PLYMOUTH, MI – God has encouraged me numerous times with His words to Joshua: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
In Joshua 1, the people of God are about to go a way they have never gone before, into a land they did not know, and experience a life unlike any they have ever lived. They are on the edge of a new reality as they prepare to enter the “Promised Land.” This is the moment and the place they have been moving toward their entire lives.
The journey started four decades earlier when God delivered them from Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses. A lot happened in those 40 years. They were tough years, long years, heartbreaking years, but they’re all behind them as the book of Joshua begins. The Promised Land, the land that flowed with milk and honey, is just across the Jordan River. It’s so close that Joshua and the people can see it.
Everything they have been through has brought them to this moment in time. This is not just another tick on the clock. It’s not just the passing of one day to the next, or one year to the next. This is time that is pregnant with opportunity. It’s life changing time. It’s history making time. It’s God’s time. It is time that is measured not by the clock but by the impact it has on life.
Joshua knows the significance of the moment and it terrifies him - so much so that God tells him three times in chapter 1 to be “strong and courageous.” This is more than a passing difficulty in his life. Joshua is struggling with deep seated feelings of weakness and fear. He’s about to be placed in a position of leadership that he doesn’t feel ready for. He’s afraid. He’s unsure of himself. He doesn’t feel adequate for the responsibilities and challenges that lay ahead.
Sometimes the most difficult land to conquer is not what lies before us, but what lies within us.
Joshua experienced this reality first hand. The first battle of the conquest took place in his heart and mind as he fully surrendered to God. Before the Jordan River would be crossed, before the walls of Jericho would come tumbling down, God spoke courage and strength into Joshua’s life and gave him the life altering promise of His presence. Joshua had been Moses’ assistant. He had been mentored by the best, but it was his personal encounter with God that made him a transformed spiritual leader.
Several things stand out to me in the early days of Joshua’s leadership of the people of God:
God actively guided the leadership transition from Moses to Joshua. This is a truth God’s people of every generation need to understand when they experience leadership transition. The book of Joshua begins with the words, “After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’s assistant.”
The most radical reason for leadership transition is the death of the leader, but it also happens when leaders retire, move or leave ministry. The death of Moses must have been an exceptionally difficult time for the people of God. He was the only leader they had ever known. They loved Moses, but he was gone forever. God chose Joshua to be the next leader. He was the God-called leader of the people. Don’t miss this: the real leader through the transition was God! It was God who took Moses home and it was God who placed Joshua in leadership. The new leader Joshua and the people he led were following God together!
God can always be trusted through change. For 40 years, the people of God had followed a routine that didn’t change much from day to day. Life was going to change radically, not because of Joshua, but because of God. God was leading His people to the Promised Land. There was a change in leadership, but the mission remained the same.
Joshua did many of the same things Moses did, but he also did things that were totally new. God gave him the assignment to lead the people to a land where they had never been and by a way they had never gone (Joshua 3:4). This was not an assignment for Joshua. Just look at what happened when Moses tried to lead the people into the Promised Land 40 years earlier (Numbers 14).
God’s plan did not change during the 40 years the people wandered in the wilderness. Forty years later, there’s a new leader, a new generation of people, a new route to travel, but it’s the same destination. They learned God can always be trusted during changing times.
New strategies are needed for changing realities. I can only imagine what the people thought when Joshua told them to march around the city of Jericho for six days without saying a word. The only sound was that of the ram’s horn trumpets. On the seventh day, he told them march around the city seven times and then to shout with a great shout. They did so, and the walls came tumbling down. It had never been done that way before and hasn’t been repeated since, but it worked!
The world around us is changing faster than it ever has, and will continue to do so in 2020. As we enter this New Year, I am reminded that God can be trusted to lead through it, to provide spiritually transformed leaders, and to give new strategies for the reality of our time. It’s going to be an exciting year as we follow God together. Happy New Year!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.