God had powerfully emancipated Israel from Egyptian slavery. From the Ten Plagues, to the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the pursuing army in it, to the miraculous provision of water and manna, God had freed, protected, and provided for His people. He led them to the edge of the Promised Land, but at the village of Kadesh-Barnea the congregation of Israel really began to behave like a Baptist church. A committee was formed to do a feasibility study on whether or not to enter the Promised Land. The committee returned after 40 days and presented a majority and a minority report. The majority report was negative. “We can’t do it,” they stated. “The cities are walled. The people are gigantic. Our children and wives will become prey for them.”
The minority report of Joshua and Caleb said, “We can definitely do it! They will be bread for us. God has promised us this land. Let’s take it at once!” (Numbers 14:6-10)
Israel accepted the majority report. Then God did the worst thing He could do to anyone. He gave them exactly what they wanted. Those who faithlessly refused to claim the victory God promised died in the wilderness, and their children, the ones for whom they were so afraid, entered and possessed the Promised Land. Speaking about this incident in 1 Corinthians 10:5, Paul says that “they were overthrown in the wilderness.” The word “overthrown” (katastrōnnymi) means “to strew over the ground; to scatter.” Year after year, decade after decade, for forty years the dead bodies of an entire generation were scattered over the Wilderness.
Many Christians are like that. Powerfully delivered by God from the slavery of sin and the penalty of death, but not claiming the rest and riches which are theirs in Christ Jesus. Their lives are spent wandering in something far short of what Jesus has accomplished on their behalf.
That generation has passed; except for Joshua and Caleb. Now it is time for Israel to do what they should have done 40 years past.
“Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 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. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 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.”
Now it is time for a major transition, one like they had not experienced before. By “major transition” we mean a critical juncture that sets the course for the future. The Israelites could either enter or turn back; like they had 40 years prior. We all face these junctures at many stages of our lives. As a result of these decisions things will be…
- Permanently Different – Life will not be after the decision what it was before the decision. Change is going to occur. Sometimes these changes are involuntary, and someone else’s transition becomes yours.
- Permanently Decisive – This change matters; it is not superficial, like whether or not you remain a brunette or go blond, or, in some cases, allow the gray to remain.
- Potentially Dangerous – Serious consequences are associated with this decision, and a miscalculation or misstep could be costly. Just see the previous generation of Israelites as an example.
With the above in mind, let’s consider what positive transitions require.
- An honest look at the past. Remember the first words of God to Joshua in this book, “Moses my servant is dead.” One should honestly understand where he has been. This is true of a church and a family as well. The past is normally a mixture of good and bad, victory and defeat all mixed together. It is good to remember where you have been, why you were there, and consider what resulted.
- A hopeful look to the future. Ponder the possibilities, the opportunities, and the potential pitfalls. What lies ahead on the other side of Jordan? God said, “now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them.” It is time to quit thinking about and talking about it. Now it is time to do it! It is not just a dream. Have hope for the future. In essence God says, “Claim the victory I have promised.”
- A heaven-ward look for strength. Three times in the first nine verses God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous (vv. 6-7, 9), and the people call Joshua to that in verse 18. Joshua could be strong and courageous because God promised that He would never leave nor forsake him (vv. 5, 9). Praise God this promise is for us as well (Hebrews 13:5)!
- Aging – especially the round numbered milestones.
- Matriculating – advancing from elementary to junior high to high school to college, etc. Why do so many students from our high school department seemingly abandon the faith in college? Have we prepared them for the transition? Prepare them to see college as “Jesus time” not “party time”; to view their campus as a mission field.
- From school to job
- From employed to unemployed
- From employed to retired
- From single to married to married with children
- From married with children to empty nest
- From married to single because of death or divorce
- From “secular work” to the Gospel ministry
- From dependent to independent and vice versa
No matter what transitions we face there is a way in which we can and should glorify God in that transition. Look at the past transitions in your own life. What you will often see is the unseen hand of God opening doors that need to be opened, closing doors that need to be shut, and preparing a way for our transitions. Things are constantly changing, and God is leading you through transitions all the time. Life is not static. In the midst of your transitions, how is God telling you to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid or dismayed, to claim the victory He has promised you by trusting His promise and His power?
Understand that what you are doing is just as significant, if not more so, than where you are. God wants us – as believers and as a church – to transition from an inner focus to an outer focus. We may be doing all kinds of things that need to be and should be done (i.e. tithing, attending, etc.), but whom have we baptized that you have led to Christ, or had a part in their coming to Christ? Whom are you nurturing in this church? God never wants us to wander around. Instead, He wants us, by His power and for His glory, to start a spiritual invasion!
Have you trusted Christ to save your soul? If so, then be sure to daily live by that same trust. The same grace that saves you will sustain you. Lead a Gospel-saturated life at home, in church, on the job, in your community, and everywhere else. As believers our Joshua – Jesus Christ – is leading us forward. To claim the victory He has promised is not to passively sit with arms outstretched. Occupying the Promised Land requires battle; just as it did for the Israelites. The rest and riches are no longer falling from heaven or spilling from rocks. Israel would trust God and fight by His enabling power or they would not. Victory is assured, but not without a fight (and I do not mean just one).
Too many Christians wander around the Wilderness. They are beyond Egypt, but not really understanding all that they have in Christ; not being led by Him into rest.
#1 – Acknowledge God’s Assessment
Don’t be bound by the past; whether it is a good or a bad past. “Moses is dead. Now get up, gather the people, and get over the river and into the land which I do give to them.” Every road has two ditches. One is self-humiliation; it says, “I can’t do anything.” The other is self-exaltation; it says, “I can do anything all on my own.” Remember, Philippians 4:13 and John 15:5, and do not forget that Jesus never said, “Without Me you can’t do the big stuff.” Joshua did not need to be Moses. He just needed to be faithful. I can do that. So can you.
#2 – Act Under God’s Direction
Don’t turn from His path, either to the right or to the left, and you will prosper.
#3 – Awareness of God’s Provision
The land is God’s. He has given them the land. They must claim the victory He has promised. This is not passive but active.
#4 – Affirmation of God’s Promise
“As I was with Moses, [so] I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee…unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them…the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:5-7)
#5 – Acquaintance with God’s Word
Joshua was faithful because he was completely obedient to God’s Word. He could only be obedient to what he knew. You cannot obey the Word if you do not know the Word, and knowing the Word is the key to faithfulness, which is success.
#6 – Acceptance of God’s Power
If God’s Word does not depart from my heart and mind then God’s power will not depart from my footsteps. The only way to be strong and courageous is to follow my Joshua – Jesus Christ. He will lead me into a promised land of rest from self-righteousness, fears, wandering, aimlessness, purposelessness, and so much more.