Lesson 1: Basic Training for Life


Perhaps more than any other Old Testament man, Joshua exemplifies for each of us how to live a victorious Christian life. He walked through the battlefields of the Old Testament as a godly man. Though he certainly made mistakes, he lived an exemplary life. God developed courageous leadership in his life that enabled him to fight and conquer daunting enemy armies.

What can a 21st century man living in a vastly different culture learn from a man like Joshua? His life demonstrates how men in any age can become courageous leaders "strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength." You, like Joshua, can "put on the full armor of God" in order to defeat "the world powers of this darkness" and "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens" (Eph. 6:10-12).


Maturing is a lifelong adventure. It takes time. One of the fundamental lessons we need to learn is how to faithfully handle present responsibilities. Success at one level prepares us for success at the next level.

What a hard lesson to learn! We start life focused on ourselves and on having fun right here, right now. The transition to living this day in light of the unfolding drama of our entire lifetime is a major task of adulthood.
How are you doing?

  1. When you were a boy, if you wanted to learn to operate a yo-yo or some new electronic gadget, how did you go about it?
    1. Studied and practiced on my own until I had it perfect
    2. Worked at it hard for a few days and gave up
    3. Took a class or read a how-to book
    4. Hung out with my friends and picked up whatever they knew
    5. Was content to play at a basic level
    6. Other _________________________
  2. What have been some key periods of time or key experiences that God has used to provide you the "basic training" required for your present adult life?
  3. Who are some of the people God has used to provide your "basic training," shaping the way you handle adulthood?

Biblical Foundation

Joshua was born in Egypt, when the "new king, who had not known Joseph, came to power" (Ex. 1:8). Life was not easy in his early years. His father and mother were slaves along with all the children of Israel who were victimized by this Pharaoh. When Joshua grew older, he too became a "working" slave.

Joshua evidently was the firstborn son of his family (1 Chron. 7:27). He would remember all his life the horrific night and subsequent morning of the Passover (Ex. 12-13). By then he may already have started serving Moses, for we read that Joshua, the son of Nun, was an "assistant to Moses since his youth" (Num. 11:28).

Joshua served a long period of apprenticeship during which Moses developed unusual confidence in his young lieutenant. This is demonstrated in three unique experiences Joshua was given during the 40 years that he walked alongside Moses in the wasteland between Egypt and the promised land in Canaan.

Lessons from the Frontline

8 At Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Select some men for us, and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God's staff in my hand."

10Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword.

14 The Lord then said to Moses, "Write this down on a scroll as a reminder and recite it to Joshua: I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven."

Exodus 17:8-14

Lessons from Mount Sinai

12 The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commands I have written for their instruction."

13 So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and went up the mountain of God. 14 He told the elders, "Wait here for us until we return to you. Aaron and Hur are here with you. Whoever has a dispute should go to them."

Exodus 24:12-14

7 Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the Lord would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and [the Lord] would speak with Moses. 10 As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent. 11 The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.

Exodus 33:7-11

Lessons from the Spy Mission

1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes.... 16 These were the names of the men Moses sent to scout out the land, and Moses renamed Hoshea son of Nun, Joshua.

17 When Moses sent them to scout out the land of Canaan, he told them, "Go up this way to the Negev, then go up into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? 20 Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land."...

26 The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land.... 30 Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, "We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!"

31 But the men who had gone up with him responded, "We can't go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!" 32 So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: "The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size."...

6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite community: "The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us."... 10 While the whole community threatened to stone them, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of meeting.

Numbers 13:1-2, 16-20a, 26, 30-32; 14:6-8, 10

Principles to Live By

At some point, perhaps after the 12 spies returned from their mission in Canaan, Moses renamed his protégé. Originally his name had been Hoshea (Num. 13:8), but Moses began to call him Joshua (v. 16). Hoshea meant "salvation," while Joshua meant "the Lord is salvation." From a human point of view, Hoshea would save Israel, but from a divine point of view, God would lead Israel safely and victoriously into Canaan.

After a lengthy period of "basic training," Joshua clearly learned that God was the Savior of His people. Joshua's new name reflected the completion of his spiritual curriculum and continued to emphasize throughout his life this important truth that God alone was the source of power and salvation. He was now ready to allow God to use his abilities, skills, and all he had learned during his years of preparation.

Principle 1
It takes time to prepare to be a faithful leader of others.

