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.
Joshua 1:9 NRSV
Moses is dead. And yet God’s command leaves no time to mourn, to regroup, to reconsider. The book of Joshua begins with a command to Joshua, to not only go forward, but to do so strongly, courageously, not having fear or dismay. For those of who prefer the idea of gentle, loving God it is uncomfortable to accept a command to be brave, a command against fear, treating fear or sadness as sin perhaps even. Sin is a loaded word, but if we see sin not just as “bad” behaviour, but those attitudes and choices which separate us from God, then fear of moving forward to where God calls us is “sin.” The point is not to feel guilty, though, but to go forward. Our fear can obscure God from our view, but we are not ever out of God’s view. God is with you wherever you are.
Yesterday in the Sunday worship at Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral in Montréal, I led a prayer for our graduating and departing students. This is a season in young lives of finishing semesters, accepting college admissions, going off to graduate schools, searching for jobs.
Moses had led Joshua and the people of Israel for decades. We are blessed when we have our own Moseses, those whose examples we can follow, those who give us the instructions about where to go next. Our Moses could be a wise, older mentor, but it could be our job, our school, our sense of security in our current phase of life. Following Moses can be a good and holy thing; but sometimes our Moses departs or dies. Sometimes our turn comes to take the lead on our own next step in life.
For the people of Israel, the promised land was never with Moses. It was only after they, and Joshua, went forward trusting in God that they reached the promise.
Perhaps this is a season of next steps into the unknown for you. The people who God puts in our lives to point us to the promise of our lives are not always going to accompany us all the way. We thank God for them, but sometimes the life God has promised us requires stepping into new places and relationships. Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.