Joshua to Succeed Moses

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This passage is about the historical moment when the Israelites’ long, forty year journey from Egypt was almost over. They had made it to the Jordan and were about to enter into the Promised Land. Moses’ leadership of the people had been fulfilled, he would be able to go no further with them. He would not be able to enter the Promised Land. The staff of leadership had to be passed on and, in God’s name, Moses called on Joshua to take up that role. This is what Moses said to Joshua, ʺBe strong and steadfast, for you shall bring this people into the land which the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them; it is you who will give them possession of it.ʺ (verse 7)

Moses knew the difficulties of leadership. This people he led could be stiff-necked and demanding, but they were also the Chosen People of God, whose destiny was yet to be fulfilled. Joshua would need great courage and faith to continue what God had begun for them in Moses. For this reason, Moses tells Joshua what he needs to hear: ʺThe Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.ʺ (verse 8)

This passage is rooted in history and the human story. What Moses tells Joshua here is as relevant to each of us today as it was to Joshua then. We are called on to do great things in the name of Jesus. God calls on all of us to be holy in the midst of great trials. God desires us to lead his wandering people today, yes, even those who do not yet know that they are wanderers. He wants us to be courageous enough in our faith, hope, and love, to be his instruments in that effort. And we, like Joshua, need to be told, even though our faith is strong, that we need not be afraid; we need not be discouraged, because God goes before us today in the same way that He did for Moses and for Joshua those centuries ago.

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In truth, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are sometimes afraid and discouraged. This is why faith is so centrally important to this story. Joshua, like anyone who has had to fight against great odds, on the field of battle, or in the great disputes that can arise within a community, knew fear, but because he believed that God walked before him, he could overcome his fears with courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the proper response to it. Courage does not eliminate our fears, it allows us to go beyond them. Fear blinds us and weakens us. Courage, especially that which comes from our faith in God’s love and mercy, gives us back our vision and our strength. With this faith, we can not only face the foes that come before us in their many disguises, we can do so in a way that turns them into our friends, rather than our enemies. With God, all things are made possible.

Immediately after this passage, Moses has finally completed the laborious effort of writing down the law, which God had given, and he reads it to the people. Reading it to them makes it known to all the people. Having been written down it is now available to them to consult whenever necessary. It is what will make Joshua’s job easier too. We too have that Law. It is meant to be our guide along the difficult journey through this life. We too, like Joshua, can refer to it whenever struggles become seemingly too great, or too hard. In the Scriptures we find the law of God, but we also find that he truly is always with us, that he never leaves us, or forsakes us. We see, rather, that he is with us intimately, that he walks with us every day, even on those days in which we feel so alone.

Call us, Lord. Use us as your Joshua today. Help us to lead lives that honor your Law of Love, so that we might lead others, by our words and by our deeds, to your Promised Land. Grace us with courage and never let us be discouraged in the effort. Send your Holy Spirit upon us like the dewfall every day. We ask this prayer in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.