May 31, 2020

Today in our walk through the Bible, we have come to the book of Joshua.  

This is the first book in the Bible named after a person. Who was this man Joshua?

Joshua was born a slave under Pharaoh in Egypt. His parents gave him the name Hoshea, which means “salvation.”

After four hundred years of enslavement, this child’s parents had not given up hope that one day they would be free people. With the naming of their child, perhaps his parents were saying that they had not given up hope that God would save them or that their son might be used to save them.

But in the beginning, Hoshea was just a slave like everyone else. He was almost 40-years-old when God’s power showed up in full display in a man named Moses, who came from the desert to win their freedom.  

Moses was twice his age. Moses spent the first 40 years of his life as a Hebrew in the Egyptian courts of Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him as a baby from the Nile. Then he spent the next 40 years as a shepherd in the desert. He went there after he killed an Egyptian who was abusing another Hebrew slave.  

At age 80, God came to Moses in the wilderness in a burning bush and gave him instructions to go back to Egypt to win the Hebrew people’s release.

The Hebrew slaves witnessed God do his work through natural disasters called plagues, which Moses predicted. The final plague was the death of every firstborn who did not trust God by applying blood from a Passover lamb to the doorposts of their homes. Even the firstborn animals died.  

When death came to Pharaoh’s house, he sent the Hebrew slaves away, only to send his army after them all the way to the Red Sea, where God parted the waters, allowing the Hebrew people to pass through.  When Pharaoh’s army went chasing after them, the waters receded, and they were all killed.  

After that day, Moses was a hero, but he was careful to give credit to God. It was God’s power that brought the Hebrews out of bondage, not his. Moses knew that.  

Moses saw great promise in Hoshea, but he may have noticed a tendency toward arrogance, which is always a danger with talent and leadership skills.  

So one day, Moses gave Hoshea and a new name.  He called him Joshua, which means “Yahweh is salvation.” 

Yahweh was the most common Hebrew name for God.

This name change was significant.  I think Moses wanted Joshua to learn humility. He wanted him to remember that every victory belonged to the Lord and not to him.

Humility is one of the attributes of a great leader.  

My mentor Dr. Hugh Kirby had a sign on his office door that read, “There is no limit to the amount of work that can be done when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” 

Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when a wealthy white woman stopped him. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood. 

Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. 

When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady. 

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. 

“It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally, I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” 

She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward, she showed admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

Joshua was a very gifted leader. Any time we are highly talented or skilled, we have to have to guard against arrogance.  

There is no better example of this than the time Moses chose Joshua to lead some men in a battle against the Amalekites. They won the battle under Joshua’s leadership, and with such victories, it would have been easy for Joshua to point to his achievement and not to God’s empowerment.  

Imagine how Joshua must have felt when Moses told him what had happened during the battle.  What Joshua could not see when he was down in the valley fighting the battle was that Moses was on the mountain, along with Aaron and Hur, watching it unfold.  

These words come from the book of Exodus:

 “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they (Aaron and Hur) took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”  

Don’t you see why Moses changed his name? God was their salvation, not Hoshea.

You and I are in a battle of some kind every day, and there are supernatural forces at work that we cannot see. 

God is working for you all the time, even if you cannot see Him doing so. Be careful about taking too much credit for your victories.   

It’s God who gives us the victory. 

That is the lesson learned by Joshua. 

Every time a person wins doesn’t mean that God willed it.  You could go to the casino and win a bunch of money but that doesn’t mean God willed it.  It does mean that apart from God, we can do no good thing.  

If you’ve earned some impressive degrees, be careful about using the word “I” too much.  If you’ve built a good business, be careful about using the word “I” too much.  If you’ve have an impressive resume, become wealthy, well known, remember, apart from God, you could do no good thing. 

If you don’t believe that, you will become arrogant and prideful.  

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall” (NIV). Just so you know.

Joshua was a natural choice for Moses when he sent spies over into the promised land to bring a report to him. 

When the twelve spies returned, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who had faith and were willing to be obedient to God and move forward and take the land as God commanded.  

The other ten spies were afraid.  They said if they moved into the land they would all be killed by the people there.  They created fear among the Israelites, who then threatened to stone Joshua and Caleb to death for suggesting that they continue the mission.  

Instead, the mission was aborted. As a result, that generation of people would die in the wilderness before another opportunity came for them to enter the Promised Land.

Forty years later, just before Moses died, he laid hands on Joshua, and Joshua was filled with the Spirit of wisdom.  

It then became his job to complete what Moses did not–lead the people into this land God had promised their ancestors.  

As the book of Joshua begins, Joshua is in his eighties, about the same age Moses was when he went to Egypt to win their release. 

He and Caleb are the oldest Israelites alive. 

They were the only two that survived the 40 years of wilderness travels.

How many of you have ever gone to a football game as the fourth quarter begins and seen the players hold up four fingers?  

Why do they do that? 

Has anyone lost count of the quarters? No, they are saying, “This is it, guys. This quarter is our last chance. We must lay it all on the line because when the final buzzer goes off, we want the score to be in our favor. We want to give it our all. We want to lay in all on the line right here.”

