without fail be fulfilled. (Hebrews 11:6) This should move a person to ask: ‘What about me? Has the effort I have devoted to studying and pondering Jehovah’s promises convinced me of their trustworthiness? Do I believe that God can protect me along with his people during the coming great tribulation?’
Not only did Joshua exercise faith but he also displayed moral courage. He and Caleb stood alone, and all the assembly talked of stoning them. How would you have felt? Intimidated? Not Joshua. He and Caleb firmly said what they believed. Loyalty to Jehovah may require that we do the same one day.
The story of the spies also informs us that Joshua’s name was changed. To his original name, Hoshea, meaning “Salvation,” Moses added the syllable denoting the divine name and called him Jehoshua, or Joshua—“Jehovah Is Salvation.” The Septuagint renders his name “Jesus.” (Numbers 13:8, 16, footnote.) True to that great name, Joshua boldly declared that Jehovah is salvation. Joshua’s name change could not have been done casually. It reflected Moses’ esteem of Joshua’s character and corresponded with the privileged role Joshua would fulfill in leading a new generation into the Promised Land.
As their fathers died off, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 wearisome years. We know nothing of Joshua during that period. However, it must have taught him much. He likely witnessed God’s judgment on the rebels Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and on their followers and those who engaged in debased worship of the Baal of Peor. No doubt with great sadness Joshua learned that because of Moses’ failing to sanctify Jehovah concerning the waters of Meribah, Moses too would be excluded from the land of promise.—Numbers 16:1-50; 20:9-13; 25:1-9.
Commissioned as Moses’ Successor
When Moses’ death drew near, he asked God to appoint his successor so that Israel might not become “like sheep that have no shepherd.” Jehovah’s response? Joshua, “a man in whom there is spirit,” was to be commissioned before all the assembly. They were to listen to him. What a recommendation! Jehovah had seen Joshua’s faith and ability. Israel’s leadership could not have been entrusted to more qualified hands. (Numbers 27:15-20) Still, Moses knew that Joshua faced enormous challenges. So Moses urged his successor to be “courageous and strong,” for Jehovah would continue with him.—Deuteronomy 31:7, 8.
God himself repeated the same encouragement to Joshua and added: “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. This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and strong. Do not suffer shock or be terrified, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.”—Joshua 1:7-9.
With Jehovah’s words ringing in his ears and with the experience he had already accumulated, how could Joshua doubt? Conquest of the land was assured. Difficulties would arise, of course, not least of which was the very first challenge, fording the Jordan River at flood stage. Yet, Jehovah himself had commanded: “Get up, cross this Jordan.” So, what problem could there be?—Joshua 1:2.
Successive events in Joshua’s life—the conquest of Jericho, the progressive subjugation of their enemies, and the apportioning of the land—reveal that he never lost sight of God’s promises. Close to the end of his days, when Jehovah had given Israel rest from their enemies, Joshua assembled the people to review God’s dealings with them and to urge them to serve Him wholeheartedly. As a result, Israel solemnly renewed its covenant with Jehovah, and no doubt inspired by the example of their leader, “Israel continued to serve Jehovah all the days of Joshua.”—Joshua 24:16, 31.
Joshua provides an excellent example for us. Christians today face numerous tests of faith. Meeting them successfully is vital to maintaining Jehovah’s approval and ultimately to inheriting his promises. Joshua’s success depended on his strong faith. True, we have not seen God’s mighty acts as Joshua did, but if anyone should doubt, the Bible book bearing Joshua’s name provides eyewitness testimony to the trustworthiness of Jehovah’s word. We, like Joshua, are assured wisdom and success if we read God’s Word daily and take care to put it into practice.
Are you sometimes hurt by the conduct of fellow Christians? Think of Joshua’s endurance during the 40 years he was obliged, through no fault of his own, to wander in the wilderness with faithless companions. Do you find it difficult to stand up for what you believe? Recall what Joshua and Caleb did. For their faith and obedience, they received a splendid reward. Yes, Joshua truly had faith that Jehovah would fulfill all his promises. May the same be true of us.—Joshua 23:14.
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Joshua and Caleb had confidence in Jehovah’s power
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Fellowship with Moses strengthened Joshua’s faith
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Joshua’s leadership inspired the people to stick to Jehovah