Technically, I’ve already fulfilled my homework requirements for the first week of my Backpacking through Joshua Bible study, but I still have some wonderings about the first chapter of Joshua that are taking up valuable real estate in my brain. I’m hoping that if I let them out in black-and-white form they will give me some space for other information, like where I put that Southern Living magazine that I was reading for recipe inspiration.
Living life can bring new meaning to familiar words. Take, for instance, the old hymn that I mentioned yesterday. I must have sung “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” a hundred times, but the lyrics mean something entirely different to me now than they did when I was seven. Familiar Bible passages take on new meaning in light of current events as well. I’d read the book of Joshua many times before I started this study, but the first couple of verses of the first chapter have firmly planted themselves in my head since I read them again last week.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.” (Joshua 1:1-2 NIV)
“Moses my servant is dead. Now then…”
So matter-of-fact, that first sentence. And something about the lack of space between those two sentences compels me. I don’t think for a second that God was unsympathetic to the fact that the Israelites were undoubtedly mourning the loss of their beloved leader Moses. I am speaking from first-hand experience when I tell you God is very near the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18). By the way, I love how The Message interprets that verse: “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath.”
Certainly God knew losing the only leader they’d ever known would be difficult for His people, but Moses had prepared Joshua and the Israelites for this day for quite some time. Moses knew he wasn’t going to be the one to lead them into the Promised Land and that Joshua was the leader God had chosen to take over for him when he died.
God is deliberate about the words He uses so I think it’s significant that He identifies Moses as His servant. I think that in the space between those first two sentences, God was passing the torch from one servant to the other.
Like I said yesterday, the Bible isn’t a book of other people’s stories, it’s HIS story. Moses was dead, but this wasn’t the end of the story by any means. Moses had played his part and now it was Joshua’s turn.
God didn’t want them to forget what Moses had taught them. In fact, I think it’s interesting that He repeats Moses’s words to Joshua. Compare Deuteronomy 31:6 with Joshua 1:5-6:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
“….I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:5-6)
In this one conversation, God tells Joshua three times to “be strong and courageous.” He even throws in the admonition to “not be afraid” in case His message wasn’t completely clear the first three times. I’ve heard the “strong and courageous” verses used as encouragement to those who are facing tough situations, but I think it’s interesting that in verse 7 God COMMANDS Joshua to be strong and courageous. God didn’t offer that up as something Joshua might want to try if he was feeling afraid, He said it as a follow-up to His instruction to obey everything written in the Book of Law.
So why did God keep repeating Himself? I’ve already said that I don’t believe God wastes words so He wasn’t just being repetitive. I think it’s safe to assume that Joshua wasn’t a hard-of-hearing dummy, so I’m guessing that God was letting Joshua know that what was right around the corner was going to require more than a small amount of strength and courage.
Why is this resounding so strongly with me?
Just over a year ago, my Moses died. In a lot of ways, it felt like then and there my story stopped. But as I read this chapter, I heard God say to me, “Jerry my servant is dead. Now then….”
Will I forget my dad? Will I reflect the person he was in how he taught me to live? Just as the Israelites would always remember and love Moses, yes, I will. But just as their story wasn’t over, neither is mine.
I have grieved and will continue to grieve. I will remember and will continue to remember. But I will get ready to cross the next Jordan, whatever that may be. I will walk in the truths that my Moses taught me. Just as God was with my dad, He will continue to be with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will lead me to the Promised Land.