Life expectancy for females is the United States is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years. So, if you are female and you are 60 or older, guess what?  You are in the fourth quarter. So go ahead and hold up four fingers. You are at home. Nobody can see you.

Men, if you are 57, you are in the fourth quarter. If that’s you, men, I want you to hold up four fingers. 

Now the terrible news is that some of you are in overtime, so you might have to hold up fingers and a thumb and some of you might need to use the other hand. 

But wait, I’ve got some good news for you.

God waited until the fourth quarter before he called Moses and Joshua to do their most important work.  

Here’s some more good news.  If we took the fourth quarter Christians out of the church, over half our churches would close within months. So if you are fourth quarter Christian, do not think you have “done your time” serving God.   

Listen to God’s call on your life and be obedient.  Serve God where he calls you to serve. Sure, we all have our limitations, and we must recognize them, but we must not seek early retirement as Christians.

Joshua and Caleb survived those 40 years in the wilderness, not because they were good Boy Scouts, but because they had been obedient to God.

One of the things Joshua and Caleb learned as one of the twelve original spies was that they could not make people follow God.  

However, God’s Spirit will give you the wisdom to make right decisions and courage to stand firm when no one else will. 

Remember,  the only person you can make follow God is yourself.

In the opening chapters of “Northern Lights,” Cathy Parker tells about the early years of being married to a professional football player. Her husband Carl played for the Super Bowl runner-up Cincinnati Bengals before being cut the following year.  

He then played in the World League before it dissolved. In her book, she tells of the many sacrifices she made as a wife and mother with all four children who were also heavily involved in sports. 

Carl landed a job in pharmaceutical sales after football, but when their oldest son reached high school, Carl lost his job in a company downsizing.  

Instead of looking for a comparable job, he announced he was going to coach football so he could coach his sons. To do that, they would not be able to afford the house they had just moved into that Cathy had designed.

Cathy thought this was a very selfish decision for Carl to make. She had made more than enough sacrifices in her marriage for football and her anger built.  

As the marriage suffered, she considered leaving him, but she’d seen the affects divorce had on other children, so she stayed. But staying brought on depression, and she became suicidal. 

Fortunately, Cathy met an influential mentor who invited her to a prayer group, and she began reading a book called “40 Days of Purpose.” 

God softened her heart, and she came to the conclusion that what she needed and what her marriage needed was to for her to work on herself instead of spending her time trying to change her husband.  

She tried to look at the positives that Carl’s decision could have for the family and not just the negatives. 

One day she prayed, “God, I’m going to trust you and let you make my husband into the man You want him to be, not who I want him to be.”

When it came time to sell the house, Cathy asked her husband for one thing–that they not rent in the same neighborhood so she wouldn’t have to drive by her old house every day. As it turned out, the only home they could find to rent was five doors down.  

She writes, “I knew this wasn’t a coincidence, but a lesson I needed in humility and trusting God.” (Northern Lights, p. 27).

The rest of Cathy’s book is the incredible story of the vision God gave Cathy to place an artificial turf football field in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in America.  The lives of teenagers who faced high rates of depression and suicide were changed by this incredible feat.

Her husband’s life changed after his life was influenced by the Christian head coach that he worked for in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Today, they have such a healthy marriage that they do marriage retreats together.

God gave Joshua a vision, as well. 

It was because of his humility that he was able to carry out God’s plan of action.

First, God asked him to send spies into the land as Moses did. That took a lot of trust because that had not worked out so good the first time. 

Second, Joshua continued to lead as Moses had led.  Joshua didn’t lead like some military commander, but it was the Ark of the Covenant that led the way, which housed the Ten Commandments, and represented God and his Law.

Joshua wanted everyone to know that God was their real leader, not him. 

The book of Joshua chronicles the Hebrew people moving through the Promised Land, taking over the land city by city, until the land had been conquered, and the tribes of Israel had been assigned various portions of the land to claim as their own.

The book ends with Joshua standing before the people and issuing them this challenge:

14 “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

The people promised Joshua that they would serve the Lord. But we shall see in upcoming books that they broke their promise.

What about you? Are you serving the Lord?  

You can’t ride into heaven on the coattails of others. Each one of us has to face the Lord and give our own account of our lives.  

What you do in this life not only affects you, but it affects others. It’s one of the reasons obedience to God is so important. 

When Tina and I were married, our pastor gave us these words of Joshua to adorn our home. “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Can you say that about your house? 

I’m not sure what quarter it is in your life, but the truth is that neither do you. You could be a very young person, and you could be in the fourth quarter of your life and not even know it.  

Life is too short not to listen to God’s call on our life. Regardless of how much time has gone by, it’s never too late to start serving the Lord.

I met a family recently whose mother came to know the Lord at age 84. After coming to Jesus, she reconciled with her son, whom she had been estranged for decades.  

Will you come to the Lord today and join Joshua and say, 

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?” 

Photo Credit: