When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, Joshua was one of twelve spies chosen by Moses to go into the land of Canaan. The spies found it to be good, a land that “floweth with milk and honey,” and the cities and the people to be strong. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, believed that the Lord could help them conquer this promised land.
Listening to the ten who doubted the Lord’s power, the people “murmured against Moses” and wanted to choose a new leader who would take them back to Egypt. Even though the Lord had helped them escape from Pharaoh, had fed them in the desert, and had showed them His power and His love in many ways, they doubted He could help them conquer the Canaanites and win the promised land.
Moses pleaded with the Lord to forgive them for their lack of faith. The Lord told him that “I have pardoned according to thy word” but that they had lost the privilege of entering the promised land. They were forced to wander until all those who were over the age of twenty when they had fled Egypt—except Caleb and Joshua—died in the wilderness of Sinai.
During their wanderings, Joshua served faithfully, and he was “full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him.” And when Moses was taken to heaven, Joshua was called to take his place and was given the same authority that Moses had had: “As I was with Moses,” said the Lord, “so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
The Lord told Joshua that if he would “do according to all the law,” he would prosper. He was to study the book of the law and “meditate therein day and night.” If he did, he was promised “good success.”
Joshua told the people to prepare to enter the promised land in three days. He knew that there were obstacles, but he trusted the Lord to help. First, they had to cross the River Jordan. It was in flood state, but Joshua, following the Lord’s instructions, told the priests to take the ark of the covenant and go into the waters. When they did as he said, the waters stopped flowing and the Israelites crossed over.
Next, Joshua sent two spies into Jericho, the city just inside the border. Helped by a woman named Rahab, they promised her that when Jericho was attacked, she and her family would be protected.
As Joshua prepared to attack, a heavenly messenger, the “captain of the host of the Lord,” appeared before him, and he was strengthened and told what to do. For six days the ark of the covenant was carried once around the city wall, followed by seven priests sounding their trumpets, and by the people marching in silence. On the seventh day, they all circled the city in the same way six times. The seventh time they marched around the walls, the people were told to shout after the priests sounded their trumpets, “for the Lord hath given you the city.” The walls of Jericho crumbled. Rahab and her family, as promised, were saved.
There followed many battles, but the land was conquered, and Joshua divided it among the twelve tribes. The “good success” he had been promised if he would study and keep the law was his.
Before he died, Joshua warned Israel that if they did not keep the covenants they had made with the Lord, they would “perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.” He reminded them of how the Lord had blessed them. He then said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” When this servant of the Lord died, it was written, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua.”