Joshua and Jesus
Written by Charlie Baber, Pastor of Youth Ministry at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, NC.
“I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9, CEB
Israel entered the promised land through the courageous and faithful leadership of Joshua, whose name means “Yahweh saves.” The book of Joshua tells the story of the military campaigns against the peoples of Canaan, and can be quite troubling for the modern reader as the Israelites violently kick out the natives. The book is meant to evoke the flood story, where God destroyed wicked humanity in order to start over with a righteous family.
Joshua of Nun has long been understood to be a “type” of Christ, someone who exemplifies characteristics that we see in the person of Jesus. To begin with, they have the same name (Joshua is the Hebrew form and Jesus is the Greek form, but the name is the same). Like Joshua followed Moses, so Jesus fulfilled the Law. As Joshua conquered Israel’s enemies, Jesus conquered our ultimate enemies of Sin and Death on the cross. Joshua led Israel faithfully through the River Jordan into the Promised Land, so Jesus leads us into the kingdom of Heaven through baptism.
During Lent, we face internal and external enemies as we practice penitence and spiritual development. Christ has taught us to deal with our enemies differently than Joshua’s violent conquest. In Christ, we conquer sin by dying with Christ, we overcome our enemies by loving them as Christ does. We enter the kingdom by the blood of the Lamb, not the blood of our foes. And the price has already been paid, the victory already won through Jesus Christ our Defender and Savior. Still, like Joshua, we are called to be brave and strong, to courageously face the world each new day, trusting that because of Jesus, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. You can claim victory in the kingdom of God, and yet you still have to do the hard work in order to realize that victory. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Reject the spiritual forces of wickedness and work for God’s justice in this world. We are called to partner in the work of the Lord each new day, and we do not face the battle unequipped. So don’t be alarmed or terrified when things seem to fail or go utterly wrong. God is with you wherever you go.
Prayer: Lord our Savior and Defender, strengthen us when courage fails, go before us and prepare the way for victory in Jesus Christ as we seek to build your kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.