You are to cling to the Lord your God…
When I was a kid we lived in North Carolina, within a few minutes of the beach! It was great – to actually go to the beach and be able to swim in the water! One of the things I remember was that we had to pay close attention to where mom and dad were sitting so we didn’t drift to far away from them. The currents would pull us down the beach and if we were not paying attention we could end up a long way from them. So, we always had to check where we were and where they were so we didn’t drift too far away. I think life can be like that some times, if we aren’t careful we can drift off course and get lost.
Joshua and the Israelites have settled in the promised land. Three of the tribes were allowed to go back across the Jordan to live there. But, once they went back over they built an altar. Joshua and the other Israelites were not happy with them and went to them, actually to war. However, in discussion about the altar they learned that it wasn’t in rebellion or erected in worship to some other god. It was actually an anchor point. It was built as a focal point to remind them who they serve – the One True God. They were aware of the reality of drifting and knew they would need something to check themselves against to make sure they were not drifting off course. The altar was that something, the altar stood as their anchor point.
We all need an anchor point. Something that is going to keep us on course and steady so when we start to drift we know where we need to get back to, it keeps us in place and on track. What is your anchor point? How sure are you of it? Joshua instructed the people to always cling to the Lord, in others words He told them to make sure God was their anchor point.
God makes the best anchor point because He is always true and never moves. We can keep our eye on Him and know if we are on the right track. He will never lead us astray. The Israelites knew that first hand. They just came through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and now they have come through battles and are resting in the God’s victory. In that time of rest they needed to cling to their anchor, the Lord, so they didn’t drift off center. Today, make God your anchor and cling to Him so you can enjoy and rest in the victory He has for you!
So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.
Joshua and the Israelites have come a long way, but still are far from perfect. One of the things God told them to do was to destroy everyone that lived in the land of Canaan as they were to take possession of it. So, that is what they were doing, until it came to the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites came to them looking tired from a long journey and made up a story about them being from a far away land. They came looking for a covenant. Which, after investigation, Joshua and the leaders gave them because they thought they were not from the land of Canaan. However, three days later they discovered they had been tricked – they lived in the land and should have been destroyed.
Have you ever done that? Made a decision you thought was right only to find out later that it wasn’t? Joshua and the leadership asked all the right questions and investigated all the right things, but they failed to do one very important thing. They never asked God what they should do. With that mistake they were now stuck in this covenant. They couldn’t back out of it without going back on their word which was also not something God would want of them. So, even though it was a mistake, it was one they would have to live with. Have you ever had to just live with the mistake you made, unable to go back in time and change it?
Joshua and the leaders made the best of it. They made one mistake but did not allow it to lead to others. From that point forward they sought to honor God, even in the mistake. They did not go back on their word and kept their covenant, even though they were getting pressure from the people to destroy the Gibeonites. They even went to the rescue of the Gibeonites and fought a long battle in order to protect them. We can make mistakes, but they don’t have to be what defines us and they do not have to lead to more mistakes.
Let’s learn from Joshua. Mistakes will happen. But, that isn’t the end. Keep going, making better decisions, and keep following God. Even though they messed up, God never left them. God led them to victory, in a miraculous way, as they defended the Gibeonites. God will be with you always, even through your mistakes.
The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors."
I always seem to have the most confidence moving forward when I can see what lies ahead. I don’t move very quickly through the dark without a light because I can’t see and I don’t want to run into something. I can’t just run through the woods, I have to move slower because I can’t always see far enough ahead. We always want to see what is in front of us, what lies ahead, and when we can’t we tend to lose some confidence and we start to move a little bit slower, a bit more carefully, and sometimes we stop moving forward all together. This is the kind of spot Joshua and the Israelites were in. They were standing in the shadow of a huge obstacle – the walls of the heavily fortified and heavily armed city of Jericho.
