Today’s reading: Joshua 6:1-27. Key verse: Joshua 6:27.
Joshua chapter 6 is a key chapter in the book. So far Joshua’s leadership has not been largely tested and proven in the face of a significant enemy. In this chapter that changes. The people of Israel face the people of Jericho, a city protected by an inner and outer wall that reached high into the air. Would Joshua’s leadership ability be enough to lead the people of Israel to a successful victory over Jericho?
Really, this chapter is largely about how the people of Israel respond to the Lord’s commands and Joshua’s leadership, and less about Joshua as a leader. They follow Joshua in what could at best be called a non-traditional form of warfare against nearly impossible odds, and they do it willingly. What is the key, the secret, to Joshua’s success in motivating and leading his people in this unorthodox style of attack?
Leadership Principle 6.1: The people follow Joshua because Joshua is following the Lord
The beginning of this chapter shows the Lord as the ultimate leader who is directing Joshua behind the scenes. The Lord tells Joshua how the city is to be taken, and although it did not make much sense to Joshua at the time, the man obeys his God. The people in turn follow after Joshua because of what had happened at the Jordan River. God had exalted Joshua in the eyes of Israel so that they knew God was with Joshua.
A godly leader will motivate people to follow their leadership not based on their own ability but based on their passion and desire to follow after the Lord. Christians want to follow godly leaders who are in pursuit of Christ. The leader’s first priority, then, is to make sure they are a good follower of Christ.
Leadership Principle 6.2: The best leaders direct their followers toward the Lord
Joshua does this by making the ark the focal point of the daily procession around Jericho, at the Lord’s direction. The ark, remember, is the visible power and presence of the God of Israel, and now the ark is going before them into battle against Jericho. Joshua later on the 7th day will warn the people against taking anything from the city of Jericho, since it had all been placed under the ban, devoted to destruction. In this way, he directs the attention of his people toward the holiness of the Lord. He views the Lord as holy and wants his people to view him the same way by refusing to sin against him.
Leadership Principle 6.3: Perseverance in a task builds confidence and trust
I’m sure by the 7th day the people of Israel were questioning Joshua’s tactics and perhaps even his ability to lead. However, their perseverance in obedience to their leader (who was following his Leader) paid off in the end. Good leaders will help their followers persevere in a task through adversity, building their confidence and trust both in themselves as workers and in their leader as capable to lead.
Leadership Principle 6.4: The leader’s source of strength
Joshua 6:27 says, “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” The Lord was the one who accomplished the capture and defeat of Jericho. The Lord is likewise the one who would spread Joshua’s fame throughout the land of Canaan. Leaders today do many things to try to build their name and reputation. But those endeavors are better left to God. Joshua’s faithfulness to the Lord brought the Lord’s blessing on his life. Better to be a faithful leader in obscurity and ambiguity than a renowned leader who deviates from God’s word.
Summary in a Sentence
The key to Joshua’s success against Jericho is that he follows hard after the Lord, directs his followers to the Lord, helps them persevere in faithfulness to God’s word, and is rewarded by God for his faithfulness.
Jonathan J. Routley (JJ) serves as Professor of Bible and Theology at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. JJ also serves on the Board of Directors for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR). He holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Columbia International University, South Carolina. JJ and his family reside in Dubuque, Iowa.