“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I have often tried to put myself in the shoes of Joshua- or rather, the sandals- as he stood before God in the days that followed Moses’ death and received his assignment to lead the people of Israel into the Promise Land. He was not a young man. Israel was not a small nation. They had multiplied and increased over the years – with a population reaching into the hundreds of thousands. And they were accustomed to Moses’ leadership.
They knew him – how he led, how he responded to their requests, what he expected of them. After all the years they had journeyed with him through the desert from Egypt to the border of the Promise Land – there was very little mystery. They had learned Moses. He had learned them. Trust had been built in their leader, but now – that leader was gone. Israel must have felt a bit unsure and lost.
I imagine that Joshua did, too. He had spent years as the assistant of Moses. He was there waiting at the bottom of the mountain when Moses returned with the commandments of the Lord and walking alongside him as he entered the camp of the Israelites again (Exodus 24). His role had been simply to serve the leader and he had done that well, but now – his role was changing. Mixed with the grief of losing Moses was the daunting reality of what his loss meant. Joshua would now take his place. He would lead Israel.
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. ...Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them... Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua was no Moses. Moses had palace training. He had received the best education Egypt had to offer. Not only that, he had been the one to lead Israel out of captivity and into freedom. His track record testified of his success. When they were thirsty, God used him to provide water (Numbers 20). When they were hungry, God responded to Moses’ prayers and fed the people manna from heaven (Exodus 16). He had met God on the mountain (Exodus 24), spoke with Him face to face in the tent of meeting (Exodus 33), and visibly glowed with the glory of God after one of his many encounters with Him (Exodus 34).
Joshua knew all this. He had been there - sat in the front row, given the best view. Moses had been flawed, yes, but he had also been a great leader and being the next in line must have felt completely terrifying. You see, as I said before, Joshua was nothing like Moses. He was different. He had grown up a slave, not a prince. His childhood was marred with memories of backs whipped by task masters and long days spent shaping and hauling bricks. Unlike Moses, he was a warrior, a military strategist, a brave soldier. In Exodus 17 we hear of this. While Moses sits above the fighting on a mountain giving guidance, Joshua is found below on the battlefield – charging the Amalekite armies alongside his Israelite comrades. This was his skill set. This was his training.
Could such a man – one so different from Moses – lead Israel just as well?
The answer is a resounding yes. Not only could he and would he lead Israel well – he would be the one to finally lead them in to the land they had been promised by God so many years before. It would be a journey marked by battlegrounds – one fight after another. From Jericho into the very heart of Canaan, Israel would march and Joshua would lead. Was he different then Moses? Yes. But was he the leader needed for this time in Israel’s history? Absolutely.
As a teenager growing up in the church, I attended countless youth conferences. They were the highlight of my year. I couldn’t wait to go and, every single time I went, I would come home completely inspired. Somewhere in the midst of every conference, stories would always be told of missionaries all over the world that were making a difference in the lives of others. Their stories awakened a desire deep within me that only grew with each passing year. I knew that I too wanted to live a life that made a difference. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to live my life for God’s glory.
Fast forward to my early twenties. My husband and I had moved to Florida. He was working full time away from the home and I was spending my time caring for our three young children. Words can’t express how much I enjoyed my time with them. I was made for this. I knew it. Loving them made me feel the most authentic version of who I was created to be. Their giggles and constant questions, their hilarious conversations and midnight calls for “Mama” made my heart sing for joy. And yet…I felt guilty. Every single day – I felt wrong. Wrong for feeling so right in the simple life of loving my family. Wrong for not doing something bigger, greater, more significant for the Lord. And every single day, that feeling grew bigger and bigger – until it completely swallowed up all the joy I had once found in motherhood.
Thankfully, God met me in my misery. He reminded me of Joshua and how different he had been from Moses. He reminded me of how He had used both of them and, as I dug deeper and read more of Joshua’s story, I finally began to see that Joshua hadn’t been asked to fill Moses’ shoes. He had simply been asked to stand tall in his own. Did you catch that?
He wasn’t supposed to wear Moses’ shoes.
He was supposed to wear his own.
Joshua was made different. His calling was different. Yes, both he and Moses were called to lead– but one was called to lead the people of Israel out and one was called to lead the people of Israel in. Neither was more or less – they both mattered to the story.
Hebrews 12 verse 1 tells us that we are all to run the race that is set before us. For Moses, that was bringing Israel out of Egypt. For Joshua, that was taking them into the Promise Land. In my early twenties – the race set before me was a journey into the throes of young motherhood. That was where I had been placed by God to bring Him glory. That was where He wanted to use me at the time - not on the soil of another country, but on the carpet of my very own living room. And that was okay. That was more than okay. If motherhood was my act of faithful obedience to the Lord – than it was where I needed to be in that season– even if it didn’t look like what I thought it would. At the end of the day, I wasn’t made to fill someone else’s shoes. I was made to wear my own. I wasn’t made to run someone else’s race. I was made to run the race that God had set before me and embracing that reality restored to me the joy I had once had.
A missionary at the last Women’s Retreat I attended, looked to the audience and asked, “Ladies, what is your mission field?” Today, I ask you the same thing. What have you been called to? Where have you been placed?
Stop comparing it to someone else’s calling or someone else’s place.
Stand tall in your own shoes.
There is a race set before you that you are to run.
This is an Excerpt from our New Book, On Purpose, available on our Resource Page!