Below is a preview of Joshua - Lessons in the Wilderness
What I learned when no one was watching,
and what I did when everyone was.

The Preface 

This is a book about leadership. Its subject is a man long gone from this earth. He lived his whole life within a 200 to 300 mile radius, most of it within much less. For much of his life he was in the shadow of Egypt – oppressive and brutal, and of Moses – a man whose stature few have attained. Joshua certainly didn’t.

So what could Joshua possibly teach us about leadership? He is not only from a distant time, but also from a seeming backwater. Does an examination of his life offer anything of value for us in the 21st century? Aren’t we more sophisticated than he? After all, he only ever read one book, it would seem. He spend a lot of his of his younger years under the whip, a slave, 40 years wandering a forbidding and foreboding desert, a virtual Mars-scape, followed by 30 years fighting the enemies of the conquering tribes of Israel.

Life in Joshua’s time was cheap and short-lived for many. God was distant and terrifying to most. And yet …

God spoke to this man. And he, being dead, still speaks. His lessons are ours, although our milieu is significantly different. But people don’t change – not really. We still have the same needs and aspirations as the most primitive.[1]

Our bookshelves are buckling under the burden of books about leadership – some excellent and instructive, some awful, and some about brutish people.[2] But not a lot, it appears, is being written about leadership from a biblical perspective, quoting its heroes, following its precepts, building a different kind of leader - a leader who finds his source and supply in scripture more than in books about football managers, sports heroes or business leaders.

Admittedly some of these people are very good leaders in their professions, but how do these leaders' insights apply to us as Christian leaders? I’m not entirely convinced that the question is being asked or that the answers proffered are adequate. The football manager has a goal in mind – ‘goals’ actually. They exist for profit, team, and reputation so I’m guessing compassion, example, mercy, much less God, don’t always figure highly for them. They can’t. If they did the coaches would get fired. They are building a brand: and today they are rewarding shareholders as well as the fans.

In the last few years I have read recommended books about very successful CEO’s, and coaches in business and sporting. These men certainly change the bottom line, and change the fortunes of their teams, and say some things of value, but I doubt their character has added one iota to the moral or spiritual currency of the world. Of course that is hardly the point of their roles or employment - true. And there is no assumption here that they don’t have any moral integrity. But to hold them up as great examples of anything more than pragmatism is questionable, even damaging when we are trying to describe a church leader. They would have looked askance at Jesus and the disciples. Paul would hardly have rated.

But it is these people, Jesus and Paul, who are our inspiration and role models. It is these people who turned the world upside down – something a football coach or CEO never has, nor ever will, accomplish.  

We need to see a different kind of leader. Not one who is merely driven by ‘good principles,’ but one who is reliant on God more than technique - one who inspires by self sacrifice and joy, one who loves deeply and lives holy.

To Joshua. He was Israel’s commander and the under study of Moses. He has a book named after him, the sixth in the Old Testament canon. It is, as you may have guessed, called “Joshua.”

You don’t get this honour by dint of privilege or power. On the contrary; it is an honour conveyed due to an entirely different set of criteria. Joshua lived a life that has an enduring message, and is a piece of the prophetic puzzle that formed part of the Old Testament canon. Joshua lived in the line, and led a life, that culminated in Jesus Christ.

In some respects the book of Joshua is like the book of Ruth, which if it were not Scripture, may have remained little more than a quaint rural love story. Similarly, in the annals of the great battles of history, Joshua’s campaign doesn’t rate with the Siege of Leningrad or the Normandy Invasion of WW11. However as a piece of biblical history, and therefore of our history, it is pivotal and instructive.

Joshua links the wilderness wanderings of Israel under Moses to possession of the land of Abrahamic promise. His is a transition of leadership, and no easy task following the stellar, the herculean, Moses. But Joshua’s leadership was to be different. Whereas Moses was deliverer and lawgiver, he would be conqueror and possessor. This is actually one story told in two chapters.

The book of Joshua also shows a different type of leader usually makes for an easier transition, both for the people and for the new leader, not to mention for the memory and respect of the previous incumbent. Studies seem in favour of the fact that in a transition of leadership, especially significant leadership, ‘different’ is virtually essential. People will always compare a successor with the previous leader, and they are normally not likely to stack up, not initially at least. And it is in that ‘initial’ season that much ground is won or lost. 

If a successor’s leadership style and personality are different, comparisons take a back seat more quickly; trust in the new leader has a chance to thrive. It was thus so with Joshua and Moses. Joshua was not just a ‘little’ Moses.

The Outline.  Like the two chapters of the life of Moses and Joshua, this book has two distinct, albeit related, parts.  In the first we are looking at the wilderness wanderings of Israel, and the lessons we see exemplified in the life of Joshua.

He became a servant to and of Moses. He learnt the value of faith, when it was unpopular, and he became a student of the Presence and Word of God.  These three things stood him in good stead for his future.  

In the second part we follow Joshua as the nation, under his leadership, inherits the land. What did he learn, what did he do in a dilemma, how did he negotiate difficultly and remain true to all he’d learnt?   

[1] If ‘Primitive’ refers to technological advancement then they were primitive, but if primitive is deemed to mean pre-scientific, unsophisticated and/or a little dumb, then it is an entirely wrong use of the word.

[2] For example: a book such as, The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.