“After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. 3 I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— 4 from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea[a] in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.6 “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
The book of Joshua begins with the announcement of Moses death and God’s direction for His people. It’s here than we come to a season of change, which for many is unnerving because it can create a feeling of uncertainty. We like our comfortable, and we like control, so change can create fear. But our security doesn’t come from our comfortable problem free circumstances it comes from Christ. The death of Moses could have been an unnerving and chaotic time and its here in the midst of what looks like a loss of leadership that God calls Joshua to step up and serve. Joshua had a choice he could focus on the problem and panic or on God’s plan and experience peace. Fear comes when we choose to focus on the problem instead of the plan. So God calls Joshua to cultivate courage, to call the people together and cross over into Canaan. Remember Joshua is now about 80-years-old, and this call to lead the people across the Jordan to possess the Promised Land probably has him scared. As Joshua looks at the river in full flood stage he is probable feeling uncertain about success and as he looks at the masses of problematic people he is probably feeling a little insecure. Moses has always been “the man” so to speak but now he is dead. God is calling Joshua to step into and fill some pretty big sandals, after all Moses would have been a pretty big act to follow. But it’s here where we are reminded that Moses wasn’t the act, God was. Notice here that when we are following the Lord there is never a loss of leadership, but when we put our faith in “a man” we are always destined to fail because man will always die. Are you following a plan that is destined to die or are you following the Deity? Joshua has a choice here, he can look to God and find courage or look to his circumstances and cower. The real question for us is this, “do we want to live a life of courage or be a coward?” Look living a courageous life comes with challenges but being a coward means continual caving to the challenges. Two different times God calls Joshua to: “Be strong and courageous” (1:6, 9) and in Joshua 1:7 God calls him to be “very courageous.” The root for courage is the word encouragement, which literally means, “to put heart into.” Because God has called us to a life of faithfulness not fretting He calls us out of fear by filling our hearts with courage. Courage doesn’t just displace fear it dispels the fear. This call to courage is also seen in the new Testament where we see very similar words spoken to young pastor Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power…” The challenge that they faced wasn’t just because of a change in leadership, but also a change in where they had been living. God’s plan involves moving them from wondering in the wilderness to possessing the promise. Yet most of their knowledge about the Promise Land would have come from the scary stories that their forefathers would have told them about fearful giants. While the wilderness wandering would not have been fun this crossing over into Canaan would have been fearful. But God doesn’t set His people free from slavery to sit on the sidelines stuck in the desert; He calls us to a successful and significant life. They had gone from slavery in Egypt to disappointment in the desert because they doubted God, but now they were on the verge of victory if they would be willing to walk by faith and not in fear. As people we tend to fear change but notice that this whole story is one of change, from slavery to success. When Christ is in the change we don’t have to fear because He will always take us from heartbreak to hope. The change that God’s children experienced in the Old Testament is the same change we experience today. It’s a change we call conversion, from being a slave to being set free. Egypt is a picture that portrays the pain of sin and suffering. It’s the land of the lost where Pharaoh holds us in bondage. Egypt represents a picture of the world, a picture of the lost person who is bound by sin and broken by Satan. But into this cruel culture comes the Passover Lamb who covers the sins of His people and parts the Red Sea, opening a pathway from captivity to Canaan. Just like them I too was held captive in the far country, I was a slave to sin, but Jesus paid the price on the cross for my sins and set me free. He made a way out of wickedness and into a new life filled with power and promise. Yet instead of pursuing the promise most of the Israelites that left Egypt never made it into Canaan. This is where we come to the carnal experience where we end up wondered in the wilderness instead of living the life the Lord intends. Today many who call themselves Christians have become content with trying to carve out a living in the wilderness. They have been saved by Christ but instead of partaking of the promise they have sold themselves short of His plan. These are the carnal Christians who claim Christ but cling to the culture. God’s plan was not to save us from slavery only for us to get caught up in the carnal. God’s plan involves calling us out of the chaos of sin and into Canaan. Our conversion experience should not result in a carnal experience, but in a Canaan experience. For the Christian Canaan represents several pictures, first:
- It represents release
God desires that His people be free from the shackles of sin and know victory in every area of life. That is why Paul wrote, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14. The sinner is still bound by Satan and his plans for their life, but the saved are set free to serve the Savior. Not only did Canaan represent release, but:
- It represents refreshment.
The Israelites ate manna in the wilderness for forty years, every day seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. No one ever woke up wondering what was for breakfast, they knew. Yet God had given them a glimpse into the prolific produce of the Promised Land. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, Canaan represented refreshment a land of plenty. Many of us want to be refreshed, and revived by the power of God yet instead responding to His plan we rebel. We settle for surviving when we should be thriving. Not only did Canaan represent release and refreshment but:
- It represents rest
The Book of Hebrews calls it the land of rest. It does not mean rest from work but rather rest while you work. Jesus said, “Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). While the Israelites had come out of Egypt, they had not experienced rest. Like them we often wandered around in the wilderness, going in circles without purpose instead of pursuing the promise. Many today are worn out because they are living in the worry instead of the promise of His Word. If you want His rest, then you must leave the wilderness, let go of the carnal and cross over into Canaan. Some have been in the wilderness so long that they think being worn out is normal. But wilderness living in not normal, it’s not the life that God planed and provided for you. When someone gets excited about the Word and decides to get serious about serving Jesus we tend to mark them as abnormal. We call them fanatical when in reality this is should be normal behavior for those who call themselves Christ followers. It is the wilderness living that is weird and abnormal not the Christian who is living on fire for God. Today we see getting worked up with worry as normal and being worked up about witnessing and sharing our faith as weird. Many believers are living life backwards; God’s plan is not for us to wander in the wilderness but to camp in Canaan. Are you living in the carnal or in Canaan? It’s time to stop being a backward believer and start behaving like an image bearer of the King. Because the Kings kids don’t cower they conquer with courage.