"Moses, my servant, is dead. Now then, you (Joshua, son of Nun) and this people go and cross the Jordan..."
As transitions go, this was a pretty significant one for the people of Israel. Not only were they about to embark on a journey - across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land - that would surpass, in terms of the scale of the upheaval, Abram's leaving Ur but they were expected to do so with a new, fairly inexperienced leader. Yet, despite the enormity of the transition, there hardly is enough material provided for half a session at a leadership seminar on change!
General Linda Bond has announced her decision to enter retirement, and that moves The Salvation Army in transition. Like the Israelites in Joshua's day, we have reached the end of an era.
As the Army moves into and through our period of leadership change, it is timely to affirm the truths which stem from the moment in Israel's history that is recorded in Joshua chapter 1. There are two truths that I wish to highlight:
The first is that whereas circumstances change, and humankind moves from one period of time - i.e. one era - to the next, it is always in the context of God's eternal purposes... God's grace continuum is the constant in the ever-unfolding story of his work and mission in and through his people, throughout the ages - age after age. The word from the Lord is direct and almost brutal in its matter-of-fact summary of the situation.
In that very brief sentence, God describes the end of an era, and what an era it had been! Moses, the Deliverer, who had scorned the lure of Egypt's wealth and power to answer the call of his God and the cry of his people; who had reduced the roar of Egypt's mighty ruler to a whimper; who had established such an intimate relationship with God that he glowed with God's glory; who had received from God the parameters which would determine the life and lifestyle of this people for ever: who had led his people out of bondage and into God's continual provision for forty years... he was gone, and that glorious, miracle-packed era was over. In 3 words (if you leave out the descriptive "my servant" bit!) God announces its end. And, there is no pause as he announces the commencement of the next stage in his eternal plan - in one breath, God announces that one era is over, and the next commences. It is in the nature of things that we experience transitions - there is an inevitability about it, connected to our humanity... to use modern parlance, it is what it is! What a comfort to know that, every transition we go through - whether it is personal or communal - can affirm God's sovereignty and eternal perspective!
The second truth stems from later in the passage (vv 7,8) where Joshua is enjoined to build upon that which has gone before... the legacy of the previous era... keeping the parameters set by Moses and grounding the future on the legacy of the past. No transition is commenced in a vacuum. If it is part of God's continuum of grace, if it is a segment of mission-time in the eternal purposes of God, then our transitions take us from one revelation of God to the next... from glory to glory, as each era plays out a part of his plan.
We move from such an era and continue to build upon it - an era in which we have been called to stand united as one Army, with one mission and one message; when we have been encouraged to place Jesus in the centre of our being and our doing as a movement; an era in which we have been led collectively to boldly, regularly and persistently approach the throne of grace in prayer, so that a "Mexican-wave" of prayer continues to sweep around the world. Finally, we move into transition, anticipating the new era with great hope. Often in the era that has passed, General Bond has reminded us of Paul's prayer to the Romans (15:13):
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
As we move on from the former to the new, we say: "Indeed, may it be so!"