Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister…
It has been said, "Great men have no successors." But if we mean by successor one who takes up the work where his predecessor has left it, and develops it according to the Divine ideal, then all men, great and small alike, have successors. As Pascal puts it, "You cannot produce the great man before his time, and you cannot make him die before his time; you cannot displace nor advance him, nor put him back; you cannot continue his existence, and replace him, for he existed only because he had his work to do; he exists no longer, because there is no longer anything for him to do; and to continue him is to continue a useless part." A worthy successor to the great leader had been found. The Divine choice, a choice which had been revealed to Moses before his death, and which greatly gladdened his heart, had fallen upon Joshua. There were reasons for this choice of Joshua which we do well to consider; for if his preparation for this high place was not so romantic or so miraculous as that of Moses, it was none the less effective and Divine. His training was, like ours, of a more homely pattern.
I. It can scarcely be doubted that JOSHUA'S LINEAGE had something to do with God's choice. His parents were slaves, and though the bloody edict enacted in Moses' infant days had long since been repealed, these serfs had felt to the full the bitterness of bondage. But notwithstanding all, they had not lost faith and hope in God; and we get a glimpse into their souls' state through the significant name they gave their firstborn. They called him "Hoshea," that is "Salvation." Surely their infant's name is the very echo of their father Jacob's dying words to Dan, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." We can well believe that Joshua was brought up in an atmosphere of hope. It is more than likely, from what we know of the habits of the ancient Egyptians, that in a corner of his father's lowly dwelling stood an object which often excited his childish wonder and curiosity. It was a mummy case, painted all over with strange devices and curious figures, which with its somewhat faded richness presented a strange contrast to the mean furniture of the dwelling. "Within it," we can easily imagine his mother telling him, "are preserved the bones of Joseph." "But why do you keep Joseph's bones?" "Because when he lay dying he gave commandment concerning them," &c. The child would listen and ponder, and look with new solemnity on that sacred trust; then he might ask, "Mother, was that true which Joseph said when he was dying?" "Yes, my boy." "Then why do we not go at once —
"'Mother, oh where is that blissful shore,
Shall we not seek it and weep no more'?"
"We must wait God's time. We are His people, and He knows what is best." "Will it be long till that day comes?" "I cannot tell, but I do not think it will be very long, for God said to our great father Abraham that we would go back to it in the fourth generation, and the time must be near." Thus the influences that surrounded Joshua in his youth must have moulded his character and prepared him for the place he took, first as Moses' lieutenant, then as leader of Israel; and the assurance of the truth of Joseph's dying words must have mollified the bitterness of that cruel bondage. Every visitation of judgment would be a confirmation of his faith, and every trial a purifying furnace to remove his dross. He would hear from his father and grandfather, who were elders of the important tribe of Ephraim, the precise particulars of the Divine commission, and while they, with the other elders, were under Moses and Aaron attending to the more difficult and important matters in connection with the proposed Exodus, it is very likely that, following his natural bent of mind, he would be actively employed in attempting to organise the people and prepare them for a simultaneous movement. Thus while this champion first steps into the arena when Israel confronts Amalek, we may well suppose that he had done yeoman's service before, and his fitness and aptness for his life's work must have depended in great measure on home surroundings.
II. JOSHUA'S CHARACTER had also to do with this choice. Its constituent elements were noble and simple, easily understood and readily appreciated. He was every inch a soldier, brave and manly, simple in habit, straightforward in speech, cool-headed, warm-hearted, energetic, swift in thought and action. He was firm as a rock, true as steel. Nothing could exceed his fidelity. How true was he, above all, to his God! So was he with his master. He never failed Moses. At all times he was jealous for his honour, and would tolerate nothing derogatory to his dignity and authority. He was even true to his enemies. He kept his word and carried out his engagements, in the spirit as well as the letter, though trapped by guile into the making of them. His courage also was of the loftiest kind. It could face not only enemies, but, harder far, misguided friends. Like all noble natures, Joshua was also unselfish, humble, and modest. He had learned to obey, and was therefore fit to command. His patience and hopefulness were also very marked, and much needed in the leader of such a people as Israel. He was able to endure the fatigues of the march as well as the rush of battle, not fainting under the hardships of the weary campaign, but ever on the alert to push every advantage to its utmost limit, and always, by his cheerful bearing and cheery words, keeping up the hearts of the people. He was a leader alert, circumspect, prudent, leaving nothing to chance or the chapter of happy accidents, but doing everything that foresight could suggest for the attainment of the end in view.
III. JOSHUA'S TRAINING had also to do with this choice. When he was put at the head of the people he was no novice. Joshua was the oldest man in the camp with the single exception of Caleb; therefore he was a man of experience and ripened wisdom. We have already spoken about that home school, in which his parents were the teachers. This was the granitic foundation of all his subsequent greatness. He was also taught in the grand and stirring school of the Exodus. Here God Himself was Joshua's teacher. Great national events have a high educational value. The stimulus of stirring times is deep, formative, and all pervasive. Still another school furnished Joshua with valuable instruction, and that was the camp of Israel. If by the wonders of the Exodus he was taught to know God, by the conduct of Israel he would learn to know man. Day by day he would be learning how to command and lead. find without doubt the crowning lessons in this long preparatory course would be imparted in the tent of Moses. Moses' tent was Joshua's college. And the very fact that he had been associated so long with Moses as his lieutenant would not only prepare himself but also the minds of the people for this change.
IV. This choice of Joshua had also reference to the CHARACTER OF THE WORK that had to be done. The great work now before Israel is to conquer and divide the land. This was a kind of work most congenial to Joshua, and for which he had received special preparation. He is the right man for the present work, as Moses was the right man for the past.
V. Also, this significant choice had reference to the GREAT PLAN OF GOD in the economy of redemption. "Moses My servant is dead." Thus said Jehovah. Therefore Moses brought no one into the inheritance. Israel lost sight of him for ever, before they put down a foot in Canaan. If they are to pass over that Jordan, and possess the land, it cannot be under Moses. This act of leadership is deliberately taken out of his hands by God Himself. Surely the lesson is plain to all who know the essence of the gospel. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight." The law brings no one into God's heritage. But what Moses could not do Joshua was raised up to accomplish. If we would enter into God's inheritance we must turn from Moses and look to Joshua. Who was he? A man in all points made like his brethren; not nurtured in Pharaoh's palace like Moses, but born with them in Goshen, sharing their burdens, labouring side by side with them, afflicted in all their afflictions, bearing their griefs and carrying their sorrows. Who cannot see here a picture of God's own Son, "made of a woman, made under the law"? Turn from the law to the gospel. What is your hope of glory, Moses or Jesus? Yet we must never dream that Moses and Joshua are antagonistic. There is no quarrel in God's economies. Just as Moses and Joshua wrought together for the same great end, so is it with the law and the gospel.
(A. B. Mackay.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,