If I could time travel and meet any Old Testament character, Joshua would be a contender on my list. The contrast between Joshua and his generation is clearly seen in one of the Bible’s most significant chapters.
In Numbers 13, twelve spies were selected to scout out the Promised Land. Joshua was one of them. When they returned, ten spies spread fear among the Israelites:
“We are not able to go up against the people, because they are too strong for us.” So they brought a bad report of the land which they had spied out to the sons of Israel, saying, “The land through which we have gone to spy out is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are people of great stature” (Numbers 13:31, 32).
But Joshua, with Caleb, delivered a different message:
“The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us —a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection is gone from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them” (14:7-9).
Joshua and Caleb were the opposite of the other spies, not fearing the giants in the land and not complaining against the Lord. They believed God would keep His promises. They spread a message of hope because God was with them. While their generation died in the wilderness due to their complaining and fearfulness, Joshua and Caleb stood courageous upon God’s promises and lived to see Israel conquer the Promised Land.
Called to courage
Joshua was selected to lead the way into that land. When he first took leadership over Israel, the Lord gave him an inspiring message. He promised to be with Joshua as He was with Moses and to never fail nor forsake him (Joshua 1:5). Then the Lord gave Joshua this charge:
“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may achieve success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (vv. 7-9).
When I read this battle cry and study Joshua’s life, I am inspired. I find myself asking if I am being a Joshua in my day or if I am cowering in fear, relying on my own strength instead of God’s. He told Joshua three times to be courageous and not fear, and twice promised to be with him. The courage God commanded did not come from Joshua’s strength or leadership skills; it came from God’s presence.
Likewise, our courage cannot come from our own strength or talents. It comes from our Father, who has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Called to lead
Along with courage, Joshua displayed amazing leadership. At the end of his life, he gave a speech that closed with these famous words:
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24:15).
In response, the Israelites vowed to also serve the Lord. Joshua led by example, and his example impacted the next generation.
Are we doing the same? Effective leadership does not live by the “Do as I say, not as I do” motto; that is not appropriate for the Christian life. We are to be known by our fruits (Matthew 7:20) and imitate Christ as an example for others (1 Corinthians 11:1).
If we want the next generation to be bold for Christ, we must be bold and stand strong as Joshua did. We must look ahead and be courageous parents, pastors, teachers, older siblings, or any other leadership position God has given us.
The question for me, and hopefully for all of us, is “Am I leading by example?” May we find courage in the Lord, strength in His Word, and be leaders who imitate Christ. That is how we impact the next generation — and change the world.