Joshua 3:1-4a (NIV) 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.
On verses 1-4a: Here Joshua and the Israelites are preparing to cross the Jordan River on their way to Canaan, also known as the promised land. Joshua orders his officers, who in turn order the people to move out and follow two things: (1) the ark of the covenant, which was an ornate, gold-plated box that symbolized the presence of God; and (2) and the priests carrying that ark. That way they knew which way to go (v4).
What can we learn from this?
1. When you’re not sure which way to go in life, watch and wait for God’s leading. Keep your heart, eyes and ears open to the presence of God and where God may leading you. Also keep your heart, eyes and ears open to your God-given leaders, who carry God’s presence and are used by God to lead you and to speak into your life.
2. A united team follows its leaders.
Joshua 3:4b (NIV) …But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
On verse 4b: In the Old Testament, the ark of the covenant (briefly explained above) symbolized God’s holy presence. To emphasize how holy God is, people were not to touch the ark or go near it. For their own safety they had to keep a distance from the ark.
Since God is just as holy today as he was in Joshua’s time, we too would have to keep a distance and not go near God’s presence, since we are sinners who cannot approach a holy God. But because God loves us and wants us to be near Him, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, so that by His perfect blood our sins are forgiven. Through Jesus’ shed blood we can now draw near to God’s holy presence without fear. Praise God! Because of Jesus, we don’t need to stay a distance from God’s presence; rather we can draw near to Him.
Joshua 3:5 (NIV) 5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
On verse 5: The word “consecrate” (v5) means to prepare. Likewise, if we don’t want to miss the amazing things that God wants to do among us, we need to prepare and consecrate ourselves as well. How do we do that? We prepare ourselves by having an attitude of worship, drawing near to God, praying, reading His Word, asking for His help, and focusing on Him.
Joshua 3:6-8 (NIV) 6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. 7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.'”
On verses 6-8: Here God’s presence, represented by the ark, goes ahead of the people (v6), as do the priests carrying the ark. Know that God goes ahead of you to lead the way for you as well, so that you would know His power and that others would witness His power working in your life. May you be sensitive to His leading.
Heavenly Father, thank You for being the God who prepares and leads the way for me. May I not run ahead of You. Instead may I be aware of how and where You’re leading. Thank You that when I could not get close to Your holy presence because of my sin, You sent Your Son to pay for my sins so that now I can live near Your presence. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!