Joshua: A model for biblical leadershipFrom series Significant Biblical Men.
Joshua was a great soldier, general and leader. For those reasons alone, his life repays careful study.
However, for me he stands out as the only leader in the bible ever told by God to stop praying and get on with something else instead. You can find this surprising verse in Joshua 7:10, when the great man is to be found on his knees praying over a humiliating defeat on the battlefield. For me, there are four key elements to Joshua’s leadership, and the first is to be found before he ever took office.
We first encounter Joshua as Moses’ assistant – observing silently from the sidelines:
‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent’ (Exodus 33:11)
This may seem insignificant, but Christian leadership is impoverished today buy our unwillingness or inability to apprentice the next leader properly. How many lessons did Joshua learn at Moses’ side, I wonder?
It is an old maxim of leadership that ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’. For Joshua that main thing is to be found Joshua 1:7-8. He is instructed not to lose his nerve, nor to veer away from the path which God has set before him. Through external battles and internal strife this would be his main thing.
Obedience to the surprising instruction
Joshua must have been as surprised as the rest of us would have been to hear God telling him to stop praying and do something in Joshua 7:10. However, the truly great biblical leader must be prepared to follow God’s lead not only when He directs in the path we would have expected, but when He requires the unexpected of us. Maybe Joshua had already begun to learn this lesson when God told him to take the impregnable city of Jericho with nothing more aggressive than a marching band and a shout of triumph, as recorded in Joshua 6.
If you can spare a minute, tear yourself away from the computer and write down Joshua 1:7 on the left hand side of a piece of paper. Now turn to Joshua 23:7 and write down that verse beside it. What do you notice? Years later, after all sorts of troubled waters have flowed under the bridge, Joshua is still keeping the main thing the main thing. Not only that, but he believes it so wholeheartedly that he passes it onto the next generation as a rule for life. When Joshua announces in chapter 23:14 that he is about to 'go the way of all the earth', there is nothing maudlin or self-pitying about it. Having lived by his conviction, he is without regrets, and his only aim is now to pass that conviction onto those who follow after him.
In a sense, this brings us back full circle again, to the matter of apprenticeship. Those of us who take Christian leadership seriously should be devoting considerable time and energy to ensuring that there are others who will take the baton from our hands.
Who is standing in your tent?