“And when they brought those kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near; put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks. And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”” (Joshua 10:24–25)
When you begin reading the book of Joshua, you can almost sense the fear and intimidation that Joshua was feeling. It starts with the announcement that Moses is dead. And then over and over again Joshua and the people of Israel are told to be strong and courageous.
After gaining some victories, assurance, and even a few tough lessons, Joshua has grown quite a bit as a leader by chapter 10. As five kings band together to try and stop the advancement of Israel into the Canaanite territory, it quickly becomes obvious that God is fighting for his people and they are unstoppable. The five kings in fear and desperation hide out in a cave, where they are discovered and sealed into the cave to await their fate.
After destroying the five kingdoms, Joshua returned to the sealed cave to deal with the kings. What he did next is worthy of note for leaders in the church today.
1. Joshua summoned all the men of Israel. The men were the leaders of the families and clans, as well as those who fought the battles. By Joshua summoning all the men so that they could be built up in courage, he was strengthening and stabilizing the whole nation. Similarly, when the pastoral leadership of the church strengthens and gives courage to the men in the church as a whole, they strengthen the whole church.
2. Joshua encouraged the chiefs of the men of war…[to] come near; put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Joshua then turned to the leaders of the warriors—the commanders, and gave them the honor of this courageous symbolic act of victory. Not only did this act allow them to taste the victory for themselves, but it also strengthened their courage as the people saw not just Joshua as a mighty man whom God could use, but many mighty men God was using. Again, the local church should not be a place of pastor worship, but a place where the pastors are “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” This means that we should be producing multiple warriors for Christ, and among them many will rise to the place of “chiefs of the men of war.” How encouraging to know that your local church is a fertile growing place for mighty men of God!
3. Joshua finally spoke God’s Word to them to both focus and humble them: “And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight”” (Joshua 10:25). These are very similar words to those that the Lord said to Joshua when he failed at Ai (Joshua 8:1). Joshua had absorbed those words and was now living by them. He knew that the Word of God is a powerful two-edged sword, and he wanted to equip his men with the same weapon that he had received. Those words were more than simply true—they contained reminders of humility and focus—don’t be afraid or discouraged, be strong and courageous. But don’t forget that the Lord will be fighting for you. It is not you who has won these victories.
Locker room pep talks are strongly associated with sports, and so many men are familiar with them. But that isn’t what Joshua gave them, and its not what our churches need. Leave the pop psychology to Oprah Winfrey and Joel Osteen. Real leaders need en-couragement, meaning they need courage from God himself. Hype only lasts so long. Courageous leaders need to point up and coming leaders beyond themselves to God himself. Preach the Word and let the lion out!