The Requirements of
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 12 January 2002
"Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go" (Josh 1:6-7, NKJV).
I remember a few years ago when I got into discussion with a Polish educator and we were talking about the qualities of good leadership, I got into trouble. When she asked me who I looked up to as one of the greatest secular leaders in history, I immediately said Frederick the Great of Prussia. As a Pole, of course, she was none to happy that I looked highly upon an enemy of Poland, and who was in part responsible for the partition of her country. Nevertheless I answered the question truthfully because I believe this man had all the qualities of a good leader.
Now I wonder which leaders in history you admire? There are certainly plenty of them and from nearly all nations. But my interest today is not so much in generals and politicians but in men of God who Yahweh called to service and who gave a good account of themselves.
When Moses called Joshua to be his successor, he chose a man who possessed the right qualities for the job. And that job was the conquest of the Holy Land from a superior people in terms of military experience and civilisation. Moses, the true man of God, did not show favour to his own sons whom he passed up in favour of one of the two survivors of the first generation. Moses, himself a great leader, understood that for a people to survive and prosper, favouritism had no place in the divine scheme of things. And therefore, resisting the natural bias of a father for his own sons, he chose a man who had worked closely with him. Since Joshua was so obviously the right choice, I propose today to ask the question: what were the qualities about Joshua that made him the right man for the tasks that would be demanded of him by the Most High? The answer to this question is not difficult because it is to be found in the passage I introduced this sermon with, for it is a quality that is repeated many times both of Joshua and of other leaders whom Yahweh has called throughout history: "Be strong, and of good courage ... "
The first requirement of leadership is strength. A leader must be a strong man. Indeed, strength fascinates people. They will run after it, watch it and applaud it.
Strength in this context means, of course, physical strength; not of course brute force for without intelligence behind it, futility will be the final word written across the energy exerted. Strength here means power, endurance, the capacity to go on and on, sometimes with few rest periods and very little sleep. People who have lived and worked close to those in high office never wholly get over their astonishment at the ability of their superiors to pass from a difficult interview to a difficult committee to a difficult official report to a difficult speech, blocking off the one from the other and laughing at some comic episode in between, day after day, burning the candle at both ends. Perhaps one of the most astonishing men of all time in this respect was Napoléon Bonaparte, who attended to affairs of State actually behind the field of battle which he was organising. Another great leader would, of course, be the great Winston Churchill who, because of his astonishing leadership ability, rescued Great Britain from annihilation and led her to victory.
Now this kind of strength is a pure gift. It is not always given to the strong at birth but develops in process of time. Albert Schweizer is by no means the only example of a strong man who was puny at birth. Whenever it comes, this kind of strength is a gift and is one of the signs that the possessor of it may, not will, be marked out for leadership.
I think we can take it for granted that Joshua possessed this kind of physical strength. As commander of the invasion forces of Israel it would be essential. But he must also have possessed that strength of mind which is more than cleverness but to which others will concede authority. Such a man scarcely needs authorisation to exercise power because he has it in himself. It was this kind of authority that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) possessed and it is the same kind of authority - though in this case purely spiritual - that His apostles, evangelists and pastors possess too - an authority that does not require the vindication of a church board or a denominational synod but which is quite simply within them because of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
As we read the Book of Joshua we sense the strength of this man. As a military commander he saw at once that Jericho, the rich but strongly fortified frontier town, was the gateway to Canaan. Jericho had to be taken first, and however we may interpret the amazing story if the daily encirclement of the walls for seven days, we may at least deduce this - that he was the strong leader who knew how to hold back his strength until the moment was ripe for attack. What is more, he had sufficient strength to stop his troops from looting such prizes as the overthrow of the city brought within their grasp; and when one man did succumb to the temptation, to execute him immediately. I am reminded of T.E.Lawrence's strong and lonely action in Arabia during the First World War.
"Be strong" were Yahweh's first words to Joshua as he was about to undertake the invasion of Canaan. Perhaps the command was scarcely necessary and Emerson got it right when he wrote: "It is as easy for the strong man to be strong as it is for the weak man to be weak."
"Be strong and of good courage." Strength physical, intellectual, and moral is not the only necessity for leadership. There must also be courage.