Joshua's prominence in Israel came only after many years of dedicated service, both to the Lord and His commandments. Joshua faithfully served Moses, God's appointed leader, and proved himself worthy of trust.

Many men today want to bypass the process of demonstrating faithfulness over a period of time. In this sense, we're a product of our culture. We want instant recognition, instant prominence, and instant responsibility for fulfilling important leadership roles in God's great army, the Body of Christ. Furthermore, many of us already in leadership positions are too quick to appoint people to important spiritual responsibilities (see 1 Tim. 5:22).

Principle 2
As Christian men, we must realize the unique balance between dependence on God and confidence in the strengths and abilities that He has created in us.

Without question God used the man Joshua to achieve His redemptive goals. But Joshua knew it was God Himself who would truly guide and direct Israel. It was His power that rolled back the waters of the Jordan (Josh. 3), His strength that caused the walls of Jericho to collapse (Josh. 6), and His wisdom that enabled Joshua to strategize against the enemies of Israel time and again.

This is a divine mystery. God does use our faithfulness, our commitment, and our human capacities and capabilities. But in reality, without Him, we'll accomplish little, and what we do achieve may turn out to be "wood, hay, or straw" with no lasting results (1 Cor. 3:12).

Principle 3
We must begin to serve God now in order to prepare for future responsibility.

It takes time and preparation to equip us to handle important spiritual responsibilities. Spend time faithfully serving God in less demanding roles and learning from more mature and experienced men. In this sense, we all need mentors. Joshua's strength was deeply rooted in the lessons he learned from Moses. Just as Moses was his example, role model, and spiritual shepherd, we can all gain strength from a godly mentor.

Note also that Joshua served faithfully without even knowing that someday he would take over Moses' leadership role. This highlights another reason why God chose him and used him. Not only did he learn his lessons well, but his motives were pure.

Questions for Interaction

  1. When you hear that Joshua spent 40 years in basic training as he prepared to succeed Moses, what is your first reaction? (Circle the best answer.)
    1. I could never wait that long. I want to lead now.
    2. Maybe there's hope for me out there someday.
    3. Patient faithfulness pays off.
    4. I have no interest in filling shoes that big.
    5. Other ___________________________.
  2. How do you feel about the idea of being mentored by a more seasoned leader in preparation for the future? (Again, circle your answer.)
    1. I learn better without someone looking over my shoulder.
    2. I would like to be able to consult with an experienced leader.
    3. I don't function well in groups.
    4. I'd like someone to give me regular feedback on my performance.
    5. I'd like to learn to lead through a discipling relationship.
    6. Other ____________________________.
  3. According to Exodus 17:8-14, what were Joshua's responsibilities in the battle against Amalek? Moses' responsibilities? God's responsibilities?
  4. What early lessons about leadership do you think God wanted Joshua to learn from the encounter with Amalek?
  5. What privileged access to the presence of the Lord did Joshua enjoy as Moses' assistant (Ex. 24:13; 33:11)?
  6. What do you think God wanted Joshua to learn about leadership through observing Moses' relationship with Him?
  7. What was the basic dispute between the Joshua/Caleb duo and the other 10 spies (Num. 13:26, 30-32; 14:6-8)?
  8. What do you think God wanted Joshua to learn about leadership in Israel from the spying episode?
  9. How did Joshua's training prepare him to have greater confidence both in God and in himself as God's man?

Going Deeper

  1. How does a man learn faithfulness in our modern world?
  2. How can we balance both confidence in God and confidence in our training and God-given abilities?
  3. What things has God given you to do now that might be training you for greater responsibility in the future? What makes you think so?

Caring Time

In this group we are engaged in each other's "basic training" as we prepare for God's next assignments and future responsibilities. That's why we give the group high priority in our schedules, participate freely, respect one another's confidence, and support one another in every way we can.

  1. What battles are you fighting in the world where you need someone to be lifting you up in prayer, just as Moses lifted his hands to God on Joshua' behalf (Ex. 17:11)?
  2. How can we ensure that we share openly about the needs of our lives, and give one another support as we grow in Christ throughout this study on the life of Joshua?
  3. Let's conclude by having each of us pray aloud one after the other for the man to our right, that he will benefit greatly from studying the life of Joshua.

