God led the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land, but the transition was not all that easy. Today, we who are born of God by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ are in a similar transition. We are being led out of this world, which is constantly groaning due to sin, into the New Jerusalem where there is no more pain or grief.
Just as God kept His promise that He made to the forefathers of Israel, He will finish the good work that He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6). Though you have a guarantee for your inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:14), the transition is filled with too many heartaches, depression, losses and griefs. It is not a trouble-free journey as some of the false preachers of the day claim it to be. You have a part to play in this journey. What is that part? Well, we can learn that from Joshua, son of Nun.
Joshua was a young man, who was on the journey to the Promised Land. He was actually one of the two (Numbers 14:30) who made it to the Promised Land, from that older generation of 600,000 men that came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Numbers 11:21). The other one was Caleb. Joshua is first noted in Exodus chapter 17, where Moses chose him to lead some men from the Israeli camp to fight against Amalekites. It was one of the first political battles for Israel as a nation that they won. Joshua was an able young man who was strong enough to be an army commander. Also, he was working as an assistant for Moses, which meant that he was with Moses even when God called Moses for a meeting whether on a mountain top or in the tent of meeting.
The lesson that we can learn from Joshua is found in Exodus 33:11. We read in that chapter how Moses meets with God face to face in the tent of meeting, during which a pillar of cloud would be at the entrance of the tent. When the people in the camp saw the pillar of cloud, they stood outside their respective tents and worshiped God. Joshua would accompany Moses to the tent of meeting and would wait outside when a cloud of pillar blocked the entrance. What is wonderful to notice is that, Moses would leave the tent of meeting after the meeting to go back into the camp, but Joshua would not leave the tent of meeting. This is how it is recorded, “When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent” (Exodus 33:11 b ESV). Joshua was not on a sentry duty to guard the tent of the meeting. His job was to assist Moses, not guard the tent of the meeting. What kept Joshua at the tent of meeting even after Moses left and the pillar of cloud was lifted was because he embraced God.
Joshua saw what the rest of the Israelites failed to see. He saw that the God who was leading him was the All Sufficient One. He was satisfied in the presence of God more than in anything else. He was not carried away by his position as the army commander or his title as the assistant of Moses. He embraced God above everything. If you think about it, it is quite interesting that though he was part of the same camp that went through thirst, hunger, war and civil unrest, his focus was on God. We can even ask why did God wait to provide till people started grumbling? Because God wanted them to be satisfied in Him. It is not that He did not want to bless them with what they needed, but that He wanted them to know, believe and embrace Him as the All Sufficient One, who was always present with them. They missed that and took Him as a person, who would give them all they wanted.
Joshua who went through the same hunger, same thirst, same heat, same long walks as the rest of the Israelites, had his eyes fixed on God. He sought the Provider over provisions. He was overwhelmed by the glory of God, which is exactly what is expected of every true worshiper in this journey of life on earth. If we truly know and believe in the All Sufficient One, we will not fail to embrace Him as the Sovereign Lord, who is in complete control of everything. Indeed, the world is in chaos, there is pandemic, war, natural disasters, crime, and all sorts of heart-rending evil, but to lose sight of the truth that One who called us to follow is the All Sufficient One would be more disastrous. At every crossroad, we would break our heads and give into despair, if we forget that the One who began the good work in us is faithful to complete it.
It is important to always remember that God is leading us on this journey for His glory. He cannot fail, for His glory is at stake. As David sang, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3). The table is set for you, the Host expects you to be at His table. It is He who has invited you. You didn’t do anything to deserve that invitation. Yes, it is true that you are unworthy, you lack what it takes to be at that table, but don’t you think that He already knows all that about you? He is not expecting you to learn all that you need to know to take part in that divine communion. He wants you to look at Him, fix your eyes on Him and learn from Him. He will transform you one day at a time. Don’t you try to get out of His presence to sort yourself out and then return so that you can please Him. You cannot learn to be a child of God away from His presence. You must be at His table. When you mess, which is sure to happen almost every day, all you need to do is to repent and seek His mercy. He is merciful beyond our understanding. His mercy is measured in Him not sparing His own Son for our sake. That’s the measure of His mercy toward you.
What else do you want to know to be overwhelmed by this All Sufficient One? He died in your place so that you can receive the invitation to be adopted by Abba Father. He was risen so that you can be with Him in the Father’s presence. Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Did you get that? You are blessed by the Father, in Christ, in the heavenly places… What are you blessed with? You are blessed with every spiritual blessing! You have all that you need to be in His presence. You are already qualified in Christ. You have to let God’s love transform you into the image of His perfect Son. He will do it, but you have to be in His presence.
How to be in His presence? Here is what Jesus said: “…deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Firstly, denying self is to be God-conscious, not self-conscious. Most of our setbacks in our journey are mainly because of our selfishness. We have set very low standards for ourselves. When God wants us to receive His mercy and be forgiven, we want to live a perfect life on our own understanding. When God wants us to receive His grace and be His children, we want to sort ourselves out before we begin to live an obedient life. When God wants us to receive and live in the power of His Spirit, we want to prove ourselves to the world by being wise in our own eyes. How foolish and wicked to insult God by rejecting His mercy, grace and power!
Secondly, bearing a cross is inevitable in following Jesus. Will it hurt when we lose a loved one? Oh yes! Knowing, believing and embracing God does not guarantee immunity against pain and loss. In fact, the world that hates God will lash out against us, because we are enemies of the world when we follow Jesus. Just as the world and the devil hated Jesus, we will be oppressed. But take notice of this, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (shit), in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8 ESV). Yes, anything that we would try to treasure above Christ is nothing but ‘dung’. It is the very word that Apostle Paul used in Greek. He counted anything independent of Christ in his life as dung. So, then what do you want to value in your life? GOD or dung?
Thirdly and lastly, following Jesus is the only thing necessary for us. When Jesus was visiting Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany (Luke 10). There definitely were more than just Jesus in Martha’s house that day. Martha was frantic about making sure that she took good care of her guests. Nonetheless, her sister Mary’s mind was not on the chores. She made sure she sat right at the feet of Jesus before anyone else took that spot. When Martha was frustrated at Mary’s indifference, she complained to Jesus about it. Do you know what Jesus said? “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NLT). Wow!
So if you’re asking ‘what must I do now?’ Do what those two blind men did in Matthew chapter 20. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” (v.30). The crowd rebuked them for calling out to Jesus, but they cried out even louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and healed them that day and they began following Him. Do not just be one in the crowd, going with the flow. Do not let the pandemic, sickness, death or anything stop you from shouting out to the Lord. Long for Him until He hears you and touches you and opens your eyes. He is willing, are you ready to cry out to Him?
Embrace God in your wilderness like Joshua!
Vinay Muniswamy, South Africa