Living Close to God's Presence
When crossing the Jordan River, Joshua told the people to keep their eye on the ark. The Ark of the Covenant was where God's presence dwelt during the days of the Tabernacle. Staying close to the ark meant staying close to God's presence.
Why was it important to observe where God was leading them as they crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land? God told the people, 'You have not been this way before' (Joshua 3:4). The Israelites had been many places in the last forty years; they had passed rocks and hills and mountains and cliffs and who knows how many desert scrub bushes. But they had not been this way before.
Change can be disruptive. For the Israelites, the new life waiting for them on the other side of the Jordan River was going to be dramatically different from what they had known:
- from promise to provision
- from endurance to inheritance
- from transience to permanence
- from moving to dwelling
- from living in tents to living in houses and cities
- from water found in rocks to water from rain
- from mann from heavn to bread from grain
- from pickup manna every morning to the routine of sowing and reaping
- from listening to God through Moses to listening to God through the Torah
This was all going to be new and different. And this is why they had to stay so close to God's presence.
When we speak of God's presence, we discover that God is with us in different ways at different times:
- we are always invited to enoy God's presence through fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14)
- during difficult times we can enjoy the presence of God's comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
- during dangerous times we enjoy the presencde of God's protection (Psalm 23:4)
- when we need to make decisions we rely on the presenced of God's guidance (Psalm 32:8)
This discussion of God's presence prompts a question: how did Joshua become Joshua? How was it that he was able to follow in the footsteps of Moses, and to call God's people to noting and following the ark? We learn something about Joshua's backstory in Exodus:
‘When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.’ Exodus 33:9, 11
Joshua was addicted to the presence of God. Moses would go to the tent to meet with God; Joshua would continue there, just to hang out. Along with faithfully serving Moses, consistently spending time with God became the pathway of preparation for Joshua's amazing leadership.
And it took Joshua's leadership to get Israel to the other side of the Jordan. The priests carrying carrying the ark had to step into the water before it stopped; they had to step out in faith, and then the miracle happened.
What can we learn from this episode? Here are few observations:
- Promises include problems: God brought his people to the edge of promise, but there were still barriers to overcome.
- The future will be different: God is always leading us forward into his mission; relying on what we know is insufficient.
- Faith precedes provision: We have to step out in faith before we experience God's provision.
- Remember – but keep moving: We thank God for what He has done in the past but look forward to what He has for us in the future.
- Stay close to God: our destiny is going to be fulfilled in the context of a close - not distant - relationship with God.
Why does all of this matter? Because God has purpose for his people. And because we need God's power to accopmlish his purpose. But on the the way to do stuff for God, like Joshua, we are called to cultivate a relationship with God and enjoy the fellowship of his presence.