YOU ARE WITNESSES AGAINST YOURSELVES
Monica Aruna Samuel
I read Joshua 24:14-24 many times. Every time I read it, I am compelled to think not about the immediate situation when these words were spoken, but about the person uttering these words, Joshua.
Joshua was 110 years old at that time. These were his urgent and impassioned instructions to his fellowmen before he died. If you read each word of this passage very carefully, you will find that he was anxious for his fellowmen and fellow women, and wanted them to be faithful to Jehovah. Further, he warned the people not to indulge in idol worship because Jehovah was ‘pure’ and ‘jealous’ and would not tolerate these offences. He then told them to ‘choose’ to serve Jehovah and then their own witness would stand for or against them, i.e., in support or in opposition to them.
The study of Joshua spans over 4 books of the Bible—Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua. His service spanned a period of 40 years. His journey spanned a geographical range spread over a vast terrain between Egypt and Canaan. Over this period of time and space, Joshua completed other kinds of journeys as well, a professional journey and a spiritual journey.
As I was preparing his bio-data or resume, listing out the various responsibilities he was given and the various posts he held, I noticed that he had neither the qualifications nor the skills and experience for the very first task given to him by Moses. In Exodus 17:9-14 Moses asked Joshua to fight the Amalekites. I wondered why Moses had selected Joshua for this task. What prompted Moses to consider Joshua fit for such a task, which was very crucial for the onward journey of the Israelites?
Joshua was born to Nun and belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. He was born in Egypt when his people were slaves there. He lived like all the others leading a very hard life. He may have had to work very hard and endure the cruel punishments of his Egyptian masters. The only work he would have known was to make bricks out of straw and build buildings for the Egyptians. Joshua was a witness to all that happened between Pharaoh and Moses. He had seen the power of God as the plagues came upon Egypt and how the angel of the Lord kept all the Israelites unharmed by the curses and plagues. He developed strong faith and trust in Moses and the God of Moses.
Soldier And Captain
Moses chose this brick-maker and builder for a task he had never undertaken—to fight a battle. The reason for Moses’ choice may have been based on Joshua’s participation and volunteering during the gathering and moving out of the Israelites from Goshen.
At that crucial time Joshua may have willingly come forward to gather the people, organise them in groups, and strategise their exit from Egypt. All this may have prompted Moses to choose Joshua. It was the Lord’s leading that brought these two larger than life leaders to come together, yoked by a common task and bound by obedience and love for Jehovah. They shared a very fruitful 40-year long companionship and partnership. Every responsibility that Joshua undertook and fulfilled had a collateral and corresponding personality growth as well.
Joshua obeyed Moses. He fought and defeated the Amalekites. He was a soldier and was also made a captain. The virtues of courage, military strategy and determination developed within him added to his personality.
Helper And Aide
Joshua was the helper and aide for Moses (Exo.24:13). Joshua was given the task of accompanying Moses and waiting for him. It was a period of 40 days when Moses went into the cloud on the mountain and God gave him the Ten Commandments.
If you compare this task with the earlier one, you will definitely say that it is like a demotion. After having been a successful soldier and captain, Moses wants him to be a lowly helper with no glorious responsibility. Joshua was expected to just wait as a lowly helper. What was Joshua’s response? He obeyed. He waited patiently. He remained there faithfully. He did not desert his post though Moses took a long time to return. While he was waiting, he did not indulge in any negative time-pass activities because his leader was away. He remained alert and faithful. He did not look for another god—his fellowmen made the golden calf and worshipped it. He did not sleep carelessly, but stayed awake and kept vigil. He alerted Moses on his return that he heard noises from the Israelite camp below the mountain. Here we see that he willingly accepted the task of a helper which shows his humility and love for Moses. Joshua also shows that waiting as a helper for long periods of time is not a passive waste of time. The waiting period tests our patience and alertness. The virtues of loyalty, patience, humility, trustworthiness were added to his personality.
Moses sent Joshua as a spy (Num.13:2,16). Joshua was one among 12. On their return from Canaan, 10 of the spies gave reports which were wrong and caused panic among the people. However, the report brought back by Joshua and Caleb was truthful, optimistic and hopeful. The way Joshua reported the details proved the fact that the higher good of the entire community was uppermost on his mind. He also motivated his people saying, “We can defeat them.”
Instrument Of God
At this time Moses changed his name from Hoshea to Joshua. Hoshea means ‘salvation,’ but Joshua means ‘the Lord saves’ (Num.13:16). This change of name has got a deep significance. His first name did not have the word ‘Lord.’ The second name has the word ‘Lord.’ This means that the focus shifted from the act of salvation to the Giver of salvation i.e., God.
Now Hoshea became Joshua; the person lost his own importance and became an instrument in the hands of God. Now he bore the stamp of God, worked and spoke as a man sent by God. Moses wanted Joshua and all Israelites to remember that was the source of salvation and that Joshua and all who work for God were instruments in His hands.
So when Joshua fulfilled the responsibilities of a spy, his own personality got enriched with the virtues of correct reporting, optimism, positive attitude and being a motivator.
By now, Moses had come to the end of his life and God told him that he would be gathered up (Num.27:13). Moses asked God to please appoint a man who could be a shepherd to the people of Israel. At this point of time, God Himself said, “Take Joshua because My spirit is in him” (Num.27:18). What a mighty thing it is to be chosen by God Himself! To be a shepherd, one needs to be a provider, a protector, a leader and a counsellor, so that he can care for the Israelites who were like sheep. God found that Joshua was filled with the Spirit of God. This shows that Joshua had gone a long way, not only in his professional and geographical journey, but also in his spiritual journey. The supreme virtue of wisdom and the Spirit of God were in him.
God said that Joshua would lead the Israelites into the promised land which was their inheritance (Deut.1:38). So Joshua became a national leader. Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom when Moses blessed him as a worthy successor (Deut.34:9).
Even after Moses was gathered up, Joshua remained responsible and faithfully completed all that he had to do. After entering the Promised Land, he divided the land among the tribes and proved to be an able administrator and statesman. This shows his sense of accountability.
After all this, he uttered those strong words of instruction and said, “You are your own witnesses.” Everything that Joshua did and said stood as a powerful witness supporting him before God and stood as an example for his people to follow. The same would be true for all people, said Joshua.
So Joshua journeyed from Egypt to Canaan, from slave to statesman, from simple obedience to Spirit of God. His geographical and professional journey had a double measure of spiritual growth. Rather, his spiritual progress set the ball rolling for his professional and geographical journey.
The parting words of this trail blazing leader are like powerful hammer strokes (Josh.24:14-24). “Choose to serve the living God. You are your own witnesses. As for me and my family we shall serve the Lord.”
We too as Christians are on a journey. Is there a double measure of spiritual growth in relation to our professional, academic and financial growth? If our answer is ‘Yes,’ then we can enter the Canaan of our journey, the summit of spiritual growth. Let us choose to serve the Risen Lord-—our life is a witness not only for others, but also for ourselves.