We can get intimidated and overwhelmed by the shadow our obstacles cast. Joshua, while standing in that shadow, was reminded of the victory God has guaranteed for them. He was out surveying what was going on, trying to see ahead, when he looked up and say the Captain of the Lord’s army standing before him with his sword drawn. It was in that moment that Joshua realized God wasn’t just standing with them, He was moving ahead and fighting for them. The sword was drawn, the fight had begun, and God was doing the fighting. Talk about strength and courage! The confidence that must have given him knowing the Captain of the Lord’s Army was fighting for him!
The lesson he learned that day is one we need to learn. We can get distracted by the size of the obstacle and feel hopeless. We can walk around, sulking, in the shadow of our problems or we can look up. We can shift our focus and look at God, who is standing with us, sword drawn. God is ready to fight for us, to take down the walls, and to give us the victory. He proved that when He sent Jesus here to die for us. He didn’t wait for the fight to come to Him, He brought the fight right to the enemy.
Look up! Look up! God is with you. God is fighting for you! See the victory He has already won for you! Look up, see, and then march on to victory in Jesus!
Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
Get ready, get set…GO! We are all familiar with that as the beginning announcement of a race. Get ready means to get yourself loosened up and ready to run (focus), get set means to get in your blocks or your starting position. Then, of course, you are off to the races! So far in the book of Joshua the people have been in the get ready phase of their journey. Now, with this command, Joshua is saying to them “get set!” Now is the time to get into the starting position.
The starting position was a position of consecration. Consecration means to set apart, specifically to be set apart for God’s use and to position yourself in total surrender and focus on Him. This would have been a familiar command to the people as they had been given some very specific practices and acts of consecration. There were ritual cleansings, washings, fasting, and other traditions they were to keep as acts of concentration. This was all in an effort to position themselves to be a part of the work God was about to do.
This is a great challenge for us. It is time for us to consecrate ourselves. It is time for us to make the conscious decision to set ourselves apart for God’s use, to get rid of the distractions, and to focus entirely on Him. Jesus modeled this for us when He was baptized, when He went away to spend time in prayer alone, and especially when He went to pray alone in the garden just before His crucifixion. These were times where He was setting Himself apart. For us that might mean baptism, prayer, Bible reading, and fasting. The point is that we intentionally make room for God in our life and remove anything that is keeping us from fully surrendering to Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” God has called us to this life of consecration, it is our job to respond in faith and in action, and then God finishes what He has called us to. Let’s make it a point to consecrate ourselves so we can join in the even greater work God wants to do in us and through us.
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, to possess it.’"
The time has come – the time to start a new year, the time to embrace change, the time to move forward, and the time to follow God wherever it is He is leading us! What an exciting time for those that like change and what a terrifying time for those who don’t! As Joshua and the Israelites were getting ready to make that big change they were given three days to prepare and to pack. What would you have done to prepare for the big move? What provisions (only the essential things) would you take for the journey and for your new life? They had some things to consider and evaluate.
Whenever we move or make changes in life we are forced to evaluate what we really need and what is not necessary. What do we need to take with us on this journey and into this new phase of our life? Inevitably there are things that get left behind, things we determined are not as important (or as essential) as they once were. But, we may also end up taking things with us that we will later learn we didn’t actually need. For instance, how many boats were taken to the Jordan river – because why wouldn't you need a boat to cross a river? As it turned out God had another way – He divided the river and they walked across on dry ground!
The real question we need to ask ourselves is are we willing to leave the old and unnecessary behind? The hardest things for us to leave are always the things we found value in at some point or brought us comfort. Those are hard to leave because they have worked for us before. But, maybe, in this new life God has called us to, we don’t need them anymore. Maybe, god has a new way and a new plan that is better. Would you rather have to row a boat across the Jordan or watch God split the waters and just walk across on dry ground?
Trust God as we start this new year and this new journey. Be ready to drop what you don’t need and follow His lead. He is ready to part the river and lead you on to victory. We may not know all the details of how, but we don’t need to. All we need to know is the One we are following and the one who has promised victory.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.