Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

from Lynda Lindsey

You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God. And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as He promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. Joshua 22:3-4

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and to cling to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Joshua 22:5

Yet the people of Israel did not drive out the…Joshua 13:13 But the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out…Joshua 15:63 Yet the people of Manaseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. Joshua 17:12

The Lord gave Israel all the land that He promised; Israel entered, took possession of the land, settled there, and basked in the Lord’s promised rest. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord, as He promised, had given all their enemies into their hands. None of all God’s good promises to Israel failed; all came to pass. Yet there was trouble. The Israelites did not drive out; could not drive out, and could not take possession of some cities, because the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in the land. What? Didn’t God Himself fight for Israel?

Didn’t God heap up the flooded Jordan? Knock flat Jericho’s walls? Stop the sun in the sky? Rout the enemy? Indeed! But people let down their guard and spiritual malaise began its destructive assault. Physical malaise, fatigue, lethargy, and a general feeling of dis-ease, is an early warning system that alerts the body to prepare to fight off oncoming disease. Spiritual malaise is an early warning to marshal our defense against sin, indifference, disobedience, and disbelief. Joshua’s charges to his people were passionate pleas to faithfulness, and in the moment, people promised to obey.

But over time, Joshua’s pleas to love God extravagantly, cling to Him faithfully, and obey Him wholeheartedly were forgotten. There was no accountability; eventually people’s faith leached away. By the time of the judges everyone simply did what was right in his own eyes. The phrase shoulda, coulda, woulda expresses disappointment concerning missed opportunities. Shoulda, coulda, woulda is a sorrowful admission of sin and failure on the Israelites’ part to obey their loving and generous God. The phrase shoulda, coulda, woulda fits the Israelites’ actions; hopefully it doesn’t fit ours.