By Russ Ramsey
Imagine that one of those emails telling you that you were the secret heir of a wealthy prince were true. Imagine you had gone your whole life struggling to make your way with less than modest means, and suddenly you were not only super-wealthy, but ruled a kingdom. Would that excite you? Would you step into that news eager to take on your new reality and all the responsibility that went with it?
For many of us, if we’re honest, we might like the idea of sudden, newfound wealth, fame, and power, but living up to the responsibility and change it would require would be a daunting task. For many, change like this would instill as much fear as anticipation. The book of Joshua is like this.
Joshua begins at one of the most pregnant moments in the history of God’s people. For forty years they’ve been wandering in the wilderness, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They’d been shaped by so much longing for freedom, so many obstacles to overcome, and so much difficulty in the wilderness, trusting and obeying God.
But now, after all that, God’s people stand on the eastern banks of the Jordan. The Lord is ready to send them into the land He promised to their forefathers, and Joshua will lead them. It’s such a complicated situation for everyone. They’ve never been a nation. They’ve never really had a military except for what they assembled in the wilderness years. What they have instead is generations of psychological ingraining telling them they were the property of Egypt. Is it any wonder that one of the things Joshua and the people might be feeling as they prepare to enter the promised land is fear?
Before Israel was enslaved in Egypt, the Lord made a promise to Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation who would be blessed and live to be a blessing. In the opening chapters of Joshua, all of that is taking shape in unprecedented, tangible ways. Still, for every step forward Israel must take, they have to swallow hard in the face of the struggles that await. To this, the Lord reminds Joshua that He is with them, and will never abandon them (Joshua 1:5).
The Lord comforts Joshua in the same way He encourages any who are called to difficult things—which is to say all of us. He promises that He is with us. His is a ministry of presence. The Lord doesn’t promise us that He’ll make things turn out well for us when we try really hard. That’s not the assurance He deals in. He says He will be with us and remain with us, and we with Him. When your faith is in God, there is no greater encouragement than, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).