Thursday, December 23, 2021

Joshua as a new name

While studying the endowment pattern in the Book of Mormon, I researched new names, which are a symbol found frequently in that pattern. One very interesting detail which emerged from that study is found in Numbers 13:16, where Moses gives a new name to the head of the tribe of Ephraim prior to the twelve spies being sent to assess the land of promise.  

Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun.


16 These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.

Oshea means 'salvation.' The new name, given by Jehovah's agent on earth, is Jehoshea ("Joshua" in the KJV). This new name means 'Jehovah is salvation.'  That detail is very intriguing in the context of the gathering of Israel in the latter days. We know Ephraim was prophesied to play a great role in the great latter-day work, and just as Joshua did not fear when he saw the giants in the land of promise, we should not fear anything in mortality once we learn that salvation comes through Jehovah.

Despite everyone else's fear, Joshua and Caleb spoke boldly of their confidence in God's power to lead His people to victory:

7 ...The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. (Numbers 14)

Sadly, the people fear the inhabitants of the land of promise more than they trust in God, and as a result they provoke God's wrath. 

22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;

23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it ...

29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,

30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.

32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.

33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. (Numbers 14)

This is the provocation spoken of in Jacob 1:7, Alma 12:35-36, Hebrews 3:8-19, and Psalm 95:8. Although the punishment seems quite severe, it is important to note that the people who incurred this wrath did so by rejecting God after experiencing His power and mighty miracles.  Each of these individuals witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt and personally followed Moses through the Red Sea on dry ground.

The context matters. The consequence of sin depends in part on what light we have received.  As Alma-2 teaches quite clearly earlier in Alma 12, the danger of hardening our heart against the word of God is that it can lead us to reject God's power to save:

13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned.

14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.

15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.

16 And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness.

17 Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will.

18 Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; (Alma 12)

Thus, the new name given by Moses to Hoshea/Joshua is quite significant.  'Jehovah is salvation.'  Upon receiving this knowledge by covenant, we can either choose to live accordingly and follow Christ, or reject His saving power. If we reject Him, one day we will stand before God and "acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all is judgments are just ... that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance."

It also needs to be mentioned that this new name is the Hebrew name of Jesus. The Messiah took this same name upon Himself when He came to earth.  As I've mentioned previous (see section on 'new names' at the end of this post), with a name comes a purpose. Christ's condescension to earth made salvation possible, so the name 'Joshua' is perfect.

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