Matt and I went to Biola University yesterday to see our friend that is a resident director there, and I was overcome with sadness! I started tearing up as soon as we pulled onto campus. There were only a couple people there still, but I saw some that were packing up their cars with their laundry baskets and hugging people goodbye and answering “how are you?” with “in shock.” They had found out that morning that they needed to leave and would not be coming back. Ever, if they were Seniors. Spencer, our friend, said he had resident assistants who had been crying all day… they knew their year was over sooner than they ever imagined. When they thought they were going to be hosting events and mentoring students, they were going over check out procedures and telling everyone to have a great summer (what??).
Obviously, I thought of you the whole time. I know SMU is still up in the air in terms of when online classes will go back to being in person, along with other events that are uncertain at this time. Not to mention all the events, personal plans, and expectations that are for certain…not happening. I feel stuck even just writing this. Stuck in the feeling of loss and sadness for you, for us, for what is a certain “no” and what is still uncertain. Do I get my hopes for the things that are uncertain? How do I hold this tension when other schools have their answers to these questions? While the future is not in our control, it is under the reign of a faithful and dependable God. But how do we know that’s true?
I came across a story in scripture that felt right. You know those people in the Bible from thousands of years ago… that were going through something weird like crossing a river and you know if you saw them you would be like “you get me.” Well that’s Joshua for me right now. Joshua comes right after Moses, who we’ve been studying. Think back to Fall retreat (crying emoji). Moses and the burning bush, God calling him to lead His people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt and into the promise land. Moses who doubts himself fully BUT GOD uses to do wonders. That Moses… in case you were thinking of someone else.
Joshua is who God appoints to take over for Moses in finishing the job he did so honorably. Sean talked about this after retreat, but what a thing to ask of someone. Moses gets so close to the Promised Land, and he can’t walk them in. After leading these rebellious people around in the desert for 40 years, Moses passes away and God tells Joshua “you’re my guy now.” Heavy. But so relatable for any of us who have obediently followed a call the Lord has asked of us and had to trust the outcome in the hands of the one who knows better than I.
Overall, I would encourage you to have your Bible opened to Joshua 1-3 and Exodus 14 together for this. Read Joshua 1:1-9 on your own in your Bible, then come back to this. This is God’s call to Joshua. “… the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Where you set foot, you will be on land I have given you… This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” They’re at the end. The other side of the Jordan River is the land that was first promised to Abraham back in Genesis way before any of these people even existed.
But how will they cross the Red Sea? Did I say the Red Sea? Woops, I meant the Jordan River. God’s people are standing at the edge of what seems impossible to get to the other side of, and it’s feeling familiar. At the beginning of their journey through the desert with Moses (Exodus 14), God parted the Red Sea as the Egyptians, their oppressors, were gaining on them. God’s people have been in an incredibly similar situation before, 40 years earlier actually, so there are people who remember the Red Sea. Three days after setting up camp along the Jordan River, “the Israelite officers went through camp, giving these instructions to the people: ‘When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you” (Joshua 3:2-4). I don’t know about you, but I feel like I HAVE NEVER TRAVELED THIS WAY BEFORE. Seriously y’all, what the heck are we doing? No one knows. But what I do know is that I have been here before. Multiple times actually. I have stood at the edge and looked out and asked God, “How are you going to get me through this one?” I’ve been at my Red Sea, and probably so have you. The same God that got the Israelites through the Red Sea, got them through the Jordan River, got me through my past unknowns, got you through yours, and will get us through this and all that it entails.
I want to point out one similarity and one major difference between the Red Sea and the Jordan River that I think reveal something about where we’re at today. First of all, at both locations they are in danger (Exodus 14:9 and Joshua 3:10) and at both locations God calls them to set up camp (Joshua 3:1 and Exodus 14:1). Where does God want you to set up camp right now as we wait to see how he will carry us to the other side of this? What are the things he wants to implant in your heart at this time and through this? What are things that he’s asking you to hold space for and meditate on and process and sit still with? What an amazing God we serve that in the midst of confusion He calls us to set up camp with Him, knowing full well He’s got this covered and us protected to do so.
The difference is mighty, and that is how the Israelites respond to the waiting period. Let’s look at the Red Sea first. Exodus 14:10-12. And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than we should die in the wilderness. Phew, that’s a lot. They’re struggling to trust God and they’re scared right? Their fear is making them angry, but God is still merciful and carries them through despite their distrust. They didn’t know Him as well then as they do now at the Jordan. Joshua 1:16-17 “And they answered Joshua, ‘We will do whatever you command us, and we will go wherever you send us. We will obey you just as we obeyed Moses. And may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.” What a difference 40 years makes and what a difference going through something like the Red Sea makes on our ability to TRUST and obey.
If this is your first time walking through something with the Lord and this is your Red Sea, please hear from us that He is so worthy of trust. If you need to literally hear that, call Andrew, Sarah, me, Sean, each other, we will tell you all the stories. If you have been here before and you’re at the Jordan, remember “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). What has he carried you through faithfully before? Remember these things! “Remember what Moses, the servant of the LORD, commanded you: ‘The LORD your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.” (Joshua 1:13). We love you so much. Please let us be here in this unknown yet all too familiar time with you.