September 27th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-27-59 8:15 a.m.
To you who are sharing the service with us on the radio, you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled God’s Warrior.
We, in our preaching through the first five books of the Bible [Genesis 1-5], have followed the life of Moses [Exodus 2:1-Deuteronomy 34:12] and now are beginning our introduction to God’s warrior, the Joshua who brought the Lord’s people into their inheritance. This morning we are going to look at the elder statesman Moses and his young lieutenant Joshua. We have in this a marvelous insight into the character of this unusual young man whose name is the same as the name of our Lord Jesus, and who in every respect is a type and a symbol and a picture of the blessed Lord God who brings us also into our spiritual and final inheritance.
You can easily follow, if you like, this portrayal of the character of Joshua as you see him in the presence of Moses. You can easily follow it if you will begin at the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Exodus. And then we will turn from time to time through those first books of Moses, following the life of God’s warrior.
In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, beginning at the eighth verse; down in the valley there is a fierce battle raging [Exodus 17:8]. In the blistering heat of the burning sun, dark-skinned men are in mortal combat with spears, with brazened swords, with slings, with stones and heavy clubs. They are fighting hand to hand. In the midst of their group, and fighting with them, is a young lieutenant who commands the warriors of God. His body is caked with dust and sweat. And his unsheathed sword is dark-stained with blood. As he leads his army against the attack and onslaught of the enemy, he turns anxiously and looks toward the south.
There, a half mile or so away on a hill, is a tall figure [Moses] dressed in white with a shepherd’s crook in his hand. But the hands that have held the rod of God have become weary and tired. And the hands with the rod have been lowered to the ground [Exodus 17:9-12]. The young lieutenant anxiously turns his eyes back to the enemy. They have regrouped, and howling madmen, they are mounting a new attack against the warriors of God. And when they come in their fury, the soldiers of the Exodus open before them. They are beginning to retreat. And once again, the young lieutenant turns his face toward the south, and there he sees a heavenly omen. On one side is Aaron and on the other side is Hur, holding up the hands of Israel’s great leader, raising the rod of God over the fighting plain below [Exodus 17:12].
With a shout of victory and gladness and triumph, the young lieutenant calls to his compatriots and his fellow soldiers in the name of the God of Israel to rally and to charge. He leads the fray. His sword shines under the sun. The soldiers around him gather for a new attack, and this time they press the fleeing Amalekites until they are so scattered there is no fear of their return [Exodus 17:13]. After the victory, the young lieutenant stands in the presence of Moses, who places a shaking hand upon the shoulder of his young leader. And Aaron and Hur stand close by to utter words of commendation and congratulation. This is your introduction to Joshua. This is the first time that he appears in the Book.
When you take his name, Joshua, through the Greek and into English, it comes out “Jesus”—Jehovah our Savior. He is the grandson of Elishama, a prince in Ephraim. But the reason for his choice to lead the battle against the Amalekites at Rephidim did not lie in his heritage or in his lineage. The keen, perceiving, judging, hawk eyes of Moses, the man of God, was daily upon the young men of the count, toiling, marching through the blistering heat of the desert, contending with savage sun, and savage stone, and savage beast, and still more savage men, Moses had an opportunity to see of what medal Israel was made of. In the storm and fury, in the trial and thirst of the wilderness, many of them complained. Many of them showed themselves weak and vacillating. But out of all the young men who were strong and true, Moses saw this young man, Joshua. And when the onslaught came and the battle was joined, Moses chose that young man to lead the soldiers of the Exodus [Exodus 17:9-10].
As time passed, the development of the story exhibited the wise choice of Moses the man of God. Joshua is without doubt one of the finest, purest, noblest characters of all the stories of the people of God. He was very different from Moses. Moses was hot-tempered and hot-headed, volatile, and easily aroused. Time and time and time again, all of his life, the wrath of Moses waxed hot. You’ll never find that in Joshua. He seems to have been a very even-tempered man, calm in his judgment and quiet in his approach. Only one time is it ever recorded that he was discouraged or frustrated, and that was when Israel lost the battle of Ai due to Achan and to what Achan had done in the midst of the camp [Joshua 7:1-26]. All through the story of Moses you will find the people murmuring and dissatisfied and finding fault. You will never find that in the life of Joshua.
