“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. . . Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9)
A short time after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they arrived at the border of Canaan. This had been the homeland of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 400 years before, but none of them had seen it, nor did they have any memory of its potential. Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land. They were intimidated by the size of the challenge. While the land “flowed with milk and honey” there were people living there and they seemed like giants to the spies. Only Joshua and Caleb saw beyond the obstacles to the possibilities. If the LORD was guiding them, He would be responsible for the victory.
When the report was delivered to the Israelites, they took the cautious approach. It was better to stay in the wilderness than be annihilated by the inhabitants of Canaan. God gave them their wish—they were condemned to forty more years of wandering. Only Jacob and Caleb would be allowed in, along with the children of those who had originally crossed through the Red Sea. Changing their mind, the Israelites mounted an attack, but without the help of the LORD, they were quickly defeated, confirming their original fears.
Jesus was sent to lead the whole world out of the wilderness into the promised land. Unlike the Israelites, he was obedient and accepted God’s way to victory, even though it led from Bethlehem to the cross. He spent time with the Father, meditating on scripture and praying for wisdom and guidance. He trusted not in his own strength, but in the love of the Father.
None of us chose the challenges of 2020. For some it has resulted in death and loss, others have found new ways of living. We slowed down, spent time with family, reevaluated priorities, and looked for creative ways to connect. The church has exploded out of its four walls; isolation has forced us to look at new ways of communicating the gospel and maintaining community. By keeping our eyes on the LORD, we know that the church will emerge stronger as a witness to the faithfulness of God.
“Dear LORD, visions may inspire our actions, but without your blessing, we can become mired in distractions. Lead us “through” the difficulties, even if it may involve detours or suffering. We trust your love will triumph.” Amen
Mindi Oaten’s painting “The Rock in the Wilderness” is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.