But Joshua Stayed


So many of us live our lives grasping for our moment in the spotlight. We want to live that big dream and leave a destiny our grandchildren can remember.

How many of us have read the story of Joshua and assumed that when Moses handed the reigns to him that he was suddenly ready for the weighty calling at hand? We can so quickly gloss over stories in scripture and forget the historical context or the moments leading up to that moment of commissioning. We so often forget about the years of preparation it takes for a leader to step into the promised land. 

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. (Exodus 33:11, New International Version)

Have you ever read a Bible story dozens of times not expecting to learn anything new, and then suddenly, you do? I stopped in my tracks at Exodus 33:11. After Moses’ face-to-face encounter with God, we get a snippet of the man who would take his place. When Moses would head back to camp, Joshua remained in the tent where God’s presence dwelt. 

Such a random verse in the middle of this lengthy passage. Why was it left there? And what does this say about the foundational soil and preparation of the man who would lead Israel into the promised land?

Some context: entering Canaan was no small thing. The nation of Israel had been waiting for almost a millennium for this vow to be fulfilled. The covenant was made to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and that they would inherit the land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates. (Genesis 15:18, NIV) But Isaac was not conceived until Abraham was 100!

God repeats His promise to Isaac in Genesis 26 and then re-affirms his pledge to Jacob in Genesis 35. Counting the lengthy years each of these men lived before they even saw their sons born, that’s already 250 years since God initially made this contract. America hasn’t even existed that length of time. 

And then there was 400 years of hard slavery in Egypt! Wouldn’t you have just given up right then? 

Generations of Israel’s leaders spoke with God and were reminded of His promise to deliver them. But hundreds of years went by with nothing to show for it. Why now? 

We know the covenant to Abraham had foretold of the 400 years of enslavement. God knew the Amorites time of judgement had to reach its full measure. (Genesis 15:16) And we also know Moses’ disobedience had cost him entrance. But why these snippets of Joshua’s life before his big entrance in the story?

I believe Joshua’s hunger to stay in the presence of God is one of the reasons why he was chosen for the historical task. Joshua’s eye was not on earthly glory or position. He wasn’t in it for the thrill of rubbing shoulders with Moses’ supernatural experiences. 

Joshua wanted an intimate encounter with God for himself.

We so often tag Joshua 1 onto encouraging notes or graduation cards: 

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5, 9, NIV)

But this promised land commissioning was no first time announcement for Joshua. When Yahweh committed to be with him the way He had been with Moses, this was God responding and making a covenant with him. Joshua had sought the Lord and God had made Himself known.

The reason why this is important is because this type of intimacy with God is not just for those on the pulpit or in the pages of scripture. The reason why the Bible is filled with stories of ordinary men and women encountering God and being transformed is because this is the story He wants to write in your life. He wants you to know Him. 

Are you hungry to encounter God; for Him to meet you in the secret place? The One who knows you intimately and designed your every little detail, created you to be in communion with Him. Would you answer the call to sit in His presence and linger awhile?

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®