Remember the game “follow the leader”? The idea was to mimic the person in front of you while a line of children followed behind. Being a follower was all right. But being the leader, using your imagination to create routes and movements for everyone else to follow, was the most fun.
In real life, great leaders are rare. We have been very blessed in this country by some faithful, ethical, and effective leaders. Like some of our early leaders:
One of the Founding Fathers and the first president of the United States.
John Adams, Jr.
Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States.
The 16th president of the United States.
But often, men and women are elected or appointed to leadership positions, only to then falter or fail to do the job well. Some even abuse their power to satisfy their own egos, crushing their subjects and squandering resources. One great example of that was outside of the United States. However, his dictation certainly did affect even our nation and put our president in a tough place which ended up affecting our country greatly.
The Nazi’s considered themselves the master race, full of power and ones who could do whatever they wanted. They strived for what they thought was the ideal perfection. With self-idolatry and brute force they spread across Europe eliminating all those who they considered worthless – Jews, Christians, gypsies, slaves, communist, elderly and the disabled, and prisoners of war.
But while the war in Europe was going on, across the ocean here in the land of the free and home of the brave, voices began to rise. They were voices of those who struggled and survived the country’s most economical 10 year depression – that was just ending the same year the war began. They were the voices of those who survived another war, WWI just 20 years before, the war that was to have ended all wars. They were voices of self-defense. The voices of fear.
BUT above all those voices, came another. This was the voice of veteran, one who had seen war, one who hated war. It was the voice of an American who wanted to shrug his shoulders and go about his business believing conflicts thousands of miles away did not seriously affect him. But it was also the voice of the president, one who knew that when peace was broken anywhere, peace everywhere was in danger.
It was a voice of a president who wanting passivism, but knowing war was inevitable, worked slowly but steadily to aid the ally cause even before joining the war. It was the voice of a president who though bound in a wheelchair, would ultimately rise to become a world leader in the collapse of the Nazi power.
However, you feel about President Franklin D. Roosevelt, you have to admire his courage to speak out against the pride of this dictator, despite public and congressional pressure to maintain neutral. The Nazi’s considered themselves the master race, full of power and ones who could do whatever they wanted. They strived for what they thought was the ideal perfection.
But here in the U.S., the people had just struggled and survived the country’s most economical 10-year depression that was just ending the same year the war began. They had just survived another war, WWI just 20 years before, which was the war that was to have ended all wars. Americans were fearful to enter another war for good reason.
President Roosevelt was a veteran himself, had seen war, hated war. And even though he wanted to shrug his shoulders and go about his business believing the conflicts thousands of miles away did not seriously affect him or his country, he knew that when peace was broken anywhere, everyone was in danger, especially with a dictator like this. He knew war was inevitable, and therefore began aiding our allies even before joining the war. Ultimately, he rose to become a world leader in the collapse of the Nazi power.
There have been and are today definitely some good, faithful, ethical, and effective leaders. Let’s go back even further in history and talk about one of the greatest leaders of all time, let’s go back to the Old Testament, to Joshua, the Hebrew slave, turned Commander of the Israelite Army, turned aide to Moses, turned leader of the Israelites.
For about 430 years, the Israelites had been enslaved to Egypt. When God instructed Moses to free His people, there were over 2 million Israelites. When the people are about half way to the land God promised them, Moses sent 12 spies into the land to scout it out for the upcoming invasion because the current residents probably aren’t going to welcome them with open arms. The spies came back after 40 days and reported that the land was bountiful, flowing with milk and honey, and it was full of good fruit – even bringing some back as they were asked to do. On that point all 12 spies agreed. But most of the spies also came back in a panic, claiming that the Canaanites, who were living in the Promise Land, are far too powerful for the Israelites to overcome. The towns are large and fortified with huge protection, and the people living there are strong warriors, even giants live among them, and the people are powerful tyrants (bullies) who believe that they are so superior to all others so much that they call themselves gods.
And up to this point, there was no one brave enough to rise against these people who destroyed or enslaved all who they considered worthless (sounds like Hitler). Ten of the twelve Hebrew spies gave into that fear. They swallowed the lie and believed themselves to be as week as grasshoppers in comparison. They spread their bad report to the entire 2 million people. And the whole community began grumbling and weeping….that is all but two voices who rose and spoke with courage and truth. The voices of Joshua and Caleb.
Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
(They’re questioning God, but not really wanting God’s answer. They don’t like what God already told them that’s why they are protesting against Moses and Aaron. Instead they take matters into their own hands. Totally disobeying God, not trusting Him which makes sense in the matter that they were in slavery not seeing God in action for so long, yet they just walked across a sea on dry ground with walls of water on each side of them that collapsed only when they were through and their enemy was in it. Let alone the amazing plagues He did on the Egyptian, and the way he fed them with quail and manna.)
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. 6 Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. (They are devastated and mourn for the people in their disobedience to God.)
