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Joshua The Assistant

So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua,
and Moses went up to the mountain of God.
Exodus 24:13

Joshua was born as a slave in Egypt. His name meant "The LORD is salvation." He went through the hardships and bondages in Egypt, and witnessed the salvation of God in delivering His people by signs and wonders out of slavery into His Promised Land. The name of Joshua is an Old Testament form of the name of Jesus. By his name and by his life, Joshua demonstrated that salvation came from the LORD.

After the death of Moses, God could have chosen one of Moses' two sons to be the next leader of Israel. Instead He chose Joshua, Moses' assistant. As Moses' successor, Joshua completed the work that Moses began. Moses led Israel out of Egypt, but Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land.

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:
"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.
Every place that the sole of your foot
will tread upon I have given you,
as I said to Moses.
Joshua 1:1-3

What were God's selection criteria in choosing this son of Nun to be the successor to Moses? Why was Joshua chosen to lead the nation of Israel to conquer the land of Canaan so that the people of God could settle in the Promised Land?

Putting it very plainly, Joshua was an assistant. He was not the boss. He was the assistant to Moses, running errands and doing odd jobs. He didn't care too much about his own personal gain or honour. He sought to serve his master and people. He was willing to do the dirty work. There was no task too menial for him to do. He was not interested in job titles, rankings and positions, office politics and gossips, or pushing his way up the corporate ladder, or seeking power and wealth amassment.

He was a faithful assistant. He did his work faithfully, whether big or small.

He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies
will have his fill of poverty.
A faithful man will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:19-20

He who is faithful in what is least
is faithful also in much;
and he who is unjust in what is least
is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:10

Joshua did not mind who would get the glory or credit or recognition as long as his people got the benefits. He also did not set any limit in serving his people in terms of time and efforts. He was always willing to go the second mile. Therefore, there was no limit whereby he could not achieve or accomplish as the LORD blessed and led him. He knew Whom he served. It was God, and not only Moses and Israel! He was an assistant to Moses, serving God! Co-labouring with him and Him!

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters
according to the flesh,
not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers,
but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
And whatever you do, do it heartily,
as to the Lord and not to men
knowing that from the Lord
you will receive the reward of the inheritance;
for you serve the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:22-24

Like Moses, Joshua was a man of God! When Moses went up to the mountain in the Wilderness of Sinai to commune with God, he took his assistant Joshua with him. Moses went up higher while Joshua waited.

So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua,
and Moses went up to the mountain of God.
Exodus 24:13

Though Moses tarried with God on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, Joshua waited patiently for his return. There was no hurrying or rushing. There was no curiosity of wanting to peek into what Moses was doing on the mountain with God, or trying to probe into the conversation between Moses and God! Joshua was a very patient man. As he was able to wait 40 days, he was also able to wait 40 years!

I was forty years old
when Moses the servant of the LORD
sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land,
and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
Joshua 14:7

When Moses sent him out as one of the twelve to spy out the land, Joshua was already 40 years old. When Moses died, Joshua was about 80 years old. After serving as an assistant for 40 years, God promoted him to be the leader! That's quite a long duration of time! All of his life was spent serving God and others. He was totally willing to suppress his own ego and needs for vainglory and worldly recognition. Even after becoming the leader, Joshua recognized Who the Commander-in-Chief really was.

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho,
that he lifted his eyes and looked,
and behold, a Man stood opposite him
with His sword drawn in His hand.
And Joshua went to Him and said to Him,
"Are You for us or for our adversaries?"
So He said, "No, but as
Commander of the army of the LORD
I have now come."
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped,
and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?"
Then the Commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua,
"Take your sandal off your foot,
for the place where you stand is holy."
And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15

As Joshua was willing to humble himself before God and others, God finally exalted him.

And the LORD said to Joshua,
"This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel,
that they may know that, as I was with Moses,
so I will be with you."
Joshua 3:7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand,
that He may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6

Joshua was a true worshipper of God. This was clearly shown as Moses gave him a very prominent role inside the Tabernacle of God. Whenever Moses returned to the camp after fellowshipping with God, Joshua would remain inside the tabernacle. Therein he was praising and worshipping God, praying and interceding for his leader and people. He waited upon the LORD as a servant waiting upon his Master. Joshua loved to be in the presence 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
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.
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
the Lord talked with Moses.
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.
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 33:7-11

When Moses sent 12 spies to scout out the land of Canaan, Joshua was selected as the representative from his tribe, Ephraim (Numbers 13:8). Only Joshua and Caleb returned to the camp with a good report that they could conquer the land of giants with God's help. The other ten spies gave a bad report.

