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Article 2016-05 - Joshua, the Next Savior

Chapter 20: Joshua, the Next Savior


The name ‘Joshua’ is related to the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’. They mean the same, namely ‘savior’. Joshua is a type of Jesus, as He commands His troops to execute world missions.
The early years of Joshua’s mission teach us that the only reasons why God’s people loose time and opportunity are sin and unbelief. Nobody can curse God’s people into failure; temptation is much more dangerous. We see that God judges everyone justly, leader and follower, Gentiles as well as His own people. When God calls people like Joshua to occupy positions of great responsibility, He trains them for a long time. Another remarkable lesson from the missions of both Moses and Joshua is, that initial research forms an indispensable part of ministry. Finally we receive a painful glimpse into the principle that sin in church affects its ministry negatively.

Scripture reference

… the Lord said to Joshua … ‘Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land … Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you’ (Josh. 1:1,6,7)

There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel (Numb. 23:23)

The story

Under Moses’ capable, patient leadership Israel wandered through the desert for forty years. It wasn’t necessary that their trip took so long; two months would have been sufficient, but their unbelief and grumbling about food and drink made them unfit to conquer the promised land. The generation that left Egypt was carnal and unbelieving. In spite of all they had seen God do to liberate them, they rewarded Him with complaints, criticism and a skeptical attitude. Their minds were full of Egyptian idolatry. They received the Law and broke it time and again with rebellion and fornication.

They were taught about sacrifices, giving, holiness, faith, obedience, leadership and so on, much like the Church of today. They learned that curses against God’s people did not work when Balaam had tried that at the Moabite king’s request. Israel’s men were organized into an army under Joshua’s leadership and learned to fight their battles under his command.

The sad outcome of this period was that only two people reached the promised land: Joshua and Caleb, who had both exercised faith when everybody else failed. Not even meek Moses persevered to the end and had to relinquish leadership to Joshua, whom God had called to succeed him.

A new generation of Israelites emerged. They would be privileged to enter the land God had promised their fathers. But before it could be occupied it had to be conquered. We see God’s wisdom in appointing Joshua, a man full of faith, experienced in God’s business and a well-trained army-commander. He was prepared under Moses’ leadership for forty years, never moving away from his side. He played second fiddle all his life. By now he was over eighty, as Moses was when God called him.

God told Joshua to cross the Jordan river with the entire people of Israel because the time had come to occupy the promised land. God met him with mighty promises, if only he would be strong and courageous, and live very close to God’s Word. He then appointed two spies to research their next move. Their trip yielded useful information and a meeting that would lead to a whole gentile family’s salvation, because of one woman’s faith.

Scripture reference

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said … ‘I know that the Lord has given this land to you and … all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you … Now then, please swear to me … that you will spare the lives of my father and mother … and all who belong to them and that you will save us from death’ (Josh. 2:4,9,12,13)

The story, continued

Israel crossed the Jordan, by a miracle of equal importance to that of the Red Sea crossing by the former generation. Before the attack on Jericho was launched the male population was circumcised, in an act of covenant renewal with the Lord. When the men had recovered from their wounds the Lord revealed His plan for the attack. They had to walk around the city with the whole army, once a day for six consecutive days. The priests were to join them with trumpets and the Ark. On the seventh day the Israelites had to walk seven times around the city. Then the priests had to blow their trumpets and all of them had to shout at the top of their voices. At that the walls of the city would collapse. Each Israelite had to enter the city straight ahead and conquer it.

Joshua did as he was told. He commanded his troops accordingly and the seventh day the walls fell. Rahab, the woman who hid and helped the spies, was saved according to the promise she had received. Joshua had instructed the army not to harm them.

No spoils were to be taken; everything of value had to be destroyed, or a curse would come on the people. One man thought that it couldn’t be that bad and decided to help himself to a coat and a bag of money, which he hid in his tent. That would turn out to be an expensive mistake…

Scripture reference

But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it (Josh. 6:18)

But … Achan … took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel … Then all Israel stoned him … (Josh. 7:1,25)

The story, continued

Joshua called his army and revealed his battle plan for Ai, a small city, further west. He decided that not all of them had to go. Three thousand men would be plenty to win.

The next day became a disaster. The Israelites were beaten by the people of Ai and thirty-six were killed. The mourning in the camp was great. Joshua cried out to the Lord and He revealed to him that there was sin in the camp. Someone had trespassed against the decree of the devoted things. God then told Joshua how to deal with this situation. The next day Achan was indicated by the Lord. He and his family were stoned to death. The fear of the Lord descended on the camp. It had been a day to remember.

Later Israel conquered Ai without problems. After that, an Israelite man, Salmon, married Rahab and later Boaz, their first son was born. Joshua led his troops to conquer numerous strategic locations in the country. They were successful wherever they went. Once, when the day ended before the battle was over, Joshua even commanded the sun to stop until he had the victory. God graciously backed up his faithful servant with that great miracle.


Israel was delayed for forty years in the desert because of sin and unbelief. Similarly today, there is nothing that hinders the Church more from establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, than sin and unbelief. World missions without holiness is wishful thinking. Some believe that the devil causes the Church’s failures, because of ‘magic’ or ‘curses’. This is nonsense, as we saw from Balaam’s story. Giving in to temptations is what really stops believers individually as well as collectively from reaching God’s goals.

With regard to sin, Moses (the leader) and the Israelites (his followers) were judged with equal justice. Neither made it into the promised land. God does not respect persons for their status, position or successful ministerial history.
Similarly, we see that believing Gentiles, like Rahab could be saved. She conformed to the only way of salvation that was offered, whereas sinning ‘believers’, like Achan received death as just compensation for ignoring God’s command. Achan was not a leader in Israel, but his behavior caused the whole people to be defeated. Even the least important church member who sins consciously incurs God’s displeasure on a whole congregation. Let’s respect the spiritual laws that we see here. 
Otherwise, saved Gentiles can fulfill God’s purposes. Rahab and Salmon’s son Boaz became king David’s great-grandfather. So Rahab became part of Christ’s ancestry.

Leaders of God’s people with tasks in cross-cultural missionary outreach and spiritual warfare are trained for a long time, mostly in character and servanthood, before they can are join God’s battle. Generals train longer and more intensely than sergeants.

Moses and Joshua teach us that successful outreach is based on research. We need to know who the enemy is, his strength, his weapons and how determined he is, before we can adequately meet him. Just marching into battle without knowing the enemy’s power is suicide. That goes for ministry as much as for military battle. Rahab and her family would not have been saved, had not the spies done their research job first. Therefore missionary research is just as much a part of salvation ministry as preaching is.

Discussion & dialogue

  • Explain how, in this story, the sent-one becomes a sender himself
  • Mention two other biblical examples of how the execution of a mission was preceded by adequate research.
  • Explain how that research influenced the result of this mission positively Which seven of the ten themes reoccur in this story? Describe how. (Answers are in the Teacher’s Guide)

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