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.

Who died in the desert?

Major events of the Exodus

Major events of the Exodus

Questions seem to pop into my mind when I pray pretty often, usually instigating a scripture search and/or study. “Who died in the desert?” rattled around in my brain a day or two before I got out one of my Bibles and looked it up.

I knew it referred to the 40 years of wandering that Israel did after leaving Egypt and I felt sure I knew the answer. The ten doubting spies, of course. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who brought back a good report, the other ten brought back an evil report, so those ten weren’t allowed into the promised land. So why the question?

The “rest of the story” was waiting for me to find.

All sorts of other questions came to me as I looked for that story. I kept getting sidetracked with all sorts of other interesting bits of information and questions to find answers for.

Was the wilderness truly a desert? Was there anything other than sand and rocks out there? Where was it, exactly? Were there any towns or villages, any trade routes, along the way? Why did they have to go through that particular wilderness, far south and later east of the Jordan River, instead of other wilderness areas?

Who all went along on the trip? Was it only Israelites? (no) Or were there some Egyptians, some slaves, some other foreigners in the crowd? (yes)

What did they take with them? (everything they owned, furniture, clothing, pots and pans, etc.)

Were they poor? (no! they had been given the wealth of Eqypt- gold, silver, jewels, etc., etc.)

Was manna all they had to eat? (no – at first they had wheat and oil to make bread, though unleavened, plus lots of meat from all their livestock, sheep, goats, cattle)

What did they house themselves in on the trip? (hmmm – tents?)

I’m still reading, still looking, still getting sidetracked, still finding questions.

But that first question, who died in the desert – the doubters died in the desert. Everyone 20 years old and up who listened to the ten faithless spies and who grumbled and complained! It wasn’t just those ten men! It was a multitude of men, and while the ten faithless spies died “now,” the other died during the next 40 years, some sooner than others. Not until they were all dead could the children of Israel enter the promised land.

You’d think that after the ten faithless spies were killed for their griping at God that the others would learn their lesson – but it doesn’t look like they did. They kept on finding fault, complaining and criticizing, and dying.

Start reading Numbers 14 and go backwards, like I did – or start with Exodus and go forward. It’s enlightening to say the least. Lots of lessons in there that apply to people today.

FYI – I’m reading the “Contemporary English Version” Bible that was given to me several years ago as a Christmas present. It’s a paperback, easy reading, nice size print, with paragraph headings and modern language. I wish it had an index / concordance, but I am enjoying it.