At any rate, my bubble burst wide open when I discovered that Joshua was 90. How crazy is that? He was 90 years old. Back then they did live a lot longer than we do now - he ended up dying at the robust age of 110 - but I had to go back and revamp my mental image of the story after I learned how old he was. Bye bye Matthew McConaughey. Hello... Paul Newman.
Okay, getting back to the story. The Israelites had been wandering around the desert for forty years, and at last, it was time for them to enter the land that had been promised to Abraham years before. God told Moses that He wanted 12 spies from the Israelite camp to scout out Canaan and report back on the details of what they saw: What is the land like? What are the people like? Are there a lot of them or just a few? What are the cities like? Well-fortified or easily defeated?
Joshua, his buddy Caleb, and their ten cohorts spent forty days scouting out Canaan, and when they returned all but two of them were convinced that there was no way they could march into it, defeat everyone who lived there, and seize it for themselves. Here's what they had to say:
"We came to the land to which you sent us. It. flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit [they had brought back a giant bunch of ripe grapes]. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large."
Then, the ten defeated spies dealt the final blow:
"And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there... we saw the Nephilim and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers."
The only other time scripture references the people called the Nephilim is in Genesis, and it is thought that they were a group of people who lived before the flood. They were mighty warriors and apparently very big people. Some commentaries refer to them as giants. Joshua and Caleb were the only two among the twelve who believed that despite the obvious circumstances, they should still move forward with the plan God had set before them.
So what does all of this have to do with me and Rochester and our house contract falling through?
A lot, actually.
God commanded Joshua three times in five verses to not be afraid.
"Be strong and courageous..." [Joshua 1:5]
"Only be strong and very courageous..." [Joshua 1:7]
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous..." [Joshua 1:9]
His timing is interesting; you don't have to be Einstein to discern that there was a lot that Joshua could have been afraid of. The people he was being called to defeat were well-known as physically imposing, frightening people who had no regard for God or His laws. His fellow scouts - probably good friends - thought he was nuts for continuing to trust God and move forward, and basically abandoned him. As if that weren't enough, he was leading a bunch of flakes who had just decided to forget him and God and the last forty years and head back to Egypt instead. He had everything to be afraid of, and God was telling him not to fear.
This command from God is what led me to Joshua last week. I know that as a Christian, I don't need to be afraid. I've memorized Phillipians 4:6-7 about being anxious for nothing - I can say it in my sleep. I've listened when friends have walked through their own seasons of fear and reminded them heartily that fear is not of the Lord. I don't even think I knew what that meant, but someone had said it to me once and it sounded wise. When everything went from bad to worse last week in a matter of hours, though, I became terrified. I think the crux of it was that I was afraid of what might happen.
If we didn't get new buyers, what might happen?
If we had to put the house back on the market, what might happen?
If we got new buyers but then they backed out too, what might happen?
If we had to cancel the contract on our new house, what might happen?
If we have to continue this life in limbo, what might happen?
As I struggled through the what if's, God put Joshua on my heart through a series of circumstances only He could orchestrate, and I opened up my Bible and started reading.
Okay, I'm not supposed to fear. I got that. But what I really need to know is, WHY? WHY do I not need to be afraid? Will You take care of all of this quickly, and the way I want You to? Will You make this easy for me because I love you and call myself a Christian? I already know the answers to these questions, and they're both no. His ways are not our ways, and as I've grown in my faith I've watched dedicated Christ followers endure tragedies that have made me shudder. He also warns us to expect trouble, even to welcome it. This place is not Heaven, it is the fallen world, and Jesus warns us that it is going to be hard. So why in the world should I not be afraid?
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the story :-).