They answered Joshua:
“Everything you commanded us, we’ll do.
Wherever you send us, we’ll go.
We obeyed Moses to the letter; we’ll also obey you—
we just pray that God, your God, will be with you as he was with Moses.
Anyone who questions what you say and refuses to obey whatever you command him will be put to death.
Joshua 1.16-18 | MSG
Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned.
These are some of the signs that will accompany believers:
They will throw out demons in my name,
they will speak in new tongues,
they will take snakes in their hands,
they will drink poison and not be hurt,
they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.”
Then the Master Jesus, after briefing them, was taken up to heaven, and he sat down beside God in the place of honor. And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the Message with indisputable evidence. Mark 16.16-20 | MSG
It’s one of my all time favorite scenes from what many consider a so-so film – Unbreakable. David Dunn realizes he is, after all, not just an ordinary man. Calling his “mentor” Elijah, he asks what he should do. Elijah’s instruction:
“Go to a place where people are… you won’t have to wait very long.”
Go where people are. See what happens.
It’s a hard word, this word “Go.” Perhaps that’s why the apostles – who were supposed to be experts in “going” as the ultimate “go-ers” (after all, “apostle” essentially means “one who goes”!) – perhaps that’s why they were so reluctant to go anywhere. It was over a decade since Jesus told them to “go where the people are,” and they were still huddled in Jerusalem. Saul began his purge, sending local believers scattering over the horizon, impacting people as they went. But the 12 original “Go-ers” stayed behind in Jerusalem. They weren’t ready to go anywhere. At least not until a new Herod showed up on the scene and cut off the head of one of them. Then the go-ers got going.
That’s the time gap to insert, at least mentally, in Mark’s summary of the aftermath of Jesus’ ascension. Yes they went! But it took some doing for God to pry them out of Jerusalem at last.
Maybe this is one of those “We can do this the easy way or the hard way” moments. We can heap up preparations and stockpile promises, but when all is said and done when the starting gun fires it’s time to leap out of the blocks and go.
Or he may just have to pry us out.
The starting gun just fired.
It’s time to get going.
Go where the people are…you won’t have to wait very long.
What does it look like for you to “go where the people are”? Just where is it you need to get going, and what do you think he calling on you to do when you get there?
Living God, give me the grace today to go. Give me eyes to see You where I go, to see the people as I go, and the courage to be and do as you lead me there on that spot, at that moment. And as I go, come. Through Christ.
Then Joshua addressed the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
“Remember what Moses the servant of God commanded you: God, your God, gives you rest and he gives you this land. Your wives, your children, and your livestock can stay here east of the Jordan, the country Moses gave you; but you, tough soldiers all, must cross the River in battle formation, leading your brothers, helping them until God, your God, gives your brothers a place of rest just as he has done for you. They also will take possession of the land that God, your God, is giving them. Then you will be free to return to your possession, given to you by Moses the servant of God, across the Jordan to the east.”
Joshua 1.12-15 | MSG
Okay, today it’s your turn.
Time for you to sit quietly, listen, and write what you see and hear. At this moment you have your own river to cross.
Maybe it’s just a small one.
Maybe it’s huge.
What is the river you are being challenged to cross over right now in your life? What is the promised land on the other side? How long have you been preparing for this moment? What are your first steps in crossing this river? Who are you taking along with you?
What is the river you are being challenged to cross over right now in your life?
What are your first steps?
Living God, give me wisdom to move beyond merely gathering at the river which you have called me to cross to actually getting my feet wet as I cross it. Give me the grace to launch, and to launch well. Through your mercies.
I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul.
Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed.
Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged.
God, your God, is with you every step you take.
Joshua 1.5-9 | MSG
They had stood on the brink of this future before – and they flinched. An entire generation flinched and then walked away. “The walls are too thick and the people are too small.” They weren’t the first ones to balk at the future opening up before them rather than walking into it. Nor were they the first ones to choose the security of the known quantities of the past (even if those known quantities involved oppression and forced labor) rather than risk the unknown quantities of future promises. No, the future isn’t for wimps.
The flinching of the prior generation poignantly echoed Boromir’s caution in Fellowship of the Ring:
One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep, and the Great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.
