“Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Dt 31:7-8 NLT)
Standing on the edge of the Jordan River, Canaan stretches out before the Israelites, as far as their eyes can see. The Promised Land.
Will they trust God and cross the river in faith for the hope of their future?
How could they not? Who wouldn’t trust God for something called the Promised Land – a land of milk and honey? That sounds pretty good.
But this is the second time they have been in this position. Forty years prior, they were supposed to do exactly that – cross the river and possess the land. But they didn’t. They faltered. Why?
That first time, standing on the banks of the Jordan, the realities of the giants and enemies they would encounter outweighed the promises of God to go before them and to deliver their enemies to them. They faltered for the same reason we do when facing an unknown journey. They did not recall their past with God. They did not bring to their current situation their history of His faithfulness.
If we do not remember and recall God’s faithfulness in our past, we will not trust Him for our future. Our fears will drown out our faith.
God’s faithfulness. What exactly does this mean?
Everywhere in the Old Testament where we see faithfulness as a characteristic of God, it denotes stability, steadfastness, trustworthiness. It means God can be counted on to be who he says he is and do what he says he can and will do.
Moses, will not be going with the Israelites into Canaan. The mantle has been passed to Joshua. So in his final words to the people he has led, fought with, anguished over and loved, Moses recounts their journey and all of the ways God had provided for them along the way. He implores them to be careful to obey the commands of the LORD. Be strong. Be courageous. And believe that the LORD himself will cross into the land ahead of them.
Moses knows that we need to know. As the people are poised to enter into the unknown of what lies ahead, they need to know and remember how God has been active in their past so that they can trust and believe him for their future.
He calls them to be a people who respond to his faithfulness to them by being a people of faith.
If God’s faithfulness means that he is steadfast, trustworthy and can be counted on to be and do what he says is and can do,
Then our response of faith is to believe that God is who he says he is and can and will do what he says he can and will do.
A number of years ago my dad became the victim of the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s or dementia. This was not a journey my parents planned to take. Who does?
Who plans to have to journey through illness, the death of a child, job loss, or any number of other situations? You find yourself standing at the brink of something you know has giants in it and where you know you will encounter the enemy and you have a decision to make. What path will you take? Anger and Fear or Faith?
Anger keeps us from recognizing God’s faithfulness. We cannot see His provision when all we see is what we have lost or don’t have. Fear sees the giants and enemies but doesn’t claim God’s promise to drive them out ahead of us.
Faith, on the other hand, looks back and recalls God’s faithful activity in our lives in the past and then looks forward, trusting Him for our future.
God instructed Moses to make sure everything was written down. It wasn’t enough that Moses spoke it over the people. He made sure there was a written record of God’s provision, their history as a people of the LORD, the commands and all of the instructions. The people had everything they needed to be a faithful, believing God people.
Then, as Joshua prepares to step into leading the people, the LORD impresses upon him the importance of all that Moses wrote down. Read it. Know it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Then – you will live in the fullness of the benefits of my faithfulness to you.
My mom’s response to her new situation was to begin really reading the Bible. She started every day with the Upper Room and spent time looking up, reading and meditation on the passages.
Her reality did not change. My dad still had dementia. The journey did not suddenly get easy. In fact, it got harder.
But her ability to conquer the enemies was there. Because she was steeped in the Word, she knew and recognized God’s faithfulness all along the journey and she knew she could trust him for her future.
We cannot believe what we do not know.
This is why God tells the Israelites to live according to his commands. Why he tells Joshua to study, and meditate on, and obey the Book of Instructions. Why Jesus tells us to obey his commands.
This is where we discover God’s faithfulness in our past and learn how to live in the faithfulness of trusting him for our future. God will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Will you trust him?