Passage: Joshua 1:1-9
1:1 After Moses the Lord’s servant died, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River! Lead these people into the land which I am ready to hand over to them. 1:3 I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. 1:4 Your territory will extend from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all of Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 1:5 No one will be able to resist you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone. 1:6 Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. 1:7 Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. 1:8 This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. 1:9 I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.”
Soul Search Essay:
Remembering that this thread of essays is for the older believer (not a person new to salvation) is important in following the rationale in these devotions. As new believers, we have new experiences and possibly strong emotions moving us and supporting us. As older believers, things often become more muted or even muddled. What typically drives us as we age as Christians (if we are honest) is more about comfort and familiarity than newness and passion. Or at least that is what happens until a storm arises. Storms come in the forms of crises, traumas, challenges or even new recognition of truth. This devotion is about a new recognition. In essence, to this point in the thread progression, these are a storm bringer essays.
As an American Christian, it is quite likely that no one (no preacher, no teacher that you know) has ever said, “God requires specifically you to be courageous in relating to him.” Perhaps you have heard something about courage in passing, in a sermon as a general statement or on a TV preacher’s show, but has the courage requirement ever been directly applied to you? You may have been told to be brave and evangelize, but has anyone told you that relating…in the privacy of your own mind…to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will require courage?
Most people that I have mentored or counseled do not really want this kind of personal, internal application of the need for courage. If pressed, some will admit avoiding this expectation, because of fear that God will ship them off somewhere, make them be a missionary, or in some other way appreciably alter their external life as a way of altering their internal life. In essence, this is the core of this passage – internal and external life intersecting and the fear of change. Are the fears that I describe realistic? God did send Joshua into danger. There are two answers – “No” and “Yes.”
As humans, as people we tend to import future fiction. At some level, we think “If I (me, myself and I; all three of me) trust God, he will ask me to do the impossible! I mean LOOK at Joshua! AND! That means God is moving me to Borneo as a missionary where I will die of yellow fever!” Is this true?
God is not likely to send you to Borneo and have you die of yellow fever. He could, but then there would be millions of missionaries in Borneo dying of various fevers. After all, the church is filled with baby Christians avoiding Borneo. Anyway, where would all the graves go? So, I don’t think so. He does ask you to the do the impossible though. So yes, your fear of God’s expectations is more than likely correct in terms of being asked, but not in terms of what is specifically asked of you. This scenario that Joshua faced is kind of the classic worst case becoming real that an older, immature Christian fears facing. How could God ask this?! How can this jive with felt in my early Christian life?
You may have been told in your early Christian or even pre-Christian years that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Enough crap (Yes, I said crap) has happened in your life, however, that you are a little suspicious of the “wonderful” part or you have bought into the “God’s love means comfort” mentality. In which case, you are busy trying to manufacture grace and blessing as bricks and mortar to shore up the required comfort in the world around you. Well, is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” a lie? No, it is an incomplete truth. It is a truth that ignores the fact that salvation inherently and unavoidably involves tension and a war.
Joshua is being charged with literally invading a massive geographical area with the offspring of seriously spiritually dysfunctional parents (remember the parents died in the wilderness due to their idolatry and rebellion). What an ideal scenario for Joshua! SIGN ME UP! Piece of cake! Right? I want to be JOSHUA! Oh, maybe not.
Joshua’s life is a picture of Christ’s task in the world. Christ came to start a war. He said so. In fact, the opening scene of his ministry after his baptism is one of direct and personal battle. God’s directives to Joshua are also a picture of your personal battle tasks. There is ground within your soul, your mind, your behavior and your emotions to be invaded and redeemed. Yes, salvation, your salvation is assured, but your sanctification and your legacy involve a war that is intimate and that is personal to you.
After salvation you see, you still have worldly, idolatrous, lingering influences in your soul. You are wholly righteous in God’s eyes. Your salvation is secure. Yet, you are not wholly, completely changed by God. This is the reality every convert faces. Our redemption requires participation.
You see there is this pesky little fact, you have to participate in taking the ground just like Joshua did. You get to do this with an idolatrous you. It is your idolatrous nature that reserves “God free zones” in your soul, in your thinking and in your behavior. Just as Joshua was tasked to clear out the current inhabitants of the Promised Land, you must be present at your own clearing of your strongholds and evil. Ouch!
Frankly, I really, really do not like that. My idea? Send in the Navy Seals! Follow on with the Marines! Tell me when it is over! I’ll show up then! God’s reply? “I will not abandon you or leave you alone. Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them.” Aargh! Oh, if you missed that he says it again, “I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.” Wow! I really have to be present AND participate? Seriously? Yes.
The truth is that the world and you are inherently tainted, shot through, riddled with evil. Salvation therefore means that a war is only avoidable by avoiding maturation. If you stay a baby Christian, you will actually not avoid the war, but you will have lots of inducement to criticize, howl, scream and generally trash what is in you and around you. Remember Joshua’s soldiers’ parents? The were not happy people. They whined, complained and blasphemed. Then, they had lunch. On God’s tab (manna). Then, they did it all over again. Avoiding intimate participation with Christ, Yahweh and the Holy Spirit in removing the strongholds in your life guarantees unresolved pain, bitterness, grief and strife. Oh, it screws up your children too.
The only way out that honors God’s investment in you, that redeems your behavior and thinking is going through the war. There it is. Truth. It really bites you. It hurts. Yes, participation is required. You are not a new believer. You sense there is some or perhaps a lot of truth in what is written here. Pursue that truth. Discard any error on my part as the essay author. Do not give up. The reward for going through the war is great. There is a real promised land in this life. There was in Joshua’s life. There is in yours. It just looks like nothing you have more than likely imagined. You may not even have the categories needed to describe this promised land. Jesus will supply those. Let him in. It will be a hell of a ride.