Text: Joshua 1:1-18, Deuteronomy 31:1-6, Psalm 1:1-3
Like any reasonable person, I put no stock in fortune cookies. Still, I usually crack one open once I’m overfull from a generous plate of sesame chicken and rice. Despite my satisfied appetite, I nibble on a bite of the sweet shell while reading the words printed on the tiny slip of paper inside.
I’m not sure why I have trouble resisting that treat at the bottom of my takeout bag. Maybe it’s my love of sugar, but I think it’s something more. In a world that seems to grow more uncertain by the day, we want a sure thing. We want to know what’s coming, what’s not, what’s next. We know a fortune cookie isn’t going to change our circumstances, but it’s fun to pretend, just for a moment, that it might.
When the book of Joshua opens, the Israelites have come to the end of one long, unpredictable journey. Unpredictable as far as the humans involved are concerned, that is. The Lord—God Almighty, the Holy One—has been with His people each step of the way. He has never left them, never forsaken them, never taken back His covenant even when they gave Him a million sinful reasons to do so. And here, as Israel stands on the edge of the last leg of their journey to the Promised Land, He promises that His faithfulness will continue.
Listen to these phrases of certainty offered by both God and His newly appointed servant, Joshua, over the span of just 18 verses (emphasis mine):
“I am giving [this land to the Israelites]” (v. 2).
“I have given you [every place your foot touches]” (v. 3).
“Your territory will be [where I’ve appointed it]” (v. 4).
“I will be with you” (v. 5).
“I will not leave you or forsake you” (v. 5).
“You will distribute the land I swore to their fathers” (v. 6).
“You will have success” [as you heed all of My instruction] (v. 7).
“You will prosper and succeed” [when you observe My Word] (v. 8).
“God is with you wherever you go” (v. 9).
“You will be crossing the Jordan” (v. 11).
“God is giving” [this land to you] (v. 11).
“God will give you rest” (v. 13).
“God will give you this land” (v. 13).
As profoundly complex as the situation seemed, it was also profoundly simple: God was keeping His promise, just like He always had and just like He always will.
Israel got the message, and they responded in kind:
“Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go. We will obey you, just as we obeyed Moses in everything” (v. 16-17, emphasis mine).
If you’ve read ahead, you know how this story ends. The God of Israel was completely faithful to His people. They did cross the Jordan, and they did take possession of the land He’d promised their ancestor Abraham 450 years earlier. You may also know that Israel did not hold to the “everything” and “everywhere” they’d promised. Yes, they followed Joshua. They heeded his instructions to prepare, to remember, to go (v. 11-13), but their faithfulness was only partial. Like a sieve, obedience slipped through the holes in their good intentions.
Their faith was not perfect, but God’s Word and faithfulness did not falter.
This Bible we open together today makes some bold promises. These are not fortune-cookie promises to be read one moment and tossed into the takeout bag the next. These are holy promises. These are true promises (Psalm 19:7).
When we believe on Jesus Christ, we will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Through the gift of His Holy Spirit, Christ will never leave us (Matthew 28:20).
By His death and resurrection, Jesus has taken on our sin and granted us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When God says “I will” and “I have,” He will and He has.
Praise the Lord, His faithfulness fills in the cracks of our obedience! Praise the Lord, we can walk with courage and confidence into the certainty of a tomorrow where God will never leave us or forsake us. Praise the Lord that as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), every foot forward is another step on the journey of coming home to a place we’ve never been.