© 2017 Lynn Abbott
Hanging in the stairwell of my home, there are a collection of family photos. One of my favorites depicts my now 21-year-old as a toddler attempting to wear his dad’s shoes.
If you have children, you may have photos of them donning your shoes. I think all children find their parents’ shoes fascinating. I know I did.
However, it is humorous to see a small person shuffling about in those giant boots, high heels or loafers. When he was two, my son did not fit those shoes.
Of course, those shoes wouldn’t fit him today, either. But for different reasons. He now towers over both his father and me.
Yet, none of us could have imagined that all those years ago when he tried on his daddy’s shoes for the first time. I worried he would stumble. On high alert, I followed him as he shuffled around our home. I was fully prepared to catch him if he were to fall.
If you have children, you probably have photos of them donning your shoes.
Even so, I applauded his effort and praised his desire to fill those big shoes.
Sometimes, I feel like a toddler wandering around in shoes that don’t fit…
the tasks before me are too great;
expectations stalk me like giants;
my preparation falls short;
the destination or goal looms large;
God’s calling appears impossible.
And although the destination may sparkle on the horizon,
I cannot envision my journey from here to there.
Perhaps, you’ve felt the same way at times during your journey.
Funny how that happens. In my early twenties, I believed I could do anything. And my parents encouraged me. No mountain soared too high. No river flowed too swiftly. No valley spread too wide. No canyon dropped too deep. All things were possible with mama and papa cheering for me.
That confidence defined my twenties. Then, the thirties and forties hit. And during those years both my parents left this world for their eternal home, and I personally faced my own mortality.
When I reached the end of the valley of death, I found my parents shoes. A closet full. Yes, I had grown. My shoe size matched my mother’s. Nevertheless, I was quite sure I could never figuratively fill her shoes.
I wondered why Abba had allowed my parents to die so early in my life. Indeed, most of my friends still had both parents. And I didn’t wish to journey without their wisdom to return to when I faced the inevitable, overwhelming challenges that this life often throws at you and me.
Sometimes, I feel like a toddler wandering around in shoes that don’t fit…
As I closed the book of Numbers and opened Deuteronomy this past week, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not Joshua felt similarly as Moses prepared to hand him the leadership baton.
Prior to the book of Joshua, I read relatively little about Joshua. He does, however, make a cameo appearance on Mount Sinai with Moses. Moses had climbed Mount Sinai to speak with God. On this occasion, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for the first time.
Scripture notes in Exodus 24:13 that Moses took Joshua “his aide.” Judging from the whole of Scripture, Joshua was a relatively young man at the time. But Moses chose Joshua, and I am sure that Mo’s choice reflected God’s direction.
In this instance, we hear very little more of Josh except that he remarked upon the shouting in Israel’s camp upon descending with Moses from the mountain. Josh surmised the best of the people suggesting that the shouting resulted because of an attack on God’s people. Obviously, Joshua naively chose to think the best of his countrymen.
As Moses’ apprentice, he would learn much over the next forty years.
Although Josh trusted the people, Moses knew better. He had already been briefed by God, and knew that the people had sinned gravely by worshiping a golden calf formed from their golden earrings.
Biblical scholars tell us these earring were probably a vestige of their former Egyptian life and likely signified their former loyalty to Egyptian gods.
Obviously, by melting down earrings devoted to idolatry and creating a new idol, the people clearly disobeyed God. Their actions were deliberate and rebellious. And all of this occurred while Moses received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh.
For Joshua, the events of that day provided valuable insights regarding human nature.
Little else is said of Joshua, but from this, I surmise that Moses mentored Joshua. Joshua was a leader in training. I read no more of Joshua until Israel’s infamous rejection of God’s leading as recorded in Numbers, chapters 13-14.
Here, we find Joshua’s first major role as one of the twelve spies who scouted Canaan. Upon his return from Expedition Canaan, it becomes quite clear that God had chosen a strong and faith-filled young man as Moses’ future successor.
Although a young man, he expressed extraordinary confidence. Both Joshua and Caleb recommended entering Palestine. In fact, they were the only two of twelve who believed God would defeat Israel’s enemies and fulfill His promise to give the nation the Promised Land.
Yahweh would go before them. Yahweh would make the impossible crossing and conquests possible.
Sure, the river looked intimidating. The battles appeared overwhelming. Yet, God had a plan…a plan to, as Jeremiah later wrote, “give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The journey might be rough, but the land beyond would well reward them.
As Moses’ apprentice, Joshua learned much during Israel’s forty years of wandering.
Josh and Caleb trusted God to carry the nation through the immediate difficulty of the journey and in doing so, they acknowledged that God’s plans ultimately result in tremendous blessing for those who love and follow Him.
And Joshua and Caleb had certainly witnessed God’s blessing through Moses’ leadership.
The people, however, rebelled. They embraced the fear mongering report of the ten spies rather than the faith of the two.
