Posts tagged Red Sea
Whenever a new leader is installed, the pundits and political observers always look for some sign that he or she truly has been passed the baton – you know, not just on paper, but in reality. For Joshua, that meant not only having the blessing and following of the people of Israel, but also (and more importantly) the blessing of God himself. Fortunately for Joshua, he would receive both very shortly after he succeeded Moses as leader of his people.
First comes the encouragement of the people of Israel, after Joshua has commanded them to prepare for entry into the promised land:
Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!” (Joshua 1:16-18)
This is just about as ringing of an endorsement as Joshua could have hoped for from the people of Israel. Of course, maybe he shouldn’t put too much credence in it, given the fact that they said, “Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.” A little revisionist history there, but I think their hearts were probably in the right place. But their allegiance may have been conditional. Look at the next phrase: “Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.”
The people, as hard-headed as they were, realized that Moses had a special relationship with God – one that had benefited the people of Israel greatly. Now that Moses was gone, they were just hoping and praying that Joshua would have the same kind of relationship. After all, their biggest battles were in front of them. They would need a little extra God power on their side. They needed to know that God had granted Joshua the same kind of favor that he had granted Moses.
Of course, God was there to give them the answer. Just as he had done at the Red Sea as Moses was taking his place as leader, God once again parts the waters for his people to cross – this time the waters of the Jordan River. Now, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these two miracles – so similar to each other – take place at the beginning of Moses and Joshua’s leadership. For Moses, he needed something big to happen – something that couldn’t be explained away and something that proved that God was for the Israelites and not just against Egypt. For Joshua, the burden of proof was different. What he needed was a spiritual link to Moses – some indicator that, in the eyes of God, Joshua had inherited something from Moses. And so, like a biological son receiving the physical appearance of his father, this “spiritual son” received a miracle from God that mimicked his spiritual father.
Interestingly enough, however, God may have been making a statement about the on-again-off-again relationship that the people of Israel had with him in the way the miracle happened. In the Red Sea parting, the Israelites crossed on dry ground and the Egyptians drowned – two statements about two different people groups. In the Jordan River crossing, however, the ark of the covenant had to remain in the river in order for the water to be held back. If the priests carrying the ark had moved on, presumably, the waters would have started to flow again. So, this time, in the midst of confirming his blessing of Joshua, God seems to be saying, “but you people of Israel don’t deserve this. You need a surrogate to stand in your place and hold back the water.”
What great prophetic imagery of the surrogacy of Jesus who holds back the torrents of death from us, the undeserving people.