I’ve proposed using the Old Testament account of Joshua’s succession of Moses as a pattern for us as we face a rapidly and significantly changing world. I suppose I should justify that.
Of course there are differences between our situation and that of Joshua 1:
- What we’re facing is not just a change of leadership.
- We’re not emerging from a lifetime of stability in leadership.
- We’re not Israel. (And no, this isn’t about dispensationalism. 🙂 )
- God hasn’t given special revelation as to who our leaders should be.
But there are also similarities:
- We are a people of God. (I’m speaking here of the church, not the USA or any other political entity.)
- We are in covenant with God, whose covenant loyalty (Heb hesed, steadfast, loving loyalty) “endures forever” (Ps 136 and often elsewhere).
- We are in a time of significant change.
And as Paul tells us (1Co 10.6), the Old Testament accounts were written as examples for us.
So what did God say to Joshua in his time of transition? And what do those words tell us about God and His plans for us? In this series I’d like to suggest three statements about God in his words to Joshua, and three things he asks us to do in response.
1. God is great, and he is in charge.
In fact, he is in charge because he is great.
God says to Joshua,
My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites (Jos 1.2).
God begins by calling Moses “my servant.” Now, Moses was the most powerful human these people had ever known. He had faced down Pharaoh and forced him to let his Israelite slaves go. He had held his rod over the Red Sea and parted it, allowing the millions of Israelites to pass through safely and then drowning the most powerful army in the world. For 40 years he had provided for their needs and answered their questions in circumstances that could have turned fatal on them in days. He had led them militarily through hostile territory east of the Jordan.
And he’s just a servant? How powerful must his master and commander be?!
By implication, Joshua—and all the people—are also God’s servants, who must obey His orders. And to make the point, he immediately gives them an order: “Proceed to cross the Jordan.”
The narrative will later tell us (Jos 3.15) that the Jordan is at flood stage during this season. I’ve seen significant rivers that have swelled out of their banks during a flood, and it’s a frightening sight. Your first instinct is not to step out into it. Again, we’ll soon learn that when the people obey, the river will withdraw from them, just as the Red Sea had a generation earlier (Jos 3.16).
So God had graciously already provided them with a basis for courage. He wasn’t asking for blind faith and slavish obedience; he was gently saying, “We’ve been through this before; you know I can bring you through.”
That was 1400 years before the birth of Jesus. How much more evidence do we, living more than 3400 years later, have of God’s power, faithfulness, and tender care? What other evidences do we find in the rest of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the lives of God’s people in all the years since the last apostle laid down his pen for the last time?
Why are we unsettled? Why are we afraid? Why are we frustrated and angry, lashing out and calling names?
Why do we post things like “Joe Biden wasn’t elected. He was installed. Like a toilet.”?!
What kind of weak, inattentive God do we think we have?
God will stop the flow of the Jordan the moment the priests step into it (Jos 3.15-16). He can do that; he’s in charge. This is the God we serve.
No, God doesn’t always stop the flow of rivers he asks us to cross. But he can. That’s the point. And he will take us through, flood stage or dry riverbed.