The Faith of Joshua
Someone has said that “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.” In the closing chapter of Deuteronomy, Israel has finished mourning for Moses, and now God speaks to Joshua concerning his responsibilities as the new leader of the nation. Joshua would be a man of faith and courage. These two characteristics made him a man of action. He was submissive to God, obedient to the Word of God and faithful in meeting the obligations and responsibilities placed upon him. Joshua exhibits many of the things that will help us in our own spiritual lives. We often consider the matter of the victorious Christian life and wonder how we can attain it. The life of Joshua can be divided into three stages.
The first stage, covering some 40 years, he spent as a slave in Egypt. When the Israelites left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, Joshua became his minister. This was the second stage of Joshua's life and it lasted another 40 years. The third stage, in which he was the leader of the children of Israel, possibly covered some 25 years.
In all these phases of his life, we find him to be a victorious believer, one who though not perfect, had a high degree of success as a spiritual warrior. In the earliest stage of Joshua's life, he was a slave in Egypt. He was born in slavery. It was in this capacity that he learned obedience and submission to a hard taskmaster. This illustrates a spiritual situation that we ourselves were in when we were slaves to the world and to the flesh and to the devil. At that time, we too were under a hard taskmaster.
When he was about the age of 40, Joshua experienced glorious deliverance from Egypt. The first time he comes into clear focus in the Bible is in Exodus 17:9. This incident took place within the first year after the Israelites left in the land of Egypt. They found themselves opposed by Amalek, a ruthless and relentless foe of Israel. The Bible says, “Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, choose us out men, and to go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” This is the first mention of Joshua. There is always something interesting about the first mention of a person or object in the Bible. Invariably in that first mention, there is supplied to us the key to the person’s life, or if it is an object, the key to its significance.
Such is the case with Joshua here. He had to learn to obey in order to be qualified to lead. There are persons who would like to have authority: they like to supervise others, but they themselves have never learned to take orders. “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister…even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26, 28).
This is one thing Joshua had learned apparently while he was a slave. Then he further learned it as God’s minister under Moses. Joshua's information and his orders came personally through Moses. Joshua first appears to us as a man of war. The first battle he fought was no ordinary one and illustrates the kind of warfare he faced all through his life. It was not only a physical battle, but a spiritual battle also. It was not fought and won by mere physical effort, but on the basis of faith. This forms a unique background for us to study spiritual warfare as illustrated both and the life of Joshua and in the book of Joshua.
As we have already indicated, Amalek was Israel's enemy at this time. It got its name from Amalek, the grandson of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. According to the usual customs of inheritance, he was heir to the family birthright. The birthright was not necessarily confined to material or physical property, plus the headship of the family. But in the case of Isaac’s family, this included priesthood in the family, so there was a strong spiritual aspect to it. For any person to assume such a role, however, required that he himself be of a spiritual mind and nature. Esau was far from this and despised his birthright. He was more interested in things for his body and his flesh nature than he was for the things of God. He sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a serving of boiled lentils.
With this background, we can understand how Amalek fits into this incident. It is a type of the old self-life, the flesh life. Israel in turn is a type of the spiritual Christ-life, and the battle, therefore, represents a spiritual battle, fought and won on a spiritual basis.
Joshua did as he was instructed and led the armies of Israel against Amalek. As a leader, Joshua went out into the front lines to fight the enemy. Moses, on the other hand, entered into spiritual warfare on behalf of Israel. It is clear that Moses’ intercession was essential to Joshua gaining the victory. This is true with regard to our own lives. If we are to be victorious in the spiritual warfare we are engaged in, we must recognize our dependence upon the One who makes intercession for us.
Joshua obeyed Moses and fought with the armies of Israel against Amalek. “So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”
Joshua fought the physical battle in the valley, but the spiritual battle was fought on the mountaintop in the place of intercession. Joshua obeyed, Moses interceded, so by prayer and faith and physical combat, the battle was won.
We too have a spiritual heritage. We read in Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Thankfully the Spirit of God makes intercession for us, the Father searches our hearts and knows what the Spirit desires, and this He grants to us. The Spirit always prays in the will of God. And what is the will of God? The will of God is that believers might be conformed to the image of Christ. Romans 8:29 reminds us “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…”
This battle was not won by Israel’s fighting ability because they were not experienced soldiers nor adept at warfare yet. This battle was fought and won by Moses. The moment Moses was no longer able to hold his hands up, the children of Israel began to lose the fight. If it had not been for Moses, Israel would have lost the battle. The important thing to remember is that the Holy Spirit is the only One who can give us victory over the flesh. Victory comes as the believer walks in the Spirit. When we act independently of the Spirit, Amalek, or the flesh, wins an easy victory. When Moses’ hands were held up, the Israelites won. You and I never will be able to overcome the flesh. It is only the Spirit of God who can do that.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).