The First Chapters Project – Joshua 1

exodusThe leadership trajectory of Joshua, to some extent, parallels my own life story in at least five ways:

ONE – Unlike Moses, who did not have a human mentor (except maybe his father in law), Joshua did have a human mentor: Moses himself. In my own life, I have had the privilege of having many mentors which have each taught me very specific and useful skills. Yet, the biggest mentor of all, the Lord Himself, was also a mentor to Joshua. The famous comforting words expressed in the first chapter of Joshua, when he is tasked with a dangerous mission, have been an encouragement to many ever since:

7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1)

These comforting words are a plan for life. We are not alone, the Lord is always with us, if we keep the law. His plan with each individual life is as true as His plan with humanity.

TWO – I like that Joshua’s first assignment was to take on an exploration mission to the Promised Land. As a researcher, this is very appealing to me. Any great project starts with fact finding, which then provides input for later interventions. (This is also very clear in the story of Nehemiah, by the way.) I have worked in many projects where I was first asked to participate in a fact finding mission, and was later given the opportunity to advise about specific programs to be implemented based on my findings. Often, I was asked to implement these programs personally afterwards, simply because I had most knowledge of the context I investigated thanks to the research I did.

THREE – I also like the fact that Joshua’s task was to build up a whole new project from scratch. In the case of Joshua, he was to take over a new territory and basically set up a whole new country. I have discovered that my greatest strength – or at least what I enjoy doing most – is to design and start new projects, but much less to administer existing projects. I enjoy starting up new things, creating new ideas, launching new projects.

FOUR – Joshua sticks to the plan given to him by Moses and the Lord Himself. Joshua 1 carefully details the instructions to follow, and he simply communicates them to the people he leads. It is interesting to note that as Joshua is obedient to the instructions given to him, the people almost automatically promise to be obedient to him as well. This obedience will not always be complete as the rest of the book of Joshua tells, but it all does get off to a very good start. Obedience to the commandments of the Lord also comes with a promise: “Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8). I have seen this numerous times in my life. Obedience is rewarded.

FIVE – Finally, I really like Joshua’s public commitment to the truth and to God. At a critical moment, he is not afraid of leaving all behind. Basically resigning from his leadership role, he says: Do whatever you want, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). This clarity of wording inspires me. Joshua simply gives people the option of joining in on his leadership, while at the same time clearly laying out the conditions: it’s the Lord we will serve, nobody else. There are also parallels here with my own life. Specifc experiences have taught me about the price of honesty, and the need to fully commit my life into the hands of the Lord.

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Dennis P. Petri
Dennis P. Petri is Director of Plataforma C, Platform for Christian Politics. A political scientist by training, he specializes in comparative politics with a specific interest in Latin America. He is currently working on a dissertation about religious freedom at VU University Amsterdam.

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