Anyone ever applied for a job somewhere? It can be such a discouraging endeavor. If you’re young, you don’t have experience, and so you need to find a job, so you can get experience, but no one wants to hire you, because you don’t have the experience they want. Then, when you get the experience, it’s not quite what the next person is looking for. To top it all off, even if you have years of experience, there are jobs out there, that will look at you and say, “We want someone younger who has new ideas.” Every step of the way, it seems like you just can’t win. I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there, I know a couple of our graduated teens that are there right now. And it’s the discouragement that we can face in this life, that brings us to our text today.
We’ll be starting in the book of Joshua chapter 1, verse 1. And as you find your way to Joshua chapter 1, verse 1, I want to bring us out of our winter mode of teaching to our summer mode.
Every summer we, as a congregation, dive into a book of the Bible. We started this tradition with the book of Colossians, a few years back. The last couple fo summers were spent in the Gospel of Mark, which we finished up last fall.
We approach these summer studies, with the goal of seeing the overarching purposes of the writing, and how it connects to the rest of Scripture. We don’t approach these studies verse-by-verse, though we may do that from time to time. The goal isn’t to mine everything nugget from the passages, but rather get an understanding of God’s reason for speaking through a particular moment in history, and how it is to affect us in our lives today.
So this summer, and most likely, next summer, we will be exploring together the book of Joshua in the first half of the Bible.
But why the book of Joshua, you might be asking. Well, to put it simply, this is a book that God has been working out in my own life. I don’t know if you know, but our church has been going through a bit of a transition. From October 2001 to June 2018 Pastor Jeff has led this ministry, as an under shepherd to Jesus. In 2015, Pastor Jeff and the Elders asked me to take over his position, and in June 2018 that transition was completed. So for the last, almost, year I have had the pleasure to begin a journey with you as Christ leads us together in the next step of God’s ministry in Quartzsite.
And Joshua is a man that I have felt more connected with in this season of my life than any other in Scripture. Because he too was a man that was a part of a transition in leadership.
So let’s start our walk through the book of Joshua, by starting in chapter 1 verse 1.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Here’s the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. And if you’ve ever been challenge to memorize several passages of Scripture, or have ever needed some encouragement in your life. Joshua 1:9 is a popular verse for people to learn.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
In times of discouragement, or when we’re about to face something difficult, we can recite this verse to be reminded that God is there, so we do not need to be discouraged or afraid.
But let’s dive into the person that God is speaking these words to. Who is this Joshua that is taking over the mantel of Moses. Who is this Joshua who is going to lead the people of Israel into the promise land that wasn’t just promised to Moses, but has it’s roots in a promise God made to Abraham almost 700 years before (Genesis 12:1-3). This must be an amazing man to be entrusted with such an honor. And I would say, yes he was.
In fact, I want to point out two aspects of Joshua’s character to you.
The first is, he trusted godly leadership. We see this in a couple of places. One time the Israelite people fought against this king named Amalek. In Exodus 17 verse 9 we get a conversation between Moses and Joshua.
9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Joshua trusted that, even though the plan sounded weird, God had placed Moses in a position of leadership, and so Joshua followed.
Another time, and probably the most important trust in leadership that Joshua shows, is when Moses sends a group of men to spy out the land of Canaan in Numbers 13. Now I’m not going to read the chapter, which I would encourage you to do on your own. Instead, the story goes, that Moses had been telling the Israelite people that God was taking them to the land of Canaan, and he was going to give it to them. So Moses sends out 12 spies to bring back news about the defenses and people of the land. But when the twelve spies returned, 10 of them said the taking of the land was impossible. Whereas the last two, Joshua and Caleb, said they could do it.
Joshua was a man who trusted that God was leading through Moses. And it was because of his trust, that even when he saw the challenges ahead, Joshua was willing to face them.
The second aspect of Joshua’s character that I want us to look at, is his desire to know God.
There are three times Joshua displays this. The first comes from Exodus 24, starting in verse 12.
