Before we move on from Exodus 33, I want to spend some time looking at an important side character. We’ve seen him on the fringes. While not the main character yet, his name is scattered through the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. His name is mentioned seven times in the book of Exodus, mostly in obscure references that you would never notice. But I think that it is important to take a look at these references, because if we’re going to study how God shapes His leaders, we must look at the shaping of this man into the future leader of Israel. Therefore, today we’re going to look at the role of Joshua.
Joshua is mentioned seven times in the book of Exodus, four of which surround the battle against Amalek in Exodus 17. In these four mentions, we find a man who is obedient. Joshua did what Moses asked him to do, lead the Israelites’ first battle. He did so with bravery and courage. It would not have been easy to lead a group of former slaves into battle, but Joshua did it. Therefore, when the LORD gives Moses a promise regarding the Amalekites, He makes sure that Joshua gets the promise as well.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’”
The next two times Joshua shows up in Exodus surrounds Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai for the 40 days. The Bible tells us that Moses took Joshua with him. I’m not sure how far up the mountain Joshua got to go, but he was there. He wasn’t left in the camp with the elders of Israel; he was hand-picked to accompany Moses up the sacred mountain. What an honor and privilege!
Yet even this came with a price. Can you imagine sitting somewhere on the mountain for forty days and nights? It would have required patience! Joshua may have been able to see and experience some of what was going on at the top of the mountain with Moses and God, but not all of it. Therefore, this shows Joshua’s faithfulness to his post and his willingness to follow Moses even when it required waiting for over a month.
Finally, my favorite glimpse into the shaping of this future leader is found in Exodus 33:11:
“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”
Joshua wasn’t busy pursuing his own interests. He stayed close to Moses. He spent 40 days by himself somewhere between the Israelite camp and Moses’ meeting with God. Then when Moses was back in the camp, Joshua stationed himself at the tent of meeting and would not leave. Do you see that? He refused to leave. He was there 24/7. He wasn’t chasing girls or trying to start a family. He stood watch over God’s meeting room, and, therefore, stood near the very presence of the living God.
Joshua’s choices cost him. He wasn’t like his friends who got to enjoy the journey. He was always on guard, always busy, always following Moses. But was the exchange worth it? Because of the choices Joshua made, he got to experience some pretty amazing things. Furthermore, later in life, Joshua would have an encounter with God himself, and he knew exactly who was meeting with him because he was around the presence of God day and night. So when the time came, Joshua was ready to take up the leadership of the Israelites. He was ready to lead a new generation into the Promised Land and finish the task his mentor, Moses, had started.
Joshua was shaped into the strong, godly man he became by who he spent time with. If you notice from the seven mentions, Joshua spent most of his time with Moses and in front of the tent of meeting. He surrounded himself with an amazing role model and the presence of God, and God used it to form him into a man of faith, courage, leadership, and reliance on God.
So do you want to be a Joshua? Do you want to lead your generation to victory? Do you want to see the promises of God fulfilled in your life?
I do! So we would do well to learn from these early references of Joshua so we can learn how God shaped Joshua into the man he became. Therefore, we must spend time around greatness. We must surround ourselves with godly men and women who will be great role models and mentors. But most importantly, we must spend time in the presence of God. Joshua refused to leave the tent of meeting. Likewise, may we desire God’s presence in such a desperate way. We may not enjoy an easy life like our peers, but we will experience a fuller one—and one with deeper meaning.
Therefore, let us make sure our priorities line up with God’s and be like Joshua who hung out with greatness. Because God can use it to make us great in His way and His time; we simply must be faithful.
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