Leadership is not trying to change its followers, but rather point them in the right direction—the direction God has directed us to go in. We can learn a lot about leadership through the life of Joshua. Joshua served under Moses for many years. Despite the fact he possessed leadership skills, he never rebelled against Moses’ authority. Joshua possessed qualities that allowed him to be the man God chose. It took several years of discipline and servant hood under the leadership of Moses; but later in life, Joshua was the very one God used to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land.
God Is Near
By one man, Moses, God oversaw a whole nation with the goal to lead them to a place that flowed with milk and honey. It is estimated that 2 million men, women and children made the exodus out of Egypt. What an overwhelming, and yet grand task for one man to undertake almost entirely on his own. Then again, we can’t deny that God had been with Moses, and all Israel, throughout the 40 years in the wilderness. During the voyage, Moses dealt with surmounting issues: being pursued by Pharaoh’s army, no water to drink, no food to eat and even idol worship among the camp. The tasks he faced were not ordinary, but with God’s guidance he was able to lead the people through. However, when Moses died, the promise was still undone. Had God departed from Israel now that Moses was gone? Who would take over? I’m sure these questions were on the minds of the people. They would soon discover God had not abandoned them; in fact, He had a plan.
God chose Joshua as Moses’ successor. Joshua wasn’t a nobody. He had been serving under the hand of Moses. God was preparing him to become Moses’ successor. When God chooses, he also guides. In the first chapter of the book of Joshua, God reminds him, “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you;” (v.5). The Israelites knew that if God wasn’t with them, they would fail. God’s presence with them meant protection, guidance and success in what they set out to do.
If Joshua didn’t have enough confidence to take on such a large task, he did now. To know God was going to be with him during the greatest journey of his life must have brought a large degree of relief. Without God’s help, Joshua never would have been fit to lead the people; not to mention, the fulfillment of God’s promise was now resting on the shoulders of God’s next chosen.
Leading By Example
Later on, God instructs Joshua to stay faithful to the law, and he would be successful and prosper wherever he went (v.8). It was not enough for Joshua to simply lead the Israelites. He had to maintain his integrity by keeping God’s word. God’s instruction to Joshua was strict: Obey and you will succeed. Joshua’s new post was more than a mere change of rank. He represented God to the people. His behavior was a reflection of his devotion and confidence in God. Being a leader is more than leading. It takes integrity in our personal lives to be successful, for whatever is true in our personal lives will overflow to every area of our lives. Sure we can attempt to shape people’s lives by what we speak, but how we live those principalities out will have a deeper and lasting impact.
Upholding Your Word
In our society words are carelessly thrown around, without any intentions on fulfilling any of them. There is a shortage of leaders who say what they mean and mean what they say. When politicians run for office, they make several promises to appeal to voters, but no sooner do they sit in their newly appointed office, their promises have already gone with the wind.
In February1942, Japan was gaining control over the Philippines. Gradually the enemy marched in taking more and more ground. It didn’t look good for the Americans who occupied Corregidor. By March 12, 1942 General Douglas MacArthur, along with a select few were ordered, by President Roosevelt, to leave their post at Corregidor and retreat to Australia. MacArthur was so dedicated to the cause that he even discussed with his staff the possibility of resigning his commission and fighting as a private soldier in the Philippine resistance. However, he was talked out of it.
Upon arriving at Adelaide, in the southern part of Australia, he cited his now famous words: I CAME THROUGH AND I SHALL RETURN. That would be a tall order to fill, but two and a half years later, MacArthur stayed true to his word. On October 20, 1944, he waded through knee deep water onto the shores of Leyte, a Philippine province. During a speech to the Philippine people he stated: I HAVE RETURNED.
Before Joshua invaded Jericho, he sent two spies to assess the land. Shortly thereafter, their presence was discovered by the king who then sought to kill them. Rahab, a harlot, hid the men from the king and helped them safely escape. Because of her kindness, they promised to spare her and her family when they later invaded the land.
The day came. Jericho was afraid as their end was near. Before Israel’s troops burned the city down, Joshua told the two spies, “Go into the harlot’s house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her” (Joshua 6:22). They did exactly that. She, her parents and all her relatives were brought to safety.
Joshua would not touch Jericho until Rahab was safe. Why was it so important to Joshua? He didn’t have to save Rahab. He could have easily overlooked the incident. Besides, she lived an immoral life that was prohibited in the Law of Moses. The answer is found in the later part of the above verse, “as you have sworn to her.” It wasn’t about who Rahab was or what she did. More importantly, the spies had given Rahab their word. In that period, an oath was a big deal. You intended to fulfill what you promised. Through Joshua’s insistence in saving Rahab, we learn the importance of upholding our words.
Staying true to our words—despite our circumstances—is well worth its weight in gold.
Joshua was esteemed highly among all the people of Israel. He was a mighty warrior and spiritual leader. He followed God all his days. By God’s grace, Joshua did not allow himself to be puffed up. He never forgot who the true leader of Israel was.
While he was near Jericho, a man approached him. The man identified himself, sword drawn, as the “Captain of the host of the LORD” (5:14) We recognize through Joshua’s behavior, this man represented God’s son. Verse 14 goes on, “And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’” He had the same response Abraham had when God spoke through the burning bush—humbleness. Prostrating yourself face down was a sign of utter humility. Symbolically, Joshua laid down his authority and gave upmost honor to the deserving One.
Our Post as Leaders
You don’t have to have a corner office to be a leader. We all influence someone by our actions. Someone is always looking up to us. True character comes when we think no one is watching. Character, although deep within us, will beam brightly through the lives of those who have obtained it. The 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, told of Mary King, a housekeeper from the school he attended as a teenager. She made such an impression on him during their time together, he later said that he learned more from her than what he would from six doctors of divinity.
At the end of Joshua’s reign over Israel, he encouraged them to remain faithful to God. As leaders, we must not only begin well, but we must also end well. Even at the end of his life, he didn’t forget who really fought Israel’s battle. In Joshua’s ending speech he said, “But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day” (23:8). A godly leader will always point their followers to God—the true Leader of our lives.