Moses led the people to the doorstep of the Promised Land, but Joshua helped the people walk through the door to conquer and settle the land.
Though born a slave in Egypt, Joshua became Moses’ primary aid and assistant (Exodus 24:13). During four decades at Moses’ side, Joshua served in a variety of ways: He explored the Promised Land as one of the original twelve spies—along with Caleb, giving the only favorable report. He led the people into their first successful military battles (Exodus 17). And he joined Moses on the mountain of God (Exodus 24:13).
After Moses’ death and the completion of a forty-year apprenticeship, Joshua became the leader of the Hebrew people (Joshua 1–4). Joshua assumed command during a time of military conquest. Having commissioned Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, God gave Joshua the job of leading them into Canaan.
Under Joshua’s leadership the people conquered Jericho, Ai, and the other people of the land (Joshua 12). After the dust of battle settled, Joshua divided and assigned the land as instructed by Moses (Joshua 13–19).
Even though Joshua’s legacy primarily revolves around his military exploits, each of his conquests is marked by his faith in God. Urging the people to remember the teachings of Moses, Joshua constantly reminded them of God’s presence and plan. He entered into battle with a dependence on God’s strength. He lived out the exhortation he received at the beginning of his days in leadership:
“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 1:9 ESV).
The name Jesus is derived from Joshua. Just as Joshua brought God’s people into a physical Promised Land, so Jesus brings God’s people into a spiritual Promised Land. Read more on this comparison and theme in Hebrews 4.