Joshua was so fine a leader, and so exemplary in all of his deportment before God, that in the entire story the people following Joshua are at ease. They seem to sense that their fortunes lie in the hand of a true and holy and godly man. For example, I could not imagine a better tribute paid to a man than this: “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for Israel” [Joshua 24:31]. And to my astonishment, that verse I have read is in the last chapter of the Book of Joshua. And to my astonishment, I find the same verse in the Book of Judges. In the second chapter of Judges and the seventh verse, there it is again: “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlive Joshua” [Judges 2:7].
So fine and so noble was the character and example of this soldier of God that not only in his own lifetime did the people follow the Lord, but he put his spirit and his devotion even in the compatriots around him. And all of the elders who served under Joshua were themselves led to be so fine and so devoted that throughout their days Israel served the Lord [Joshua 24:31]. Well, all of that is just by way of saying how right and how keen and how perceptive Moses was in looking over that great throng of young men in Israel to choose the young lieutenant Joshua, God’s warrior to lead God’s people [Exodus 17:9-10].
Now may I make one other comment about the two? It is very, very unusual that you will ever see a close comradeship and friendship between an old man and a young man. Friendships are not unusual between people of a like age—like Damon and Pythias, like David and Jonathan. All through the stories of human life, you will find wonderful examples of friendship between people of a like age and a like generation. I do not know particularly of a great friendship between an older man and a younger man. But if there are others, I would say that the finest and sweetest and noblest example is found in that bond of love and devotion between Moses and Joshua. Moses the pristine, incomparable leader under the hand of God, and Joshua; all the days of Joshua’s life, he follows and showed deference to, and love for, and affection for, devotion to his leader, God’s man, Moses the servant of the Lord. It is just a wonderful thing. And in these few minutes this morning, we are going to follow that through.
The next time you see Joshua and Moses is in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus. In the latter part of that chapter, you have the story of Moses ascending up into the mount; there to remain with God forty days, forty nights; and there to be given the law, the tables of stone, the pattern for the tabernacle, the furniture thereof. Now look, when they went up, there were Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, the seventy elders of Israel, and Joshua. Then Moses—how unusual this is—Moses goes up higher into the mount, and he leaves behind Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders. And he takes with him the young lieutenant, Joshua [Exodus 24:9-13]. And those two, Moses and the young man Joshua, ascend up into the burning glory [Exodus 24:13]. And there on the mount, Moses talks to God, face to face [Exodus 25:1]. And just below, standing in awe and in wonder, is the young warrior, Joshua [Exodus 24:15-25:1]. Isn’t that a strange thing? He did not take Aaron with him, did not take Eleazar, did not take Abihu, did not take Nadab, did not take one of the elders, but Moses, in that holiest of all holy moments, had by his side that young man, Joshua [Exodus 24:13].
Now the next time he appears is in the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Exodus. The forty days and the forty nights are over. And God has said to Moses, “Get thee down; for the people have forgotten already” [Exodus 32:7]. And it was only about four weeks before; the people have forgotten already their great deliverance out of Egypt. So Moses, with the tables of stone in his hand [Exodus 32:15], comes down the mount and back of him is the young man, Joshua [Exodus 32:17]; his sword sheath is at his side. And as they come down the mount and in view of the plain, there is a strange and unusual noise heard in the valley. Joshua is a man of war. Instinctively his hand falls on his sword at his side, and he stops and he listens and he peers, and he says, “There is a sound of war in the camp” [Exodus 32:17]. And Moses replies, “War? No, it is not the shout of those in victory and mastery; nor is it the cry of those in the agony of defeat. It is the sound of singing” [Exodus 32:18]. Singing? Singing? It proved to be. In the little while that Moses and Joshua were gone, the people gathered together offerings of gold, made them an Egyptian goddess [Exodus 32:1-4]—Hathor, with a moon between her horns, presiding over the joy and festivities of heathen orgies. And the people, without their clothing, were dancing around the god who had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians [Exodus 32:19, 25]. That was one of the saddest days in Moses’ life.
