Most people have heard the children’s song and it is what pops into our minds immediately when we think of Joshua.
Listening to the record of Joshua recently, I noticed how much of his life was up and down. There were astonishing high points and some seriously discouraging lows. This was the Commander of the host of Israel! The one who led them into their promised land also took the time to write a book of how it happened and he was quite honest about the process.
- He was commissioned by God to lead and given amazing promises. If you were told by God that you will inherit every place you set your foot upon, and then told, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened,” at least three times in a row, wouldn’t you assume there may be some hard times ahead?
- He was assured by the people that they would obey his command “just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only be strong and courageous.” If you knew that your incredible predecessor had died with only a glimpse of his fondest wish because of the sin of frustration with his disobedient people, how reassured would you feel by this?
- The spying mission on Jericho, the enemy city, was successful although a bit hair-raising.
- The whole camp crossed the Jordan by a miraculous dry route right through the river. If you were told to get stones out of the river bed to set up as a memorial on the bank, wouldn’t you assume that this miraculous river crossing wasn’t going to be happening on a daily basis?
- He made flint knives as he was commanded and had all the males circumcised to shake off the reproach of Egypt. Now all his fighting men were lying around the camp, moaning as they recuperated. Can’t you see yourself, keeping a close lookout in case any of the heathen decide to use the chance to create some havoc while your men were weak?
- Weeks after all the amazing promises, they were still in camp, observing Passover. And then the manna stopped falling from heaven and they were on their own to find food in the land. There was plenty. It wasn’t that big a deal, just daily food for maybe 2 million people or so.
- Joshua got to meet the Commander of the Army of the Lord, made visible to reassure him of God’s presence. It was a pinnacle in his life, with Joshua worshipping flat on his face.
- Finally they got to march around Jericho. No fighting, just a long queue of silent walkers for six days and then again six times on the seventh day before anybody was allowed to shout. It was a glorious victory! Every other enemy in the land felt his heart melt in dread. This- This is what commanders want! Victory!
- Flushed with success, Joshua’s advisors suggested they just send a small detachment of soldiers to take the next small city, Ai. “We got this, Joshua!” Unfortunately God could not prosper the mission because already there was disobedience stinking in a hidey hole under a tent in the camp. The attempt on Ai turned into a disgraceful rout by the enemy as the casualties piled up and now all the hearts of his own loyal people melted while the enemies perked up. Wouldn’t you weep and wail WHY? And then you find out you have to kill Achan and all his household.
- The next big development was the alliance with the deceitful Gibeonites who really turned out to be near neighbors who were going to prove a pain in the neck for Joshua. If this were your strategic mistake, wouldn’t you just want to keep kicking yourself for a few weeks at least?
- At last came the day that the sun didn’t set and gave them another span of daylight to finish the fight with the five combined armies of the Amorites, the day that God joined in by throwing large stones from heaven. At last another glorious victory!
I will stop there, the highs and lows of the first half of the record Joshua kept from those days. I just want to make a point here and I think it’s fairly obvious. Life is not one continuous rarified high point on the mountain top. It isn’t even supposed to be. As a teenager I always dreaded someone picking that song “living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky…drinking at the fountain… feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply… for I am dwelling in Beulah land.” I couldn’t sing it honestly and the theology is all skewed but I wouldn’t have minded living on the mountain top (Bible school or volunteer work in a short term mission team).
So what if the graph of your life seems to have a steady up and down trend? Joshua was a great man, not because he saw the whole story of his life ahead of time and decided it was worth going for it. Joshua was faithful. He dusted himself and a whole multitude off and kept on doing what he was supposed to do over and over and in the end it became a pretty amazing story.
Underwriting his entire story is that phrase from the Lord, “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” If this were you, wouldn’t it give you backbone to get up when you mess up? Maybe it would help you not to look around at the frightful array of the enemy and just look up and keep swinging your sword. This might be the day God gives you extra sunlight or chunks your enemy on the head with rocks or this might be the ordinary day you just keep walking through, doing the next thing.
… I know this is a bit of a dangling post but it’s Sunday morning and I will try to finish what I started tomorrow.