Sunday, 24 November 2019

God-ward Steps - Joshua 3 - 5

Circa 3,000 years ago Joshua was told 'Be strong and courageous' for he will lead the whole Israelite people into the land God promised. Yet to do that they must first cross a river - a river that is in flood! The logical step of course is to go up to the river, which is what the people do - you can't cross an obstacle without first going up to it!

Yet just before the river they make camp again and wait for 3 days. This is waiting that comes after the 'get ready' and moving out from their last camp. It's an important point, because God's leading for us isn't always a maximum speed charge ahead. There are times when God calls us to pause and wait even in our moves forward. The Israelites can only go forward at the speed God leads, and we must learn to do the same.

In that waiting they are told to consecrate themselves. The lesson for us is to pay attention to your own holiness as we go forward with God. God can do amazing things right here among us, but we shouldn't assume that we can blandly continue living with our unholy habits rather than working out how God would have us live.

God says to Joshua 'I will exalt you in the eyes of the people'. For them to cross the river would require an amazing feat of engineering (or a supply of boats) - but in this case it won't be human skill. Rather it will be the grace of God incredibly working among them. Joshua needs to remember that on this and future occasions. All leaders need to remember that! Rather than the self-exaltation we see in today's world politics, we need leaders who don't need to prove themselves, but instead are quietly confident in what God will do.

So they come to this extraordinary point. The waiting is over, the priests are carrying the 'ark' (the ornate box that symbolised God being present with them), and they go to the river's edge just to the point where they get their feet wet. Then what? Look carefully at the passage and you will find the instructions end there! They have their feet wet and everyone is queuing hoping to somehow cross ... hence the key question:

Key Qn: [UP] Are you okay with doing faith one step at a time?
Challenge: Pray with someone for just the next step

Joshua had to trust God for the not-yet-revealed next step. He had the end goal (promised land), but only the next step detail of how they would get there. As we pray into pioneering, will we learn to go one step at a time?

As soon as they got their feet wet, the water flow changed. It piled upstream and left downstream dry in a miraculous way. They were able to cross. The ark stopped in the middle - perhaps symbolic of how God stays with us through the danger/difficulty. For us with pioneering aspirations, let us remember it is better that the whole church moves forward rather just keenies rushing out and ahead.

One other thing that happens. Of the 12 tribes each is commanded to appoint a leader to grab a stone from the river bed, carry it across, and add it to a cairn on the far side. It will make a memorial - a talking point for families with their children in the future. It reminds us to be a people who tell the story of what God has done.

Finally, once safe on the far side, the covenant with the whole people is effectively renewed. After a generation had passed it was time to ensure the families were back 'in covenant'. For us with pioneering in mind we should remember that the main thing is to see new people able to live in covenant with God.

Remember that we are called to be the people of God. A people who learn to wait on God even as He leads us forward. A people who pay attention to our holiness. A people led forward by God one step at a time, and a people who will remember how he has led us in the past. A people who in God's leading are prepared to get our feet wet, and see what God will do.

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