Leadership in the Bible
Part II Study Guide - Joshua
Joshua’s leadership will feel more prosaic than what we experienced in our study of Moses. Perhaps that’s because that’s what was required of him. Before we begin, we’ll talk a bit about whether leadership can and indeed should be less dramatic or grand in certain circumstances. When? Why? Examples come to mind?
One request: the class might look in advance at some of the questions that are mentioned below. A few will be far easier to address in class if folks have thought about relevant Bible stories ahead of time.
I. Re-cap and Introduction
6 Be brave and strong, because you are the one who will help this people take possession of the land, which I pledged to give to their ancestors.
7 “Be very brave and strong as you carefully obey all of the Instruction that Moses my servant commanded you. Don’t deviate even a bit from it, either to the right or left. Then you will have success wherever you go. 8 Never stop speaking about this Instruction scroll. Recite it day and night so you can carefully obey everything written in it. Then you will accomplish your objectives and you will succeed. 9 I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Q1: We see a repetition of the requirement that Joshua be “strong and of good courage.” What does this mean? Any thoughts about why it is repeated three times?
III. Read Joshua 1:10-11.
10 Then Joshua gave orders to the people’s officers: 11 “Go through the camp and give orders to the people. Say, ‘Get supplies ready for yourselves because in three days you will be crossing over the Jordan to enter the land and take it over. The Lord your God is going to give it to you as your possession.’”
12 Then Joshua addressed the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh:13 “Remember the command that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you: ‘The Lord your God will give you rest and give you this land.’ 14 Your wives, children, and cattle may remain in the land that Moses has given you on the east side of the Jordan. But all you brave fighters, organized for war, must cross over in front of your fellow Israelites. You must help them15 until the Lord gives a rest like yours to your fellow Israelites and they too take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you may return and take over the land that belongs to you, which Moses the Lord’s servant has given you on the east side of the Jordan.”
16 They answered Joshua, “We will obey everything you have commanded us and go anywhere you send us. 17 We will obey you in the same way that we obeyed Moses. Just let the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses! 18 Anybody who stubbornly opposes what you declare and doesn’t obey any of your commands will be put to death. Be brave and strong!”
Q2: What is significant with respect to leadership about Joshua’s speaking to the people right upon the end of the mourning period for Moses?
IV. Read Joshua 3:5-7.
5 Joshua said to the people, “Make yourselves holy! Tomorrow the Lord will do wonderful things among you.” 6 Then Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the covenant chest. Go along in front of the people.” So they lifted up the covenant chest and went in front of the people.
7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you great in the opinion of all Israel. Then they will know that I will be with you in the same way that I was with Moses.
Q3: What is the significance of the people following the priests and the ark of the covenant as they cross the Jordan River?
V. Read Joshua 4:1-7.
1 When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Pick twelve men from the people, one man per tribe. 3 Command them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from right here in the middle of the Jordan, where the feet of the priests had been firmly planted. Bring them across with you and put them down in the camp where you are staying tonight.’”
4 Joshua called for the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one man per tribe. 5 Joshua said to them, “Cross over into the middle of the Jordan, up to the Lord your God’s chest. Each of you, lift up a stone on his shoulder to match the number of the tribes of the Israelites. 6 This will be a symbol among you. In the future your children may ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you will tell them that the water of the Jordan was cut off before the Lord’s covenant chest. When it crossed over the Jordan, the water of the Jordan was cut off. These stones will be an enduring memorial for the Israelites.”
Q4: Why does Joshua direct each tribe to pick up a stone out of the river to create a memorial where they camp? How does this evidence leadership?
VI. Read Joshua Chapter 6
3 Circle the city with all the soldiers, going around the city one time. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry seven trumpets made from rams’ horns in front of the chest. On the seventh day, circle the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.
5 “Have them blow a long blast on the ram’s horn. As soon as you hear that trumpet blast, have all the people shout out a loud war cry. Then the city wall will collapse, and the people will rise up, attacking straight ahead.”
This is the famous story about marching around Jericho as a preface to taking it. We will only read the above verses in class in the interest of time.
Q5: Any ideas about why? What strategic purpose might this have served?
VII. We will take note of the initial loss at Ai and God’s response and Joshua’s response. One of the differences in the subsequent success is God’s support of Joshua’s allowing the troops to share in the booty after victory.
Q6: What are the pros and cons of a leader who uses such a strategy? Does this make sense in other aspects of life?
VIII. A major feature of Joshua’s leadership is the manner in which he divides and allocates the land.
A. In chapter 13, Joshua allocates no land to the Levites in the land. The first land he assigns is on the east side, and it is to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.
Q7: Do you remember why? Why was it important for the leader to make this assignment first?
B. Caleb is next. Ideas about why?
Read Joshua Chapter 14: 6-12 to see.
6 In Gilgal, the people of Judah approached Joshua. Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses, man of God, about you and me when we were in Kadesh-barnea. 7 I was 40 years old when Moses the Lord’s servant sent me from Kadesh-barnea to scout out the land. I brought back a report to him of what I really thought. 8 My companions who had gone up with me made the people’s heart melt. But I remained loyal to the Lord my God.9 So Moses pledged on that day, ‘The land on which you have walked will forever be a legacy for you and your children. This is because you remained loyal to the Lord my God.’ 10 Now look. The Lord has kept me alive, exactly as he promised. It is forty-five years since the Lord spoke about this to Moses. It was while Israel was journeying in the desert. Now look. Today I’m 85 years old. 11 I’m just as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. My strength then was as my strength is now, whether for war or for everyday activities. 12 So now, give me this highland that the Lord promised me that day. True, the Anakim are there with large fortified cities, as you yourself heard that day. But if the Lord is with me, I should be able to remove them, exactly as the Lord promised.”
Q8: What do we learn about leadership from Caleb, both from the past and the present?
C. In Chapter 15, we learn Judah is next. Thinking back about Judah’s actions and service in the past, why might he get such high priority?
D. Do you remember the daughters of Zelophahad? They come next. Why is Joshua’s acting on their behalf indicative of outstanding leadership?
E. Simeon was interspersed among the people. Rashi says this was because his descendants were teachers and scribes. Why would a leader want teachers and scribes distributed throughout?
IX. Joshua worries at the end of his life about whether the people will hold to their commitments to God and living true to Divine expectations. He worries about the people straying now that they have the riches of the land and may begin to think their success is due not so much to God but rather to their own doing.
In Chapter 24, Joshua brings the people together in an assembly and recounts the story as it happened and as he hopes they’ll remember it.
Read . Joshua 24:14-16, 22, 25-27
14 “So now, revere the Lord. Serve him honestly and faithfully. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. 15 But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “God forbid that we ever leave the Lord to serve other gods!
22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people and established just rule for them at Shechem. 26 Joshua wrote these words in God’s Instruction scroll. Then he took a large stone and put it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 Joshua said to all the people, “This stone will serve here as a witness against us, because it has heard all the Lord’s words that he spoke to us. It will serve as a witness against you in case you aren’t true to your God.”
Through these steps of assembly, choice, witnessing, and recording and maintaining the covenant with the Book of God, what is Joshua doing? What steps of leadership is he taking? Even if the people later stray, has Joshua accomplished something of enduring value here?
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