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Posts Tagged ‘Joshua’

A reflection offered to United World Mission’s US Leadership Team

27 September 2021

I think we may find ourselves in a season of Joshua-like courage.

I’m no doubt influenced in saying so by John’s kick-off video last week, but also by a long weekend walk in the autumnal Connecticut woods with my dog Rhea and three recent conversations with—respectively—Jonathan, Jessica, and Chad. Those convos were of such quality that they left me feeling as though we’re in the kind of season that becomes a point of reference for entire careers. The kinds of seasons that have retired LAMers at Penney Farms still talking about the 60s and 70s when young renegades like René Padilla, Samuel Escobar, and Orlando Costas burst on the scene without asking permission. LAM, to the astonishment of many and the horror of some, cautiously embraced these Latin American voices.

The rest is history.

I’m sure we could narrate similar tales come from critical hinges in 20th and 21st century history, for example, when it became possible to serve behind the Iron Curtain as the Berlin Wall trembled and eventually crumbled.

In each case, Joshua-like courage was required … and forthcoming.

I think we might be in another of those seasons. We may someday talk about the moment we’re living now in the UWM retirement community that John will build for us. Some sooner than others.

Here’s a text:

Josh. 1:1  After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good successwherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1.1-9 (ESV)

 Can you see in this opening to the first book after the ‘five book of Moses’ how utterly grounded—the more appropriate term is rooted—Joshua is called to remain?

7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good successwherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Joshua 1.7-8 (ESV)

And yet Joshua’s commission is anything but backward-looking. To the contrary, he is charged with stepping into very large shoes and with leading his people into the scary unknown. Not all of them wanted to go there. Not all of them wanted to go there under Joshua’s baton.

This happens in the midst of lots of drama, with Yahweh responding in Deuteronomy to Moses’ plea to be allowed to enter the promised land after he’d been told that was not gonna’ happen:

Deut. 3:23   And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, 24 ‘O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? 25 Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ 26 But the LORD was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again.’

Deuteronomy 3.23-26 (ESV)

Deeply rooted …. forward-leaning.

I wonder if that’s where we find ourselves as UWM and as a USLT…

I might be tempted to leave Joshua and Joshua-like courage where it stands, not uprooting it from its native soil and forcing into some kind of relevance for us when that might not be what it’s there for.


Except for Psalm 1, one of my favorites.

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

in all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1.1-3 (ESV)

One of Israel’s poets has riffed on Joshua 1 and, in the process, democratized it. The way he redeploys the language of what for us is Joshua 1 make it indisputably a poetic restatement of the Joshua text. Then a final editor of this book of Israel’s praises—maybe the same persona, maybe not—has placed it as the very doorway into Israel’s hymns, laments, meditations, screams, and words of stabilizing wisdom.

So Joshua-like courage now becomes a summons for every daughter and son of Israel.

Again, we see that his blessed person is very, very deeply rooted. Now to say ‘grounded’ is not enough.

Yet this Psalm is no more antiquarian than the Joshua text, no more backward-looking that Joshua’s commission was. It is about wading forward into the psalms, wading forward into life with Yahweh, wading in as a responsible member of the community in which Yahweh has embedded each of us, wading in to forge a future out of sometimes unpromising raw material.

Joshua-like courage, now for everyone. Still deeply rooted …. and still forward-leaning.

It’s this line of thinking that has got its claws into me in this season of life within UWM (and FUSBC…) that has me seeking Joshua-like courage, which is no more innate in me than it was in Joshua. He, after all, needed strong exhortation to summon up this courage rather than simply employ a kind of heroic fearlessness that lay somehow on the surface of him, readily available.

That’s what I want to do and what I observe numbers of you doing.

I want to reminisce about this season someday on my rocking chair at Bernard Farms in central Vermont, when Autumn is falling and the voices of my LAM forebears in Penney Farms have gone quiet. It’ll be worth it.

So that’s what I’ve got.

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The early chapters of the book of Joshua twist together twin threads. First, there is Joshua’s assumption of the dead Moses’ leadership of Israel. Then, the occupation of the land promised to the Israelites a very long time ago.

Twin threads. The emerging nation, in this literary history, is required to ’embrace change’—as we say a little too often today—in two important ways.

First, they must choose whether they will follow YHWH’s newly anointed leader, who is very much unlike his famous predecessor. Second, they must learn to provide for themselves in a land that seems poised to cooperate with the effort. (more…)

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Just as the book of Joshua begins with a renewal of the covenant that binds Israel to YHWH and his chosen leader, so it ends. Joshua received the baton from the hand of Israel’s aged lawgiver Moses. He now prepares to hand it on to those largely unnamed Israelite leaders who will carry it forward. Joshua, in his own words, has grown old and ‘advanced in years’.

The time for another wrenching change has arrived. Israel will survive because of the strong glue that is covenant. (more…)

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The Book of Joshua leaves traces of a prejudice that was to die hard in Israel. When two and a half of the dozen tribes that populate this narrative of Israel’s entrance into the ‘promised land’ lay claim to an inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River, a breach is opened up between them and the tribes that crossed over to the western side. It was a chasm that would run deeper than mere topography. (more…)

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Unlike its pious custodians, biblical narrative that revolves around prostitutes and beggars rarely condemns its protagonists. At times they appear almost to be seers, people who glimpse what scowling passersby miss entirely. (more…)

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