"Hold Your Light on Canaan's Shore" (Joshua 5:9-12)
Reflections on Joshua 5:9-12
Songs of Freedom
For brutally long decades, countless numbers of African-Americans were subjected to the slaver’s scourge. Day after day, they labored ceaselessly for profits they would never taste or see. As others became rich off their toil, the weight of captivity kept these slaves bound to the soil of the South.
In the midst of captivity, the African-American slaves lifted songs to heaven. “Swing low, sweet chariot,” proclaims one famous spiritual, “coming for to carry me home.” Laced in these lyrics were hopes for freedom and deliverance. In their forced servitude, these singing individuals felt a spiritual kinship with the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Together, they looked to the God who could liberate them and lead them home. They held, in the words of another spiritual, “their light on Canaan’s shore.”
To Canaan’s Shore
As the enslaved Jews longed for the Promised Land’s distant shore, they trusted their lives to the God who promised freedom. Each time, he proved a worthy deposit of their trust. He liberated the Israelites from Egyptian oppression. When these fleeing Jews needed an escape route, God separated the Red Sea’s waters, and then collapsed these aquatic walls on the pursuing Egyptian army. During subsequent travels through the desert, the Lord directed the wanderers with a cloud and with pillar of fire. To sustain them on their journey, he prevented their clothes from wearing out and he provided miraculous food from heaven.
Eventually, the Jewish sojourners crossed into the Promised Land. On that day, the book of Joshua recounts, “there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate from the produce of Canaan” (Joshua 5:12). They ate to satisfaction from the fulness of God’s fulfilled promises. The food was richer and the wine sweeter because they knew the journey they took to arrive on Canaan’s shores, and they knew the One who shepherded them there.
The Desert Side
Our lives are lived on the desert side of the Jordan River. This sandy sojourn is never easy. The sun will scorch us, our water will evaporate, and our food will run out. In the midst of that, God demonstrates the surety of his Word. He promises to be our shadow of rest (Psalm 91:1), living water in our arid landscape (Isaiah 55:1), and bread in our emptiness (John 6:35). Christ, a prophet greater than Moses, has walked on Canaan’s fertile fields, and he has promised to lead us there. One day we too will eat the bounty of the Promised Land, and the feasting will be all the more joyful because it comes from a God who keeps his promises. Let us hold our lights on Canaan’s shore.
Footsteps—putting feet on our faith
1. How is life like a desert for you today?
2. What promises of God are you holding onto?
Dear God, I praise you for delivering me from bondage to my old struggles and desires. Be with me now on the journey to your Promised Land. The wandering can be fraught with trouble, but you walk beside me. Your hand guides me, feeds me, and steadies me. Help me to keep my hope strong and to never stop longing for the day we will cross to the Jordan’s distant shore. By Christ I pray, amen.