Joshua Replaced Moses

Joshua Replaced MosesJoshua was Moses’ right-hand man. Numbers 11:28 tells us Joshua had been an “assistant to Moses since his youth.” We first read about Joshua when he led the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites after the Exodus, but before they reached Sinai (Exod. 17:8-16). This means Joshua was likely not an old man when God delivered the people from Egypt in the Exodus. Joshua undoubtedly learned much about God and leadership as he watched Moses and observed how God used him. We shouldn’t be surprised that Joshua replaced Moses eventually. It would seem that Moses (and God) was preparing Joshua for this role all along.

Joshua was one of the 12 spies who scouted the land when they first arrived at the edge of the Promised Land. Unlike most of the other scouts, Joshua believed God would enable the people to conquer the Promised Land. During the 40-year Wilderness Wandering, Joshua was there to assist Moses and help lead the people. Before Moses died, God told him that he (Moses) would not enter the Promised Land. Rather, “Joshua son of Nun, who attends you, will enter it” (Deut. 1:38). Joshua clearly was a man of great faith who had seen what God had done. He knew that God wanted His people to enter the Promised Land, even though they had been unfaithful to Him.

What Happened

In Joshua 1:1-18, we learn that after Moses died, God called Joshua to lead the people of Israel. The time had finally come for the people to enter and conquer the Promised Land. Joshua would be the one to lead God’s people in the next important season of their history. It was a big assignment, but God promised Joshua He would be with him.

God assured Joshua of His presence and stressed the importance of Joshua being courageous and observing “the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you” (Josh. 1:7). Joshua had been there for all those decades as Moses led the people and recorded the people’s history and all of God’s Laws for them. This record is now in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; what we call the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). Next to Moses, Joshua probably would have been the most familiar with this written record of God’s instruction.

It’s clear that the people already perceived Joshua as the new leader following Moses. After God encouraged Joshua and promised His presence (Josh. 1:1-9), Joshua explained to the people that it was time for them to begin the conquest of the land God had given them. He assured the people that if they obeyed God, then God’s presence would follow them into the new, long-awaited Promised Land. The people responded positively and said they would follow Joshua and do everything he instructed them to do.

Joshua Replaced Moses: A New Season, New Leadership

God had used Moses to accomplish great things for His people. But, the time had come for new leadership to take over. God was calling His people into the next season of their journey and this would call for new leadership.

God has always used people to accomplish His purposes, including godly people to lead His people at different levels. But nobody lives forever. All leaders grow old and eventually die. God’s people must learn to accept, encourage, and follow new leaders from time to time. This doesn’t mean His leaders are always perfect. Even Moses had his failures. But Joshua would be a different kind of leader than Moses and God would use him to do different kinds of things.

Joshua remained a strong leader for the people throughout the remainder of his life. Years later, toward the end of his life, Joshua encouraged the people to seek God and follow Him. Joshua told the people that they needed to decide whether they would follow Yahweh (the God of the Bible) or not. He declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). This is good leadership and an important challenge that would should all accept.

The entire Bible affirms that God calls leaders and equips them to accomplish His will. This doesn’t change in the New Testament. God still calls faithful individuals to lead the church to be His people and obey the Lord.

The Joshua Replaced Moses activities on Sunday School Zone will help kids learn that while God uses people to lead His people, all leaders will be replaced sooner or later.

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How Old Was Joshua When He Replaced Moses?

As noted above, Joshua must have been a young adult when he battled the Amalekites soon after the Exodus (Exod. 17:8-16). This happened during the journey from Egypt to Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Exodus 19:1 tells us the people “entered the Wilderness of Sinai” “in the third month, on the same day of the month that the Israelites had left the land of Egypt.” So, depending on how you count the days of the month, this fairly brief journey took two to three months.

Scholars estimate that the people were at Sinai for about a year before beginning the journey to the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 1:2 records Moses as saying that “it is an eleven-day journey from Horeb (Sinai) to Kadesh-Barnea.” Scholars differ over whether this is intended to suggest that’s how quickly the Israelites actually made the journey. Nonetheless, it would be reasonable for our purposes to say that the people made it to the edge of the Promised Land (Kadesh-Barnea) in less than two years from the time they left Egypt.

A number of places indicate that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (Deut. 1:3; 2:7; 8:2; 29:5; and others). It was at the end of this wandering season that Moses transferred leadership of the people to Joshua (Deut. 3:21-28). It’s difficult to know whether this 40 year period began with the Exodus or the failure of the people at Kadesh-Barnea.

In Joshua 14:7, we learn that Caleb (Joshua’s fellow scout in exploring the land) was 40 years old at the time of the exploration. Joshua likely was about the same age as Caleb, perhaps a bit older. So, if we assume Joshua was about 40-45 years old when the Exodus occurred and then add roughly 40-42 years for the journey to Kadesh-Barnea and the Wilderness Wandering, we conclude that Joshua was probably 80-85 when he replaced Moses. Further, Joshua 24: 29 records that Joshua “died at the age of 110.” That would mean that the conquest and the period of “rest” (Josh. 23:1) following the conquest lasted approximately 25-30 years, which seems about right.

We should always be careful when piecing together these kinds of estimates as there are variables and unknowns, but it’s reasonable to suggest that Joshua was in his 80s when he replaced Moses as leader of the Israelite people.

Why Was Joshua Chosen to Replace Moses?

The Bible doesn’t answer this question directly. But, as we have seen, Joshua was a capable leader who seemed to be the natural choice to replace Moses. He was a mature adult at the time of The Exodus so he would stand as a firm witness to the dramatic events surrounding the deliverance from Egypt. By the time Joshua took the reigns of the nation, Caleb may have been the only other living adult who had experienced The Exodus itself.

Joshua also demonstrated the necessary military skill to lead the conquest. The conquest would take several years, during which the people would have been at war. This means that much of Joshua’s life after Moses’ death was consumed with battles.

But Joshua wasn’t just a military leader. Joshua was a strong spiritual leader as well. Toward the end of his life, Joshua gathered the people and challenged them to remain faithful to their God. This spiritual leadership also impacted the leaders who followed Joshua. Joshua 24:31 tells us that “Israel worshiped Yahweh throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua who had experienced all the works Yahweh had done for Israel.”

Joshua was a gifted and godly leader who learned from Moses and the mighty acts of God he witnessed. When the time came, God called him to lead the people in the next season of their story. It could not have been easy to follow in the footsteps of Moses, but Joshua had the skills and the blessing of God to lead the people as a natural leadership transition took place.

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