Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 34:1-Joshua 2:24, Luke 13:22-14:6, Psalm 79:1-13, and Proverbs 12:26.
Today, we will experience a new journey in the life of God’s people. We will see them finally reach the Promise land. They will be led by Joshua and they will continually have to remember three things: Reach Up, Reach Out, and Remember. Joshua continually learned the value of these three simple objectives. Reaching Up to God is the first and foremost, and should be a goal throughout our lives. When we first hear of Joshua, we find out that he was a former slave of Egypt, an aide of Moses, and that he spent much of his time in the tent of meeting, worshiping God. This time of worship was preparation for the great purpose that God had for him later in his life. But in order to be equipped to handle the purpose that God had for him, he had to spend much time in worship. He reached up to God.
Joshua is a person in whom I can relate. Joshua outwardly appears so strong and courageous, yet inwardly must deal with fear and insecurity, confusion and discouragement. Repeatedly, God tells Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, and do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In the first chapter of the book of Joshua we see that God told Joshua three different times to “Be strong and courageous”, and three different times God reminded Joshua that He would be with him, and that He would never leave him or forsake him. And that is just in the first chapter! Now why would God have to tell him so many times? I think it is because Joshua was an ordinary man, called to an extraordinary job by his extraordinary God. And because he was ordinary, just like me and you, he waxed and waned between great seasons of faith, courage and confidence, and fear, doubt, and discouragement. But he knew where to go. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it the ability to press on despite the fear. And true courage comes from the Source of all good things…God. Joshua knew that.
Joshua learned to overcome his fear through reaching up to God, which equipped him with the courage, strength, and confidence to reach out to others. We see many evidences of Joshua just doing what he was called to do. He worshipped, he fought battles, and he was an aide to Moses. He did the work that God prepared for him. And sometimes the calling changed….He went from being a slave to being an aide to being a leader. We, too, need to first reach up to God, so that then we are equipped to reach out to others through whatever giftedness or circumstances God provides for us. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The Greek for the word, “workmanship”, often has the connotation of a “work of art”. This signifies that you are God’s masterpiece! And that he has created you for a very extraordinary work!
As Joshua kept on faithfully reaching up to God, then reaching out to others, he was also asked to go one step further…he was called to Remember. We find out in Deuteronomy that throughout their years of wandering, the Israelites faced many obstacles. One battle, in particular, was a very difficult one to fight. We will talk about that more in another chapter, but everyone had a particular role in this battle, and Joshua’s role was to lead the fighting. After the battle was won, through a miraculous series of events, God told Moses the following: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” Exodus 17: 14-15 Why do you think that they wanted Moses to make sure Joshua heard all of the details of the victory? Because God knew what the future held for Joshua. He knew how He would use Joshua to finally lead the people into the Promise Land. He knew that Joshua would face these enemies again. He knew that this was an extraordinary job, and He knew that Joshua was ordinary. Joshua needed to remember, in order to have the courage and strength to face the days ahead. After many, many years all the fearful, unbelieving generation had died off, and just the children of that generation remained…all except Joshua and Caleb. In all that time, the Bible tells us that God fed them with manna, which faithfully fell everyday. And neither their clothes nor their sandals ever wore out in all those years. And He never left them. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, their time of cleansing and preparation was over.
Once again, Joshua found himself at the banks of the Jordan River. And once again, he sent spies out to scout out the territory. When the spies returned, the news was good. They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua must have thought, “Good. That’s good news… Then why is my heart pounding so?” He must have told himself over and over, “Remember. Remember what Moses said. Remember what the Lord Himself told me….”Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” No wonder the Lord had to repeat the statement over and over. Be strong. Be courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. How can a former slave, now leader, overcome such fear? “Because I Am”, says the Lord. “The Great I Am is with you. I Am promises to never leave you, nor forsake you. Don’t forget Who I Am!”
We, too, must reach up, reach out, and remember as we walk forward to all the promises God has for us.