When I was eight years old, the United States fought in the Persian Gulf War. When the war ended, my whole city exploded with yellow ribbons. They were everywhere, on every door and mailbox, wrapped around trees like Christmas decorations. No business was caught without a yellow wreath hung over the entrance. My mom explained them to me. She told me about the Tony Orlando song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree,” about a soldier coming home from war, wondering if his family still has a place for him. Of course, he finds hundreds of ribbons to welcome him home.
Israel has their own yellow ribbon moment in Joshua 18. The text takes its time to lovingly spell out each tribe’s allotment. After generations of slavery, wanderings, and war, the land that was promised was finally theirs. The Israelites were home.
God’s covenant with Abraham was not only to bring Israel into that place, but to bless every nation. Joshua draws to a close at a huge milestone, pointing down a road that leads to Christ. Throughout their history, Scripture reminded God’s people of this exact, triumphant moment. After the Savior came, Paul and the other early Church preachers turned back and showed how God kept His promises as an encouragement that one day, Christ would return. Joshua did not live to see Jesus, and Abraham did not live to see his descendants receive the land. I do not assume there is any reason I will live to see Christ return. But I have the same faith as Abraham that, “What God [has] promised, he [is] also able to do” (Romans 4:21).
There may be days when we feel as though we’re adrift, wandering in the wilderness. We will be called to have faith even when it feels like we are hoping against hope, like Abraham. He was called to trust God’s goodness and believe that His promise to bring about a great nation would be fulfilled. Each of these stories from Scripture is an encouragement to our faith. Our God calls things into existence that do not exist and makes a way where there is none—like establishing a home in hostile land, and giving life to the dead. The victory in Canaan was a stop on the way to Christ, and that is a cause for triumph and celebration, both today and in the day to come.