“May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17)(NIV)
“Joshua: God’s right-time man”
What a shock it must have been to Moses to be informed that he would not be entering the Promised Land after all. What a bigger shock it must have been to Joshua to realize that he would be one of the only two remaining original pilgrims to cross the Jordan River, and that he would actually be leading the way for everyone else! While nothing is said in Numbers about Moses’ take on this substitution of authority and the prohibition on his entering the Promised Land, you can be sure he wasn’t happy with it. Deuteronomy 1:37 recounts how Moses spreads the blame at his punishment to his fellow travelers, railing, “Because of you the Lord became angry with me also.” (NIV)
While Moses’ reaction presents its own set of lessons, what struck me most about this passage was that Joshua’s quick replacement of Moses was met with no grumbling by the Israelites (an out-of-character response, considering the episodic complaints of Exodus 32:1, Numbers 11:4, Numbers 12:1-2, Numbers 14:2, Numbers 16:41 and Numbers 20:3, among others). These were people who didn’t like how long Moses stayed on Mount Sinai, were tired of eating manna, thought they should be the ones to speak to God and were generally disgruntled at the manner in which God was leading them. Why no argument when their chief was replaced?
Well, it could have been that Joshua was eminently qualified to take on the role. Joshua originally served as Moses’ aide, and ascended Mount Sinai with him in Exodus 24:13, where God gave the plan for the tabernacle to Moses. Joshua was also with Moses when they descended the mountain in Exodus 32:17 to find that Aaron had constructed a golden calf in their absence. Since there were only two non-Levite men who were with Moses after the Exodus from Egypt (Joshua and Caleb), Joshua was a natural choice. He had the credentials.
But more than that, Joshua was ready. He made himself accessible to Moses, and therefore, to God. References to Joshua’s efforts are peppered throughout Exodus and Numbers, but he never seems to be a sucker for the spotlight. It seems clear from the text that he was simply happy to help Moses, a man he knew to be directly commissioned by God, in whatever way possible.
It’s unlikely he had any aspirations of leadership himself – often willing to do what others were not (for example, in Numbers 13 Joshua was among those sent to explore Canaan – a land unknown to them with potentially hostile inhabitants. In fact, in Numbers 14:10, he is threatened with stoning simply because he believed the Lord would make good on his promises, and give Israel the land of Canaan!) Joshua was in the right place, at the right time, with the right spirit. Joshua was ready to be used by God.
“There is no limit to what God can do through you, provided you do not seek your own glory.” – L.B. Cowman.
I get goose bumps when I feel the Lord passing by – when I realize I’ve been perfectly positioned by Him to accomplish something for the Kingdom and often unthinkingly (striving instead for simple obedience) am able, through His power, to do just that. I want to be one of those people – a Joshua, an Esther, a Paul – who is positioned at the right time and place to be used by God in a mighty way.
But this requires humility. After all, Moses himself was described as “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)(NIV). It also requires a daily, impulsive obedience that is the hallmark of that willing and humble spirit – a spirit like Joshua’s.
Heavenly Father, living for you is never boring. Every day presents another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to you. You never promised us it would be easy, but oh how exciting it is when we see your plans coming together in our lives, and in the lives of others! What a privilege it is to have a ring-side seat at the unfolding of mankind’s greatest story, played out in breathtaking detail all around us. Make us accessible to you, Lord. Give us the discretion and sensitivity to follow your leadings to the “right time” and “right place” so that your work may be accomplished. Let us listen carefully to your direction so that we may step in like Joshua and fill the roles that, from the creation of the universe, you envisioned for us. Make us bold! Make us ready! We want to be your right-time people. Amen.