“Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses…There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.” ~Joshua 1:2-3, 5-6
These are the words that came to Joshua in the middle of the scene I described last week. Imagine the burden on Joshua’s shoulders. For the better part of his life he had been the subordinate of Moses; now he was the commander-in-chief. All of the problems of Israel were now, ultimately, on his shoulders. He would have to make hard decisions and lead the people into battle. He was to conquer the land of Canaan, so he had no choice but to be aggressive.
Do you ever feel like you have an impossible heavy burden on your shoulders? You have school work that you have to do, possibly you have a job in addition to school, or perhaps you simply have a job. A lot of school work is tedium, believe me I know. There are pages and pages of reading, especially if you are in college, and it always seems like your professors or teachers give you big assignments all at the same time; that is a lot of stress and you want to do well for your own sake, to please your parents and instructors, and ultimately to make good use of the gifts and opportunities you have been given by God. Or, on the job you have hour after hour of repetitive activity, perhaps lugging around a heavy wheelbarrow full of stone, mindlessly driving around in a truck to push snow around and throw down some rock salt, or trying to keep a smile plastered on your tired face as you take down large orders of food from ungrateful people who look like they need a little more salad and a little less beef. Work can be boring, physically exhaustive, frustrating, as well as a host of other adjectives that we use to describe things that we don’t particularly care for. Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting the joys that come with work or school, there are many. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing a big A on the front of a paper for which you spent hours researching and writing; or in seeing the plush, neat and just downright beautiful garden in someone’s backyard after you spent a week weeding, digging, moving and planting. Sometimes the work itself is enjoyable; it feels good to have a good sweat and feel the burn in your arms as you carry around a couple of cinder blocks; it can be interesting to learn about the factors that lead to the collapse of the Roman Empire, or how muscles work. Nevertheless, there are burdens in occupation, and sometimes they can really get us down. We want nothing more than to simply shut the notebook, or turn off the Bobcat, drive home and plop on the couch with a cold Coke.
I guess we don’t really know what thoughts ran through Joshua’s head as God made this revelation to him, but I don’t think it would be too far off to suggest that he was nervous, at least initially; why else did God have to assure him, and reassure him, that God would be with him? Look at what God says to him: “…as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Joshua had seen all the great wonders that God had done when Moses was in charge; the 10 plagues and the dividing of the Red Sea and much more. Can you imagine what it would have meant to Joshua when receiving this great burden, that the same God, who had opened a path of dry land through the middle of a huge body of water, would now help him in his battles? So it is with his people today! It may not be our task to go about conquering lands full of pagans, but God does call us to be busy; busy in work, busy in school, and in all of these things, busy as his soldiers, though we are armed with the sword of the Spirit instead of swords of bronze. The burden that was given to Joshua is far greater than any that are put on our shoulders, and in the strength of God he did many mighty deeds. Let us shoulder our burdens with joy, knowing who we have on our side.
And don’t forget, though God may not come to us today in the way he came to Joshua, he comes to us nevertheless:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” ~Joshua 1:8
Be reading the Bible!