For 20 April 2020: Second Monday of Easter
Read: Joshua 1:1-9
Joshua tells the story of the conquest of the land, the Promised Land. It is a story of courageous actions and frames a story of conquest in the larger story of the fulfilling of God’s promise. It is a story in which risk is framed as a gift. The passage concludes with these famous words:
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed,
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9b, NRSV
As I enjoyed the sun rise this morning, I was contemplating the next steps with “Mornings On The Front Porch.” I began to realize that God has been inviting me to a challenging project for a very long time. This morning, I realized how long God has been pushing me to take a risk, a step of faith. I’m sure you’re all wondering what that risk is; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is this: God never gave up on me, never gave up encouraging the challenge, and gifted me with the ability to complete the challenge. Perhaps I didn’t have faith in myself to actually attempt the challenge.
In the story from Joshua, I hear my own objections if I were in Joshua’s position, yet Joshua never speaks anyplace in the first nine verses of the book which carries his name. The voice we hear is the voice God. God calls Joshua to lead the Israelites in Moses’ place. Joshua is called to lead the people in a conquest. Even before Joshua can attempt to object, God gives the word of encouragement, “Be strong and courageous, …”.
“Be strong and courageous” was the ending. The full depth of what God is saying to Joshua comes in verse 8:
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.
Joshua 1:8, NRSV
Joshua is being pointed to the Scripture as he knew them. We know them as the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Prosperity and success were measured in how Joshua and all the Israelites enacted their faith by careful actions which were in accordance with the Torah, the Law. Joshua and the Israelites were being called to act justly and with graciousness. It takes great courage and strength of character to act justly and with grace even when facing a situation which threatens your very existence. Joshua is called to meet a challenge. Joshua’s challenge is not leadership of the conquest. Joshua’s challenge is to meditate on the law and to keep it on his tongue day and night. Engaging the Scripture was the challenge; it still is the challenge to this day.
As I said, the challenge God is placing before me isn’t really the important part. It is a challenge which calls me to have faith in myself; faith in God; and to engagement with the Scripture in a new and lively way. God stands with us in all the challenges of our lives, even working through them to guide us in the way God would have us go. God never gives up on any of us. Instead, God keeps whispering into our ear, “Be strong and courageous; I am with you.”