Yes, it is folly – and much safer to go back, or at the very least to settle for this side of the river. Which is why we often say “faith” is spelled R-I-S-K. It’s also why Joshua hears the repeated encouragement to be “strong and courageous.”
“Don’t be discouraged.”
“Don’t be timid.”
And it’s also why he was urged, not to make a careful study of The Art of War, but to maintain a solid, listening posture towards God’s written counsel. You have not been this way before, and you’re going to need more than your wits about you; you need Holy Writ inside you.
No. The future is not for wimps.
What are your deepest fears as you face the future? What is the key to surmounting these fears?
Living God, the future may not be for wimps, but you say ‘the meek shall inherit the earth.’ Remind me of this truth when fears of the unfolding future threaten to shut me down. Breathe fresh courge into the sails of my life. Through Jesus.
After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:
“Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel. I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It’s all yours.
All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you.
In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you.”
Joshua 1.1-5 | MSG
More than Moses was left behind as they crossed the Jordan.
Manna was left behind.
And their mobile rock drinking fountain.
And the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night.
And the quail.
And a whole lot of bodies from a generation missing the courage to cross.
We all have a heritage – not many of us dig into to it. Perhaps we’re afraid of what faces we’ll find lurking back there. The reality is, whether it’s a heritage from which to recover or on which to build – or whatever mixture of the two – our past propels us into our future.
John Wimber was fond of saying, “Take the best and go.”
This is why we lean into the past.
We need its signposts and lessons, its failures and successes, its wins and losses, its strengths and weaknesses. And whether we like it or not, it’s with us regardless. To lean into it is to intentionally be nourished by its health, instructed by its wisdom, and to become healers through its wounds. To lean into it is to choose the higher trajectory as it slingshots us forward.
And that’s where we focus this week. Having intentionally leaned back into the massive slingshot of the past, we now launch out into our future. This week we stand with Joshua, leaning into the slingshot not merely of the past forty years, but the past 430 years since God first made his promise to Abram “I will multiply you; I will make of you a great nation; I will give you the land in which you now sojourn.”
The key word in describing the land that lay before this generation emerging from the desert: promise.
There’s a lesson there for us.
And a challenge:
As you contemplate the future, what is the primary emotion you experience? Fear? Anticipation? Indifference? or __________________? Why?
Living God, take the best and worst of my past, and breathe them into flaming embers that will fill the world with light and life and love in all the unique ways you have intended before the world began. Fill me with great expectations as I cross the river into the new day breaking before me. Through Jesus.
Then Joshua gave orders to the people’s leaders:
“Go through the camp and give this order to the people: ‘Pack your bags. In three days you will cross this Jordan River to enter and take the land God, your God, is giving you to possess.’”
Joshua 1.10-11 | MSG
Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions:
“Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this.
You are the equipment.
No special appeals for funds.
Keep it simple.
And no luxury inns.
Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.
If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw.
Don’t make a scene.
Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”
Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits. Mark 6.7-13 | MSG
Union general George McClellan is credited by most historians with organizing what became known as the Army of the Potomac – the army that ultimately carried the war for the Union in the American Civil War. A massive, monumental achievement.
But much to President Lincoln’s deepening chagrin, he seemed reluctant to do anything with it. At one point he sent a note to McClellan asking if he could borrow his army if McClellan wasn’t doing anything with it – or, as pictured here, one month after the momentous battle of Antietam, after being informed that McClellan had still not begun pursuing Lee’s beaten army because of “tongued and fatigued horses” he sent this wonderfully pointed note:
“I have just read your dispacth about some tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything? A. Lincoln.”
There is a time to gather stones, and there is a time to cast them away.
Prepare, equip, train, ready, organize, systematize, theorize, plan, strategize.
But finally comes the time when we must launch.
McClellan was a great administrator about whom Lincoln observed, “He helps others to fight, but he does not himself fight.” It was Ulysses S. Grant that ultimately got the job done. When others petitioned for Grant’s dismissal over rumors of his drinking, Lincoln simply responded,
“I can’t spare this man. He fights.”
As we face off with the future, as Joshua did with his generation, or as Jesus did with the twelve disciples, perhaps we can hear the nudge to lean more into Grant than McClellan.
