Upon the return of the two spies to the Israelite encampment, they report to Joshua privately all that had happened to them during their brief visit to Jericho and what Rahab had told them about the people. Joshua’s reaction was: ‘The LORD has given the land into our hands; and all the inhabitants of the land have melted because of us.’ Joshua 2:24 Notice yet another difference between Moses’ sending of twelve spies and Joshua’s sending of two. When the twelve returned they gave their opinions publicly causing all manner of chaos in the camp. When Caleb and Pinchas return from Jericho, they go straight to Joshua and speak directly and privately to him. (2:23)
Chapter 3: 1 ‘Joshua arose early the next morning…’
Encouraged and affirmed by the report of the spies, the very next morning, Joshua leads the children of Israel from Shittim to the banks of the Jordan, a relatively short journey. At long last the time to enter the Land had come. Positioned directly opposite Jericho, the people spend the night anticipating the imminent crossing.
Knowing human nature there were most likely some less patient among them who were ready to cross immediately but there was good reason to wait until the next morning. The congregation’s faith was strong. They expected a miracle from God though they didn’t know exactly what He would do. Whatever form the miracle took, it would be much more evident in daylight and their faith would be further strengthened. In addition, the Canaanite kings would see or receive eye-witness reports which would deepen their reluctance to fight against Israel. On a practical level, Joshua being a good military strategist, knew the importance of having the people rested and ready for the crossing of the Jordan.
The three day period set by Joshua had come to an end. It was time to move. His captains went about the camp announcing to the people, ‘When you see the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD, your God, and the Priests and the Levites carrying it, then you shall move from your place and follow it. But there shall be a distance between yourselves and it – two thousand cubits – do not approach closer to it so that you may know the way in which you should go, for you have not passed this way yesterday or before yesterday.’ Joshua 3:3-4
There are several messages to us embedded in these two verses.
I like the way the MESSAGE Bible renders these same verses: When you see the Covenant-Chest of God, your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile – be sure to keep your distance – and you’ll see clearly the route to take. You’ve never been on this road before.
Joshua is following the principle that guided the children of Israel throughout the desert years. When the Cloud moved, they moved. If the Cloud stood still, they stayed where they were. In this case, when the Ark of the Covenant moves, follow it. But don’t move until it does!
The underlying message is clear. As we go through life, we are faced with decisions, sometimes life-altering ones. To act quickly without seeking the will and direction of our Father, like David did, is more than dangerous; at times it can be deadly as when a group of Israelites went out to battle in opposition to the advice of Moses and were defeated. Numbers 14:39-45
We do not have a visible Cloud or a procession of priests carrying the Ark of the LORD before us today, but we do have what David, Abraham, Esther and other heroes of scripture had. We have the ability and the privilege of prayer along with the promise of God, If you will seek the LORD your GOD, you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. Deut. 4:29
God has not gone mute; He speaks today to anyone who will listen. In the quiet place of devotion and your personal prayer time with Him, ask Him to show you the way to go. He is after all the ONLY One who knows the future and has promised through Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11 God is on your side! He is ready and willing to lead you into the best decisions for you and your family. Ask and then wait patiently for the answer. It will come and it will be at just the right moment. He is never late, and very often He isn’t early either! But His timing is always perfect.
Our time of waiting for His direction mirrors the admonition of the captains. Keep a proper distance between you and it…
We humans have a natural tendency toward tunnel vision. We see too narrowly and often fail to grasp the bigger picture. In the process of waiting for God to answer, we step back a bit and He is able to enlarge our perspective, show us elements of the decision before us that we had not yet seen and lead us to safety on the opposite shore, just as He did with the children of Israel on that day.
Life does not have to be a trial-and-error adventure. Our God is more eager to fellowship with us than we imagine. His love is unquenchable and unlimited. He cares for you every bit as much as He cared for David, Joshua and the children of Israel.
Dare to approach Him, seek His presence, ask Him for His guidance. Talk to Him as you would to a best friend for He is that and more than that. He speaks to us through inner impressions, thoughts and what I like to call ‘divine appointments’ – those unique times when someone or something comes into your life and you just know the hand of the LORD is in it.
When the Ark moves, move. When the Ark is still, be still.
What does this say to you this week? Are you grappling with a decision? Do you need His guidance?
He’s waiting to give it. Get alone with Him and ask. Then listen…