Bible Readings for July 16th
Joshua’s leadership of Israel seems to have passed surprisingly quickly. Where we followed Moses through four long books of the Pentateuch, from Exodus through Deuteronomy, we find the ministry of Joshua winding down here in Joshua 23. In this final charge to Israel, Joshua reminds us about the true nature of spiritual leadership.
Now, even though the book of Joshua takes up much less text than what we saw of Moses’s ministry, remember that Joshua served Israel for a long time. Joshua 23:1 tells us that much time had passed before Joshua gives this final charge to Israel. Additionally, we should also keep in mind that Joshua had been Moses’s right-hand man from as early as Exodus 17, when Israel had just barely crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness, when he led Israel into battle against Amalek (Ex. 17:9–26). Joshua’s leadership has not been the meteoric rise of an immature believer, but the enduring faithfulness of a lifelong saint.
Still, even though Joshua has seen many victories during the course of his life, he is under no illusion about the ultimate source of Israel’s protection: Yahweh himself has been fighting for Israel (Josh. 23:3). Joshua reminds the people of Israel of this point in order to urge them to continue being strong and courageous to obey Yahweh. Specifically, Joshua charges Israel to continue walking in Yahweh’s law: “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left…” (Josh. 23:6).
Joshua’s evaluation of his own life and ministry is instructive. He doesn’t boast about the success of his own leadership or battle prowess, but he also doesn’t advise Israel to pursue peace at any cost in order to avoid the warfare that he himself has seen during the course of his life. Instead, Joshua preaches to Israel once again about the necessity of keeping Yahweh’s covenant. In some ways, Joshua 23 is something like Joshua’s miniature version of Deuteronomy. Joshua even reminds Israel in Joshua 23:9–16 of the blessings and the curses that Moses had described in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
Spiritual leadership means first and foremost that we point people’s focus away from ourselves and toward our covenant-keeping God. It means avoiding a cult of personality completely but instead reminding the people whom God has entrusted to our leadership that it is God who has graciously given us his Son. Therefore, he insists we walk in faith and obedience before him. Spiritual leadership means, in the words of John the Baptist, that we must decrease and that Jesus must increase (John 3:30).
As we live—and to whatever extent God entrusts to us the leadership of others—let us strive to exalt our covenant Lord, Jesus Christ, and not ourselves.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.