And the LORD said to Moses, Take you Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him;…
God makes an immediate, gracious, and full compliance with the request of Moses. It is a welcome sight when the will of God runs forward as it were to meet the wishes of man. God has so often to reveal himself refusing and thwarting the wishes of men, or at all events complying with them only in part. This request must have been expected, and the command to go up into Abarim prepared the way for it to be made.
I. THE QUALIFICATION OF JOSHUA. "A man in whom is the spirit;" a spirit doubtless such as was bestowed on the seventy elders, of whom, in all probability, Joshua was one (chapter 11). Having the spirit was the one indispensable thing. Nothing of such work as Joshua had to do could be done without it. There are diversities of operations, but they are all the operations of those in whom there are special and necessary endowments for the work they have to do. Others beside Joshua had some of the qualifications he possessed, but, lacking the spirit, they might as well have lacked everything. What, for instance, was there to prevent Caleb from being leader? Like Joshua, he had been one of the spies, and seen Canaan before. He strikes us as being even a bolder and more resolute man than Joshua; but courage, fidelity, the following of God rather than man, while these are the qualities that make martyrs, they are not enough to make leaders. A Christian might make an excellent figure at the stake who would be nowhere as the guide of the flock. It is beautiful to feel that Caleb continued his simple-hearted devotion to the cause of Israel. Joshua and he seem to have continued the best of friends (Joshua 14). Whether a man is a leader or not should not affect our judgment of him in his whole humanity. Let us esteem most those who are best. It is a foolish question to ask who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven, for every one may conceivably have such excellence of spiritual qualities as may put him in the first place. We may conclude then that, good and true man as Caleb was, he lacked the particular spirit which Joshua possessed. Notice, again, that some who certainly had the spirit as well as Joshua lacked other qualifications. For one thing, Joshua had been long and intimately connected with Moses. It is interesting to notice how many things were done to give Moses pleasure in this departing hour. His death before crossing Jordan is a necessity; there is no way to obviate it; but really as we read of it we have hard work to connect the usual gloom of death with the event. The view that he gets, the compliance with his request, and the choice of one who had been long his faithful and affectionate companion, all these things made the cup of the dying Moses run over. It was euthanasia indeed. The friendship of Joshua with Moses may have had a very great deal to do with the appointment. Those who choose the company of the good and remain steadfast in it are likely to gain such positions as may enable them to transmit the influence of the good. Passing over the immediate circumstances of the appointment, which were such as to impress deeply both the shepherd and the sheep, and remain in the shepherd's mind, at all events, till his latest hour, we notice -
II. THE GREAT RULE FOR THE SHEPHERD'S GUIDANCE. God was not about to visit Joshua as he did Moses. Moses stood in lonely and awful eminence as the prophet with whom God spoke face to face (chapter 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10). Such a mode of revelation was needed for the work Moses was called to do. The work in the wilderness was a peculiarly critical one. In one sense we may say it was even more important than the work in Canaan. Given your foundation, which may require great toil and great destruction of existing things if you are to get down to the rock; given your materials, which have to be accumulated with much searching, discernment, and exactitude; given, above all things, your design, in which even the least thing is to have vital connection with the great principles - given all these, and then the chief thing required is a competent, honest, and industrious builder. Moses was the man who gets to the foundation, gathers the material, and furnishes the design; Joshua, the subordinate, to come in afterwards and by simple-hearted, plodding, tenacious fidelity to complete the construction of what was intrusted to him. There was no need for God to visit Joshua as he did Moses. The signs of the Urim were quite sufficient, and therefore nothing more was given. Notice also that the priest became thus associated with the leader, to confirm his position when right, and to check him in case he showed signs of going wrong. If Joshua had gone anywhere else than to the intimations of Urim, the resort itself would have been sufficient to condemn him. God took care of Moses in all the directions he had to give by immediately and most abundantly strengthening and supporting him. And so Joshua here was wonderfully helped by the Urim. Any one who refused obedience to him must have been resolutely opposed to truth, for who could deny intimations plainly palpable to the senses? Thus we are helped by the thought of what the Urim was to Joshua in our consideration as to the authority of the New Testament Scriptures over Christians. It is sometimes asked why inspiration should be held to stop with the canon of Scripture. An equally pertinent question is to ask why it should continue. God alone is the judge as to the modes of revelation, and the duration of those modes. It is out of the sovereignty and wisdom of him whose ways are unsearchable that he dealt with Moses after one fashion, and with Joshua after another. And it is by a practical reference to the same sovereignty and wisdom that we shall account for the difference between the New Testament Scriptures and even the most copious and esteemed of the earlier post-apostolic writings. We have our Urim in the great principles of the New Testament.
III. THE CHOICE WAS JUSTIFIED BY THE RESULT. The Book of Joshua is a very remarkable one for this peculiarity, which it shares with the Book of Daniel, that there is no record of any stumbling on the part of its leading character. Joshua is always alert, obedient to God, jealous of God's honour, and keeping the great end in view. There is sin recorded in the Book and a dilatory spirit, but Joshua himself appears in striking contrast to this. And so it always has been and always will be; he whom God chooses will justify the choice. The successful leaders whom God has given his people in the past are an ample assurance that he will continue to provide them. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;