1.  The Tête-à-Tête on Joshua 

As Moses prepared to vacate the scene of leadership, God continued to guide him to groom Joshua his personal assistant.  On one crucial occasion, God said something privately to him about Joshua, something which Moses was later to make public.  God said of Joshua, “But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:38).  There are many things packed into that verse, but one of them strikes me: “encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit.” 

As if God had not said it enough, He had to repeat it two chapters later: “But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deuteronomy 3:28).  For God to repeat it, it must have been very important. 

2.  Anointing without Encouragement 

Moses was going to anoint Joshua into the office of leadership by the laying on of his holy hands; Joshua was going to be “full of the spirit” from that impartation, with the evident signs of great wisdom (Deuteronomy 34:9), yet, much more than the anointing, God was drawing attention to something else: “encourage him.”  According to the Good News Translation, “strengthen the determination of your helper, Joshua.”  It would appear that God was telling Moses that he needed to reciprocate help to Joshua his faithful helper; that anointing without encouragement was inadequate to ensuring possession; that encouragement fires the oil of the anointing, like the fuel that drives a good car; that there is God’s part and the human part to every leader’s success. 

Glorious as the anointing is, it is not sufficient to fulfilling destiny.  One also needs the input of their people, or the people.  Any anointed and wise leader who boasts that he does not need ‘anybody,’ because he is anointed and is wise and already has God on his side, is not wise enough.  He merely shortchanges himself and the people, as there is ‘inheritance’ that such a leader will never see, let alone take others with him into it.  The divine principle still stands, “encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit.” 

3.  Mutual Encouragement 

Encouragement is mutual.  The people’s role was to encourage Joshua; Joshua’s role was to “cause” them to inherit their divine portions; but first, he stood in need of their encouragement to provoke in him the power to “cause” them to inherit their portions.  He needed their human or mortal encouragement; they needed his anointed or divine push to get them into their promise. Each was dependent in some mystic way on the other.  If they withheld their encouragement, Joshua was not going to be able to “cause” them to inherit what was already theirs to possess. Ultimately, they were going to be the greater losers.  

This leader was going to need the people’s encouragement, whatever forms it was to take; but he was not going to ask it from them.  God spoke up on his behalf, for those who would hear and then obey.  Had Moses not reported what God had said to him, how would anyone have known this need?  What then might have happened to Joshua’s call and anointing and ministry? 

4.  The Two Legs of the Leader 

There is a divine part to the leader whom God has called – the anointing; there is also the earthly part to see him succeed in what God has chosen that leader to do – human encouragement.  Those are the two legs of the leader from God.   

God had foreseen and predicted that Joshua would lead the people from lack into abundance, from wandering in the wilderness to settlement in the promised land, from dreams to reality, from prophecy to fulfilment; yet all of that, according to God, was conditioned on a prescribed ‘tonic’ called ‘encouragement,’ to be administered upon the leader by the people.  If Joshua failed, therefore, God was not to blame.  If it happened, Joshua himself was not entirely to be blamed.  The people may have starved him of vital ‘encouragement,’ whatever form the ‘encouragement’ might have taken. 

That God has called or anointed a person does not mean that they no more have their share of human worries and fears, and fear can keep a person from what God has promised.  That stresses the need for sustained doses of ‘encouragement.’  The most anointed person is still flesh, not spirit, and is susceptible to the vagaries of humanity. The anointing makes nobody into a god. 

5.  A Father’s Encouragement 

What Moses told the people was what God had said to him. So, not only the people but also fathers, like Moses, needed to encourage those they raised.  In fact, being the direct recipient of the message about Joshua’s crucial leadership nutrition need, the instruction applied first to Moses before it applied to the people.  Sadly, in some cases, we have had jealous Sauls for fathers, who have been out to kill rather than groom what they see in young Davids (1 Samuel 20:1).  Also, as a people, some of the ‘inheritance’ that we have not yet been ‘caused’ to possess might not be entirely to due leadership failure, even though on the surface it could seem so.  Sometimes it is followship failure in not offering vital support to mortals presumed to have been so anointed that they have become mighty gods in no need of a mortal hand.   

6.  Who is to Blame? 

Some leaders are to blame for this failure of their people.  They think it shameful weakness to ‘expose’ their humanity and the occasional tears.  Unlike Paul, they can never say to their congregations, “Pray for me” (Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).  They are too big to ‘beg’ the feeble prayers of common folks.  They would rather seek the supplication of other ‘apostles’ and ‘mighty men’ like themselves.  If they got hungry, they would never show it; not out of discretion but out of ego.  Should God send them, like Elijah, to the widow in Zarephath, they would rather starve in secret and die than let such commoners hear the royal rumble from their famished tummies.  And when they eat, they do so in imperial secrecy. How dare common folks see their munching motions!  They are superior mortals, yea deities, in no need of human support.  When these gods die, they leave such a vacuum that mortals find it hard to fill, so they flee – to where touchable mortals lead other feeling mortals. 

7.  And They Obeyed 

In Deuteronomy 31, we read how God’s prescription was obeyed by Papa Moses and the congregation of Israel.  Three consecutive times, and that “in the sight of ALL Israel” (why did he have to do it publicly?), Moses said to Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage” (v.6); “Be strong and of a good courage (v.7); “Be strong and of a good courage” (v.23).  Moses proceeded to reassure Joshua by repeating the same promise that the Lord had given, with no negative undertones: “for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 31:7).  Moses didn’t feel threatened that Joshua was going to ‘succeed’ where he had ‘failed’; that Joshua was going to step in where he had been refused by God. 

In Joshua chapter 1, the people themselves took up the refrain of Papa Moses, repeating to Joshua the same word of God that Moses had spoken to him: “only be strong and of a good courage (Joshua 1:18).  So, not only from Papa Moses; not only three times from God (Joshua 1:5-9), but also with the people, the crucial message on courage was unanimous.  After all, accessing their long-dreamed inheritance lay in that tonic and in that man.  Besides their message to Joshua on courage and strength, they assured him as follows of their unrestrained loyalty and total support, which assurance was itself a form of encouragement: 

16 … All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 

7 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 

18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage. 

Any leader will dare the giants in the land and go the extra mile, even through the valley of the shadow of death, with such sworn followers. 

8. Conclusion 

May we not waste our preliminary years of wanderings in the wilderness.  There is an inheritance yet to possess, but we cannot get there unless Joshua ‘causes’ us to.  Joshua himself cannot ‘cause’ us to, unless we ‘encourage’ him, first.  If God Himself thinks that this symbiotic therapy is crucial, anyone will ignore it only to their doom.   

If a father should think that a Joshua whose head he has wet with the oil of anointing needs no encouragement, he will alienate himself from the future of that son.  A people who fail to encourage their Joshua will forever hear of a promised land that they may never inherit.  The Joshua who thinks that he has become such a superman or god in no need of the support of mortals, will die the death of men, shamefully.  It is in the collective interest to “encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.” Amen. 


From The Preacher‘s diary, 

September 27, 2021.

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