By Jared Ratcliff | March 20, 2020
They were not unused to trials—for their parents, now dead, had been slaves in a foreign land. Many of these remembered, if only faintly, days when food was scarce, or weeks of anxious waiting to see if papa survived his last stint in the mines, or times when they had to work tiredly all day bundling and carrying straw in the fields. But those days had passed. Though they were not enjoying it to the fullest extent, their old masters had indeed granted their freedom.
They'd lived as nomads in the desert for many years, but now camped on the banks of the Jordan River. They stood on the very borders of Canaan. Not all was storybook-perfect, though. This land had been theirs once, hundreds of years before. Now though, it appeared they'd have to fight for it. They had a problem—a giant problem, quite literally. Their old home was now occupied, and its new residents, quite naturally, didn't want to leave.
The "Giant Problem"
In addition, their old and dear leader had just died, and no sooner had his assistant received the position than he received his first orders and faced a dilemma: how could he get his hundreds of thousands of people and their luggage across a giant river with no bridge, then recover their land? God told them how to cross the river: walk through it. The priests would lead the column and all the people would follow, and as soon as they walked in the river would split. That took some trust, but indeed, the water upstream piled up until they had crossed, as God said. All the people reached the other side with just a little river mud on their sandals.
Then they faced the giant problem: the land that "eateth up the inhabitants thereof," as the 12 spies had reported to Moses 40 years before. They had also reported that "the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature." A giant problem, indeed. And now, forty years later, the problems had not changed. Time only would tell if their reaction to the problems, had. Now that the Israelites had crossed the Jordan, they were mere miles from Jericho, the gate of Canaan. Jericho was a formidable city indeed, and Joshua sent spies to check it out. The people were nervous about the presence of the Israelites and their mighty God; the spies barely got out of town with their lives, aided by Rahab, who hid them and then let them over the wall with a rope to make good their escape.
The spies returned with their report, explaining how the people were afraid and saying that they could indeed take the city. Joshua, though, worried about the coming battle, and understandably so: the Israelites, alone, could never hope to beat Jericho. Prior to the crossing of the Jordan River, God had made Joshua a promise. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Now, though, it seemed God had abandoned them at the unbeatable city. Worried and stumped wondering how to mount a successful attack, Joshua considered the problem, walking outside the camp one day. Suddenly, he came face-to-face with a warrior, sword in hand. Startled, his hand quickly found the handle of his own sword as he challenged, "are you for us or for our adversaries?"
The warrior turned and looked Joshua straight in the eye. “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come." It could only be the Coming One, Jesus! Stunned, Joshua fell on his face in fear and worship. He surreptitiously glanced at the warrior—and saw marked on his face determination, unwavering confidence, and majesty, yet it was also full of compassion. Of love.
Ashamed of His fear, Joshua lifted his head and asked, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" The warrior commanded him to remove his sandals—for as was understood in the culture of the time, sandals were not to be worn in the presence of the divine, and Joshua was on holy ground. The warrior then instructed Joshua how to capture the city of Jericho, before departing.
Joshua returned to camp, forever changed by this one encounter with God. In that face he saw written Christ's love for humanity and realized with sudden insight just what compassion this Warrior had, that He would risk all He had to save the Israelites, to save Joshua, and to save all of humanity—who couldn't even seem to remain faithful to Him.
Joshua had no more doubts or fears about the coming battle. Throughout the rest of His life and afterwards, his people remembered Joshua as a fearless leader, forever faithful to God. He had been changed by this one short encounter with Love.
Nothing To Fear (Even Coronavirus)
We may have the same confidence that Joshua had. We have access to the same divine power. And though we may not meet Christ face to face, we can talk to Him through prayer. The King wants to be our Father, our Friend. I don't know what "giant problems" you have in your life. It could be a relationship, an addiction, or a habit that, like a parasite, destroys our love for God. It may be a problem, or a fear, whether about politics, finances, or the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic. But let's trust. Trust in the one who turned darkness into light, fearfully and wonderfully made us, and has prepared for us homes in the clouds. We have nothing to fear.
Israel won the battle against the city of Jericho and defeated their Giant Problems. Eventually they reclaimed the entire land of Canaan, which God had promised to them. And years later when Joshua gave his last address to the nation before he died, he gave a ringing appeal that has stood through the centuries: "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
This post first appeared on Jared Ratcliff's blog, Compelled To Fly, at jaredratcliff.com. The story is from Joshua 1-6.
Jared Ratcliff is a young adult currently attending Wenatchee Valley College. Jared enjoys outdoor recreation, including hiking, camping, and kayaking. He likes photography and design work, and is the Cashmere SDA web developer. He also enjoys writing, works as an English tutor at his college, and runs his blog, jaredratcliff.com. Jared especially has a passion for ministry, both outside and within the church, sharing Christ's love—the "only thing worth living for," as he says—with everyone.