Text: Joshua 1, 3, 7
As a kid I loved it when the family talked about taking a trip. I remember Dad bringing home road maps of the states we wanted to visit, and in the evening we would spread them on the floor and choose the easiest route and the best places to stop. Of course, like most families, we talked more than we traveled. But occasionally the hoped-for opportunity would come and we’d be off! Do you know how I knew we were actually going? When Mom made preparations to leave. Getting ready to go was the sign–and the best part of the trip! It was also the hardest and most important, often taking longer than the trip itself.
It’s the same in the spiritual realm. Preparation is an act of faith. If we really believe God is going to do something, we get ready for it. When we pray for rain we ought to carry an umbrella. In my own spiritual pilgrimage I am discovering that God gives me only what I am prepared to receive.
After God spoke to Joshua, the new leader came away convinced God would go with them and give them the land. He was so certain of this that he ordered the people to get ready for immediate action. God had spoken and preparation was the evidence of their faith in that spoken word.
The Bible says:
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… Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you”’ (Joshua 1:10, 11; 3:5)
It is the prepared people who possess the land; therefore, we need to examine the preparations required for the trip into Canaan.
A NEW DIET
“Prepare provisions”, God said. That’s interesting. Here is an entire nation, possibly three million people, about to cross a flooding river, and what is the first thing they are to prepare? A bridge? That would seem reasonable. Boats, at least. But without a bridge or a boat in sight God told them to prepare–bread.
During the wilderness years God provided manna to eat. Now, if you’re stranded in a desert with no other food, manna is all right, but it has been highly overrated in sermons and songs. Manna was a coarse dry, hard bread–not steak and potatoes. It could sustain but not satisfy. Get this: the diet that was adequate to maintain life in the desert would not nourish combat troops conquering and settling a new land.
Most of the Christians I know exist on a desert diet–just enough to keep them alive. But if you want to move into the land of promise and experience daily victory you must upgrade your diet and increase your intake.
I’m talking about your personal worship time with the Lord in prayer and the Word. Much has been said about this already because I am convinced that this is the single most important factor in consistent Christian living. How much time have you spent along with God today on your knees before an open Bible? If you’re serious about a victorious life, then determine right now that whatever the cost or sacrifice, you will establish a daily time with God in prayer and Bible study. The strength and stamina you have in the conflicts of life will be determined by the quality of nourishment you receive from the Lord.
A NEW DELAY
This part of their preparation is even more surprising than the first. There would be a three-day delay. But Lord, why this delay? We’ve been delayed forty years already and now we’re ready to go. But God said, “Wait.” One of the things I’ve learned about God is that He never hurries. The toughest thing I have to do is wait, and I hate it. We Americans are accustomed to instant gratification: instant credit, instant comfort, and instant coffee. Our cry is, “Lord, give me patience right now!” But God never wastes time, and every delay plays an important role in His plan.
God used the delay to accomplish three things. First, it was a time of observation. The people had to camp on the banks of the Jordan for three days–and what did they do during that time? They watched the swollen river surging over its banks. “We’re going to cross that?” they may have whispered to one another. “But there’s no bridge, no boats! It can’t be done!” That’s the point exactly. God was letting the impossibility of the task sink into their minds.
Has God ever dealt with you that way? He has with me. Many times He has plopped me down beside the Jordan of my life and forced me to look at it. The longer I looked, the more impossible the situation became. I would cry out for deliverance, wondering how God could love me and yet refuse to remove the problem. I could see no boats, no bridges, no way of getting through the situation. After awhile I would know that apart from God there was no solution. When w are convinced that only God can get it all together, then we’re ready to move.
The delay was also a time of confrontation. Forty years earlier, twelve spies were sent out from Kadesh-barnea. It was their faithless report, blurted out in front of all the people, that caused them to turn back and forfeit the land. This time Joshua sent out two spies, who spent these three days scouting the land. Their report, brought privately to Joshua, declared that God was surely with them–all the inhabitants of the country were terrified of them. God used the waiting period to confirm His promise.
During those frustrating delays, if we keep our eyes and ears attuned to God, He will give us one evidence after another that He is capable of handling our situation.
The delay was also a time of separation. While Moses was still alive, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh became enchanted with the wilderness close to the Jordan River. It was fertile land and they wanted to settle down there. They preferred the wilderness. Angrily, Moses said, “Oh, so you want to let your brothers go on and fight alone for the land God has given to all of us. Well, you can stay here if you want, but first you must go over and fight with the rest of us.” And they agreed. In verses 12 through 18 of chapter 1, Joshua honored the decision made by Moses and those tribes.
That incident is packed with spiritual instruction. God lets us choose the level of our Christian experience. He forces no one to enter into victory. If the wilderness is what you want, the wilderness is what you will get.
The descendants of those tribes are found in every church. They do their share of the fighting but always return to their spiritual wilderness, refusing to live in the victory Christ has won for them. They help with the budget, the building program, the Bible school; they support the pastor and faithfully attend the worship services, but when twelve noon strikes, they tuck their Bibles under their arms and plod wearily back to a barren and defeated life.
The tragic conclusion to the story is that these two and a half tribes were the first to be conquered and carried into captivity when the Assyrians attacked in later years. When the real testing comes, the first to falter and fail are those who choose to live on the wrong side of Jordon.
A NEW DEDICATION
After the period of waiting, Joshua told the people to consecrate themselves. The last time they had heard this command was when Moses went up to the mountain to receive the law from God ( Exodus 19:l0). He told the people to consecrate themselves so they would be ready to hear God’s words upon his return. This was an old dedication; a lot had happened since then, and they had long since been unfaithful. Now God was about to do something new, and they needed a new dedication.
“Consecrate” means “to purify, to sanctify, to make something holy by setting it apart for special use.” There is a sense in which God sanctifies us and another sense in which we sanctify ourselves. By virtue of our salvation, we are all sanctified, set apart for God’s special use; every Christian is a saint. But the Bible also commands us to purify ourselves (1 John 3:3), to set ourselves apart from the filthiness of the world; and this is a “must” for the life of victory.
We must be willing to deal with our sins, to confess and forsake them, and allow God to cleanse us from every unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Just a casual reading of Joshua 7 reveals the devastating effects of hidden sin in the life of one believer. God demands holiness.
We must be holy in our public lives. Our activities are to be pure. Exodus 19 shows that this process of purification required that the people wash their garments: “The Lord also said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments”’ (Exodus 19:10). The garments, seen by all, were to be spotless. We are to present to the world a clean life; our activities must be above reproach.
We must be holy in our private lives. Our affections are to be pure. This was symbolized in the purification rite by marital abstinence for a period of time. “And he said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman”’ (Exodus 19:15). This indicated a complete dedication to the Lord in the most intimate affairs. When we get down to business with God, our private lives will be characterized by holiness. Let me suggest you pray through Psalm 139, especially the last two verses: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way: (Psalm 139:23, 24).
It might be good to stop at this point and catch up with yourself. Are you weary of the wilderness? Does your heart cry out for the much more of Christ? Above everything else in the world do you want to know Christ in all His fullness? Are you ready to let Jesus, our Joshua, lead you into the Promised Land? If so, then consecrate yourself and get ready, for the Lord is ready to do wonders in your life.
©Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2002