Summary: "for ye have not passed this way heretofore." Joshua’s officers were saying to the Israelites, "You’re about to take a journey to where you’ve never been before. You’re about to go down a road that is new to you.


Joshua 3:1-4

The phrase ". . . for ye have not passed this way heretofore," always comes to mind at the beginning of a new year. 2007 is in the books. It is done, over, gone for ever. The only thing left to do is to look forward to 2008 and hopefully anticipate the new set of 365 (this year 366) opportunities. Yet as we have stepped into a new year, we all realize we have no idea what the year holds. We “have not passed this way heretofore.” We don’t get a practice run or a preview.

Israel had been in the wilderness for 40 years. Now they are about to cross over the Jordan River into the promised land. “…Ye have not passed this way heretofore” (v. 4). The Israelites were about to go into a new land— A land where they’ve never been.

They knew not what the future had hidden in the form of opposition; they knew not what forces where hiding behind the mountain; they couldn’t tell difficult the path through the mountains would be.

"for ye have not passed this way heretofore." Joshua’s officers were saying to the Israelites, "You’re about to take a journey to where you’ve never been before. You’re about to go down a road that is new to you. You’re about to travel through strange territory."

That, in principle, is exactly where you and I stand right now, as we embark upon a brand new year. We have no way of knowing what awaits us in 2008. We don’t know what gains or losses, or what joys or sorrows, are waiting for us.

You or I do not know whether death, disease, or disaster will come our way this year. You and I do not know what tests or trials we will face.

New challenges

New opportunities

New ministries

New additions to family

New jobs (employment)

New heartaches

New friends

I’m thankful that in his instructions to Joshua and the Israelites, God has given to all of us four sure, dependable guidelines for traveling in strange territory and doing so victoriously.

I. We must rely on God’s PRESENCE (vs. 3-4)

To the Israelites, the ark symbolized the presence of God. In that ark were the following items: First, the two tablets of stone on which the ten commandments had been written by the hand of God himself. The ten commandments testified to our need for a Savior, and then they served as a blueprint for the Christian life. Second, a supernaturally preserved pot of manna, reminded them that God is one who can satisfy. Jesus said later, in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life." Thirdly, Aaron’s budding rod, would remind the people that God is a miracle-working God. Nothing is impossible with him.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE ARK. There was a space between the ark and people (v. 4). Why the space? God wanted the ark to be clearly visible to everyone. Had there been no space between the ark and the people, those who followed closely behind it would obscure the view of the others—only those in the first few ranks had been able to behold it. But being borne by the priests half a mile ahead of the people, the ark would be visible to the whole multitude.

If the crowd followed too closely, only those in front

could see it. Every Israelite would end up following the person in front of him.

We are to Follow God!

That’s what you and I must do if we’re to make it victoriously through the unknown territory that lies before us in 2008. We must be determine to keep our spiritual eyes on Jesus, just as those Israelites kept their physical eyes on the ark. That’s the very best New Year’s resolution that you and I could possibly make.

First, be sure that you’ve repented of your sins and by faith have received him as your personal Lord and Savior. But then, having been saved, make certain that every day you reaffirm and reassert your allegiance to him. In other words, as a believer resolve to keep your focus on Jesus.

Don’t focus on on your job, your hobby, your recreation, not even your family, as important as they are, but Jesus.

Several decades ago a Methodist minister, Harold Bosley, told a story from his student days at the University of Chicago in the 1930s. He and some fellow students went to a conference that was being held at a large black church on the north side of Chicago. The conference featured a panel of four speakers who were discussing how to deal with the problems of life. One of the speakers was the attorney, Clarence Darrow, who had gained prominence as the defense lawyer in the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee.

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