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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, July 19, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Joshua 1:1–9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, “My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 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.” (NRSV)

Although the Book of Joshua, which chronicles Israel’s conquest of Canaan, is fraught with theological and moral challenges, the opening verses of the book are a fascinating reflection on leading in times of transition and uncertainty. Chapter 1 sees Joshua assume the mantle of leadership after Moses’ death, as God charges him to lead Israel into the Promised Land to which Moses had brought them to the cusp. For later Israelites, Moses’ leadership was viewed as the gold standard, so it’s not hard to imagine some level of trepidation or dismay on Joshua’s part as he prepared to succeed a beloved and respected figure.

In these verses, however, God reminds Joshua that his success or failure as a leader isn’t really about how beloved or respected that he would be by the people, just as Moses’ leadership wasn’t really about those things either. True leadership is listening to God—specifically, following God’s word as laid out by the Law (the Torah) that God had given to Moses. If Joshua meditates on those words day and night and acts in accordance with them, then his way will be prosperous and he shall be successful.

As we think about what it means to be leaders in our daily life, regardless of what position or role we are talking about, may we listen for and act upon God’s word as best we can. But above all, may we remember the promise that concludes God’s speech to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” No matter what we are facing, may we hold fast to God—just as God holds fast to us.

Holy God, help me to be strong and courageous, even in times of trial or difficulty, for you are with me wherever I go. And in following you, may I be taught to lead. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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