A Story That Begins With Death

A story that begins in death??? What??? I don’t get it. Doesn’t make a lot of sense initially. In fact, it’s all backwards if you ask me. But I’m not the one who wrote it. In this case the author is none other than God Himself and He chose to start the story with an ending. That’s right. The end is the beginning. The climax becomes the conception point. A tragedy transforms the stage and becomes the turning point for a whole new chapter. The story begins with death.

Don’t believe me? Well, just take a look at chapter one, verse one in the book of Joshua. “Now it came about after the death of Moses…” That’s right, the story of Joshua opens up at a gravesite (figuratively). The fledgling nation has just lost its national hero. The man who led them out of slavery has made that final journey to eternal freedom. Moses is dead. Gone. Not coming back. No more, no more, no more. People are dressed in black. Tears are being shed. Mourning. Weeping. Despair. Disappointment. Solemn words and broken prayers. It’s a day of tragedy and loss. A day for pain and remorse. And it’s certainly not the way to start a story about receiving the promises of God.

Or is it?

Think about it. Who among us hasn’t found ourselves facing similar circumstances at some point in time? Sure, the specifics might be different but the emotions and feelings have been the same. The curtain rises on the story of our lives and the stage is defined by loss and despair. Maybe it was an actual death. Maybe it was something less permanent but equally painful. Who hasn’t felt the terrible sting of tragedy? Death. Divorce. Disease. Pain. Loss. Stress. Confusion. Suffering. In the end it’s all the same. Bottom line? Your dreams for a better tomorrow lay buried at your feet. Your hope has been forfeited, your plans have been postponed indefinitely, and any thoughts about the future are now covered in a shadow of despair. The sun has set for now and any chance of a bright and new day seem remote if not all together impossible.

Got the picture? Good. Because that’s how the book of Joshua begins. Israel is still in the wilderness, the exact same place they have been for the past 40 years. The only difference now is that the one man who seemed most likely to lead them out has just checked out. Moses is gone. And in his place stands a younger man who is seemingly the exact opposite of their now dearly departed national leader. Moses? Dramatic calling. Joshua? Born a slave. Moses? Raised in a palace. Joshua? Raised in poverty. Moses had received the best tutelage available on the planet. Joshua knew how to make bricks. Moses had been used by God to work wonders. Joshua? It’s a wonder that God could even use this man given his ordinary and common background. He’s young. He’s inexperienced. Still green behind the ears. And now he’s in charge of 2 million plus people? I honestly wonder who was more intimidated by his selection at this point… Joshua or Israel?

But isn’t that just like God? He starts with the worst case scenario, chooses the least likely candidate, and uses it all as a springboard for one of the Bible’s grandest and greatest tales of victory. Yes, the story starts in a really dark place. Moses is dead. The people are lost. And Joshua seems like the wrong guy for the right job. But in the hands of a sovereign God it’s the recipe for success. Tragedy is going to become triumph. Sorrow will give way to shouts of victory. Weeping and despair are going to be ushered off the stage to make room for a celebratory parade. The book of Joshua may begin with death but it’s actually a story of life. It’s a reminder that when life is at its worst our God is at His best. He does truly cause all things to work together for good. We say, “It’s over. It’s the end. It’s finished.” But God looks at the same situation and declares that it’s just the beginning.

In closing, let me remind each of us (myself especially) that the story of our lives is not finished. Yes, this current season may well be the most difficult we have ever faced. But it’s not the end. Our God always saves the best for last. And what seems like tragedy may very well become the starting point for an unbelievable tale of triumph. In time the nation would look back and realize that the death of Moses had been a good thing. In the hands of God it became the springboard for success. As Moses exited the stage, God entered in upon it with a renewed plan and purpose for His people. “The time has come. Now, your wandering has ended. Let’s enter into the promises I have given.” Yep. Death had set the stage. But the play was actually just beginning. And one of the Bible’s greatest stories was just beginning to unfold.

So… take heart. It’s not over. It’s just the beginning. Wipe those tears. Grab your popcorn and get comfortable. This story is just starting and God is about to work wonders.