JOSHUA: MOSES’ SILENT PARTNER 3

Be Strong and Courageous

1. Not strong, not courageous

They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:26—33, NIV)

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:1—9, NIV)

Very soon after Moses and the House of Israel arrived at the very edge of the Promised Land, plans were made to send in a scouting party ahead of the people. This advanced guard was to be made up of one man of the tribes of Israel. The curious thing about this plan is that it seems so unnecessary. After all, God had already given the people of Israel the land. God had already described the land to them. The assurance of success lay, not in accurate intelligence reports, but in the power of God. All the people needed was faith in God.

This account of the same events in Deuteronomy adds some details that seem to indicate that it was the people, not Moses and not God, that insisted on such a course of action.

Then, as the LORD our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful desert that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”

The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. (Deut. 1:19—23, NIV)

So we see this plan was totally unnecessary, yet tolerated by God to appease the people’s complaining and to encourage them to follow on His plan to go in a possess the land.

The scouts went into the land and explored the “hill country.” All together, they explored the country for 40 days. When the scouts returned, representatives of the people all gathered around to hear their report. At first, the report was positive and truthful. They spoke of the abundance of good and seemed to confirm everything that God had already said. However, immediately following the glowing reports, came the report that there were giants in the land living in walled cities. Verse 28 begins with a disturbing phrase, translated “But” in the NIV but means “except that,” indicating a complete opposite. What they were about to say would completely negate the positive report. The size of the grape cluster carried back by the spies now became ominous. It was so lush and big because the people were giants.

Interestingly, the negative report was basically true. There were some good things in the land and some bad. The issue was really one of a lack of faith. On the side of faith, you had two spies, Joshua and Caleb, the minority. On the fearful side, there were the 10 other spies.

A reason to complain was all they needed.

Despite Caleb’s amazing words of faith, “We can certainly do it,” the report of the minority was drowned out by the words of fear. Ten fearful men can out-shout and out-scare two brave men. And human personality being what it is, has a negative bent that believes in a negative report easier than in a positive one.

In verse 31, the people simply said “We can’t do it.” In their strong denial, they not only cast Caleb and Joshua, men of God both, in a bad light, but they were saying that God was not sufficient to get them into the Promised Land. In essence, because of bad report, the people denied the power and presence of God, the promises and assurances of God, their own resources, and even their own names. For their names, given them by their parents, spoke of the blessings of being the people of God, were being denied by their words of faithlessness.

As we read chapter 14, we get the sense that a bad report was just an excuse for the people to complain. In fact, while the negative reports were basically truthful, they were somewhat exaggerated. What the scouts saw was just part of the land, part of the inhabitants. Surely not every person alive in the Promised Land was a giant! What we see in the these spies is a group of men picking the evidence they wanted to emphasize. And the people were all-too willing to see only that evidence.

In fear, the people again whined about wanting to return to Egypt. What we see in the opening verses of this sad chapter in the life of Israel is:

  • Faithless cowards, verses 1—4. This would be the spies and the people who went along with their assessment.
  • Faithful four, verses 5—9. This would include Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, seemingly the only men in an entire nation who truly had faith that God would deliver on His promises.

So faithless and fearful had the people become, that not only did the want to forget about the Promised Land and go back to the land of bondage, Egypt, they wanted kill their truly fearless leaders! Unfortunately, such is the reward of many who been the true messengers of God down through the centuries. Fortunately for Joshua and the faithful four, God intervened and they were spared.

