Relationships – Joshua and His Soldiers

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

  • Exodus 17:8-14

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)
Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”
Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.

  • Numbers 27:12-23

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”

  • Joshua 1:1-11

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.
Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

  • Joshua 7:1-12, 19-26

After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.
On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

  • Joshua 10:9-15

A Quote

[Joshua 1:5] ”We cannot think rightly of God until we begin to think of Him as always being there, and there first. Joshua had this to learn. He had been so long the servant of God’s servant Moses, and had with such assurance received God’s word at his mouth, that Moses and the God of Moses had become blended in his thinking, so blended that he could hardly separate the two thoughts; by association they always appeared together in his mind. Now Moses is dead, and lest the young Joshua be struck down with despair God spoke to assure him, ‘As I was with Moses, so l will be with thee’ (Joshua 1:5; 3:7). Nothing had changed and nothing had been lost. Nothing of God dies when a man of God dies.
“ ’As l was—so l will be.’ Only God could say this. Only the Eternal One could stand in the timeless I AM and say, ‘I was’ and ‘l will be.’ ”

  • A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

In the relationship between God and Joshua, we know a lot, but between Joshua and his men, we may not know much, and the relationship grew over time as faith grew.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joshua’s first battle, or at least the first time a battle is recorded.  My parents clued me into a radio show that would be on as I drove to the university.  The radio program was a short devotion from a Reformed theologian of note and his financial backing came from the A&H Club.  It seems many pastors and ministries have their own A&H Club today from internet searches.  But Moses was tired and could not keep his staff elevated.  Each time the staff went down, Joshua started losing the battle.  Aaron and Hur held Moses’ arm up and Joshua won the battle.

This raised staff is not required later, but some of his early defeats were when he did not go to God in prayer prior to making a decision.  Even his commissioning as Moses’ next in command was asked of the Urim.  Here Joshua was the field general of the army.  He was one of the two faithful spies.  But Moses asked God to decide.  This was a tough lesson for Joshua.  He failed to pray at Ai the first time and he failed to pray when the Gibeonites deceived him.  Even stopping the sun was in response to protecting the Gibeonites.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

The description from Joshua 10 above seems familiar to me.  Growing up in the South of the USA, I studied the war within the USA in the 1860s.  Thomas A. “Stonewall” Jackson, who never had property of his own, of any kind, was one of my favorite heroes growing up.  In military history in Army ROTC, we dissected his strategy and tactics.

Nathan Bedford Forrest may have said that his key to victory was to get there firstest with the mostest (probably not spelled right, or pronounced right), but Gen. Forrest was cavalry.  Stonewall Jackson rolled cannon, marched troops, and hauled supplies on marches that no one thought were humanly possible.  I have read both historical documents and fictional accounts where the author knew his research.

My point in bringing it up was the having God stop the sun is one thing, but Joshua’s men had not slept in a couple of days and yet they had the strength, once they engaged the enemy to fight and destroy them.  God bringing hail helped a lot.  Those that think anything connected to the South during that war is bad, but Stonewall Jackson, a lay leader in the Presbyterian church read the Scriptures above.  In the morning and afternoon short breaks in a long march so that the men could rest, Stonewall Jackson read from the Bible and gave his men encouragement, as God commands Joshua to do in the Scriptures above.  The parallels to the Joshua 10 story are amazing.

If Joshua was truly like Stonewall Jackson in his relationship with his men, his men would do whatever he commanded because they loved him.  It was like “We’ll march even faster if you will read one more chapter from God’s Holy Word.”

Joshua had God’s anointing of the Holy Spirit.  At that point the comparison breaks down but might easily infer that Joshua’s men did as commanded because they loved, respected, and trusted Joshua.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

Making the analogy above, that could just as easily fit here.  It was an inference with past knowledge of a different war added.

But one thing might also be said about military history, military tactics, and military strategy, much of the military history in the book of Joshua has been retained, especially in the area of tactics.  We may have more fancy weapons, but the misdirection, the splitting of forces, and such from the second battle of Ai, after Joshua inquired of God, seems to be a duplicate of the modern textbooks.

And this thing about the sun stopping, what we now know about the sun rising and setting is that the earth is spinning.  Most scientists scoff at Joshua 10 in that if the earth suddenly quit spinning, all animals and mankind would fly off into space and major catastrophes would happen on earth.  But if God stopped the earth, He would have thought of that and planned the greater miracle of that not happening.

But I think I read something not long ago that asked the question, ‘Why would God need to stop the sun anyway?’  At the end of Revelation, we are told that there will be no sun or moon in the New Jerusalem because God will be present, thus enough light.  Instead of God stopping the sun, God could have appeared from behind the veil that separates Heaven and Earth and provided an even greater light (along with the energy that the soldiers needed at that moment).  This is still a supernatural miracle, but one that makes Joshua think that the sun stopped in the sky but can avoid the scientific disasters that are formulated when the earth stops spinning or the sun spins around the earth to keep pace with Joshua’s battlefield.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

God guided Joshua.  When Joshua enquired of God, he made wise decisions.  He loved his men, and his men loved him.  The key – trust.  And trust goes both ways.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.

A Closing Prayer

Lord,
As a leader, we must love and trust those who we lead.  As a follower, we must love and trust our leader.  Give us leaders that are worthy of trust and give us followers who are faithful.
In Thy Name we pray,
Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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