Moses was overwhelmed by what he saw. He took the two tables of stone, and in his wrath and in his fury, he dashed them to the rocks and brake them beneath his feet [Exodus 32:19]. He took his own tent out of the camp. And outside, where he could be alone in communion with God, he placed his tent outside the camp and away from the people [Exodus 33:7]. He did not dare leave them to go up into the mount, lest they fall again into worse sins and debauchery. Then God spake to him; and the people in contrition and repentance went out to the tent of Moses [Exodus 33:7]. And the Lord spake to Moses and said, “Moses, come back up, come back up” [Exodus 33:9, 11]. And Moses left Israel in the hands of the young man, Joshua. In Exodus 33:11, Joshua stayed in Moses’ tent. He did not leave them in the command of Aaron any more; did not leave them in the hands of the priesthood any more; did not leave them in the hands of Nadab, or Abihu, or the seventy elders. But when Moses went back up into the mount to talk to God face to face [Exodus 33:11], he left them in the hands of his young lieutenant, Joshua. And Joshua stayed in the tent outside the camp and took Moses’ place [Exodus 33:11] while Moses returned up into the top of the mount to speak to God [Exodus 33:11], and to receive from the hands of the Lord the Ten Commandments again. All of this is in Exodus 33:7-11. And you must translate “And Moses took the tabernacle”—that is his tent—”and Moses took his tent, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of the congregation” [Exodus 33:7]—the tent of meetings, to which Israel came in contrition and in humility. And around that tent outside the camp, the government of Israel was administered. And Joshua stayed in the tent, in the tabernacle, the tent of Moses [Exodus 33:11]. This was before the tabernacle was built, before even the pattern of it was given to the people. Joshua stayed there and administered Israel while Moses was gone.
Now the next time that you find the young man is in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Numbers. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Numbers, verses 24 through 29, you have a very typical soldier’s reaction [Numbers 11:24-29]. A solder is taught to obey. That is his first lesson. If the commanding general sends you into the maw of a cannon, your duty is to march straight into the muzzle of the gun. Theirs is not to reason why, theirs is but to do and die. That is the discipline of a soldier. Well, in this story, there are seventy who are prophesying in the camp. And Moses sends for the seventy. Sixty-eight of them obey. But two of them there, Eldad and Medad, they refuse to come [Numbers 11:26-27]. They refuse to obey. To a soldier, that is insubordination. And disobedience is the one unforgivable sin of a marching army. And when Joshua the young lieutenant heard about that, he said to Moses, “My lord, forbid them” [Numbers 11:28]. And Moses replied, “Joshua, they have got the Spirit of the Lord upon them. They are all prophesying and shouting and singing praises to God there in the camp. And if two of them refuse to obey me—filled with the Spirit of God shouting and prophesying in the camp—do you want to hold up my side? Are you envious for my sake? Do you think that I am to be hurt because these two do not come at my bidding?” “No,” says Moses to his young lieutenant. “Let them go; let them go. If they refuse to come, let them go. If they have taken to themselves prophetic offices that you think belong just to me, let them go. “Enviest thou for my sake? I just would that all God’s people were prophets and all of them were filled with the Spirit of the Lord” [Numbers 11:29].
Well, what it shows is this: Moses was right, of course; but Joshua loved and honored and reverenced the man of God. And any little thing that in anywise reflected upon the authority or position of Moses, Joshua immediately came to the defense. Well, that is explicable, human. If you like somebody or love somebody and somebody else comes along and does something to kind of dishonor them or criticize them, instinctively, you just remark, “What did you say? Would you repeat that?” You cannot help it. That is just life. That is just natural. That was Joshua. He was jealous for the place and the honor and the glory of his master, Moses. And any little old thing that would be said against him, or and little old acts of disobedience before him, anything that tarnished the glory of his ministry of work was immediately Joshua’s own cause. But you cannot help but admire him. A devotion like that is good to look upon, and good to see. He truly was a marvelous young man.
Now, I haven’t time to follow the Kadesh-barnea, and you know that already intimately. Joshua is one of the spies, representing Ephraim, sent to spy out the land [Numbers 13:8]. And he came back with Caleb and said, “We are able” [Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9]. And you know the rest of the story. They said, “We are not able.” We are not able. We could not do it. We cannot do that [Numbers 13:31-33]. And all of the rest of them were sentenced to die in the wilderness, but two of them shall live to go over, Caleb and Joshua [Numbers 14:28-30].
