Last week I shared some lessons on leadership and faithfulness that I had drawn from reading through the book of Joshua. There were too many to fit into one post, so this post completes my list.
Recall and remember what God has done.
One theme that stood out to me from the book of Joshua was the importance of remembering what God has done.
When the Israelites make it into the Promised Land, the first thing they do is take stones from the Jordan River and use them to build a memorial. Joshua knows that not only do they need to remember what God has done, but to continue to flourish in the land, that knowledge has to be passed on to the next generation.
“In the future, your children will ask you, “What do these stones mean?” Then you can tell them, “They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.” These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7 NLT)
In part 1, we considered that in order to succeed, the Israelites had to remember God’s law and faithfully obey it, but we see here that it was also important to remember their personal experience of where they had seen God at work and how he had helped them.
There would be many battles ahead, but surely remembering where they had witnessed God’s power in the past would give them courage and confidence for the future.
We should be faithful over the long haul, always trusting and expectant.
Caleb is one of my favourite Bible characters. We first meet him back in the book of Numbers when Moses sends twelve spies in to bring back a report on the Promised Land. Ten of the spies return full of praise for the land, but fearful and hesitant about taking it because they doubt their ability to fight against the other tribes. Only two – Joshua and Caleb – are confident that if God is giving the land he will give them victory.
Emotions run high. Joshua and Caleb tear their clothes in frustration, and the rest of the Israelites threaten to stone them. (Numbers 14:6-10) God is not impressed by his people’s lack of faith and declares that they will have to wander in the wilderness for forty years before entering the land he has promised. In fact, by that point the Israelites who are currently adults will have died. Only Joshua and Caleb will get to enter the land.
It must have been so discouraging for Joshua and Caleb – to be so close to the land and so full of faith and hope, only to face a lengthy delay through no fault of their own. However none of it seems to have dampened Caleb’s spirits. I love his words as he approaches Joshua to ask for the land God had promised him.
“Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.” (Joshua 14:10-12 NLT)
I don’t know what Caleb did to preserve his hope and trust over all those years, but he has obviously known God’s faithfulness, and that has enabled him in turn to be faithful.
Listen to other perspectives.
Joshua 22 contains an intriguing incident that I think is often overlooked. Some of the Israelite tribes had claimed land on the East side of the Jordan River (technically just outside the Promised Land). Part of the deal had been that they had to cross the Jordan with the rest of the Israelites and help them in any battles they faced. Only after doing that could they cross back over the river to settle.
Joshua finally thanks the eastern tribes for their help and gives them permission to return home. However, just before they cross the river, they pause and build “a large and imposing altar.” (Joshua 22:10 NLT)
The other tribes find out and they are angry. The Tabernacle is the place of worship, so they see building an altar elsewhere as an act of rebellion against God. They remember all too well from the incident with Achan how far-reaching the consequences of sin can be and they don’t want to repeat that. They prepare to go to war against the eastern tribes, but decide first to send a delegation to talk with them.
What follows is a wonderful example of how to deal well with conflict. The western tribes explain why they are unhappy with the altar being built and that they don’t want to rouse God’s anger. The eastern tribes explain that they have not built the altar for worship, but as a memorial, and give assurances that they have no desire to rebel against God. They simply created it as a reminder to future generations that they are also God’s people and entitled to worship at the Tabernacle. The rest of the Israelites are satisfied with this and allow them to go in peace.
This incident highlights three things for me:
- First of all, there are times when we need to have the courage to challenge others even if it’s difficult.
- We need to consider our motivation. The Israelites’ motivation was good because their concern was to please God.
- We also need to think about our manner. The western tribes could have chosen to go to war but instead, by approaching the situation more calmly and taking time to listen as well as to explain their own perspective, a peaceful solution was possible. Similarly the eastern tribes seem to have listened to the concerns that were raised and responded calmly instead of becoming defensive or angry. I think a lot of conflict could be resolved if we could just take the time to enter into conversation and to listen to one another.
God’s work is way bigger than us, and it will outlast us.
“When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, “You are growing old and much land remains to be conquered.”” (Joshua 13:1 NLT)
This is a sobering reminder that God’s work is so much bigger than just us. Just like Moses and Joshua, we are here to play our part for a time, but God’s work began before us and it will continue after us.
We will not conquer it all, and, even if we do, before long more opposition will rise up!
God assures Joshua that he will complete his work, but it is not necessarily up to us to complete it. It is God’s work, and we are just called to be faithful in playing our part.