Every morning I am reminded of the great turning point in Hebrew history when Moses led the people across the Red Sea. My coffee cup depicts the event. The people stand fearfully on the edge of the rolled-back waters as Moses cries, “What do you mean ‘it’s a bit muddy’?!” Clearly the artist uses humor and imagination to guess at the type of response the Hebrews might have made. This week’s readings all challenge us to trust in God’s strength and presence to carry us through every difficulty.
Since the time of Moses, a long struggle for freedom and a place to call home has kept the people going as they endured some hard times in wilderness conditions. The writer of Joshua offers a new story that also reflects liberation through water. After Moses’ death, Joshua brings the journeying people across the Jordan. The community now has a priesthood and the ark of the covenant as a symbol of God’s dwelling among them. The levitical priests have carried the ark ahead of the ragtag group for days until they all finally come to the edge of the Jordan. On the other side stands the fortified city of Jericho; they need a strong faith to believe that God will protect them while they cross and after their crossing. The priests, representing the twelve tribes, go into the Jordan first and stand in the middle as long as the people cross. Their risky action and steadfastness surely encourage others to trust that God will sustain the company as the future unfolds.
We all journey in faith and sometimes encounter big challenges that can keep us from getting our toes wet. Who stands in the middle to encourage us? How do we thank God for safe crossings?
“O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Ps. 56:3). Amen.
The book of Joshua tells the story of the return of the Israelites to the land promised to Abraham. They have escaped captivity in Egypt by a miraculous crossing, and now they enter the land in a similar way. Psalm 107 speaks of God gathering the people from distant lands and bringing them out of the desert into a land of plenty. It is a poetic reflection on the experience of the Israelites. Paul often experiences resistance from various sources. In a defense of his integrity, he points to his actions as proof of his virtue. Jesus reminds us that we can do the right thing for the wrong reasons. If we act in order to draw attention to ourselves, then even good deeds lose their luster in God’s eyes.
Read Joshua 3:7-17. When have you had to trust leaders for the good of your community?
Read Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37. Recall difficult times in your faith journey. How did you experience God’s steadfast love through these times?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13. What daily practices give you insight into God’s Word? How do you encourage others in their life of faith?
Read Matthew 23:1-12. Do your leaders live what they preach? If you are a leader, how do you strive to live the gospel?
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