(Joshua 1:1-3) These are exciting days. Innovations that stagger the imagination and breakthroughs that promise healthier times lay ahead offer at least a glimmer of hope that things are getting better.
These are also anxious days. Despite the forward movement in technology that offers a temporary wow-factor, morality is still on the decline and it would appear that hatred is on the rise. Could it be we are living in Charles Dickens’, “best of times and worst of times”?
Whether these days are exciting or anxious they share one point of certainty, they are here and we are living in them. This seems to be an ushering in of a new day and with all that is new there is always uncertainty.
Those must have been exciting times. For four decades the people had been making their way to a new place that held a promise of security and prosperity. The people were the Israelites and the place was the Promised Land. God called it a land “flowing with milk and honey.” It was home and promised an abundant new day.
Those were also anxious days for the people. For forty years the desert had been their home. It was a familiar place. With God’s provision and protection they learned to be comfortable in the wilderness.
Whether exciting or anxious there was one point of certainty as the God’s people prepared to cross the Jordan River and enter their new home. It was new and with all that is new the one certainty is uncertainty.
There seems to be an eerie similarity between our days and the days of Joshua. When the ancient Biblical times intersect the contemporary, the stories of the Bible take on relevance. They move from being quaint accounts of another time and place to stories that teach us, that help us live in our times as we see how folks, not so different from you and me, weathered their exciting and anxious days.
For Joshua the new days did not take him by surprise. He saw them coming as Moses passed the torch of leadership to him before his mentor and master claimed Mt. Pisgah never to return. At the same time I think it was a shock to his spirit and emotion when Moses was gone. The scripture hints of this as Joshua’s story opens: “After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: ‘Moses My servant is dead.’” (1:1-2)
As the Book of Joshua begins, God makes it clear that it is time for Joshua to begin his work. “Moses My servant is dead.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Why was God so seemingly abrupt with Joshua? Didn’t He know the pain this man was going through? The loneliness, uncertainty, fear, and sense of inadequacy? Of course God knew all these things and addresses them as He talks to the newly chosen and anointed leader of God’s people. But first the Lord had to bring Joshua back to reality. Joshua did not see Moses die. He did not see a body or have a service. How could he be certain that Moses was not simply delayed in returning? On more than one occasion his leader had gone to be with the Lord and came back weeks later. Maybe Moses was having one of those times. So God made it clear to Joshua that he was not coming back.
In His first words God was not being calloused to Joshua’s anxiety. On the contrary, the Lord was being kind. Joshua needed to know that Moses was dead so he could work through the process of grieving the loss of a man that must have been like a father to him. Moses had introduced Joshua to God, trusted him early on as a leader, and taught him the Lord’s ways. Israel’s new leader needed closure.
As well, in His talk with Joshua God told him what He thought of Moses. The Lord called him “My servant.” The word described the chief servant in the house, one who was a confidant to the master. There was no higher honor. Though Moses got in trouble and lost his place in the Promised Land, he did not lose his place with the Lord. These had to be comforting words to Joshua.
God’s conversation with Joshua must have consoled him in those new and anxious days. Moses was gone but God was not. Joshua knew that the Lord often talked with his late mentor and now he knows that He will talk with him. He knew that God brought Moses through many a hard time and now he knows that the Lord will do the same for him. He also learned that God was aware for his heaviness and actively sought to calm and reassure him that all was well.
These were exciting days as well. God did not stop with “Moses My servant is dead.” He continued, “Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses.” (vv.2-3) God’s promise was still intact. It was time to go home. The Israelites had one more journey to take and the Lord would use Joshua to lead them. God said, “I have given you” and all they needed to do was go and receive it from Him. Good days were just beyond the river.
We live in anxious times. Loneliness, uncertainty and fear press us but let’s know that the Lord knows and is with us. He will not whitewash the moment but Jesus has promised to be with us. He is aware and that awareness moves His heart to action. You are not alone.
These are exciting times. God has a journey for you to take and He has already prepared the way. Follow Him in the days ahead. They lead to home.