You don’t need a lot of extra equipment.
You are the equipment.
You are ready.
And it’s time to launch.
Are you a careful planner or a more spontaneous improviser? What would you say is the key to preparing enough to move ahead without becoming paralyzed when it’s time to launch?
Living God, lead me into healthier, functioning rhythms of gathering stones and casting them away. Give me the wisdom to plan well, and the courage to launch when it’s time. By your grace.
And God commanded me at that time to teach you the rules and regulations that you are to live by in the land which you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.
You saw no form on the day God spoke to you at Horeb from out of the fire. Remember that. Carefully guard yourselves so that you don’t turn corrupt and make a form, carving a figure that looks male or female, or looks like a prowling animal or a flying bird or a slithering snake or a fish in a stream. And also carefully guard yourselves so that you don’t look up into the skies and see the sun and moon and stars, all the constellations of the skies, and be seduced into worshiping and serving them. God set them out for everybody’s benefit, everywhere. But you—God took you right out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to become the people of his inheritance—and that’s what you are this very day.
Deuteronomy 4.14-20 | MSG
Dry, blighted, blasted, barren, wasted, desert.
Welcome to Horeb.
The word “Horeb” actually embodies all those descriptors. No one names their retreat center “Horeb.” And yet that is precisely where God continues to show up.
We are much more keen for dessert. Yes, Dessert God – sign us up for that one! Most of what passes for religion does. Sweet desserts. Lots of whipped, airy, cream.
Sometimes people ridicule the God of Scripture as the “Sky God.” But he’s not. He’s the Desert God. And here’s the beautiful thing. He turns that desert into a fertile field. Our earliest memories are often our earliest, most traumatic moments. We all have Horebs in our past. Our task is not to sugarcoat them, nor to level them.
The key is allowing those dry, blighted, barren, wasted desert spaces to be transformed into beauty in the present, and to launch us into ever unfolding future wonders.
Oh yes. Remember that.
What has been your dry barren Horeb, your fiery Egyptian furnace? How can you see beauty and possibilities unfolding from it today? Or are you still looking? (Or are you still at Horeb?)
Living God, meet me in my Horeb. Meet me in all my Horebs. Give me eyes to see “the fourth One” walking through the furnace with me; let me see him carrying me out and with gentle push, launching me into wonders. Through Christ.
Ask questions. Find out what has been going on all these years before you were born. From the day God created man and woman on this Earth, and from the horizon in the east to the horizon in the west—as far back as you can imagine and as far away as you can imagine—has as great a thing as this ever happened? Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Has a people ever heard, as you did, a god speaking out of the middle of the fire and lived to tell the story? Or has a god ever tried to select for himself a nation from within a nation using trials, miracles, and war, putting his strong hand in, reaching his long arm out, a spectacle awesome and staggering, the way God, your God, did it for you in Egypt while you stood right there and watched?
You were shown all this so that you would know that God is, well, God. He’s the only God there is.
He’s it. He made it possible for you to hear his voice out of Heaven to discipline you. Down on Earth,
he showed you the big fire and again you heard his words, this time out of the fire. He loved your ancestors and chose to work with their children. He personally and powerfully brought you out of Egypt in order to displace bigger and stronger and older nations with you, bringing you out and turning their land over to you as an inheritance. And now it’s happening. This very day.
Deuteronomy 4.32-38 | MSG
Okay, enough of blasted Horeb.
Look further back, Moses tells us.
Fire up your imagination.
Turn on that HD.
See it wide screen.
Look at the unstoppable, unyielding, “resistance-is-futile” flow of Life through all of history, and then watch that unstoppable stream flow right into and through your own life. Watch how it would propel you forward, as you are, with all you’ve brought, all is carried towards Life, deepening as it goes.
So much Life.
Let Paul’s words help you – in the midst of so much pain from the past and so much cynicism and skepticism over the unfolding present – soak in this a bit:
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right. All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. Romans 5.18-21 | MSG
As you consider life – in all three tenses of past, present and future, do you see yourself as optimist or pessimist or __________________? Why?
Living God, let me carried away today with the unstoppable flow of Life! Drown my darker pessimisms in its waters, and raise them faith and vision renewed. Give fresh lenses for the day. Through Jesus.