As I was with Moses, so I will be with you (Joshua 1:5).
Every death leaves a hole somewhere, in someone; an empty chair at the table, a vacant place in the bed, one less cup of coffee to be poured every morning, a phone call that no longer needs to be made or will no longer be received. Absence: invisible and yet as massive as a glacier and every bit as heavy.
The weight of absence sat heavy upon Joshua’s shoulders, the same shoulders upon which Moses had often placed his hands. Moses was dead and the people were grieving. There was no question among them that Joshua was the new leader. Everyone knew that Joshua would assume the role that had belonged to his beloved mentor. But who would fill the void? It was hard to imagine that Joshua, or anyone for that matter, could occupy the emptiness left by the loss of Moses.
There had always been Moses. The plagues unleashed against their Egyptian oppressors, the parting of the sea, the water from the rock and the manna on the ground, the tablets of the Law; Moses spoke with God face to face and then spoke God’s words of instruction to the people. Every significant moment in recent memory was connected with Moses. His absence left more than hole. This loss was more like a canyon.
God spoke into this chasm and the words echoed deep in Joshua’s soul, clear and unmistakable. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Moses threw a long shadow, but these words forged the conviction that would move Joshua out of the shadow of Moses and into the bright sun that made the shadow. Behind Moses there was God. Yes, leadership among the people was changing, but God was not. God would continue to do through Joshua all that had been done through Moses.
In the weeks ahead we’ll be keeping company with Moses. What we’re likely to discover is that Moses still casts a long shadow. Perhaps the best thing that could happen today would be for us to hear clearly the words spoken to Joshua. “As with Moses . . . so with you.” As we make our way through the Moses stories, what we’re actually seeing is God at work: God leading, providing, speaking, rebuking, protecting, blessing. God still does those things, and he does them in your life. Moses is easily numbered among the Bible’s heroes, but like most biblical heroes he was an ordinary man devoted to an extraordinary God. And God still does extraordinary things through ordinary people living everyday lives, just like yours.
Almighty God, just as you guided your people through the wilderness with Moses leading the way, guide us in our journey with this remarkable servant. And remind us daily of the truth spoken to Joshua, that we may live our days with more than memory and story – but with expectancy as you continue to work among us. Amen.