Welcome to the fifth week of our study into the book of Joshua. It is amazing to think that I’ve been digging in for over a month now, and the rewarding insights continue to pour through. This week Joshua and the Israelites are finally approaching the Jordan River, and next week will see the second half of this chapter getting covered as there was a lot more depth that came from the early verses than initially anticipated. Links are provided below to help catch up if you missed last week’s post, or if you are new to the undertaking and want to begin from the start of Joshua. I pray that some of the insights gleamed from these verses would reach out and affect you in your daily walk with Christ and help you draw closer to God.
Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”
Verse 1: A brief note here regarding the hour in which Joshua rose. While it may not always be easy, there is something peaceful about rising early and beginning your day long before the bustle of activity begins. Some of my greatest moments as a Christian have come from early morning moments spent reading or studying the Bible, praying, and sharing fellowship with other Christian men. Those quiet moments are perfect for seeking after God, as it starts your day with God first in your life and sets the remainder of the day in alignment with Him. It also provides moments free from distractions, whereas later times may have children begging for attention, phone calls and emails and Facebook posts demanding your focus, and late nights where your thoughts are on laying down and getting sleep rather than drawing closer to God.
Verse 4: A cubit is about 18 inches in length, which means the Israelites were commanded to be about 3,000 feet (1,000 yards) away from the Ark of the Covenant. That is equivalent to ten full-sized football fields in distance. At this point in time the Ark of the Covenant is where the tablets containing the ten commandments were stored, a holy artifact. This command is a great visual of a physical gap between men and God, a gap forged by the shackles of sin. Because of Christ’s sacrifice 2,000 years ago, we are no longer forced to remain so distant from God, nor do we need to undergo the extreme rituals that the Levitical High Priests needed to perform annually with the mercy seal on the Ark (See Leviticus 16).
Verse 5: The command here for the Israelites to consecrate themselves is an unusual phrase for the Old Testament; the idea of consecrating is typically found in context to either someone being ordained for priesthood or in relation to a sacrifice at an altar. In the New Testament, it appears in relation to ourselves (See Romans 12:1) as an instruction to give ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, choosing to live for Him and follow Him. This is a term that could be applied to the practice of a second baptism that is becoming more popular today among those who were baptized originally as infants or small children (usually before they could actually make a knowing declaration of faith) as well as to the child dedication services where parents proclaim publicly their intention to raise their child to know and follow God. Essentially Joshua is telling his people to prepare themselves in relation to God, as He is about to do great and wonderful things among them and on their behalf. This is something we should live out more often, giving ourselves daily in consecration to the Lord. Whether it is before our feet hit the floor, or down on our knees beside the bed, we should take the time to pray and let God know that we are giving ourselves to Him today, letting Him lead us along whatever path comes our way so long as His will is done. Instead of scheduling out our days around our own wants and desires, we should be attuned to the opportunities around us whether they be teachable moments for our families, chances to interact with others in our neighborhood and communities, or something even greater and grander than we ever imagined. Some days may play out like an ordinary day, but if even one day a year takes unexpected turns that glorify our Lord it will be invigorating and inspiring.
Verses 7-8: Here we see God speaking to Joshua directly once again. The relationship that Joshua had with God is a close one, much like Moses had (See Exodus 33:11) and it is a relationship that we all strive for in our own daily lives. How many times have we thought to ourselves that prayer is a waste of time because it feels like a one-sided conversation? How many times has sorrow or trouble wormed its way into our lives and we’ve felt like God was absent through it all? Yet if we look back to God’s first conversation with Joshua in this book, we can get some insight into some ways that we, too, can attune ourselves better with God. It may not bring about 100% results, because we will never see the big picture to know what paths and outcomes will bring about God’s best plans for our lives. We may never audibly hear Him speak to us. But knowing His word will allow ourselves to know His will. The Scriptures tell us so much about who God is and what He rejoices in, and so meditating upon His word day and night (See Joshua 1:8) and teaching it to our children (See Deuteronomy 6) are steps in the right direction. And we should be strong and courageous, as God commanded Joshua three times in a short span of time (See Joshua 1:6, 7, 9) and step forward in faith. We should begin each morning with a prayer of consecration, as mentioned above, and put on the full Armor of God (See Ephesians 6:10-20) in order to be prepared to face any challenges that come our way each and every day of our lives.