Joshua 3: 2-5; 14-16
After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests 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. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.’
Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’…
…So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.”
SUMMARY OF SUNDAY'S MESSAGE
God’s people had been in slavery in Egypt for around 400 years when God sent Moses to deliver them. However due to their ongoing sin, rebellion and idolatry, instead of entering the Promised Land, they spent the next 40 years wandering in the desert.
In Joshua 3, it’s now 40 years later. Moses, their great leader has died, and the baton has now been passed to Joshua. They’re looking at the Promised Land but there’s still one huge obstacle standing in their way and that is the River Jordan which is in flood. In human terms it would be absolutely impossible to traverse. And so they are faced with a choice: Will they camp or will they cross?
38 years before this God’s people had been in almost exactly the same place. They’d sent spies into the Promised Land to see if it was all God had told them it was. Ten of the spies came back and reported: "It’s all there, it’s incredible, it’s just like God said – but we can’t do it, the people over there are too big and strong for us." Only 2 of them, Joshua and Caleb, had trusted God. In the end the majority won and a whole generation died in the wilderness. They never inherited what God had for them.
And now, almost 40 years later, they’re back in the same place and they have to decide – will we play it safe and stay where we are or will we press in and enter into all that God has for us.
Here’s a few simple principles I see here in Joshua that can help us to take hold of all that God has promised us:
DON’T SETTLE: Don’t settle for less than God has for you?
“…the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites.” (Joshua 1:1-2)
God’s intention was never just to bring his people out of Egypt, but to bring them into a Promised Land, a land of abundance, flowing with milk and honey, a place they could call home, where they could build and flourish and thrive and be a light to the nations showing the world the goodness and love and holiness and justice and kindness of God.
A generation had died in the wilderness and now we have a whole new generation of “desert babies.” Their experience was that God took care of all their basic needs. He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, fed them with manna every morning and gave them water to drink from a rock. It wasn’t abundance – but they had enough. Plus they had no major obstacles in their way and no battles to fight.
Now they are standing looking into the Promised Land and, as great as it appears, in front of them is a huge river which they have to cross and there’s no bridge. Then if they do manage to get across there will be battle after battle which they will have to fight as they drive out the nations who already occupy Canaan. I’m sure there was a huge temptation just to settle where they were and not to bother crossing over the Jordan. At least here they were safe and secure.
As Christians, we are supposed to be a pioneer people who respond in obedience to the call of Jesus, people who are willing to leave the safety and security of the familiar, people who don’t settle for average, normal and mediocre, people who pray bold prayers and step out in audacious faith, placing our trust and our future completely in the hands of Jesus. That’s how we enter into the abundant life that Jesus promised, that’s what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
Many people feel stuck in their lives – when actually they’re not stuck – they’ve just stopped. They’ve stayed in a place longer than they were ever supposed to because it was comfortable and secure and now they feel stuck.
THERE IS MORE: It’s only in the risk that we discover the more. It’s when we step into the unknown that life becomes exciting.
Often the greatest enemy of the new – is the known. We are creatures of the known, of habit, of the familiar.
God didn’t bring His people out of Egypt to spend their lives in the familiarity of the wilderness but so that He could bring them into their inheritance – a place of abundance and blessing.
These people who have been following God for over 40 years, they have seen him work miracles, they have experienced supernatural provision and guidance first-hand. They must have thought they had seen and experienced all of God that it was possible to see and experience and yet look at what God says:
“…you have never been this way before.”
For some of you right now, you’re in a season of change, transition, there’s disruption, things are unsettling, shifting, shaking. God is moving you, doing something new in you – and God is saying, ‘I’m taking you to places you haven’t been before.’
TAKE THE FIRST STEP: How can we get across from where we are to the new place God is calling us to? It begins by simply taking the first step.
The feet of the priests carrying the ark actually had to touch the water before it stopped flowing. It was only as they did what He had called them to do, that He did all that He had promised to do and stopped the water from flowing.
God says: “Just take a step of faith, one step showing that you trust me. And if you will take that step out of your comfort zone and do what I have asked you to do, you’ll see me do miracles in and through your life.”
In many ways, as we read the Bible, we could say that our God is a ‘motion sensitive God.’ When we move, He moves. We take a step of faith into the unknown, and God responds and releases His divine power.
What is your one step of faith that you need to take today?