Joshua: Uncharted Territory

When in your life have you taken a journey into “uncharted territory?”  Moving home?  Going to college?  Starting or ending a relationship?  Facing an illness?  Starting a family?

This is the situation the Israelites were in as they stood on the banks of the Jordan River, after forty years in the wilderness, eager to enter the land God was leading them to.  Moses is about to die and God is passing leadership on to Moses’ protege, Joshua.  And as eager as the people may be, it is uncharted territory.

Sound familiar?  

Symbolically, the Jordan River is a big deal.  While it is shallow and narrow in many places, not much to cross, what lay on the other side was threatening and unknown, but also inevitable.  

And in this moment, God spoke to Joshua: “I will be with you.”  This is the refrain God gave to everyone before Joshua, and afterward all the way to Jesus’ mother, Mary.  And it is the same promise that Jesus made to his disciples, and afterward again to the Church when he commissioned us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

While this “presence of God” might refer to our subjective experience of God, in the Bible it refers to an objective truth -- God will be with us regardless of our circumstances or experiences.  God’s presence also isn’t about going back to old familiar territory.  God will make sure everything “works out,” but on God’s terms.  We don’t get to define it, but we can come to terms with it.  And when we reframe our “good” based on what God defines as good, then what looks scary can become an adventurous opportunity.

This moment in the history of God’s people can speak directly to all of us who are facing a river to cross.  There are rivers to cross for those who have had significant change in employment and income.  There are rivers to cross for those whose normal home lives have changed with home-schooling and telework.  There are rivers to cross for those whose health is in jeopardy, or who are grieving the recent loss of their loved ones.  But despite the giants in the land across the river, the meaning of this moment in history is that God is always with us and always good.  The choice we each face is about whether or not we will make ourselves available to what God is doing in our lives.

For reflection:
- How do you feel about the message that God is good despite our circumstances?  Is it easy to believe, or challenging?  Have you experienced God’s goodness in the midst of personal challenge or loss?
- What rivers are you facing in the near future?  What will it look like for you to “be strong and courageous” as God tells Joshua to be?

Grace and Peace,

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