Centuries and centuries and centuries ago, Joshua balked. No doubt he would have struggled to shout, “Let’s Go!” as he faced down the tumultuous waters of the river Jordan.
Ready and determined?
No, not this newly appointed leader.
Joshua’s shepherd, and mentor, Moses, had selected Joshua as his successor. Moses gave Joshua specific instructions to lead the nation of Israel to Jehovah’s Land of Promise before Moses died. Yet, as Joshua surveyed the naturally flowing waterway, he beheld the river as both an ominous barrier and a pivotal, life-changing, crossing point. God’s command was clear.
March into the waters.
You must cross the river Jordan to reach the Promised Land.
The plans, purposes and works of Jehovah remained, despite the leadership change from Moses to Joshua. Although the transition was significant, nothing else had changed. The Lord still offered the Promised Land to his people. His purpose and work continued – uninterrupted – and Joshua was commanded to lead the way.
However, Joshua’s new leadership position would be no proverbial walk in the park. Stepping into the rushing currents was a perilous undertaking for Joshua and the Israelites. This time, no Red Sea walls would miraculously part before them. This time, no dangerous enemy pursued them, but doubts and fears paralyzed them. This time, no commanding and sure presence of Moses would steady them. This time, though, Joshua received his own direct and personal charge from Jehovah, Himself – to step forward.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
New International Version, Joshua 1:9
Just when Joshua needed a reassuring word as he surveyed the Jordan river, Jehovah spoke directly and succinctly into the moment with one imperative after another:
Do not be afraid.
Do not be discouraged.
How often have we needed these strengthening words at definitive crossing points in our own lives?
This was God’s promise to Joshua, though. As leader of the nation of Israel, the one following in the line of Moses, Joshua was given assurance that his God would be with him as he ventured into the river waters and as Joshua led his people up the banks into the Promised Land. God ordered his charge to be strong. Strong comes from the Hebrew transliterated word, chazaq. Chazaq means to grow in strength and to become firm. I appreciate the clarifying definition. Joshua didn’t have to have all the power and hutzpah he would need to be strong. He didn’t have to pull himself up by his bootstraps to make himself ready for all that was ahead of him. Instead, all Joshua needed was hope and resolve that his faith muscle would strengthen as he trusted and obeyed his God. His God would guide him through the waters to meet the present and future challenges which lay ahead.
Let’s be clear, though. Joshua could only view the rushing waters before him. This was distressing enough.
Yet, even as he contemplated the strength of the river currents, Joshua fears besieged him. He also imagined the dangers beyond the river’s edge.
We all do it.
We see one problem and quickly jump to the next problem and the next problem and the next problem until, like Joshua, our minds are flooded with worries, fears, and concerns for not just the present danger, but every precarious uncertainty ahead of us. We are overwhelmed, shattered, and dismayed.
“Enough!” God bellows from the heavens.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Although these words were directed towards Joshua eons ago, we, too, can claim these promises for ourselves. For Jesus Christ, our own Joshua, directs us to go into the river waters of trust and obedience to share his love with the world. He commands us not to fear and promises to be with us wherever we go.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
New International Version, Matthew 28: 19-20
We don’t have to have all the strength and power we think we need to step out into the rivers of life.
We just need to have the resolute belief that our trust in God will strengthen as we venture forward – one challenge, one obstacle, one adventure at a time – in faith.
If we believe our God, our Lord and Savior Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is with us, we have all that we need to cross the Jordan – whether the river waters run high, wide, low, or deep. And, not only that! We will have the genuine, steady, God-sized confidence to meet the enemies, worries, challenges, and hardships that lie beyond the river because Jesus, Himself is with us.
We must remember.
God’s plans, purposes, and work continue onward – uninterrupted – regardless of the transition of leaders, regardless of circumstances, regardless of anything this crazy earthly life throws at us all. His Kingdom shall come!
He invites us into this glorious work – one river crossing at a time.
Joshua stepped into the waters and grew in his strength of faith.