As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.
An Old Testament reading from the book of Joshua.
While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
— Joshua 5:10-12 (ESV)
And, now, the end has come. At least that's how it likely felt for the Israelites. They have been traveling–a journey that should have taken weeks at worst–for years. An entire generation has died. They've changed leadership. And, now, the end has come.
Well, sort of.
There was a pop song (Closing Time by Semisonic) that had the line, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”
And, that's where we find the Israelites.
They have entered the land. Canaan. The land to which God had promised to bring them. They've made it. The Jordan has been crossed.
But, this isn't really much more than some other beginning's end.
Years earlier (Exodus 15), they were wandering in the wilderness–that's far too nice of a word, they were in the desert. And, as we often do, they were concerned with their bellies.
“We're hungry,” they whined.
“You brought us out here to starve to death,” they accused.
Now, at this point in the journey they had been on the road all of a few weeks. While they didn't know it, they would have forty plus more years of this trip. But, nevertheless, they complained.
So, God agreed to rain bread down on them every night. They didn't know what it was, so they called it “What is it”. And, that was what they ate for the next forty years. Everywhere they went, every morning–except the Sabbath, because God wanted His people (and us) to worship Him by resting–it rained “What Is It”.
Later, they complained about the bread, and God sent them quail. So, here they are, roaming in the desert eating–literally–from God's hand. Bread and meat.
And, now, they've crossed the Jordan. They've entered that fertile land of milk and honey. And, God stopped sending “What is it”.
They ate of the fruits of the land. A new beginning at some other beginning's end.
There are so many times in our lives where we have eaten at the hand of God. Where He has miraculously fed us from His table. Yet, there comes seasons when God allows us to eat of the fulfillment of the promise.
We, too, at the fulfillment of the promises of God to us, eat of the fruit of the land. A new beginning at some other beginning's end.
There many years later, in that Promised Land into which Joshua has led the people, Jesus stands at a table. Arms opened and palms up–the posture of prayer in this part of the world–and says, “Do this in rememberance of me.”
A new beginning at some other beginning's end.
And, now, we find ourselves like the Israelites being fed from the hand of the Messiah. Proclaiming His death anew, as Paul put it, each time we remember our Messiah over the table.
Longing with each bite of bread and each sip of wine for the Messiah to come again and rescue us from life.
Life that's hard.
Life that isn't fair.
Life that often leaves is screaming: “What is it?”
And, this is where I sit tonight. Thinking–and praying–for friends and family in the thick of it. Not quite at the end of an old beginning. Still eating the manna in the desert. Screaming to God: “What is it?!”
A set of new grandparents fighting a battle with cancer.
A girl struggling to understand how to forgive that which seems unforgivable.
A young mother in pain from a back injury.
A worker mourning the death of a colleague in another distant land.
A couple trying to hear what their next steps should be after being asked to leave a nation to which they have given their lives.
A family with a newborn baby born with many complications that is spending more time in doctor's offices and hospitals than anyone should have to spend in a lifetime.
A family mourning the loss of a child who died way too young.
A group of women who gather as a home fellowship and pray for their husbands to come to be followers of Jesus.
A man who is feeling the tug of Jesus to leave the nets, the boats, and the fish to follow Him to a distant shore.
And, I pray that in the midst of their deserts they clearly feel in their hand the hand of the Father who walks beside them.
I pray that their eyes are opened to seeing the work He is doing.
I pray that their ears hear His gentle voice saying, “just hang on.”
I pray that the Kingdom will come.
I pray that they will cross their Jordan River, will take a deep breath and will eat of the fruit of the land.
And, there in that moment of joy, that they will find some other beginning's end.