This is the text I prepared for WWHS Day Centre for Tuesday 2nd April 2019. I had also worshipped with them the previous week.
Last week when I was here I spoke to you about trusting and obeying God even when you think you don’t need to. That sounds a bit strange, I know, but the point is that we must never think ourselves too capable for God to care for us, as if we’re content to pray, “you know what God, we’re fine as we are, how about you go over there and help those poor people and leave us be because we’re fine on our own.” Never, ever do I want to be in a place where I don’t need God, and more than that I never want to be in a place where I can tell God to leave me be because I’m fine as I am.
The reading I brought to you today, which is the lectionary reading from the Hebrew Bible for last Sunday, says something like this too. The Hebrews under Joshua have entered Canaan, their promised land, and they have rededicated themselves to God as God’s own people by circumcising all the men who were born in the Wilderness. You might remember that God made the Hebrews wait forty years after the Exodus before they were allowed to enter Canaan because they had been rebellious in their early wanderings: no man who was of military age when the people left Egypt (except Joshua and Caleb) was allowed to enter the land and so the whole nation waited until the last of those men died. Hence the need for circumcision, none of the boys born in the desert had been through that ritual and some of those boys were now forty years old. So anyway, here they are, in Canaan, with lots of men feeling rather sore and God says to Joshua words to the effect of “okay, now that Egypt is out of your system, and you are Abrahamites once again, let’s get you settled in his country”. The first thing they do is celebrate Passover, which of course is a reminder of their exit from Egypt a generation past. The word “exodus” which we use in English to describe the activity, and the book of the Bible which tells the story, literally translates out of Greek as “the road out”, ex-hodos. In effect the Hebrews have reached the end of that road out, now they are ready to embark upon the road in. God calls them to remember where they have come from, (Egypt), and with their men still sore the whole nation celebrates their deliverance.
In Joshua 5:11 we are told that the next day, the day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, and in Joshua 5:12 we are told that the manna stopped the day they ate this food from the land. In one sense God’s deliverance was complete, the people who had followed the cloud and the pillar of fire, (or had at least followed Moses who followed the cloud and the pillar of fire) and who had been fed with manna and quail and water from the rocks of the desert were now establishing themselves in Canaan, Abraham’s land of milk and honey. They didn’t need hand-outs any more, they were freed and were free.
As Christians reading this story we are allowed to be excited, and we should think about what this story means for us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never eaten actual manna. I have had God provide food for me, I told you a bit about that last week, but I don’t quite have the same story as Joshua. When we consider the link to Passover, which is when Easter is for Christians, and for what Jesus went through and what he accomplished on the day of Passover or the day before Passover (depending which gospel story you read), it’s interesting I think to remember this event of another Passover meal. The meal described by Joshua was eaten as a celebration of what God had already done in leading the Hebrews along that long road out (the ex-hodos) and it was also as a sign of faith in God for what God was about to do in guiding the Hebrews as they walked the many roads in to Canaan to take up the land of promise. In Jesus, in communion, we celebrate what God has done for us through the cross and the resurrection, but we also get to look ahead with faith and confidence, with expectation and trust, at what God is about to do now and how God will still be active as many as three thousand years and more into our future as we are in the future from Joshua’s day.
Are you still excited for what God is going to do? I have said before that there is a lot of living memory in this room, being what it is, but I have also said and you have agreed that the stories of the people in this room are not yet at an end. The best is yet to come, not just because that’s a great phrase of faith and hope, but because when we think about Jesus on Thursday as he ate, and Friday as he died, the best really was yet to come.