As I was contemplating the New Year, 2017, I thought of an incident in the book of Joshua. This is the situation. The Promised Land has been spied out, and the signal is go. The Israelites have followed Joshua to the Jordan River. The long-awaited Promised Land is just ahead. A new and exciting day is dawning.
But then it happens — trouble — an obstacle. The obstacles may be economic, political, social or personal, but they always come.
As soon as the Israelites had embarked on this new adventure, they came to a flooding Jordan River. Normally, the Jordan was 30 to 40 yards wide with a depth of approximately 6 feet. But in this springtime, it had swelled to a mile wide and with turbulent, white-capped, rushing waters. Since there were no boats or bridges, the Israelites couldn’t get across. They could see their objective all right, but they couldn’t get to it. To say the least, it must have been a discouraging time.
At the end of three miserable days of camping and waiting, Joshua sent word out that the people of Israel were to move out when they saw the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, symbolizing the presence of God (Joshua 3:3).
So what is Joshua’s word to us as we prepare to enter this brand new year before us? First, acknowledge God! The favorable presence of God must go before these Israelites. Why? Plainly and simply, they are entering into an unknown territory and without God’s leadership and guidance, they will not know the way to go.
The same applies to us. As we enter into a brand new year, with all its unknowns and uncertainties, we need the leadership and guidance of God if we are to know the way to go.
The little girl was right in her prayer when she prayed, “And please God, look after yourself because if anything happens to you we are all sunk.”
A minister asked a young man who was preparing to leave for military service, “What about your religious faith? Is it in good shape as you prepare to shove off; in case you might need it before you get back?”
The minister said that he had often thought of the young man’s answer: “Yes,” the young man said, “I believe in God, and I believe God knows what God is doing.”
Second, “set out!” “Then you shall set out from your place.…” Joshua said (Joshua 3:3). Now, Joshua did not say, you should “sneak” out, nor “crawl” out nor “stumble” out, nor “squirm” out from your place. He said, “set out” from your place. Acknowledge God and set out!
I really like those words, “set out.” Briefly, let me tell you what they mean to me. Initially, they mean, “hang in there.” Sometimes that is absolutely the only thing we can do, just hang in there.
We are told that Napoleon, in his classic officer’s military manual, “Military Maxims,” lists 78 principles. It’s amazing how many of these maxims equally apply to living. Since courage is usually considered the first qualification of a good soldier, it is amazing that Napoleon didn’t think so. According to scholars, his first qualification of a soldier is fortitude — courage is second. Fortitude means “firmness of spirit,” endurance, bravery, resolution. So whenever we see fortitude among people’s hardships, we are seeing good soldiers. Some days just to survive is an achievement.
Next, “set out” means “to be careful about self-pity.” There’s a true story about a young mother who was trying to get her 2-year-old son to take medicine by a spoon. He would have none of it, shutting his mouth tightly, moving his head and hitting the spoon. His young mother tried and tried but all to no avail. Finally, full of self-pity, she stretched out across her bed and cried.
In a little while, she heard her 2-year-old son laughing in the kitchen. She got up, went to the kitchen and discovered that grandmother had the solution. Grandmother had mixed the medicine with orange juice, put it in a spray can and was squirting it into the little boy’s mouth. He was not only taking his medicine but having a ball doing it.
The point is that all of us have only so much energy. To waste it in self-pity will keep us from creative solutions.
One last thought, “set out” means “dwelling in the possibility.” When an 83-year-old man was celebrating his birthday, someone asked him if he had the power to relive 10 years of his life, which 10 years would he choose? Without hesitation, he replied, “the next 10.” That man was dwelling in possibility.
In conclusion, there’s a line that expresses this kind of possibility living in “Cinderella.” It says, “Sensible people say it’s impossible, but impossible things happen everyday.”
Happy New Year!
LaGrange resident Hal Brady is a retired Methodist minister. He has served churches throughout Georgia and Texas. Currently, he is the executive director of Hal Brady Ministries. He can be reached at Hal@halbradyministries.com.