Finally, it is time for the Israelites to be on the move! No longer will they wander the wilderness. Forty years is up, and God is preparing to give to the people the land promised to Abraham, and again to Moses, years ago. The people needed those 40 years of preparation to be ready to govern themselves, to organize their leaders and their daily routines, and to prepare for battle (taking promised land from people already inhabiting the land would not be easy!).
When Moses died, it became time for God to choose another leader that would lead the Israelites to their permanent home. God chose Joshua, the son of Moses’ assistant. He would have been privy to the highest governing, and capable of leading. Even though Joshua was fully capable, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t afraid. As God laid out God’s plan, God continued to reassure Joshua that he was able to do this. This was a huge move, but the people were ready.
Often when God calls, it is scary. My dad used to tell a story of a time he was doing Kairos ministry at San Quentin state prison in California. One of the inmates told him he had recently prayed to God that God could have his life – that he was prepared to do whatever God asked of him. My dad responded, “You did what?! Never, ever do that!” He was kidding, of course, but he hit on a tender truth – when you surrender to do whatever God wants, it can be terrifying, exhilarating, and God will often challenge you to do things you never thought you could or would do. But even in the thick of the challenge, God’s voice can be heard, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, “My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, “Pass through the camp, and command the people: ‘Prepare your provisions; for in three days you are to cross over the Jordan, to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess.’”