2. Strong and courageous

Moses went on and addressed these words to all Israel. He said, “I’m 120 years old today. I can’t get about as I used to. And God told me, ‘You’re not going to cross this Jordan River.’ “God, your God, will cross the river ahead of you and destroy the nations in your path so that you may dispossess them. (And Joshua will cross the river before you, as God said he would.) God will give the nations the same treatment he gave the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, and their land; he’ll destroy them. God will hand the nations over to you, and you’ll treat them exactly as I have commanded you.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” (Deut. 31:1—6, The Message)

After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:

“Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel. I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. (Josh. 1:6—9, The Message)

So then, my brothers in holiness who share the highest of all callings, I want you to think of the messenger and High Priest of the faith we hold, Christ Jesus. See him as faithful to the charge God gave him, and compare him with Moses who also faithfully discharged his duty in the household of God. For this man has been considered worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the founder of a house may be truly said to have more honour than the house itself. Every house is founded by someone, but the founder of everything is God himself. Moses was certainly faithful in all his duties in God’s household, but he was faithful as a servant and his work was only a foreshadowing of the truth that would be known later. But Christ was faithful as a loyal son in the household of the founder, his own Father. And we are members of this household if we maintain our trust and joyful hope steadfast to the end. (Hebrews 3:1—6, JBP)

Moses had reached the age of 120, but that was not the reason he felt compelled to retire from his position of leadership. Because of an earlier sin, God had forbade him from entering the Promised Land. His time was up because the people of Israel were about to enter that Land. Joshua now assumed Moses’s position as leader of the people and he would lead them into the Promised Land.

In his farewell speech to the people, Moses would remind them that not only would God go ahead of them and fight for them, but that God would never leave them or forsake them. That must have been a marvelous word of comfort for these people, who were about enter a new land filled with enemies. Of course, the presence of the Lord among the people was contingent on the people’s allegiance with Him.

God’s admonition to Joshua to “be strong and courageous” was repeated three times. Fear was an ever-present reality to Joshua. Perhaps Joshua felt intimidated by the greatness of Moses; he had some very large shoes to fill. Would the people follow him? Could he keep the Israelites united? Then there was the awesomeness of the responsibility of keeping the people safe in a new and dangerous land.

For those reasons, God encouraged His hand-picked leader to full of courage and to focus on God’s program for success.

Even though God had promised to give the land to Joshua, God still demanded that Joshua “give it everything he had.” The Lord not only showed Joshua the way to succeed, but He also prescribed the state of mind in which Joshua would need to operate: be strong, be courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. We’ve looked at the Keys to Success, now here’s the attitude of success:

God challenged Joshua to give all he had to the Lord’s work
Joshua was to do God’s work with high anticipation (Isa. 35:10)
He was to serve fearlessly. Note what Rev. 21:8 says about the fearful.
He was to be undaunted. He was to serve like the NT Joshua, Heb. 12:2

Joshua discharged his duty admirably. In Judaism, both Moses and Joshua are revered for their greatness. In the book of Hebrews, the author’s purpose is to show how supremely great Jesus Christ is, greater even than Moses. Greater even than the angels. In chapter 3, the writer to the Hebrews, while not belittling Moses, shows that as great as Moses was, Jesus was greater by far. Yet, they were similar. Moses was faithful as head of the House of Israel. Jesus is faithful as Head of the Church. Note verses 5 and 6:

Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

Moses was a servant, but Jesus is a Son, a greater position. But notice: In OT times, the people of God were the Jews. But Israel rejected the Son of God when He came, and now the people of God is the Church, and perseverance is one of the marks of being a Christian.

Like Joshua, believers are to hold on to their “courage.” The Greek word is parresia, and means “confidence,” and a feeling of “being at home.” But the real exciting thought in this verse is not “courage,” but rather the phrase, the hope of which we boast. The word used for boast means “something one can boast about,” not the act of boasting. Our position as “God’s house” is something of which believers can be proud. We have an awesome gift from God, and instead of being ashamed of this gift, we should glory in it. “Boast” is connected with “hope.” In the NT, “hope” is used to refer to the certainty Christians have that God will carry out all His promises. The Christian looks forward eagerly, expecting God’s triumph. To be God’s house means to persevere in quiet confidence, knowing that one has a matter for pride in the Christian hope.

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