Of all the unenviable jobs found in the annals of Scripture, I’ve often thought that Joshua had one of the worst. Number one, how would you like to follow in the footsteps of a stalwart like Moses? “Joshua, does your face shine when you come out of the tent of meeting? What can you do with that famous rod? Hmmmph. That’s our next leader? I can’t see it”. Can’t you just imagine the critique and controversy going around the evening campfires? There was always plenty of mumbling and grumbling in the camp of Israel, so you can bet your leather sandals that this latest decision was no less debated. If you’ve ever stepped into a work position that someone else left in a storm, you can appreciate the conundrum.
Secondly, this was not a pretty job. Lead the troops in to take over every single, well-entrenched, inter-married, blood-related tribe sprawled over the land? Without the infallible judgment of God having come to fullness, and His implacable command, this could be categorized as wholesale slaughter. Never mind that your ‘soldiers’ have been slaves for at least three hundred years, nor that they have no forged weapons. Don’t be put off by the fact that this army is half women and children, unprotected and completely vulnerable just behind the front lines. You’ve been promoted on these words:
Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Joshua 1:2-6 NKJV
At over sixty, Joshua was no spring chicken for such an extensive and exhaustive campaign. Apparently, God has a long memory. Remember when he and Caleb were part of the twelve sent out to scout the land? Against the fearful voices of ten others, these two spoke boldly that Israel could take the land. One can only surmise that he won his promotion into this task through his courage. Of course, the campaign was no cake-walk. There were some slips and false starts, but when you can put your foot on the necks of dominant kings and declare the victory, you have been successful.
I can’t speak for you, of course, but given all these factors, I would have been shaking in my boots. Notwithstanding, when God advises you to advance, you’d better listen. Ready or not, it’s wiser to proceed on the assurances still ringing magisterially in your ears.
Advance. Promotion. Upgrade. These are the mantra of the worldly-minded, but they are also the hope of the faithful. When one of the first words to mankind of God were “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth, subdue it and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28), you can bet it’s going to be the driving force of our lives on earth. While we may not pursue ambition with the same dog-eat-dog mindlessness, the saints still expect life in the kingdom to take us somewhere better. You know: glory to glory.
The knack of navigating ‘advance’ is to be neither pre-emptive nor lagging. Timing is critical. The thorniest disciplines of Faith are knowing when to wait, listen, tarry and trust, and when to move. You’ve got to be listening with a prophetic ear, or you’ll screw it up. One of my favorite maxims of Scripture regarding this principal is found in Deuteronomy. You wouldn’t guess it right off, but it’s really one of the most useful guidelines there is.
“...by the mouth of two or three witnesses will every matter be established”. Deuteronomy 19:15
It’s been my experience and training that the first time God speaks something new to you, He’s speaking a promise; a potentiality of gain for you to take. He’s setting the direction. The second time it comes around again, He’s saying “get ready”, and the third time, it’s the moment to execute.
It brings me back to my high-school days of track and field. When you’re good at running, you end up on the relay team. This is a race of four people per team, each running 100 meters and passing a baton. It takes practice and skill to know how to pass that baton without loosing time or speed. When it transfers hands, both runners should be at top pace, within the designated zone. Precious seconds, and indeed a race, can be lost by a clumsy, ill-timed hand-over.
When the Lord speaks, you’re going to have to take off before you hold the baton. Run forward, but watch behind, because circumstances are closing in fast. Acceleration is tricky; you can’t reach maximum speed until the baton is actually in your hand. When you have it, do not hesitate. Execute, with the ruthless precision of Joshua, the task given to you.
Increase, in God’s kingdom always comes wrapped in grace, accompanied by challenge, but abounding in joy. He always sends provision out in front of your advance to confirm that you are in His flow and timing. Trust one who has made many mistakes of trial and error; there’s nothing sweeter than prospering in the providence of God.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 NKJV
cb photo by Bing