“ 1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:1-5, NIV
At first glance, we might read this passage of scripture and think, “So what? What’s the big deal? Anyone can do that.” Yet what Joshua and the Hebrew children are about to do will require tremendous faith, not to mention a huge difference in the way they will live from this time forward.
Moses has died. Joshua is now their leader. Having lived in Egypt for four hundred years, and having been delivered by God from years of captivity under Pharaoh, the Hebrews have completed forty years of wandering in the desert wilderness, and must now enter into the land which He had promised them many years earlier.
They were never alone – we need to remember this! God never forsook them. He took every step of the journey with them as He led them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He provided for them every step of the way – so much so that they entered the Promised Land with no sickness or disease, wearing clothes and sandals that never wore out, having feasted on quail and manna, with fresh sources of water whenever they needed it.
They have been camped on the side of the Jordan River for three days. God understands that His people need to be prepared spiritually (the most important factor) as well as mentally and physically to enter the Promised Land. He tells Joshua to have his officers prepare the people for what they are to face.
Because they are going a way they have never been before…to a new land none of them but Joshua and Caleb have ever seen. The way will not be easy. They will fight battle after battle with their enemies to reclaim the land God has promised them. They will need to build new settlements and their first houses, dig new wells, plant new crops, create new vineyards and raise animals for their survival.
However, the first major obstacle to relocating is more IMMEDIATE! – at this point in time, the Jordan is at flood stage! Swelling, swirling waters overflow the river banks. Stretches of white water rapids course down the river bed toward the Dead Sea! They must cross the rushing waters with their children and all of their belongings at risk. Not to fear. God always has a plan. Joshua lays out the plan for all of them to understand.
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” This first step is the most important – they are to pray and prepare themselves spiritually so that they will be able to focus on following the rest of God’s plan. Focused prayer needs to be the foundation of all we do every day. They needed to commit themselves totally to following the Lord. True success begins, continues, and ends with prayer!
“When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. 4
Now isn’t that just like God! Clearly leading, walking with us into unknown territory and, in this case, into imminent danger! God tells the priests (the preachers) they are to be the first to walk into the Jordan! Carrying the Ark of the Covenant no less! The Ark contained the presence of God for the Hebrews. It contained the tablets with the Ten Commandments – the WORD OF GOD.
God also instructs the priests they are to stop in the middle of the river and hold the Ark high while all of the people follow the WORD and cross over into the Promised Land. Just as in the Reed Sea crossing 40 years earlier, God causes the waters of the Jordan to stop rushing and “stand in a heap” the entire time the priests are in the river, holding the Ark of the Covenant high for all to see.
When you and I seek the Word of God and follow what it says, we will know which way to go. Trusting Him in faith, we can overcome any and every obstacle (even the floods of opposition) in our way and cross over into the place where God wants us!
“But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
Interesting. God cautions us NOT to rush ahead of Him or drag too far behind Him (become lazy, distracted, weak, fearful, or weary). He tells us to stay where we can clearly see Him and walk in a position of “following” – not “leading”. We are to keep the perspective and wisdom of God’s Word within us so we can hear and follow His leading. There are times when we can get overconfident in our own abilities and are tempted to take matter into our own hands… “Thanks, God, but I can take it from here.”
I don’t think so!
Peaceful, gently flowing rivers are a blessing. Flooding rivers are out of control. Are you facing any floods these days? Is there anything in your life now that is out of control? Are you facing circumstances in your life that seem overwhelming? No matter what the concerns…problems in your marriage, troubled children, financial problems, impending loss of jobs, loss of good health, betrayal, broken friendships, undue stress at work…God has a plan if we will follow what this passage teaches us to do.
While this story is thousands of years old, it is as meaningful for us today as it was for the Hebrews then. God the Father still leads us as His children when we let Him, for as we face and come through the obstacles and challenges of our life, our faith grows. We learn new depths of God’s love for us as He opens new doors to us! God will always take us from where we are into new heights of living and learning when we let Him. What a mighty God we serve!
From My Heart to Yours…Kay!