Now we come to the end. Numbers 27 bears the story of the great investiture. I want to read it. It is such a meaningful thing. “And the Lord said unto Moses,” this is Numbers 27:12, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. And when thou hast seen it, thou also shall be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” [Numbers 27:12-13]. Then He tells him why. It was that ungovernable, impetuous, tempestuous, volatile, uncontrolled spirit of Moses. “I asked you to sanctify Me before the people, but in wrath . . .” [Numbers 27:14]. And Moses spake unto the Lord saying, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh,” choose a leader to take my place,” set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd” [Numbers 27:15-17].
Now you look what happened. Moses had chosen Joshua all through the years, forty of them now; all through the years of the wilderness wondering; all through the story of their pilgrimage. Moses had chosen Joshua, always Joshua. It was always Joshua. But when the time came to choose a successor, Moses took it to the Lord [Numbers 27:15-17]. Now, aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad that when God replied, the Lord said, “Moses, that young man that you have chosen who has been so loyal and faithful a lieutenant by your side, that young man. Look at the eighteenth verse:
Take thee Joshua . . . a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of Israel may be obedient.
And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest . . .
And Moses did as the Lord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest . . .
And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses
Now when you turn to the end of Deuteronomy; so Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab [Deuteronomy 34:5]. God buried him in a valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor [Deuteronomy 34:6].
And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.
Why, that is a glorious story, a glorious story!
I wonder if I could, in a little thing so below, take a leaf out of my own life. There was a wonderful, and gifted, and marvelous preacher in Oklahoma by the name of Dr. A. N. Hall. They called him the George Truett of Oklahoma. He looked like Dr. Truett. He spoke like Dr. Truett. He had the manner and the methods like Dr. Truett. He was seventy-five years old, had been pastor of the First Baptist Church of Muskogee for twenty-nine years. Some of the older men of the church gathered around Dr. Hall upon a day, and they asked him, “Dr. Hall, in the event that a successor is chosen for you, is there somebody you would like for us to call?” And Dr. Hall replied, “There is. At Chickasaw, Oklahoma, there is a young man just out of the seminary.” And he called my name.
Dr. Hall died on Christmas Eve in 1940. On the second Sunday in January, they appointed a pulpit committee at twelve o’clock, at noon; and at one o’clock that afternoon they were talking to me on the telephone. They never considered an applicant. They never read a letter of introduction. They never opened a telegram. They never made an inquiry. The pulpit committee was appointed at the end of the twelve o’clock service, and at one o’clock that afternoon, they were asking me to come to be pastor of the church at Muskogee.
Oh, that blesses your heart and your soul; no politicking, no horse racing; no sitting down; “Well, now, let us see; he ties his tie this way. Hum, let me see. He parts his hair on the wrong side. Um, let me see. How many kids has he got? Oh, that is too many! Um, let me think. You say he was born north of the Mason-Dixon Line?” Oh, how much, how much in the churches of Jesus Christ do you find chicanery, politicking, wire-pulling, maneuvering, pulling, grasping, reaching!
Bless your heart; He is no different now than He was then. He has got a man for the place. He has got somebody for every task! If we just prayed more and look to heaven more; there is the man, there he is. Whom shall it be? Joshua! Joshua! And the public investiture was made. And Joshua was God’s man to lead His people into the Promised Land [Numbers 27:18-23].
Well, Brother Till, whom God sent to us, if He ever sent anybody in this world; unless it is Dean Willis; oh, how God blesses us when we just ask Him! Now let’s sing us a song. Somebody here this morning to give your heart to Jesus, or to put your life with us in the church; while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? In this balcony round, on this lower floor, somebody you, coming to the Lord and coming to us; would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. First glimpse of Joshua
1. Battle raging, Moses with rod of God
2. Joshua encouraged in battle seeing the rod of God upheld
3. Joshua means Jesus, savior, deliverer
II. Accompanies Moses onto the mountain
III. Remaining in the tent
IV. Eldad and Medad
VI. Apprenticeship done