– Geoff Milton
A change of leader in a church or workplace can be disruptive and cause us to be fearful and resist necessary change.
Here in Joshua 1:1-9, God’s appointed leader Moses had just died and his protégé Joshua had been commissioned by God to lead God’s people across the Jordan River and to take and occupy the Promised Land of Canaan (promised to Abraham’s descendants centuries before (Gen. 12, and see Deut 8:10-12). Joshua and God’s people were facing a daunting task and an uncertain future. What can we learn from this in our uncertain times?
1.Be encouraged to rely on God’s promises of blessing for his people
God promised his people a wonderful place where they would live in peace from their enemies, and be with God himself (v3-5.)
That promise was partially fulfilled in David and Solomon’s time but the complete fulfillment comes to us through Jesus and his death and resurrection and his return in glory and judgement to establish the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22). Here God told Joshua , leader of God’s people, to rely on God’s promise to give them the Promised Land. They were to show strength and courage in this new phase of their lives, not by relying on their own strength but on God’s promises and power. Also notice that God did not want them to stagnate after Moses’ death. They were told to “get ready to cross into the land I am about to give them” (v2). For us, God’s promises continue to drive us forward to do what God tells us in his word and to go where he tells us to go, knowing that the place will be, in the end, perfect.
God is calling St Edward’s into new territory with the appointment of a new vicar, whenever that happens. The pandemic has changed so many things already and will continue to do so. How we live and worship as God’s people will change. The harvest fields of people open to the Gospel are changing (John 4:35). We don’t know what the future holds but we do know who holds the future – God himself, our loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, Saviour of the peoples of the world (John 4:42). So let us, the people of St Edward’s be “strong and very courageous” because God has promised his faithful people a wonderful future (v6, Rev 21-22) and God is always faithful in keeping his promises.
2 The encouragement of God’s presence with his people. God told Joshua to be encouraged about the future because “I will be with you” (v3, v5, v9). Bible scholar Ralph Davis says “Joshua is not told to grit his teeth and find inner courage. He is to be strong only because God is with him” (v9). This is a promise for ordinary Christians like you and me. In Hebrews 13:5-6 in the NT we read “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
Thus we see that the promise of God’s abiding presence is also for us. Davis says: “There is nothing more essential for the people of God than to hear God repeating to them amid all their changing circumstances “I will be with you and I will not forsake you”. These promises of God with us are repeated for instance at Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:23). Jesus’ last words to his disciples in Matt. 28 were “Go and make disciples of all nations” (a huge and daunting task!). We can only ever do that because Jesus then promises his disciples and us in v28 “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”.
Dear people of St. Edward’s, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that you are God’s beloved people for whom Jesus, Son of God, suffered and died. He has wonderful future plans for your good. He will continue to be with you. How wonderful is that! He will never leave you or forsake you. May God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all forever more, amen.