Finally! I’m trying to get back on track here and catch back up to speed on Joshua and the Israelites. When last we left them, they had just found their way across the Jordan River. If you remember, the river just dried completely up in front of them as soon as the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped in. And we have another of those deja vu moments. Let’s look at that for a second.

As a recap, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, an oppressive environment where they were enslaved in endless forced labor, treated cruelly, and struggled to survive. With Moses came a vision: the Israelites would become a thriving nation in a land flowing with milk and honey. But the journey started off a little shaky, with the Pharaoh’s army chasing them down and cornering them on the shores of the Red Sea. Miraculously, the Red Sea opens up a pathway to allow the Israelites to cross to the other side. They have escaped… to the wilderness.

Fast forward 40-some years to Joshua 3. Moses is dead. Joshua is the leader of Israel and they’re leaving the wilderness, an oppressive environment that has tested their faith and resolve, though God has provided for them each step of the way. With Joshua comes a promise or, perhaps more appropriately, a reminder of a promise: Israel will become a thriving nation in a land flowing with milk and honey. But first, there’s this body of water in the way…

So, what’s different? I’m going to focus on three things that stand out: Motivation, Preparation, and Credit.

MOTIVATION

In the case of the Red Sea, the Israelites were pretty highly motivated to cross over. The rumble of 600 chariots and the cries of vast armies was bearing down on them. They had to escape and they had to go immediately. There was no time for dilly-dallying or debating the issue. (Though, that didn’t stop them from complaining to Moses about “dying in the wilderness.”) The other side of the Red Sea is the only option to find safety. As soon as the waters began to part, I imagine the Israelites moved as one chaotic crowd evacuating Egypt as fast as possible.

At the edge of the Jordan River, however, we see a different scene unfold. There’s really no sense of urgency. No one is giving the Israelites chase. In fact, they’ve just learned that the nations on the other side of the river are terrified of them and hope they’ll stay where they are. In a sense, staying put and not crossing the river is the safe option. Crossing the river means change, conflict, and risk. I imagine the Israelites approached this with caution, reserve, and reluctance. Joshua had to give some pep talks, in a sense, as we mentioned last time.

PREPARATION

For Moses and his generation of Israelites, the Red Sea parting probably seemed somewhat spontaneous. They had no idea what was going to happen or if they were going to escape. It seems the plagues did little to bolster their faith in God and His plan for them. (That’s going to come back and haunt them later, right?) This is why I picture the crossing as more of a stampede than an orderly event. They weren’t prepared for this miraculous occurrence, which served to reveal that they also weren’t really prepared to enter into the Promised Land. Hence, the desert experience.

Joshua prepares his generation with a full list of instructions. They are to consecrate and prepare themselves the night before. They know to keep their distance from the Ark of the Covenant and follow the guidance of their priests. They are a more patient and mature nation at this point, having learned to rely on God’s provision. They’re not perfect, but this process reveals that they are more prepared to inherit their land.

CREDIT

I may be reading into this, but I’ve got one more. Reading through Exodus 14, it seems that Moses gets credit for parting the Red Sea, at least in the eyes of the Israelites. Moses cries out to God and God seems to scold him, before telling him what to do. Further, the Israelites see Moses raise his staff, then the waters part. Moses puts his staff down, the waters crash back into place. Based on appearances, those who lack faith or understanding (like the Israelites at the time) could easily assume it’s Moses doing the miracles. Beside, he just caused all the plagues, right? And finally, curiously (but only briefly mentioned here even though I think there’s a lot between the lines) in verse 18, God says that by this miracle, “the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” It’s almost as if God wants the Israelites to falsely attribute the miracle to Moses, but the Egyptians should realize the truth.

For Joshua’s part, we don’t really hear about the part he plays in the Jordan River crossing. He’s clear that it’s God who’s doing the miracle ahead of time. He rallies the troops, so to speak. But it’s the priests – and specifically the Ark of the Covenant – that leads the people across. God is the focus of the entire expedition. Joshua is exalted in the eyes of Israel, but only in that God is “with [him] as He was with Moses.”

CONCLUSION

Okay, this is long, so I’ll try to tie it up quickly. We see two leaders engage in a similar assignment, with different tactics. From a leadership perspective, we see three key ingredients to leading a large-scale endeavor. We must account for the motives of those who follow us. Following out of fear, for example, may indicate a lack of maturity, which may, in turn, be cause for pause. Second, we must certain that all necessary preparations have been accounted for. Every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed, as they say. And finally, we need to make sure the credit goes where the credit is due. It’s not necessarily the reason that Moses and his generation weren’t allowed to enter the Promised Land, but we all know what happens when we follow a person.

Much more to unpack, but let’s do it in the comments…

peace… love… bdg…