Joshua is a minor character in Exodus. But what we see is amazing. It is surely intended to show us what makes a leader. First, we meet him as a warrior: “And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” He was no pansy. He shouted. He flashed a sword and spear. He was a fighter all his life. But that is not what made him a leader in Israel.
In Exodus 24:12 God calls Moses to leave Aaron part way up the mountain and come up further. Moses takes Joshua, his personal minister, and goes up. But in verse 18 Moses leaves Joshua and goes on by himself into the cloud of God. Aaron and the elders are nearer the bottom. Joshua is nearer the top. And Moses is alone at the top.
Forty days and forty nights pass. Aaron abandons his place (contrary to Moses’ instructions, 24:14). He winds up making a golden calf. Now where is Joshua all this time? According to 32:17, when Moses comes down to the camp at the end of forty days Joshua is with him! While Moses met with God, Joshua kept his place alone. He waited at the outskirts of God’s glory. He did not forsake the ministry of waiting. He was near the Lord and that was enough. He loved the glory of God! The warrior had a heart for God. O men of Bethlehem, be like Joshua! Powerful in his work and deeply in love with the glory of God.
But wait a minute. Aren’t you reading too much into this story? I might be, if it weren’t for Exodus 33:11. At that time there was a tent where Moses met God (a sort of portable Mt. Sinai). Exodus 33:11 says, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tent.” Why? Because Joshua loved the glory of God! He was a kind of warrior mystic. He loved the mountain and the tent. He loved nature and church. He had a heart for God. Wherever he smelled the aroma of God he lingered.
Where are the Joshuas? The warrior mystics of Bethlehem—the men and women whose hearts are aflame with the conquest and who linger at the tent? Where are the men and women whose knees are as calloused as their hands?
Look to Joshua this Christmas for a new hero.
At the tent,
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org