And forty years of wandering in the desert ensued.
The people had much to learn about God. I don’t read anything more about Joshua until Moses dies. Although Scripture doesn’t specifically describe Joshua’s grief, it isn’t difficult to find it if you read between the lines.
Moses had mentored Joshua. Joshua obviously had shadowed Moses for more than 40 years. Moses, then, had become a kind of father figure in Joshua’s life. I cannot even begin to imagine the void that Moses’ death left in Joshua’s life.
But I do know how it felt to lose my parents. My confidence shook to its core. I couldn’t imagine navigating life without their wisdom and counsel. I doubted whether I could step into the big shoes of leadership and grace that they left as a legacy.
Yet, in my forties, I suddenly represented the oldest generation left in my immediate family. Thus, the task of spiritual leadership fell to my husband and me. Quite frankly, I didn’t know how I would personally survive the journey much less fulfill such a leadership role.
Without my parents to encourage and inspire, my confidence faltered.
I truly relate to Joshua. His “family,” of course, was a great deal larger than mine. Israel had grown as “numerous as the stars in the sky,” (Deuteronomy 10:22).
No wonder God spoke so graciously to him in Joshua 1:1-9. Moses’ Aide desperately needed a pep talk. After all, he definitely remembered the last time God had led the people to the border of Canaan. I suspect he wondered how he would succeed where Moses had failed.
Yup. I totally get that.
Even those with tremendous faith, those who seek God with all their hearts, those who comment their lives to service…
Even the heroes of the faith need support and encouragement. Life knocks the wind out of even the best. I suspect Joshua felt overcome by grief, and feared he was inadequate to don the mantle of his spiritual mentor.
After all, Moses left behind bigger-than-life shoes. I’m sure Josh shook his head, and questioned his own calling.
Maybe, you can relate, too.
Perhaps, you look at the road before you and wonder just how you will take the next step.
Even heroes of the faith need support and encouragement.
Although you know Abba is loving, good, and faithful, you recognize your weakness and fear the challenges that lie ahead of you. The other bank of the river promises great joy and reward, the journey from here to there appears as impossible as the quest made by Tolkien’s protagonist, Frodo, across the wilds of barren and evil Mordor.
And you may ask, as I have on occasion, how will I ever make it without my mentors? How will I ever walk in such big shoes? Will I make it across the rapid and roaring tides?
Recall with me the words of Yahweh, our heavenly Father, spoken to Joshua so long ago:
“…I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them…Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then, you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1:5-6;8-9).
God doesn’t leave us. He provides the counsel we crave. He gently lifts the brokenhearted, the discouraged, the anxious, the overwhelmed and the afraid. He provides the resources we need for the calling He has given each of us.
Sure, Joshua could no longer turn to Moses for encouragement or direction. But Joshua had the counsel of God: “Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth…”(Joshua 1:8). With God’s counsel and guidance, Joshua would find success.
Moses had moved onto to eternity. But God would never leave or forsake Joshua.
Joshua likely felt overcome by grief, and may have feared he was inadequate to don the mantle of his spiritual mentor.
Yes, Joshua grew up. The time had come to wear big shoes. And that meant crossing a wide river into yet unknown blessing.
But Joshua could cling to Yahweh’s promise. God, in His grace, would provide.
Joshua likely could not envision how he would lead such a vast people group across the flooded Jordan river and into the Promised Land.
Nevertheless, Joshua acted on faith. He believed God’s Word. His faith had matured.
Interestingly enough, Josh sent two men to scout out the land. Forty years later, Israel received a gracious second opportunity. But this time, having learned from Moses’ experience, Joshua knew how best to direct and inspire the people.
I imagine that he and Mo’ had talked a great deal about how Mo’ might have handled the spies’ report differently.
This time, reconnaissance for battle was the goal. With Rahab’s help, the two spies narrowly escaped the king of Jericho. And they brought Joshua an optimistic and faith-driven report.
The spies reported to Joshua. No mention is made of a report to the people. Joshua lead with the strength and courage that God had rekindled in him after Moses’ death.
Yes, indeedy. When Israel came to the waters of the Jordan, the river parted just as the Red Sea had. God made a way where there seemed to be no way. God miraculously opened the humanly impossible and carried His people into the Promised Land, a land of seemingly limitless blessing.
And Abba longs to do the same for you and me. Confidence shaken? Faith running low after a series of tragic circumstances or tremendous persecution? Does the river seem too wide? The shoes too large?
Grace for the Crossing…
Our God has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. He is near. He loves. He gives greater grace. He provides and in our weakness, He is strong, (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Yes, God grants grace for the crossing… He is our bridge from here to there.
And so, we know that no river is too wide; no mountain too high for those who follow Him.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline,” ~2 Timothy 1:7
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” ~Hebrews 11:1
“Have I not commanded you? BE strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go,” ~Joshua 1:9