After being exposed to the topic of Undesigned Coincidences by Tim McGrew, it has become one of my favorite subjects. And led me to track down some of the source material that he used, as well as read the new book by his wife, Hidden in Plain View.

Thinking on this topic reminded me of some notes that I put together on Joshua for a short lecture to the staff at my church several years ago. I’m not sure if this truly qualifies as an Undesigned Coincidence; it’s probably more of a reading between the lines kind of thing. I still think it’s interesting and worthy of being shared.

First, I think it relevant to point out why Joshua became an interest to me, and that is with Ex 33:7-11:

Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

Exodus 33:7-11

So this is the tent of meeting that Moses had set up to meet the Lord, and the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” And Joshua was there the whole time.

To me, that speaks of his heart, that he did not depart from the tabernacle because he did not want to miss the next experience of God. Oh, that we would develop the same heart.

The pillar of cloud, i.e. the presence of God, descended when Moses entered the tabernacle. Which implies that it ascended when Moses left. And Joshua was there for every meeting. In fact, the next set of verses, Ex 33:12-23, where Moses asks God to show him His glory, where did this conversation take place? Seems to me that it’s implied that it took place in the tabernacle. The previous set of verses (33:7-11) state that that’s where Moses would meet God. There’s no mention of it happening in a different setting. If this is the case, then Joshua was there because he did not depart from the tabernacle.

So what do we know about Joshua?

1. He was a slave.

Actually, all of Israel were slaves in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. So they were the lowest of the lows.

2. Joshua was a field general and a natural leader. His first appearance was in Exodus 17:9-14, with the key verses being 9, 10, and 13.

And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek….13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

3. Joshua’s next appearance is in Exodus 24:13. Between chapters 17 and 24, Moses gets his father-in-law’s advice (chapter 17), Israel arrives at Mount Sinai (chapter 18) where Moses goes up and down from the mountain a couple of times, with Moses making an extended stay on the mountain where he receives the Ten Commandments (chapter 20) as well as a couple of laws for Israel (chapters 21-23). And then in the first couple of verse of chapter 24, Israel affirms the covenant.

In verses 9-11, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy leaders of Israel go up and “they saw the God of Israel” (v10) and “they saw God, and they ate and drank.” (v11).  But then God says:

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.”

13 So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Indeed, Aaron and Hur are with you. If any man has a difficulty, let him go to them.”

Exodus 24:12-14

God calls Moses up on the mountain to receive the “tablets of stone, and the law and commandments” which God has written, so that Moses may teach them. And Moses rose with his assistant Joshua. This second mention of Joshua shows that Joshua was a personal assistant to Moses. So Joshua goes from being a field general to being an assistant. Notice also that when Moses speaks to the elders, he is implying that Joshua is going up the mountain with him. So Joshua is with Moses for the next several chapters. Those next several chapters include God personally speaking to Moses about offerings, building the ark of the covenant, the table for the showbread, the gold lampstand, the tabernacle, the altar, the court, the priests, and more (Ex 25-31). For all of this, Joshua was there. Let me reiterate: God spoke to Moses this whole time, and Joshua was there for all of it.

4. Joshua is next mentioned in Exodus 32:17, when Moses was coming back down the mountain.

In Exodus 32, we have Aaron making the golden calf. God and Moses discuss Moses going back down the mountain and dealing with this. And then:

15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. 16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”

Exodus 32:15-17

Verse 15 and 16 talk about the two tablets of Testimony, that God had written on. And Joshua was there. For as Moses comes back down the mountain, Joshua hears the noise of the people. So Joshua wasn’t with the camp; he was with Moses.

5. Joshua next appears in Exodus 33:7-11, which I already wrote about at the beginning of this blog.

6. The next time he is mentioned is in Numbers 11:28, where it is shown that he is zealous.

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.[b]

26 But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”

29 Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

Numbers 11:24-30

7. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. Numbers 13:8-9

8. He was one of the 12 spies sent to spy out the land of Canaan. (Numbers 13-14) Both him and Caleb were the only 2 that came back with a good report. The Israelites believed the report of the other 10 spies over Joshua and Caleb’s report, they wanted to get a new leader and return to Egypt.

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’[a] Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”

10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.

Numbers 14:4-10

All the congregation was going to stone Joshua and Caleb for their good report until the glory of the Lord appeared. Long story short on this, God declares that the congregation of Israel would not enter the promised land, but that their kids would. The only exception was Joshua and Caleb. Not even Moses was allowed to enter the promised land.

To put this in perspective, Numbers 1:45-46 says that there were 635,550 men 20 years old and older, not counting the Levites. For the Levites, Numbers 4:46-48 says that the number of the Levites from 30 years old to 50 years old was 8,580. Which brings us to a total of 644,130 people. (There were more, but the Levites were only counted for the ages of 30 to 50, while the rest of Israel was counted for every age over 20.) So Joshua was only 1 out of 2 men out of 644,130 men that were allowed to enter the promised land.

9. After all of this, in Numbers 27:12-23, Joshua is chosen as Moses’ replacement.

And of course, the whole book of Joshua tells the rest of his story.

I think that there are a few things we can learn from Joshua.

  1. A Leader’s obedience sets the pace. Moses had a history of obedience. Joshua was his personal assistant, and Joshua had a history of obedience. Joshua was following Moses’ pace.
  2. People are modeling themselves after you. Moses set an example for Joshua to follow. So the question you need to ask yourself is this: Do those who are watching you see God reflected in your life?
  3. We are commanded in God’s word to build others up, to disciple them. Moses built Joshua up and discipled him to be a leader. Moses set an example of discipleship with Joshua. The Great Commission tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations” and to teach them to observe (obey, attend to carefully) all things that Jesus has commanded us.

Joshua ended up being given the promise of Moses: the promised land. But he didn’t just receive that promise. He had to fight 32 kings to obtain that promise. All the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yes and amen. But sometimes we have to stand and press on towards the goal.

The biggest mistake that I can see that Joshua made: he failed to pick someone and train them to replace him.