1After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2“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. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4From 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. 5No 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. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7Only 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. 8This 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. 9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
What to do when the leader goes missing? This is just what happens with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus ascends to heaven and leaves his disciples staring, wondering what will happen next. It’s not until ten days later that they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—God’s own power and presence to guide them and help them in all the places they are called to go. It recalls something from long before, when Moses, Israel’s greatest prophet, the lawgiver, who spoke with God as a friend, died before the people reached the promised land. How to continue? God charges Joshua to keep going—that, even though Moses is gone, “I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you.” How do we act in the absence of our comfort? Or hope? Or the sense that we are unequal to the challenge of the day? We trust that God is with us. “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Gracious God, as you helped your people through wilderness ways, as you guided a scared Joshua and confused and bewildered disciples, remain with us, too—that in the challenge of the days ahead we would be assured that you are with us, and we would never be dismayed, in the hope of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Art: Christ the King of Kings, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55319