7 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! 8 And if the Lord is pleased with us, (He is pleased with you because He loves you, not because of something you’ve done) he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
(They guys say do not be afraid twice because they know that’s the real problem. Often, we do the same. We trust God to handle the smaller things but doubt his ability to take care of the big problems, big decisions. Don’t stop trusting God just as you are about to reach your goal. He brought you this far, won’t He take you the rest of the way!)
10 But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.
This leads to a revolt with the people refusing to take the land. And God gives them their wish, decreeing that the whole generation will die in the wilderness, and the land will be taken by their children. In fact, God blesses Joshua and Caleb and allows for them to be the only two people from that entire generation to enter the Promise Land. Even though it seemed like others forgot, Joshua and Caleb remembered the promises of God and they still believed them. They refused to bow to these arrogant people in Canaan and fear them. Even when their own people picked up stones to kill them, they continued to stand for what was right.
So for 40 years, Israel journeyed through the wilderness, but not because they were following their leader. Quite the opposite was true. They had refused to obey their leader, God, so they wandered aimlessly. Finally, the new generation comes and was ready to cross the Jordan and possess the land. Joshua, having distinguished himself as a man of faith and courage, was chosen by God to lead the people to once and for all conquer the Promised Land.
I think Joshua is often overlooked as being a great leader. Mostly because he just does whatever God tells him to do. But can you image the strength, the courage it took for him to follow God’s unique battle strategies. I mean come on. Who walks around walls 7 times, blows trumpets and they just fall?
Joshua was a great leader because he was a brilliant military leader and a strong spiritual influence, but the key to his success was really his submission to God. When God spoke, Joshua listened and obeyed which took courage. If you think Joshua never had a scared bone in his body, you need to think again. What he did differently than the others was he didn’t let the fear stop him! Joshua’s obedience served as a model. And as a result, Israel remain faithful to God throughout Joshua’s entire time as their leader.
With strength and faith in God, Joshua and Caleb refused to be silenced. And God honored them for that. Not only did he preserve them that day, but He also in the end allowed them to enter the promise land and see His promises come to true.
The world will never lack voices of arrogance and voices of fear. There will always be those that violate the name of God. There will always be bullies in one form or another who use authority to destroy others. And they don’t just appear in the battlefield or in the politics. They often appear in our day to day life as well.
The voice of the few is often NOT given the chance to be heard. Nevertheless, know this, truth cannot be measured by numbers. I know truth often stands against the majority of the opinions, but because it is guaranteed by the character of God, Truth will never, ever change. God is Truth; what He says is the last word. At times, a person must even stand alone on the side of Truth. Just like Joshua and Caleb.
Joshua and Caleb were not so much men of great faith, as they were men of faith in a great God! Their boldness rested on their understanding of God, not on their confidence in the Israel’s abilities to conquer that land. So we too can stand on the side of Truth even if we are the few or at least it feels that way (which I don’t believe we are).
Joshua and Caleb could not agree with the majority, because that would be to disagree with God. So should we stand with what seems to be the majority or at least the loudest voices today?
We too often base our decisions on what everyone else is doing. Few of us are the 10 scouts who saw it with their own eyes and fear. Instead, we are more like the people of Israel, getting our fear secondhand. Our search for right and wrong usually starts with questions like: What do the experts say? What do the politicians say? What does social media say? What are other parents saying? What are other church members doing?
What if we started to think for ourselves? Do our research. I’m not saying we ignore the information being brought to the table, but instead listening to some else’s fear, instead of just thinking the worst, what if we ask the question we most often avoid, “What does God say? What does God want us to do?”
And let me tell you, that does take bravery. You will need to be brave to ask what God wants. Because you know what, once you know what God wants and you don’t follow, there are consequences. But there are also consequences for not even asking. I’d rather take my chances and ask and obey. Who cares if it’s a crazy strategy or if it doesn’t make sense to others.
The principles we learn as we study the Bible provide a dependable road map for life, especially for the times we are in now. They literally draw us into a personal relationship with God. Just listen to what God told Joshua.
The Lord’s Charge to Joshua
1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. 3 I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— 4 from the Negev (Ne-give) wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. (You know why we repeat things, to make people really believe them.) Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Every week it’s back and forth information on COVID, then protest. COVID then Hatred. COVID, then removal of statues. Etc., etc. This week we were back to COVID. It isn’t any wonder our minds are spinning. But overall, the God who gave Joshua and Caleb the kind of boldness they had, is the same God who will give us the knowledge and wisdom to know what to believe. And He will certainly give us the guidance to know what to do with it.
Joshua was committed to obeying God. Whether conquering enemies or settling the land, God’s people were required to do it God’s way. That hasn’t changed for us today! In Joshua’s final message to the people before he died, Joshua emphasized the importance of obeying God. “So be very careful to love the Lord your God” (23:11), and “choose today who you will serve….but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24:15).
Like Joshua and Caleb, we are called to respond with voices of truth. It requires courage and humility to stand up to those who blasphemy, intimidate or destroy. Such courage comes only from God. So seek God’s Word and direction. Read Joshua and make a fresh commitment to obey God today. Decide to follow the Lord wherever He leads.