Joshua 1:9 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
Moses has died. Joshua is tapped to take the people forward into the promised land and God assures him that every step of the way, he will be there with him – that Joshua will hear from him, as Moses did. The Lord encourages him with a pep talk, ‘Don’t look back Joshua, you can’t go back, you have it in you to step into Moses’ shoes and keep moving forward. Strength and courage, Joshua, to not retreat into safety or defeat but to move forward as purposed.’
The entire passage is about moving forward – just as the entirety of God’s story is about moving forward. And every step of the way, we are assured that God is with us, detours and all.
But what about moving backwards? What if a person has moved forward in faith and courage, but then is derailed and seeks the seemingly safe harbor of the past ‘land’ – retreating back into the desert, into occupied territory because there is no courage to move forward. Someone who thinks that the courage that had moved them forward, the faith that had moved them forward, the hand that had moved them forward into a new way of life or land or relationship was too hard to continue navigating? The past looks safe, the known vs the unknown.
Does God follow us back? Are we assured of his presence, his voice, his hand in our lives if we give up, retreat, go back? Does God lead us backwards? Or do we take ourselves back to times, places, ways of living, relationships thinking that what we lost when we left will be found, again.
I don’t think God abandons us ever but I do think he is harder to locate when we retreat into what we have deemed a safe harbor. Harder to see God’s hand in the mix – to give the Holy Spirit room to speak into this particular do-over life with any energy to move us again out of it.
Different than the prodigal who left of his own volition and was lead back by God’s hand to the place intended for him all along. But those of us who are lead forward into a new land, a new way of living life, or a new relationship but then get scared, defeated, disCOURAGED and return to land, life or relationship have to wonder, by whose hand did we return? And where is God’s voice in the retreat? When we take over the reins out of fear or lack of trust, what is in store for us?
Like Alice in Wonderland – lead into the adventure for a reason and aware she could never return to yesterday – as safe of a harbor as it might have seemed to her.
Because we are different because we left the land, life or relationship by God’s hand. Our beings are shaped by those experiences trusting God to take us out of Egypt, through the desert and now about to enter the promised land.
As daunting as it must have felt to God’s people to move forward without Moses, they couldn’t have stayed put in the safe harbor of a life they had come to know in the desert. There were better things ahead than what they were leaving behind.
And I think they would have been pretty miserable. Abandoned? No. God is always with us wherever we may be, as he assures Joshua. But maybe harder to see or feel if we settle for less than what he offers.
Like poor, sad Eeyore, here. Perhaps Joshua and crew has moved onto into the promised land trusting the Lord, God – into new territory, a new way of living, new relationships, while Eeyore stays put.
How much of the good, godly, joyful life we choose to lose when we retreat, give up, and not move forward as purposed.
Have strength and courage to stay the course, Joshua. I will be with you every step of the way.
A good word for me, today.