“…just as we obeyed Moes in all things, so we will obey you. Only may The Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses!” ~ Joshua 1:17
When I read this I nearly choked. Are the people of Israel standing before Joshua and telling him a) we obeyed Moses in all things or b) just as we obeyed Moses we will obey you or c) all of the above. What an incredible short term memory they had both in their actions and the fact that Joshua knows exactly how they obeyed (*disobeyed) Moses in all things (*very few things). Yet don’t we fall into the same condition of amnesia before God? It seems there are two things we very quickly forget: God’s blessings and our failings. We are also quick to remember two things: others failings and our conditions for obedience. There is so much humor (and sadness) in this one verse it really is hard to know where to start one’s reflections. The Lord said he would indeed be with Joshua just as he had been with Moses if Joshua would follow God closely. In fact, in Josh 1:2 we read God commissing Joshua into headship ministry! So the people already know that Joshua is the leader God has appointed for the mission ahead. What is quite scarey is actually what follows in verse 18, “Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” Can you imagine! Amnesia plus commitment to extreme consequences of disobedience foreshadow disaster in the future.
How often do we fall in line with Israel’s actions? How often do we either a) commit to “burning the ships” in obedience without considering our track record or we b) put conditions on what we will obey or what needs to happen in order for us to obey? God is not in the business of negotiating with His people. He calls us to obey Him when He gives us instructions. In fact, the word “disciple” means “apprentice or student.” The church today has taken that word as its own description but back in the New Testament time period the Rabbi’s weren’t the only ones who had students or “disciples.” All sorts of trades people had disciples who were learning how to work with their hands and copy the style of work their mentor produced. There was no negotiation – if you wanted to be their apprentice you did the work the way your teacher wanted you to do it and you did it like he did it – you followed in their footsteps. If we are called to be disciples of Jesus we show ourselves to be so through our obedience. No one can call themselves a follower of Jesus if they don’t in fact follow and obey what he has asked them or commanded them to do. And when we do the work of our Lord, we are to do HIS work the way HE would want it accomplished which not only reflects his character but also brings honor and glory to him. This also means we don’t worry about other people. The Israelites were concerned that Joshua wouldn’t be able to follow through when they really should have been more concerned about what they were committing to and how they were going to remain strong in faithfulness.
As we hear the call of Christ, let’s look to our own path to which we have been called and rely on God to light the way, give us the strength and pursue it with courage. Let’s not look to the left or the right worrying about whether or not others will be able to follow through on their commitment – that’s between them and the Lord. Instead, let’s be cheerleaders with each other and encourage one another to be faithful, to follow through and to commit whole heartedly to our Master – no negotiations – no conditions – just our affection driving us to Jesus time and time again. Amen.