New Leader, Same Promise

Joshua chapter 1 is like a pistol start to a race at the beginning of the story of Joshua.  It happens quickly but is crucial to the rest of the book.

Many times in life, it is essential to keep the “bigger picture” in mind.  In this week's teaching, Aaron told us about a video of a man pulling a woman from her car!  Only later does the viewer discover that it was because she was in danger.  In the short term, the man who seemed to be threatening her was actually helping her.  In the case of Joshua and the Israelites, the bigger picture was that God was leading them to lands they could not yet see and was fighting for them in ways they had yet to understand.

Remember, on the west side of the Jordan River, most of the Israelite tribes were on the verge of something big -- seeing God's promise fulfilled, which awaited for 40 years.  But at the point they were ready to cross over, they stopped trusting God.  They rejected God’s faithfulness.  And they forfeited their opportunity to take hold of God’s promise.  On top of that, the people had a new leader and had to follow Moses, their greatest leader, who had previously failed in his own leadership and faithfulness.  He must have been wondering, “How could I succeed where Moses failed?”

Enter the famous refrain of Joshua 1: "Be strong and courageous."  But by verse 7, it is even more adamant: "Be strong and VERY courageous!"  You wouldn’t use this emphasis unless the one you were talking to was actually scared out of their wits!  It would have been natural to be scared in Joshua's situation, which is why God continually emphasize the message of trust in at least these three ways.

Trusting God means obeying God.  Simple fact: we don’t obey whom we don’t trust.  Anyone who has a dog knows this.  Our dogs love obeying us because they trust us, and we delight in caring for them.  Too often, the English word "believe" suggests only intellectual assent to a set of propositions.  But believe in action is obedience.  This belief is more like “trust”.  And when the stakes are at their highest -- on the threshold of a long-awaited promise -- the need to trust is its highest, too.  

God has always been faithful.  Always.  This is the bigger picture Joshua and the people need to remember.  And it’s the bigger picture we need, too.  If we truly believed that and lived accordingly, how would our day-to-day lives change?  I have never met someone who is faithfully engaged in God’s Word and in relationship with God who falls away from trust in God.  By contrast, falling out of trust in God is often a corollary to the time we spend in God’s Word, in prayer, in Christian community, and in service to others.  

Preserving the unity of God’s people.  Entering the promised land would prove to be a major challenge for Joshua, and a disappointing one at times too.  These are exactly the kinds of challenges that still threaten to divide people today who otherwise claim unity in Christ.  Change, disappointment, disagreement, fear, as we heard in Numbers 14:1-11  -- God’s Word is full of stories of how these very familiar experiences had destructive effects on God’s people.

So as we try to maintain a "bigger picture" outlook on our own lives, what does it mean that on the threshold of experiencing God's fulfilled promise, God is effectively saying to Israel, “Take it and live as my people in light of your inheritance.”

For reflection:
- If you say you trust God, do your actions and attitude reflect that trust?
- How do our fears, anger, or anxieties impact our trust in God’s faithfulness?
- When we feel convinced we know what’s right or true about something, how does our self-assurance relate to God’s command to trust and obey Him?
- Have you ever seen “the unity of God’s people” challenged or fail?  What led to the division?  Could the division have been prevented by the people keeping their eyes on God’s bigger picture?

Grace and peace!

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