A significant incident in Joshua’s life had to do with his appointment as Moses’ successor. The record of this event is found in Numbers 27, and we learn there that the appointment was made while Moses was still living. Moses knew that sooner or later another leader would be needed for Israel, so he prayed to the Lord saying, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd” (Numbers 17:16-17).
The Lord’s answer was immediate. He replied: “Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him” (v. 18). God chose Joshua. He was not elected by the people on the basis of the popular vote which is the method followed in a democracy. Joshua’s responsibility would be to lead the people out of the desert and into the land of Canaan.
God had a strong word of commendation for Joshua. Surely all of us not only want to hear God say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” but would like to hear also some of the things God said about Joshua. The Lord declared that Joshua was a man in whom was the Holy Spirit, meaning also that the Spirit of God controlled him. This is something that God wants to see in all of our lives.
In the 32nd chapter of Numbers, the Lord picked out another factor in Joshua's life that greatly pleased Him. The Lord contrasted the faith of Caleb and Joshua with that of the 10 spies in these words: “And the LORD'S anger was kindled the same time, and he sware, saying, Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me: Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD” (Numbers 32:10-12). To live the life of faith one must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This was the case in Joshua's experience and is the reason for his wholly following the Lord. Faith follows God.
It is wonderful that God would say such things about Joshua, but He also wants to be able to say the same things about us. This is the key to a victorious life. A person under the control of the Holy Spirit follows the Lord. This speaks of definite obedience to the things of the Lord. Is God able to say to us, to do this and do that and we do it? God will speak to us if we will allow Him to.
The next mention of Joshua is in Numbers 34. There we learn that the Lord appointed Joshua as one of the men who was to divide the land, appointing areas to be controlled by the various tribes. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, These are the names of the men which shall divide the land unto you: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun” (Numbers 34:16-17). The Eleazar spoken of here was the son of Aaron. Joshua’s appointment to this position is also stated in Deuteronomy 1:38. This was all part of God’s program of encouraging Joshua and preparing him for his future responsibilities.
Confrontation with the enemy began before Israel entered the land. They came from the east and found their pathway blocked by several nations of great strength, but with God’s help these were wiped out completely. Moses was Israel’s leader during this period, and it is to these events that he pointed Joshua so that he would be encouraged in the Lord. Moses was assuring him that no man would be able to stand against him as he led Israel into the land. This could be classified as an “earnest” of Joshua’s future victorious leadership. It was a demonstration of what God was going to do for him and through him.
God has provided us with a foretaste or “earnest” of our inheritance in Christ. We learn from Ephesians 1 that God has given to us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence with us is called “an earnest.” This might be likened to a down payment on a purchase. It is the pledge of the payment of the full amount. We read Ephesians 1:13-14, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
The gift of the Holy Spirit the and sealing with the Spirit are the full assurance of what God is going to still do for us. Part of that is His victory through us. It is for us to be of good courage and to follow the way God has mapped out for us. It is also the promise that our redemption will be completed.
The next time we find a reference to Joshua is when Moses gave him his final charge before taking over the responsibility of leadership. The account is in Deuteronomy 31:7-8. “And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
What a remarkable promise this is. But do not limit it to Joshua only, though it was spoken first to him. If you carefully examine what God said, you will see that these same words are repeated in the New Testament for the benefit of those who dare to follow Christ. Joshua was assured that the Lord would go before him. What did our Saviour promise us? When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them (John 10:4). He commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel and assured us He would be with us and even go before us and prepare the way.
Joshua was assured that God would not fail him. God never fails. He is the faithful One. Neither will He forsake any of us. He did not forsake Joshua and He will not forsake us though some of us sometimes think that He has. Read the promise in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Do we believe Him, or will we charge God with lying? No, God will never leave us nor forsake us—“so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not for what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). When God calls us to a life of victory, he endues us with all spiritual power necessary to win.
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).