By Charley Dilcher
God did a mighty thing when he brought the entire multitude of Israelites out of Egypt. A whole generation saw God bring a supreme empire to its knees and set his people free. Yet as they journeyed through the wilderness, from that generation barely one in a million entered the land of promise, the land never seen and only heard of. As the older generation died off with Moses, Joshua stepped into the position of the people’s leader.
Not only did he transition through major changes himself, Joshua was also on call to lead the great multitude into a place they had never known. How was Joshua able to complete the task before him and fully “finish the race” God had given him in his life? As well, today how does one generation pass on the torch to the next, allowing them to fulfill what they believe God is calling them to?
Joshua had some of the best training. Although he was in the midst of a complaining, disputing, and unbelieving bunch, he chose to cling to what God had said. He learned from Moses, the great prophet of the Lord, lingering in his tent to meet with Yahweh, and saw all the wondrous works of the God as one of the 12 spies (Exodus 24:12-18; 33:11; Numbers 13:16). Although Joshua had surely meditated often upon the promise of this land and had experienced much of God’s glory while waiting in the wilderness, he likely still had his own personal fears of leading the Israelites.
Even the highly esteemed Joshua, courageous and full of faith, inevitably battled fears and needed to continually meditate upon the truth that Yahweh was always with him. Prior to Joshua’s leadership, Moses spoke at length of God’s promise to give the people this land. Joshua had to hold onto the truth that what he had heard was true. Having the same opportunity to waver at the promise of God as his forefather Abraham, Joshua grew strong in faith, believing that what God had promised he was also able to carry out (Romans 4:19-21). In this way, Joshua brought the people into the land. Having seen the miracles God did through Moses, he now saw new mighty acts God did through him.
Our Own Stories
As we transition through various stages of our own lives, we often find a longing for something greater, a promised land of sorts that we desire to come to. All too often we feel we are waiting for something. We want to be or have done something of great value. In reality there is nothing of greater or lesser significance in the kingdom. In Christ we all share the common goals of becoming like him (Romans 8:28-30), as well as spreading his fragrance, the knowledge of him (2 Corinthians 2:14, 15).
But there is also a micro purpose that we are birthed with. We are called to various workplaces, careers, and spheres of influence in our culture. However God has wired us internally, giving us the grace to think and be distinct, we are to flourish.
Along with Joshua we are to take new land, new territories of influence. Perhaps it may be related to a relationship, a job, or a nation. We desire to go from waiting for these to fully possessing them. Whether we have inner longings related to our personal lives or a God-given task, we often feel as if we are still in the wilderness, waiting for the end goal to be actualized. It is in the waiting that it is easy to forget the promises and drift into inaction, becoming satisfied with a status quo that is less than we know we are called to. We must be careful not to put a time limit on God. Joshua had more than 20 years of preparation!
The Simplicity of Faith
Joshua’s name means “God is salvation.” His name contains the same Hebrew root as Jesus’ name Yeshua. In Jesus there is the fullness of salvation. There is a boldness and confidence that is far superior to any other god or folk religion’s claims (Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 4:15, 16; 10:19-23, 36-39). In Hebrews 3, 4 we see that entering the land was through faith, and unbelief was the cause for not entering the promised land. Joshua exemplified belief. He believed that God would do what he said he would do. Simple.
Along with this simplicity, we also need to take to heart that “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Hearing God’s voice (his promises, direction, encouragement) is of such importance that God told Joshua to meditate day and night on his words. Perhaps it is the other voices, constantly speaking throughout our day (commercials, culture, others’ words) that are the weeds (Mark 4) choking out the very belief we need to keep moving toward promises fulfilled. One can wonder if Joshua had listened to those other voices, would the people have ever left the wilderness?
Personal Promises Fulfilled
In my own life I have also experienced waiting for a promise. In my first years as a Christian, I prayed and fasted weekly for a wife and companion in my walk with God. Through a variety of ways, God shared promises with me that he heard my longings.
Still being a young man (only 23), I waited and prayed about four years. In the third year a woman caught my eye. I remained silent, praying for about nine months before I shared any word about my interest. When I did, the interest was not returned. At this point, I was not sure if I should continue to pursue. Perhaps God was not in it or leading in this direction. However, I did not give up on the promises themselves and remained diligent in prayer. Eventually, God did bring the two of us together and we are married today!
Passing Off the Baton
When we have finished the race, how do we encourage the next generation to run its own? Joshua had to let each tribe take responsibility to take its own apportioned piece of land. Not all did, but passing off the baton sometimes means we must release others to succeed or fail. To bless the next generation is key. Blessing does not necessarily mean to agree. It may include seeing every fault, yet continuing to respect and encourage rather than judge or forsake.
With great faith Joshua completed what Moses started and led God’s people into their promised land. May we all follow his example, letting the past promises God has made stir us always to action and give others the ability to also take promises for themselves. May we all be able to say in the end: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Charley Dilcher and his wife live and work in the context of the Middle East.