Editorial: What Death Cannot Take Away

He’s gone. She’s gone. They’re gone. Now what? What will we do without their presence? How will we make it without her prayers? How will we survive without his wisdom? These were likely the same kind of questions racing through the minds of God’s people after receiving the news that Moses, the Lord’s servant, was dead. At such a pivotal moment in Israel’s history, standing on the outskirts of Canaan, facing impenetrable cities with powerful enemies, how could they go on without Moses? Yet, the answer came: “Moses my servant is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River. Lead these people into the land” (Jos 1:2).[1]

Notice, first, that Israel still had God’s Word. The previous verse notes that these words were spoken by the Lord to Joshua. The people did not have to sit in silence wondering what to do next. God still spoke to His people, only now through Joshua, and verse eight tells us they had the “law scroll” with them, which Joshua (and the people) should read, memorize and obey. The absence of Moses’ voice didn’t remove the voice of God.

It also became immediately clear that Israel still had God’s promise. The Lord said, “I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses” (v3). This land was “solemnly promised [to] their ancestors” (v6). Funerals cannot take away the promises of God to His people.

It would encourage Israel to know that they still had God’s power. Joshua was told, “No one will be able to resist you all the days of your life” (v5a), not because of any inherent power in Joshua, but because God raised Him up for the work at hand. Israel had witnessed God’s power in bringing them out of Egypt. They would see it again shortly as they entered the promised land. As the Red Sea miraculously opened to lead them out, so would the Jordan River miraculously open to bring them in. The sudden removal of Moses and his rod did not withdraw God’s power from His people.

Finally, the people would be heartened to know that they still had God’s presence. The Lord said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone” (v5b). Similar words were once spoken by the Lord to an objecting, excuse-ridden man whom the Lord called to begin this whole journey – Moses. Obviously, it was God’s presence, not Moses’ presence, that brought them thus far and would lead them still.

All over the world, great men and women of God, indeed His servants, have been taken away from us. But we must move forward, appreciating the promise that the Lord is with us. The same promise made to Joshua is given to us (Heb 13:5). Yes, death has robbed us of so much that is precious – but not everything. There are still some things that death cannot take away. We still have God’s Word and His promises to guide, instruct and encourage us. We still have His power and presence to sustain us in all our weakness and need. And even those whom death has removed have only just changed locations. We have not lost them. They have simply crossed over Jordan by God’s direction to the land that is fairer than day and where we will meet them on that beautiful shore.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the NET.