12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.
Whenever I’ve read through the times when Moses met with God, I never realize, that on at least one occasion he was accompanied by Joshua. Joshua was allowed the same access to God as Moses was, even early on.
Later on in Exodus, we see a time when God’s anger was against the Israelites because of their sin. And so, Moses put a tent up outside of the community, and there he would meet with God. It says this in Exodus 33, starting in verse 9…
9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Joshua was right there at the tent, what was he doing, I don’t know, but it seems to me he was seeking the presence of God in this time, just as Moses was.
Finally, and I think one of the most important spiritual experiences Joshua had, was actually being corrected by his mentor Moses. In Numbers 11, starting in verse 26, we see a situation where God has called Moses to bring the elders of Israel to the tent, but a couple of these elders stayed behind. The Scripture says,
26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
Joshua learned the lesson that God wasn’t just wanting to work through Moses, but through the whole of the community of Israel. Which would serve him later in his life.
And so, this Joshua was a man who trusted God’s leadership over him, and had desire to deep relationship with God.
He was chosen, and I think rightly so, to be the one who had the mantle of leadership passed to him. Because isn’t that the type of person you would want to lead? A person that trust’s God’s leading through people over them, and one who himself desires a deeper relationship with God?
Now, if Joshua was such a good pick for the transfer of leadership, I propose this question to you, why would God need to say the words of Joshua 1:9? “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And he doesn’t just say it once, he says it three times in the passage. But not only that, God tells Moses to tell Joshua in Deuteronomy 3:28, “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”
Why does Joshua need so much encouragement? Isn’t he a man of great trust? Isn’t he a man of great godly desire? Why does he need to be encouraged by his mentor? Why does God himself have to reiterate that encouragement three times in the span of a few sentences?
The reality is, all of us can easily lose sight of what God has set before us, and become discouraged. Even a man like Joshua.
I know I’ve been discouraged. Ten years or so back we had a teenager who was a part of our youth ministry named Nick, which some of you might remember him. Nick went through a very hard time, and had a hard painful background. The church tired very hard to help; Pastor Jeff was trying to remodel his cabin, and offered Nick a place to stay. The church hired him on as an intern with the stipulation that he would finish high school.
He didn’t and the church leadership, and I can’t stress this part enough, with a heavy heart had to let him go. It was one of the most discouraging times in my early ministry here.
All of us need encouragement. One of our elders who passed away named Boyd Ellis once said me, “God has told me to be an encourager, so that’s what I’ll be.” He even told me one time, “I wish I had faith like yours.” To which I replied, “Like mine? I wish I had faith like yours.”
Joshua needs encouraging, and so do we. But I might not be to presumptions when I say, I think we all know that right? I think we all know that there are times when we are discouraged and we need some encouragement.
Yet, God wants to be encouraged. That’s why he does it for Joshua, and it’s why he used Paul to say in 1st Thessalonians 5:9,
“9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
“12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”
But how? How does God want us to be encouraged? Well in two ways. One is in what we just read above: you and I need to encourage each other. We need to be speaking words that build up and not tear down. We need to speak in love, and in truth.
The second way is what God tells Joshua in the text we’ve read today. In verse 8 God tells Joshua, “8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
The importance of reading, internalizing, and living out God’s word cannot be stressed enough.
In a book called Jesus Freaks, which is a collection of stories of Christian persecution, a story was told of a man in Vietnam who was put into prison for his faith. The jailers would defecate and use the pages of the Bible as toilet paper. Then to add insult to injury, they would make the Christian man clean up after them. The man took the pages that had been marred, cleaned them, and kept them, so that he would have the Word of God for encouragement.
You and I need what Joshua needed, encouragement. So my challenge for you this week is to memorize Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And if you have already memorized this verse, I challenge you to memorize verses 7-8 as well.
Let us be people who speak encouragement into each other’s lives, and who seek it in the pages of Scripture, so, like Joshua, we may be blessed by a deeper relationship with God. Amen.