There is a great need for godly leadership today. We need godly leadership in our homes. As homes continue to deteriorate and nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, we need godly leaders in the home. We need godly leadership in our churches. Many are unwilling to perform the work and preparation needed to be a leader in the family of God. We need godly leadership in our society. We need men and women who show a godly light and godly leadership in this nation. All of this begins in our own sphere of influence. We need men and women showing godly leadership at work, at home, in the neighborhood, during worship, and in every aspect of life.
I would like to spend some time looking at a forgotten great man who exhibited great, godly leadership. Joshua is a forgotten leader because he filled the shoes of one of God’s greatest leaders, Moses. Can you imagine taking over the job of leading the people of Israel into the land of Canaan and conquering it? Can you imagine taking over the leadership reigns from one of the all time heroes who had performed mighty miracles and wonders through the power of God? Before we look at the leadership characteristics of Joshua, I think it is important to look at the background of Joshua to understand why God chose him, among hundreds of thousands of men, to be the leader of God’s people.
Life Background of Joshua
I think we need to first consider the conditions through which Joshua grew up. By no means did Joshua grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. Joshua was born into slavery in Egypt and lived a life enslaved. The conditions of the slavery in Egypt were severe. The Egyptians “made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar, and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them” (Exodus 1:14). God recognized the pain of the Israelites: “And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their suffering” (Exodus 3:7). Did you have a difficult upbringing? Joshua probably had it worse. Joshua would have been immediately pressed into hard labor and suffered at the hands of the Egyptian taskmasters. But just because he had a difficult beginning, Joshua raised up to the challenge so impressively that God chose him to be the next leader of the people.
Key To Leadership: Faithfulness
Faithful to God’s Leadership
Before becoming the leader of Israel, Joshua had already shown himself to be exemplary in his service toward God. “At Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Select some men for us, and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God’s staff in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill” (Exodus 17:8-10). Throughout the book of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy we read about Joshua “doing just as Moses had told him.” I think this is an impressive characteristic that must be considered. Joshua is not pictured as someone who had to “sow his wild oats” and then decided to settle down and become a great leader. Nor do we read about Joshua as some rebel who refused to listen to the elders of Israel, his parents, or to Moses. Joshua showed himself to be obedient to those in authority early in his life. To all of those who are younger, you need to look to this example of Joshua. You can be called upon to be useful in the service to God in public and private ways by living a life that shows obedience to God and respectful of authority to God’s leaders. His obedience was great enough that Moses could rely upon this young man, Joshua, to lead the men of war of Israel to fight against the Amalekites. We are told in Numbers 32:12 that Joshua “followed the Lord completely.”
The second characteristic we see in Joshua that prepared him to be a great, godly leader is that he was a faithful worker. Joshua was not just a soldier fighting for the Lord. Nor was Joshua just another obedient Israelite. Joshua was also a faithful worker such that he was given special privileges to work side by side with Moses. In Exodus 24:13 Joshua is described as Moses’ assistant. “So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and went up the mountain of God.” The word “assistant” can also be translated “servant” as the New American Standard translates. The point is that Joshua is described as a worker. He went up the mountain of God with Moses while Aaron, Hur, and the elders of Israel were left behind.
In Exodus 33:7-11 we read about another important work of Joshua: 7 Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the LORD would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent. 11 The LORD spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.
Joshua was a special worker who was inside the tent of meeting when the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and spoke to Moses face to face. Once Moses left the tent and returned to the camp, Joshua would stay behind and remain in the tent. Did Joshua also have an opportunity to speak to the Lord? Did Joshua remain behind to perform other works of service for the Lord? Whatever the case, Joshua is spending his time as a faithful worker. Joshua wanted to serve. He stayed behind and served and did not run off to take care of his own schedule. A godly leader is first a dedicated servant.
Faithful Despite Opposition
Joshua showed he was prepared to be a leader because he was willing to take a stand for the truth and take a stand for obedience to God despite opposition. After spying on the land of Canaan, ten of the spies gave a negative report about the land they had scouted, saying that the inhabitants of the land are stronger than them. The Israelites are afraid to go to battle and begin to appoint a new leader to go back to Egypt. What we have is a riot and a coup forming. What would you do? Would you keep quiet? Look at what Joshua does in Numbers 14:6-10:
Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” While the whole community threatened to stone them, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of meeting.
True leaders do not go with the flow or go with the majority for the sake of peace. True, godly leaders always do what is right, even if the decision is not popular. In this story, this was a life threatening decision on Joshua’s part to plead with the people to not rebel. However, the people of Israel were preparing to stone him for trying to convince the people to do what is right.
Faithful When Fearful
Sometimes one of the things that causes us to not completely obey God is fear. Fear will prevent us from fully trusting in the Lord. We often read about the heroes of the scriptures and think that they were not afraid of the challenge of leadership. But Exodus records for us that Moses was terrified about leading the people from Egyptian slavery. Joshua was also fearful about the monumental responsibility of taking over for Moses and leading these Israelites into the promised land. Notice how many times people are told to encourage Joshua:
God told Moses: “Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:38).
God also told Moses: “But commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will cross over ahead of the people and enable them to inherit this land that you will see” (Deuteronomy 3:28).
“Moses then summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land the LORD swore to give to their fathers. You will enable them to take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 31:7).
“The LORD commissioned Joshua son of Nun, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I swore to them, and I will be with you'” (Deuteronomy 31:23).
Then after Moses died, the Lord speaks to Joshua again:
“Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance” (Joshua 1:6).
“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Do you get the feeling that Joshua was fearful about the task the Lord was giving him? Do you think he did not see the large shoes he was going to fill once Moses died? But he stepped up to the task. Joshua did not shirk his duty or put off this awesome responsibility. He did not say that he did not want to be a leader of God’s people. He felt the fear, but he was still faithful to God’s challenge. Joshua stepped up to the task.
Make the preparations to be a leader. God needs leaders. But a person cannot become a leader by sitting back, getting older, and then expecting that leadership will suddenly land on them. This thought process happens all to often in churches today. A man does nothing in serving God for decades and then suddenly thinks he should become an elder because he is a certain age. A leader prepares himself for the task before he is a leader. He does not learn about leadership while on the job. Joshua showed himself to be a leader years before he became the leader of the people. What are the preparations each of us should make now so that we can be leaders in the home, at work, in society and in the church?
- Be faithful to the current godly leaders. Joshua followed the commands of Moses.
- Be faithful to God’s commands. Joshua was not a rebel. He was obedient to the word of God from an early age.
- Be a faithful servant now. Look for opportunities to serve within the church. From teaching to making calls, from praying to sending letters, there are many ways that you can serve within this church. You need to show yourself a godly servant in the home. Serve your spouse and your children by putting them above yourself. Show yourself to be a godly servant at work by working hard and working with your co-workers well. Be a faithful servant for the Lord’s sake in every capacity. Do not let fear interfere with the ways that you can serve today.
- Be faithful to serve despite opposition. Always do what is right. Always live for what is right, regardless what your peers or society is doing.