Week of June 5: Godâ€™s promises fulfilled despite our human doubts
By HERCHEL SHEETS
Lesson Scripture: Joshua 1:1-6; 11:16-19, 21-23
Harry S. Truman was in his first day as President of the United States following the sudden death of President Roosevelt. In greeting a group of reporters following a luncheon with Congressional leaders, he said to them: "Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like that? Maybe some task seemed gigantic, beyond your capabilities, or you were following someone who had been especially successful or popular, and you wondered if you would be adequate for the responsibility. You asked yourself, or perhaps even asked others, can I do it? You were afraid of failure and knew you needed all the help you could get.
Big Shoes to Fill
I wonder how Joshua felt when the Lord spoke to him and told him that Moses was dead and that the responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land was his. Imagine following a leader like Moses! His achievement and his contribution had been enormous. But now Joshua was to fill his shoes. "Now proceed to cross the Jordan," the Lord said, "you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites." How do you think Joshua felt to be given such a task?
It is true that he had had some preparation for the task. Among other things, Moses had sent him with a team of eleven other persons to check out the Promised Land, to see what kind of place it was, the kinds of resources that were there and the obstacles they would have to overcome in order to enter the land and to settle in it. He had also worked closely with Moses, no doubt observing what he did, learning from him, and growing in his own leadership abilities. But now the job of leading was his. Moses would not be there to guide him, to instruct him, to make the big decisions, to carry the major part of the load. He was now Moses' successor and the one God was counting on to lead in the fulfillment of God's promises to the people.
An Incomplete Mission
Moses himself had wanted to have the privilege that would be Joshua's. He had led the people out of the slavery of Egypt. God had used him to give them the Law filled with guidance for their lives. He had instructed them, disciplined them, and helped them to begin to become acquainted with this God who was their Deliverer and who had promised to lead them to a land they could call their own.
Finally, they had reached the place where they could see the Promised Land. They had come a long way, overcome many obstacles, won many victories. But Moses knew the job was not yet completed. They were no longer slaves, but their destination was still ahead of them, and Moses, with his strength now gone, could only view the Promised Land from a distance. It would be up to someone else, up to Joshua, to complete the task.
This leadership, teaching, and disciplining responsibility had belonged to Moses, but now it was Joshua's. What would he do with it? How would he handle it? The task of bringing a people to freedom was not yet complete. Would it be completed? Could Joshua be counted on to complete the mission?
A Keeper of Promises
Regardless of how Joshua might have felt about the matter, God had made promises reaching all the way back to Abraham, the man these people called their father. And God, Joshua knew, was a "keeper of promises." So with his Divine assignment, Joshua heard a promise also: "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you."
You see, everything did not depend upon the knowledge and skills of Joshua. It was important that he think clearly, that he do what he believed was right, that he make wise use of the knowledge and abilities of others. But he was not to embark on this task with the idea that everything depended upon him. That would be a sure way to fail. What he needed to do, first of all, was to realize and then keep remembering that he was God's servant and that God had promised to be with him and never to fail or forsake him.
Committed to the Task
We don't know what was going on in the mind of Joshua as these heavy responsibilities were becoming his. What if he had said what people sometimes say in our time about responsibilities they are asked to assume? He could have said, "That's too big a job for me; I can't do that." He could have said, "My interests lie in other directions." He could have said, "I don't have time to do that; I'm busy with other things." But from what happened in the succeeding years, it seems that he said then the same thing he said later at a great council of his people: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:15)