And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land
which they had spied out, saying,
"The land through which we have gone as spies
is a land that devours its inhabitants,
and all the people whom we saw in it
are men of great stature.
There we saw the giants
(the descendants of Anak came from the giants);
and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight,
and so we were in their sight."
Numbers 13:32-33

When the people did not believe God and the good report of Joshua and Caleb, they wandered round and round. But Joshua and Caleb were willing to wander with them for the full duration of 40 years in the wilderness. They did not file a complaint to God or murmur against God! They did not cry foul play, seeking justice, fairness, favors or rewards. Because of their faithfulness, they were the only two adults allowed to enter the Promised Land at the end of the wandering period.

Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh
and Joshua the son of Nun,
you shall by no means enter the land
which I swore I would make you dwell in.
But your little ones, whom you said would be victims,
I will bring in,
and they shall know the land which you have despised.
Numbers 14:30-31

After Moses' death, Joshua was chosen by God Himself to be the successor. He led the Israelites to defeat the giants, conquering the Promised Land. He also personally supervised the division of the territories among the tribes of Israel. Not only that, he led the people to renew their covenant with God.

And the people said to Joshua,
"The LORD our God we will serve,
and His voice we will obey!"
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day,
and made for them a statute
and an ordinance in Shechem.
Joshua 24:24-25

After serving as the leader of Israel for about 30 years, Joshua died at the age of 110. He was buried in the land of his inheritance at Timnath Serah.

Now it came to pass after these things
that Joshua the son of Nun,
the servant of the LORD, died,
being one hundred and ten years old.
And they buried him
within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Serah,
which is in the mountains of Ephraim,
on the north side of Mount Gaash.
Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua,
and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua,
who had known all the works of the LORD
which He had done for Israel.

Joshua 24:29-31

Joshua was known as the servant of God. Because of his faithfulness, servanthood and example, Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua! That's quite an achievement and accomplishment! Joshua also had elected elders to help him in leading and guiding the people of Israel. After the death of Joshua, Israel continued to obey the LORD throughout the lifetimes of these elders who had also personally witnessed the amazing deeds the LORD had done for Israel. Joshua was faithful in raising faithful men who were able to teach others also how to faithfully obey God.

And the things that you have heard
from me among many witnesses,
commit these to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2

One important message Joshua taught his people was that true and false religions could not be mixed. God ordered Joshua to destroy the Canaanites because of their pagan and immoral worship practices. But these people never were totally subdued or destroyed. Traces of their false religions remained to tempt the Israelites. Throughout the history of Israel, the Hebrew people continually departed and wandered from worshipping the one true God. This tendency towards idolatry was the main theme of Joshua's moving farewell speech. He warned the people against worshipping these false gods, and challenged them to remain faithful to their great Deliverer and God. Nobody could worship these false gods and remain faithful to the Lord:

"Now therefore, fear the LORD,
serve Him in sincerity and in truth,
and put away the gods which your fathers served
on the other side of the River and in Egypt.
Serve the LORD!
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD,
choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods which your fathers served
that were on the other side of the River,
or the gods of the Amorites,
in whose land you dwell.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:14-15

When Joshua was very old, the LORD told him that there were still many territories yet to be conquered.

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years.
And the LORD said to him:
"You are old, advanced in years,
and there remains very much land yet to be possessed."
Joshua 13:1

Note that this happened somewhere in the middle of the Book of Joshua, and not at the end. God told him to allocate them to the tribes of Israel, and let them finish the tasks. Joshua was not like Alexander The Great, wanting to conquer the whole world for himself. He did not desire to win the Promised Land single-handedly by himself. He allowed others to be involved and included. Among all the battles that Joshua fought, I believe his most successful battle was the battle of the souls that he waged daily against his own ego and evil inclination. He was not taken over by the dark side of power and greed. Because he was able to exercise humility and self-control, God not only allowed him to lead the whole nation of Israel to take the Promised Land, but also to allocate it to each tribe of Israel according to God's specifications and instructions. Joshua was God's assistant carrying out His orders faithfully! He was the servant of God!

Many people only remember Joshua for leading the shouts of victory that caused the walls of Jericho come tumbling down. Have we ever considered why he was chosen to do so? Maybe deep inside the heart of this man of God, his pride and ego had already tumbled and crumbled down long time ago when he served as an assistant to Moses for 40 years!

True humility transcends personal needs and desires, putting God and others first before self. And very few are able to achieve this. May God raise a new Joshua generation that does not conform to this world, but is being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. Beginning as assistants, assisting others and serving God!

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Nelson's Bible Dictionary

Written on:
21 June 2006