H AVE you ever read the story, From Log Cabin to White House? It tells how a little peasant lad became President of the United States. Or the story of The Slave Boy Who Became a Bishop? (Bishop Crowther, of the Niger Mission, in Africa.)
Our story to‑day tells of a slave boy (in Africa also) who became a great commander. Who? When slave boy, and where? Yes. At the time when Moses began to take slaves' part, when he killed the Egyptian oppressor, and fled for his life, Joshua was but a little baby—the child of slaves. Grew up a slave. Probably often flogged by overseers, or saw his parents flogged at the brick kiln. But don't you think a man may be a splendid fellow even if a slave? I think Joshua was. I want you really to know him, and get interested in him, for he well deserves it, as we shall see in these lessons. For when Moses led out Israel, Joshua was with him as his lieutenant. He was so thoroughly faithful to God and to duty—so true, brave, candid, unselfish. No wonder Moses grew so attached to him, made him his friend. As he grew older he liked to have the young man about him—sent him on great expeditions. What? To fight with Amalek (Exodus xvii. 9); to spy out the Promised Land. Remember the anger of people with Joshua that day. How grandly he spoke to them to rouse their courage (Numbers xiv.). He was a great help to Moses. He knew most of the old leader's thoughts, and cares, and troubles. Had gone up with him for the Tables of the Law. Had seen him break them in anger at the peoples' sin. Had seen how those people worried and fretted him, rebelled against him, almost stoned him (Exodus xvii. 4), and at last how they irritated him so much that he lost all patience, and sinned—how? Sad punishment inflicted by God. What? He must never enter the Land, must die in the wilderness. Up the lonely mountain he passed from the view of the people, and there he died—alone—with God.
Now we turn to to‑day's lesson. Great camp of Israel on plains of Moab.
Now the days of sorrow and wailing in the camp upon the plains of Moab. Why? Moses is dead. Their father, and friend, and leader. The captain who had fought for them. The prophet who had prayed for them. Don't you think they would be sorry now for the past? Why? Frightened about the future? Why? The most dangerous part of their journey yet to be done. How frightened and hopeless! The great hero gone—the only hero they had ever known. Surely no one could supply his place. Was it a natural feeling? Was it right? Why not? What were they forgetting? Though Moses was gone, who always remained?
People often frightened thus when great men died, in the nation—in the Church (give examples). What should they remember? God always there. God "buries His workers, but carries on His work." (See Lessons on Genesis, last chapter.) Is this only true in Bible history? Is it in American history? E.g., The Church—Missionary work, Suppression of slave trade, etc. Difference between American history and Bible history? Is God behind both—managing both? The chief difference is that the Jewish historians were inspired, and could recognize God in all; the English historian sometimes cannot see Him. But He is there all the same.
Had God forgotten to have new leader ready? Whom? Look back and see preparation. People call these things chance till they see whole view. Little boy born while Moses fretted in Midian. Grew up an earnest, religious man. Was it all chance? Tell me more of his preparation. Became dear to Moses, was taught and trusted by him in difficult affairs. Was it chance? Sent to lead the troops—to spy out the Land—just the right training for a leader. Was this chance? At any rate the result of all these "chances" was that when the old leader was struck down with the most critical part of his work left undone, a man was waiting, ready, trained, to whom the solemn charge of God could come:—"Moses, my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people." Ah! these things are not chance in Joshua's days or in ours. God's plan. So John Baptist, St. Paul, Luther, etc. So, too, with much less important people, God has a plan for us all.
Now tell me God's command to Joshua (v. 2). Do you think Joshua would take it up with light heart without fear or unwillingness? Were they easy, pleasant people to lead? He knew their rebellion and grumbling, how they had nearly broken Moses' heart. He knew the awful task before him. Was it easier than Moses'? Harder? Why? Not only lead, but lead in constant battle against powerful enemies—against trained soldiers—great cities—Israelites not able for them, rebellious, weak, often cowardly—slave blood in them, etc. (Expand and emphasize these difficulties.) Might it not well frighten any leader?
Was Joshua frightened? No (vv. 10, 11). How did he dare to undertake it? BY FAITH! Faith in God—and Right—and Duty. What was God's promise? (v. 5). Yes. He felt God would be with him—the work was laid on him by God. God was responsible for him, and would see him through with it. Suppose I ordered this class to start for Central Africa to‑morrow, to pass through black warriors, and give message to black king, could you do it? Why? No money, no knowledge of country, no protection, etc., no chance of seeing black king. But suppose the President sent you? What a difference it would make. He would be responsible for you, supply your wants, protect you. What matter the danger and difficulty with the power of your nation at your back?
That was Joshua's feeling. What if Canaanites were giants! What if the people rebelled! What if he should be fretted and disappointed? What if he should be killed before Jericho! What matter? It was God's affair. God was responsible for him in life and in death. What was God's command? (vv. 6, 7). What is it in all the struggles of life that makes men strong and courageous? Faith in God and in Duty, which comes from God. What will make your life and mine strong, peaceful, brave? To know that God is with you—standing on your side. When can you be sure of that? When, like Joshua, you are in the path of duty, wanting and trying to do His will. Then your spirit can hear the words that Joshua heard:—"Be strong and of good courage," etc. (repeat v. 9). You are even better off than Joshua; you have a grander revelation of God. Joshua did not know all the love of God and His care for men as the Lord Jesus has taught them to us.
Show on map west Palestine where this story belongs.
Who was to lead Israel after Moses' death?
What training had he had? Find some instances.
"God buries His workers but carries on His work." Explain and give instance.
Repeat God's encouragement to Joshua, "Be strong," etc.
What promise of God would make him strong and courageous? (v. 5).
How are we in this matter even better off than Joshua?