Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:1-8
There are two types of “crossing over” happening in this passage. Moses is crossing over from this life to the next to be with God. His body may be old and worn out, but his spirit is still young. He will not share in the Promised Land on earth, but he does get to be with God, so he has that going for him. Moses passes the baton to Joshua who God allows to lead — while following. Meaning he gets to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land while he is following God.
Be strong and courageous Moses tells Joshua. Good advice for us all. The trouble is figuring out what being “strong and courageous” in God’s eyes looks like. I am not sure that being strong is measured the way we measured it in the middle school locker room –by the amount of weight you can bench press. Another sure sign of strength and manhood at this age was whether your underarms stunk enough to require deodorant — I guess middle school boys are not the best source of wisdom:)
Courage is another concept that was often ill defined in my youth. As a teenage boy “courage” often involved what in hindsight could also have been termed “stupid”. I remember one time when a friend and I decided to place lit fire starters across a road to see what would happen. Trouble was the first car to show up happened to be a police car. I won’t go into the details, but two very scared boys made it safely back to the house that night without being arrested. This would fit the “stupid” category rather than the courageous category. I think, based on what God communicates through Moses, Courage for Joshua means confidence that God has your back.
The “crossing over” for Moses brings up the issue of death and dying. Death is a strange thing. What happens when we die? I recently read a very interesting book called Proof of Heaven – A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife by Dr. Eben Alexander. His story is compelling and is even more compelling because it is being told by a very well-respected neurosurgeon. Without spoiling the book for those who have not read it, Dr. Alexander is clinically dead for several days. He recounts what happened to him during his days after he had “crossed over”. The story is rich and complex but here is a quote that captures the essence:“My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the Universe itself and all the beings withing it are ultimately going.” ― Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife
Dr. Alexander’s experience is completely consistent with both my experience (not of dying but of God’s love for us) and what I have read as I have “walked” thus far through the bible. God loves us, he wants us to be with Him, but being with Him requires that we follow Him.
Prayer: God remove the fear of crossing over and help us to courageously follow you.SDG