Courage at once implies fighting. If we are not willing to fight we have no need for any kind of courage. And the fighting is not necessarily aggressive. If a man is told that he has a cancerous growth it requires courage to attend to business next morning as if no such diagnosis had been made. When we do wrong it takes courage to own up and "face the music". In such circumstances a fight is on. Courage and fighting, fighting and courage, go together. It was when a battle was imminent that Joshua was bidden to be courageous.
Courage also implies the running of risks. If we opt always for the safe seat we shall have little need to call on courage; but the prizes of life do not go to such.
I am sure you all know how the civil rights movement was born in America and how Martin Luther King became its leader. It was born of courage. On 1 December 1955 a weary, hardworking woman named Rose Parks boarded a bus in Montgommery, Alabama, paid her fare and sat down behind the white section of the last empty seat. At the next stop six whites boarded the bus, but Rose refused to give up her seat to one of them as was customary. The bus driver ordered her to leave. Normally a quiet, good tempered, even shy woman, she refused. She was tired. She had paid her full fare. Then the bus driver grew abusive, stopped the bus, and had her arrested "for violating the city's segregation ordinances". She was put in jail. As a result the black community appealed to a young and almost unknown Baptist pastor called Martin Luther King. With his wife he worked night and day over the weekend organising a black boycott of all busses on the following Monday. They ran a terrible risk. The black workers had everything to lose if they failed. Anxiously the Luther Kings peered out of their windows. Would those busses really be empty? They were! All day the busses were empty! The boycott was almost 100% effective. Courage to fight and face risks gave Martin Luther King the leadership of the civil rights movement. History was in fact made that day.
Similar things are happening today. Bible-believing Christians are daring to stand up against "political correctness" and are declaring the truth of God Word even though it is slowly becoming illegal. They are standing up against false tradition and declaring that all of God's Word is valid - they are declaring for Sabbath observance, patriarchal marriage, and Torah observance, and rejecting our pagan traditions, immorality, abortion and sodomy. I know of a pastor in the USA who is facing criminal charges for preaching against homosexuality and I personally know one in Norway who went to prison for doing the same They are daring the pagan majority as David dared the giant Goliath. That takes courage and a fighting spirit. And that is what the end-time Church is going to consist of - men and women or courage.
"Be strong and of good courage." Leadership is impossible without courage.
"Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them ... " As well as strength and courage, faith is necessary for leadership. For Joshua it was faith that Yahweh would make good His promises that His people would inherit the land.
If we do not believe in anybody or anything we shall be weak people, and weak people accomplish very little. This surely is one of the dangers that confronts the whole Western world at this very moment.
Joshua believed in the purposes of Yahweh-Elohim for his people, and that he had been personally equipped and chosen to carry those purposes the next stage forward. Risk lay ahead. Roughness lay ahead. Setbacks would lie ahead, but a man who believes keeps going. "This is the victory that overcomes the world -- our faith," declared the apostle John (1 John 5:4, NKJV).
Joshua, strong man though he was, courageous man though he was, and competent a military commander though he was, would have made no mark on history without his faith. In it worth while noting in passing how many military men of the topmost rank in Britain's armies have been believing men. Their faith knits together their own gifts.
The book of Joshua is not a bare history of the invasion of Canaan by the Israelites. It is a heavily edited account to bring out the qualities of the man who led it. And, for us who are Christians, we cannot avoid noting that the name Joshua is an alternative for Yah'shua or Jesus. He it is who leads us into the peace of God, what the Epistle to the Hebrews calls the "rest of the people of God". Christ was strong. Did not John the Baptist, His strong forerunner, cry: "There comes One after me who is mightier (stronger) than I" (Mark 1:7, NKJV)? And did He not possess courage to go steadfastly to His battle for the souls of men and women at His cross believing in the promises of Yahweh?
It is in the light of this leadership that the Body of Christ - those who are truly saved - should exercise leadership in the world. A weak people will accomplish little, a people choosing only the safe seats and avoiding risks will provide no inspiration for others to follow. A people who have lost their faith is more than useless. There is constant spiritual warfare requiring our engagement. We cannot capitulate to the moral fashions of the times. But to win victories we shall need to listen to the words addressed to Joshua: "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them." There is no leadership without strength, courage and faith. Amen.
This page was created on 11 January 2002
Last updated on 11 January 2002
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved