A brief reflection on Joshua’s ordination as a leader.
In my reading this week, Numbers 27:18-20 caught my special attention. In them Moses is told by God to “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. (ESV)
The phrase in verse 19: “in whom is the Spirit” emphasizes that Joshua position of leadership is God ordained. It marked him out as different from all the many capable leaders of Israel. It made me ponder again why God chose Joshua to take over from Moses. There were others who were surely eligible for this position. There were for example 70 elders who had experience in leadership, there was Eleazar, Phinehas and even Caleb.
Perhaps the most obvious reason would seem to be that Joshua was a skilled military commander. But it is clear in the book of Joshua that while this may have been so, God was the one who was responsible for the victories using humanly speaking at times using questionable strategies. Before the battle, God sent and angel to Joshua, who identified himself as the Commander of the Lord’s army (Joshua 5:13-15) to make it absolutely clear that God was in charge of the battles not Joshua. And the way their first major victory was won, as was their first defeat made left no doubt about this (read Joshua 6 and 7).
I think though that the most probable (and main) reason was that Joshua was a consistent, humble and faithful assistant to Moses. This is how Exodus 33:11 describes Joshua:
“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”
The phrase “would not depart from the tent” is very revealing. It is a description of faithfulness to Moses and his responsibility before God. It is a description of humility to take his place outside and not demand to be in the inner circle. It is a description of his consistency to do for around 40 years for remember Joshua was already Moses assistant when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:13).
Biblical Christian leadership is not primarily about skill and intelligence. It is about faithfulness to God, humility in service and long consistency in doing so. Jesus himself modelled and taught this.
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)