And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and they removed from Shittim, and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and they lodged there before they passed over.
I try to read at least one verse of the Old Testament in Hebrew each morning. At least one. Sometimes I can’t stop. But at least I’m not racing to complete a chapter. Or two. Or three. It’s the discipline of chewing slowly. Ent-ish eating. I read hoping for something to pop, some word to stand out. This usually requires not looking deep but simply seeing what is right there before my face.
Today’s verse – and I stopped at one, temptation successfully resisted – presented a bit of challenge at first chew.
And Joshua rose up early in the morning.
Guilt trip about not getting up earlier? Reminder of that age-old spiritual discipline of rising early to seek the Face?
Just look at the word. The Hebrew verb “rose up early” is the trilateral root SKM. It’s the root of Shechem. Shechem means “shoulder.” Quick dictionary check.
Yes. Shoulder. Because loads are placed on the shoulder, and that’s where they’re placed on beasts of burden first thing in the morning as one gets the day started. At least in that culture.
To arise early (or late, for that matter) is to shoulder the burden of the day. And how we wish at times there were a beast of burden to carry it for us!
Shouldering a burden is not something to rush into – depending on the nature of the burden, I suppose. If we wish to avoid strained backs we need to take the time to size up the load, square our shoulders, squat down carefully and then let our legs do the lifting. And sometimes as we size up the burden we’ll have to shoulder, we realize we’ll need someone else’s shoulder to help. It all depends on the burden.
We don’t know what a day will bring, what burdens we’ll have to shoulder. Perhaps here is the wisdom of rising a bit more intentionally – it’s just giving ourselves some space to square our shoulders for the load.
Because we may like Joshua have to remove from Shittim. Or we might be moving into it. We might be headed into the Jordan rift. Jordan. Literally the “plunge.” Yes, today may be taking a plunge God knows where – and then lodging there for God knows how long.
So I will stand before a cloudy horizon, take in this cool air breath.
And square these shoulders.