Joshua, man of war and worship

A paragraph in yesterday’s Sunday School lesson (The Present Word) struck me as pretty inaccurate. It said that while artists depict angels as like little girl babies with wings, they are really tall and slim, non-gender and gentle creatures wearing flowing, shimmering robes — or some such nonsense as that. The Bible certainly doesn’t say that. In scriptural accounts angels looked pretty much like ordinary human men, except that they caused the people who saw them to be really frightened so usually the first thing they said was “Fear not.”

The lesson wasn’t about Joshua, by the way, it was about John the Baptist, and the paragraph was about his clothing. Made of animal skins, supposedly it was very different, peculiar, odd, strange, outlandish and weird. Not ordinary dress.

But he lived in the wilderness, what kind of clothes would you expect him to wear? The description of his usual work clothes seems perfectly appropriate for the environment to me.

Someone in the class commented that John the Baptist lived way off from civilization – but if that was true, then who did he preach to? No, he lived a few miles from any town but it wasn’t way off. He lived and preached near the busy north-south trade route that ran along the Jordan River, so there was always somebody to preach to.

As I thought about John the Baptist, I began thinking again about Joshua. He was no doubt a young man when Moses returned to Egypt, and along the way he became Moses’ assistant. He was one of those in charge of the fighters, and Moses took him along when he went up into the mountain to receive the commandments. (See Ex. 24:13) He is mentioned in quite a few interesting adventures, long before he was appointed as the successor to Moses.

But one particular verse struck me as particularly important, and illustrative of the character of Joshua. A little background — Moses had been speaking to God up in the mountain, but he needed a place to speak to God down on the flat ground also. So he went outside of the camp a ways and erected a tent (called a tabernacle in KJV, but tent of meeting in other translations) for this special purpose. Moses would go inside the tent, and God would come to the front of the tent, appearing as a pillar of cloud that could be seen a long way. Read Exodus 33 about this. Everyone back in the camp would watch all this happening, and they would worship God right in their own tent doors back in the camp.

The verse I mentioned is Ex. 33:11. The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, and afterward when Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua stayed in the tent of meeting. Hmmm. Why?

I think he had his priorities straight. Did he see God face to face, too? It doesn’t say, but I know he experienced something extraordinary, the presence of God. This puts everything else he did into perspective for me.

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