Next Week

Next week we will find Joshua facing the daunting task of replacing the recently deceased Moses, Israel's deliverer and lawgiver. Joshua must have felt overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of his new responsibility. God stepped in with a call to courage. Joshua already had absolute confidence in God's power and faithfulness. What he needed was the inner strength to step out in that faith. Too often we find it easier to verbalize our faith than to act on it. We too need to respond to God's call to be strong and courageous.

Scripture Notes

Exodus 17:8-14

17:8 Amalek. This was a nomadic tribe descended from Esau's grandson Amalek (Gen. 36:12, 16). Because Amalek attacked Israel without provocation as Israel traveled to Sinai, God decreed Amalek's destruction (Ex. 17:14).

17:9 Joshua. Moses chose a man who possessed military prowess. Both this incident and the conquest of Canaan 40 years later confirmed that Moses had picked the right man for the job. Joshua's faith in God made him a worthy leader of the Israelites (Deut. 34:9).

17:11 held up his hand. The soldiers fought the battle, but God determined the outcome. Moses held his staff above his head to appeal for God's help and to demonstrate Israel's total dependence on God for victory.

17:14 recite it to Joshua. During the invasion of Canaan, the Israelites under Joshua regarded Amalek as an enemy worthy of special attention because of God's message through Moses.

Exodus 24:12-14; 33:7-11

24:12 instruction. The law and commands are not merely codes of conduct to be posted on a wall. They are divine commands to be taken seriously and to be studied and followed.

24:13 assistant. "Assistant" translates the Hebrew word for an elevated servant. Joshua was an invaluable aide to Moses in every area of his life and work. The Hebrew term does not have the idea of "slave," although Joseph, who was a slave, achieved the status of assistant or personal attendant in Potiphar's house (Gen. 39:4). Levites, first in the tabernacle and later the temple, wore this title as ministers or servants of God (Deut. 10:8; 1 Kings 8:11). In these passages, various English words appear to capture the elusive sense of this Hebrew noun.

33:7 tent. The tent mentioned here was different from the tabernacle. It was probably Moses' own tent which was a shrine, a place to pray and inquire of God. It sat outside of camp rather than in the center of it as did the tabernacle. The plans for the tabernacle were given to Moses starting in Exodus 25. The construction of the tabernacle is described starting in Exodus 35.

33:8 the people would stand up. The people were looking to God in reverence. They stood off at a distance in awe of God.

33:9 the pillar of cloud. The presence of God was always visible in the Israelite camp during the 40-year journey from Egypt to Canaan. God displayed His presence as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21). When the cloud or fire moved, the Israelites followed; when it stopped, they pitched camp (Num. 9:15-23).

33:11 as a man speaks with his friend. By this time, Moses had walked a long journey with God by his side. He had seen God in a burning bush, a cloud, and a pillar of fire. He had met with God on a mountain, in a desert, and in the middle of a miraculously dry seabed. He was a friend of God, an intimate friend. Joshua. Following Moses, Joshua was the soldier who led the people to conquer the promised land.

Numbers 13:1-2, 16-20a, 26, 30-32; 14:6-8, 10

13:2 from each of their ancestral tribes. This effort was organized much as was the census at the beginning of the book of Numbers. Selecting one from each tribe would give credibility and unity to their report. Caleb represented the tribe of Judah (v. 6) and Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim (v. 8), historically the two dominant tribes of Israel.

13:17-20 strong or weak, few or many. Moses had very explicit instructions for the group of spies who were being sent to Canaan. The spies were not only to bring back a report of the land itself but also of the type of people who occupied the land.

13:30 Caleb. Only Caleb is mentioned here, but we know that Joshua also believed that they should trust God and enter the land of Canaan because 10 spies brought a negative report and there were 12 spies in all.

13:32 a negative report. The people had endured hardships (and not happily) to come to this place God had promised them, only to hear that the Canaanites could easily destroy them. Their sense of disappointment reflected a serious lack of faith. The word buzzing around camp was that God had brought them this far only to forsake them. From the time of Abraham, God had required that His people live by faith. But this cynical report rattled the people so they were doubtful and dismayed.

14:6 tore their clothes. Joshua and Caleb felt deep distress over the disobedience of their fellow Israelites and expressed their grief in the most vivid way they knew within their culture. Ripping their clothes captured the attention of the multitude and gave the two loyal spies a dramatic opportunity to speak on behalf of the promises of God.

14:10 glory of the Lord. God makes Himself known to all people. The Israelites were fuming and fussing, not about the leadership of Moses and Aaron, but against God Himself.