Friday 24 May 2013
When we look around, it's easy to see that there are many people who have been exceptional in their particular arena. In sport, there have been many legends through the years.
Michael Jordan is quite possibly the greatest basketball player of all time, to such an extent that he still earns more from the sport and his endorsements than any other basketball player currently in the game, and Jordan is now 50 years old!
Alex Ferguson, is one of the most successful managers in football and he's just retired, leaving David Moyes massive shoes to fill in Manchester United.
Jack Nicklaus is still regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, although Tiger Woods seems to be catching him once again.
Muhammed Ali famously said "I am the greatest" and he's still seen to be one of the best of all time.
So imagine how Joshua must have felt.
Israel had had an amazing experience, Moses had led them out of Egypt and they had seen miracles that defeated every deity the Egyptians had, just so that they would know how great their God was. Moses was an old man, and he led the Israelites out of Egypt, and as they left, God completely destroyed their enemies. The nation that had been enslaved, were now free. They crossed the Red Sea and were faced with a new land that God was going to give them.
But they turned their backs on God and decided that they couldn't possibly defeat these enemies, so God made them wander for 40 years in the desert.
During that time, God fed them every day, He never left them wanting. He provided for all of their needs, He gave them laws on how they were to live and their clothes and shoes never wore out. He did everything for them, and then as their time of wandering was almost over, Moses went up onto the mountain top and that was the last the Israelites saw of him.
Joshua had big shoes to fill. He was now in his 80's, but he had spent so much time in the Lord's presence he was the ideal person to take over as leader of the nation and this was confirmed to the people when Joshua's first public miracle was to cross the Jordan on dry land.
But how did Joshua become a great man of God?
So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” Numbers 11:28 (NKJV)
Firstly, Joshua was Moses assistant from when he was a young man. He spent his time learning how to lead as Moses did and he watched him, learning to understand his though processes. Basically, he modeled how to learn from a rabbi, by doing as the rabbi did, and this was and has been taught by Jews ever since, even the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, because they wanted to pray as He did.
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 (NKJV)
So Joshua's learning taught generations after him how to learn, by spending time with the master.
Yet in Exodus 33, we find out how Joshua became a great man of God:
Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and theLord talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. (Exodus 33 NKJV)
Joshua went into the presence of God whenever Moses did and he remained there when Moses left. Joshua spent his time learning from Moses and when he wasn't learning from him, he spent his time in the presence of God. It's not difficult to see how he managed to become a great leader. He had a servant heart because it was his job to help Moses, and this taught him how to be a great leader. Joshua stayed where the Lord was and the Lord gave him a nation.
So when Moses died, God spoke to Joshua and told him that He was with him, so he had no reason to fear:
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1 (NKJV)
So what happened when Joshua became the leader of a nation? He stepped straight into the word that God gave him 40 years ago. God told him and Caleb that they could conquer the land of Canaan (Numbers 13v30) and Joshua wanted to act on the Word God gave him.
You see, when God speaks a word into your life, you get to decide if you want to accept it and run with it, ignore it, or hang on to it until it comes to fruition.
To make this happen, God parted the river Jordan so that the Israelites crossed on dry land, showing them that He was with Joshua and showing the Canaanites that they were up against a nation that had a God far greater than any. On a personal note, I love how it says:
"...and the people crossed over opposite Jericho." (Joshua 3v17)
It's great how God demonstrates His power to us by building us up and unsettling the enemy at the same time!
Joshua also demonstrated the heart of Jesus in this. The spies he sent out, were obviously men who knew their master as they told Rahab and her family they would be safe, no matter what happened. In a place of judgement, God's mercy was being revealed. The spies didn't even know how the city was going to be attacked, yet when they spoke life instead of judgement into someone, God upheld their word and saved her and her family. (Joshua 2)
In other words, mercy triumphed over judgement.
The Israelites crossed the Jordan by Joshua telling the priests to go into the Jordan before the people and to carry the Ark of the Covenant. They were then to stop in the middle of the river until all the people had crossed and then were to follow the people across. This demonstrated to the people that God was going before them, that He was in the middle of the miracle with them and that He was going behind them. God had shown to the Israelites that He was still able to make the water stop on His command, and that He could still do miracles. He also showed those in Jericho that He was greater than their gods of water and land, in the same way He had demonstrated this to the Egyptians.
It showed that the stories they had heard of the Israelites crossing the Red sea were true, and that this nation, led by this God, were different to everything else they'd experienced!
Jesus is revealed all through the Bible. He is the one who shows us the heart of God. He goes before us, He stands with us and He goes behind us in everything we do. He constantly demonstrates mercy over judgement. He even went so far as to do this when Peter chopped off a soldiers ear as He was being arrested. He didn't say "Serves you right!" and He didn't leave the man to bleed, or leave him with one ear, He showed mercy, He healed him and went with His captors, knowing what was ahead of Him.
Joshua stepped into a place of being under the law, because he followed the leader who represented and still represents the law to Israel, yet he demonstrated the heart of Jesus. The reason he was able to do this is because he had learned to spend time in the presence of God.
Muhammed Ali said that he was the greatest, Moses was the greatest and Joshua was too.
To be great in God's kingdom, you have to be a servant, after all, If Jesus Himself said it, it has to be true!
43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43,44 NKJV)