Joshua is a fascinating character in the Bible. There are so many opportunities for us to see our lives through biblical characters and Joshua is one of them.
Joshua has a different set of challenges than did Moses. Having led the people to the Promised Land, and having now captured Ai, they have to build a new life. Joshua demonstrates an essential component of their new life: worship. He builds an altar to the Lord “just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites.” Not only is this a fulfillment of the law of Moses, but a direction the people have been going long before the law was given: Worship and Sacrifice. It is a renewal of covenant that began at Abraham, and again at Passover.
Where do you need renewal in your life?
Even more basic and essential is the fact that Joshua leads by example. He helps build this “altar of unhewn stones, which no iron tool has been used”. Then in the presence of the people, he writes on the stone a copy of the law of Moses. Granted it may have been key inscriptions, but it sets the standard. It is as if he is communicating: “This will be the centerpiece of our life together, he is declaring. This is the place worship has. This is the place teaching has over us, and just as God taught me, I now teach you.”
In congregational development circles (which I hang in cause I am a nerd) and in leadership training circle, there is not surprisingly an abundance of looking to Joshua as a good example. Joshua holds up God’s law. What a great example he sets! He wants to get on board with God’s agenda, something we often forget in our churches. We follow a pastor or a matriarch or a charismatic elder simply because we like what they are saying, rather than looking to God who is our true leader.
Have you ever tried to change a system, when the leader at the top isn’t on board? Good luck. Have you ever sought transformation of purpose without first modeling that new direction yourself? Good luck. Joshua is a potentially effective leader because of his actions. He gets people on the same page with God.
One of my huge pet peeves is the way many churches and dioceses/presbyteries use or misuse interim times. At First Pres. in OKC I think we have used our interim time well. But not so in other places I have seen. Often the mistake is made: that now without a leader (sometimes without a leader of any kind), it’s somehow magically a good time to institute radical change. Great job folks, who is going to carry this to fruition!?!
There are changes that best come about with permanent leaders in place. Other changes can happen with other leaders in place. But change in the midst of chaos and disaster – oh that sounds fun! I grow tired of watching people who know nothing of organizational development try to institute change at all the wrong times, and I find myself wishing they would leave such things to the experts. Joshua shows this wisdom. He knows his place. He takes the mantle of leadership with humility, yet purpose. He sets the tone for excellence – not as someone from the outside coming in, but a claiming of his own authority and leadership, and moving into a bold new future together with the people. How powerful! By teaching and modeling he is setting the pace for excellence.
I am fascinated by Joshua. I doubt he had it easy. Living into the footsteps of Moses is not a challenge I would be up for. But he does it with pose and with purpose. He leads knowing that honoring God is the most important, and that God is the true leader of this bunch of lost sheep, and he focuses on what God would have the people do. That’s a leader!
What does God desire from us as his people today? How are we called to lead? To follow?