20 March 2015

Joshua 5:10-12

“The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land.” (v. 12)

Psalm: Psalm 126


Today's passage from Joshua marks an end and a beginning. Forty years or so before these events the Israelites had celebrated their first Passover (Exodus 12-13): a special family meal involving specific food and rituals. It marked the moment when the ruler of Egypt finally gave in and released the Israelites who had been slaves in his land. They then began a 40-year journey travelling slowly through the wilderness to the land that God had promised their forefather Abraham so long ago (Genesis 17:1-8). This was the land of Canaan (roughly modern-day Israel), which is also known as 'the Promised Land' or "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Joshua 5:6) because it was so fertile and rich. Now, after 40 long and hard years in the desert, the Israelites have finally reached that land and are camped at Gilgal (near Jericho) waiting to enter it. Before they do so, though, they pause and celebrate the Passover, remembering how God has travelled with them throughout their journey. The passage marks the end of their wilderness wanderings and so they no longer need manna, the special food that God miraculously provided for them each day (Exodus 16), and can eat the produce of the land. In this case, they eat "parched grain" (v. 11) - grain that has simply been roasted over a fire (Ruth 2:14) - and "unleavened cakes" (v. 11) - bread that has no yeast or rising agent in it (Exodus 13:3-10). They have ceased to be a wandering nation without a land and will soon become a settled people with homes of their own.

An important point to note, though, is that they are a changed people. The book of Joshua carefully records that none of the Israelites who entered the wilderness 40 years previously had survived the journey (Joshua 5:4-6). Instead, it was their children and grandchildren who inherited the promises made so long ago and entered the Promised Land. The Exodus experience had changed the people of God forever: they had learned important lessons about God and themselves. This was their chance to make a fresh start.

To Ponder

  • What hard experiences in your life have taught you the most valuable lessons? Have they brought you closer to God, or further away?
  • Is it sometimes useful, and even necessary, for us to mark the end and beginnings of chapters in our lives? What happens if we simply seek to 'carry on'?
  • The 40 years in the wilderness changed the people of Israel. Many people are currently marking the 40 days of Lent in different ways. If you are one of them, how has your Lenten experience changed you so far?

Bible notes author

The Revd Geoffrey Farrar

Geoffrey Farrar is currently a Methodist presbyter in the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit of the Methodist Church, where he has pastoral charge of three churches in the Watford area. He trained at Wesley House in Cambridge and has recently completed an MA in Ancient History with the University of Trinity Saint David.