The first interaction that Joshua has with God after the death of Moses appears in Joshua, Chapter 1 v 2 where God says to Joshua:
“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 C1 v 2 (NIV).
As the encounter continues God promises that nobody will be able to stand against Joshua and then twice in verses 6 & 9 tells him to be strong and of good courage. In fact in verse 9 God goes further and tells Joshua to also not be terrified and not to be discouraged for He (God) will be with you wherever you go.
I suspect that these were just not platitudes that God was providing, but rather needed words as Joshua was looking at what lay before him and was probably feeling overwhelmed. From a human perspective one can certainly understand why; Moses was going to be a hard act to follow. Although Joshua had exhibited faith of his own went sent to spy out the Promised Land, even when others doubted God’s promise (Numbers 13 & 14), there had always been Moses around to mentor and to guide him. Moses who was revered by the people Joshua was now meant to lead, Moses whom God had affirmed on so many occasions and now he was gone. What is more, not only was Moses gone but God was directing them to move forward into the new land that He had promised them. Change was about to take place. Although the wilderness had been hard it was what the people knew and in a perverse way felt comfortable in, a place where they could survive. It must have been very tempting for Joshua to say:
“Look Lord, you want me to lead these people. They are going through change, a new leader. Let’s not pile on too much in one go, let’s not make a precipitous or hasty decisions. How about we stay in the desert for another year or so to facilitate an easy transition? Then, when things have settled down and stabilized we can look at crossing the Jordan. The last thing they need now is more conflict, more turmoil and to be upsetting people as we move into new territory”
Yet as far as we know he didn’t. Joshua mobilized the people as God had commanded (verses 10 & 11) despite any fears, or concerns He might have had. He was prepared to trust the God he knew regardless of whether he could see how things might turn out. That trust was soon to be tested at Jericho were God’s plan for taking the city involved marching around it. Not the most conventional military tactic! I suspect that there must have been some who as they marched around the city must have been thinking or saying, “What is Joshua doing? How are we meant to take a city just by walking around it? Moses wouldn’t have done it this way … Oh if only Moses were here”.
In hindsight as we read through the book of Joshua, His leadership is seen to be exemplary even though it appears it was a role about which he had some trepidation. Interestingly enough, Joshua’s starting point was not too dissimilar from that of his mentor, Moses (Exodus C3 v 1-12). Both of them started from the place of fear and inadequacy of having to face the fact that in their own strength what they were being asked to do seemed impossible. In God’s plan such a starting point is not uncommon. For example, in Judges 6 v 13-15 and 7 v2, Gideon finds himself in much the same position.
This model of leadership is almost completely foreign to what we in our culture, and dare I say even in our churches, promote. We seem to get caught up in the idea that leaders are innately strong in character, have been trained at all the right educational institutions, have been successful in everything they have attempted etc. With such an inaccurate picture, it is no wonder that many of us find it hard to believe that God can be calling us to exercise His leadership in our families, in our homes, in our churches in our communities. We know we are not strong, that we are struggling to survive in the desserts we are in. While we often long and pray to leave those desserts, we feel secure in them, after all “better the devil you know …..right?”.
So what is the secret behind leadership? There are many facets, but I think we get a good sense for what it involves in Joshua C1 v 7-8:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or left that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” Joshua C1 v 7-8 (NIV).
At first glance this may seem to simply be an admonishment to keep God’s laws and read His word. While keeping God’s laws and reading His Word is something we should all be doing, I would suggest that this passage goes far beyond those actions alone. This passage is really imploring Joshua to spend time getting to know and fellowship with God, to understand His ways and as a result be successful. It is encouraging a commitment to relationship that as it grows and is nurtured will allow Joshua to understand God’s perfect ways and be successful because he is walking in God’s light and understanding seeing things as the truly are, not as they appear to be. It is an approach that is encouraged many times in the Bible. For example see:
· Proverbs C3 v 5-8;
· Matthew C7 v 7 -12; and
· James C1 v 2-8
All of these passages encourage us to seek out God’s understanding of situations not our own. As we do, so we will be brought to a place where God directs us to act. While our nature is to want to know the outcome before we act, God’s way is to get us to act based on who we know (God) as opposed to what we know. This is the definition of faith (Hebrews C11 v1).
It’s not often easy when we get to the point where we are sat in the desert knowing and feeling comfortable with what is behind us while at the same time looking at the Jordan in front of us not necessarily knowing what lies ahead. While we may have been praying about our situation for a long time during which God may have blessed us with mentors, a comfortable lifestyle, good health, little or no conflict for a season, He now challenges us:
“Moses my servant is dead ….Now 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”
It is now between you and God as He calls you to move on and be His leader in a new area with which you may not be familiar or feel qualified; to move beyond the Jordan, often beyond your comfort zone, even though you might not feel equipped/ready to go. His plan is for you to know and live life in all its fullness lies beyond the wilderness in which you have resided for so long, it lies in ways you have not even seen or begun to comprehend beyond the Jordan!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”
Inadequate as you feel, the Jordan lies ahead of you. You will not be asked to cross it alone, but you will be asked to cross it. As you take those first steps to cross, God will go before and with you, strengthen you and provide for you, even though you might not presently understand how. The only question is, if God is calling you are you prepared to leave the “comfort and security” of the familiar and walk towards your Jordan?
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and the gospel will save it.” Mark C8 v 34b-35 (NIV).