Joshua stood before the wall. In front of him towered the most formidable structure he had ever beheld. It drew comparison to the grandeur of the pyramids from his childhood in Egypt, only this was different. The pyramids were designed to house the dead, this wall defended the living. Behind Joshua was a sea of Israelites, two and a half million in number. He had been tasked with leading them into battle against the people of this land. Jericho, the city before him, was his first mission.
40 years earlier the strongest of the fathers of these Israelites had been sent to spy out this region, they had the intention of taking the land way back then. The Israelites awaited their return with great anticipation, but excitement quickly turned to fear. The once proud and brave spies now brought foreboding stories of armies, fortresses and giants. If they were afraid, what hope did the people have? As a cloud of fear and hopelessness descended on the congregation, a voice of hope was heard. Joshua and Caleb stood apart, with a stubborn resolve to stand for their God.
‘Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”’
– Numbers 13:30
The people allowed fear to prevent them from adopting Caleb’s faith, and, not wanting to abandon them, God led them back into the wilderness to strengthen their faith.
Now their children had returned. At the death of their old leader, Moses, God had appointed Joshua as their new commander. The burden of leading countless lives against an unknown and powerful foe rested heavily on his shoulders. The outward enemy was obvious and formidable, but the enemy within was far superior. Voices of doubt and fear spoke harmful words into his mind. ‘It is hopeless’, ‘You are weak’, ‘You will only be defeated, and then what good will you be?’, ‘Give up now and save yourself the embarrassment’, ‘Go back to your old life, where you will be at ease and in comfort’, ‘Do you really trust this God?’.
There was no strength in Joshua to face either of these battles, the inward or the outward. He should have cowered over, he should have given in. But Joshua was not standing in his own strength. In his mind, a still, small Voice reminded him of the charge he had received from God when he first became leader:
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”
– Joshua 1:5-6
With these words in his mind, and with a knowledge that God was by his side, Joshua stood, he faced his enemy, and he watched as God brought him victory.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE
Reader, if you are facing enemies more powerful than yourself, if you feel alone, if you feel hopeless, if you have failed before, if you want to give up, your Father has a message for you. God promised the Israelites, a nation He saved from slavery to Egypt, a new land to call their own. The only problem: this land had been taken by powerful nations. God purposed Joshua with taking the land back, and God strengthened him to succeed. God gave us this story so that we can have hope in hopelessness. Your Father has promised you, a person He is in the process of saving from slavery to sin (separation from God leading to unhealthy/harmful habits and mindsets), a new life with Him now and for eternity. The only problem: you still have sin in your life. He gives you the purpose of fighting this sin, and He promises to stand with you.
Dear reader, you have a Father that sees you in the middle of your sin (Jeremiah 23:24). He sees every bit of it. He knows what is in your mind, He knows the things you do that you hope no other person will ever find out. He knows all of this, and yet, He does not despise you (Job 36:5). He does not desert you (Deuteronomy 31:6). He does not condemn you.
HOW CAN I BE SURE?
The religious leaders of the time dragged a woman into the busy temple, threw her at the feet of Jesus, and proudly exclaimed:
“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.”
– John 8:4
They did not care to end her sinful ways, she was simply a puppet in their plan to destroy Jesus’ reputation. Eagerly, they tried to prompt Jesus, (John 8:5) “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”, hoping to find some ground to claim He spoke against their laws. Instead of arguing, Jesus took a surprising approach, (John 8:6) ‘But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.’
The men, now offended that He would ignore them, continued their questioning. Jesus then raised Himself up and spoke His first and only words to them, (John 8:7) “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” He then stooped down again and continued writing. It is not known exactly what He wrote, but many believe that Jesus was recording in the dirt the sins of those accusers. Whatever it was, His words had a profound effect: (John 8:9) ‘Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.’
‘And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.’
– John 8:9
The woman, still in the middle of the temple, probably wrapped only in a sheet and feeling a heavy weight of shame pressing down on her, looked up with teary eyes. She had been sure this was her end. As she waited for the first stone to strike, she thought over the life she had lived. She remembered all her mistakes, all the decisions she regretted. It had seemed too late, she did not deserve a second chance now. But as she looked up, as she looked around through streams of tears, she found herself alone. Those words of condemnation, those excitedly angry eyes, those rough hands that had only minutes before dragged her to her lowest moment, all gone.
But then she remembered the Man before her, the only voice remaining. What would He do? Surely He had remained because He was truly without sin – surely He would now enact the judgement she deserved. She waited with head bowed, accepting whatever fate lay before her.
‘When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”’
– John 8:10
Suddenly hope raced through her being, to herself she questioned, ‘Has no one condemned me?’. As this hope built to excitement, and relief, and peace, and joy, and strength, she kept herself under control – she desired to know what this Man would say, how this Man would respond to her sins. Through her hopeful choked up voice she responded, (John 8:11) ‘No one, Lord’. Nothing in this world: her past, present or her future, compared to the anticipation with which she listened for His next words.
In a voice of humility and peace, He spoke to her, (John 8:11) “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
“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.”
– Joshua 1:9
P.S. Go read Joshua chapter 1, it’s really awesome, read the whole book if you can, also go listen to ‘Be Strong and Courageous’ by Colin Buchanan, I know it’s for kids but compared to our Father that’s just what we are 🙂
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