Summary: “You have not passed this way before.” “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” We are to spiritually prepare ourselves for what God has in store for us.
WE HAVE NOT PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE
There are several stages in the history of Israel. Each stage is a picture of our own spiritual experience.
1. Israel in Egypt: This is a picture of our bondage to sin before we met Jesus Christ. Egypt is a type of the world. Through Moses God delivered Israel out of Egypt. The Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea. God led them out of bondage.
2. Israel in the wilderness: Israel’s experience in the wilderness should have taken only a few months to two years. However, because of their rebellion, they were not permitted to enter into the Promised Land for forty long years. Everyone 20 years and above, except Caleb and Joshua, died in the wilderness without ever entering the Promised Land. All too many believers today are living far short of the victorious Christian life that God has in store for His children. Tragically many are still living in the wilderness.
3. Israel in the Promised Land: Canaan does not represent heaven as many believe. It does represent the fullness of life that God wants for us in the now. Canaan was their inheritance. God wants us to enjoy our riches in Jesus not. We do not have to wait until we get to heaven. He wants us to enjoy victorious Christian living. You and I can have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The setting of this chapter brings Israel once again to the brink of the Promised Land. It has taken 40 years to get this far. Moses is dead and Joshua is the new leader who will lead them over the Jordan.
“You have not passed this way before.” “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” To “Sanctify” means, to “set apart” one’s self to God. Some translations use the word, “consecrate.” We are to spiritually prepare ourselves for what God has in store for us.
Note the word, “Tomorrow.” Did you know that you and I have a “tomorrow.” God is going to do something wonderful for the people. They will come out of the wilderness and enter into the land of victory.
Note also the number of times the Ark of the Covenant is mentioned in this chapter. According to Strong’s Concordance, the ark is mentioned 10 times. This is significant. The Ark was the most important piece of furniture in the Tabernacle. It was a small “chest” measuring approximately 45” X 27” X 27”. It was covered inside and out with gold. It contained the tablets of the Testimony (Ten Commandments), a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded.
On the top of the Ark was the mercy seat. Once a year the High Priest entered the Holy of holies and sprinkled blood on the Ark to atone for the sins of the people. The Ark was a visible sign that the invisible God was present with his people. As the priest carried the ark, the people were made aware of the presence of God. As we look at the Ark in this passage we discover three truths about God. These truths will bring us comfort and give us hope as we face tomorrow.
I. GOD GOES BEFORE HIS PEOPLE
God goes before the people to lead the way. “Then Joshua spoke to the Priests, saying, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people’ so they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.” Remember, “They have never been that way before.” Note that they were to keep a distance of about 2000 cubits which would be about 1000 yards in our way of measurement.
Why the distance: (1) Because of the Holiness of God. (2) So the people could see in order to follow. The picture is that God was leading the way that they had never been before. God had led them out of Egypt. He had guided and protected them in the wilderness. He had fed them with manna and provided them with water. Have you ever thought of the logistics of such a task.
Someone calculated that it would take approximately 4000 tons of food day to provide enough to avoid starvation. It would take two freight trains 1 mile long to bring the food. God had a better plan. It would take 11,000,000 gallons of water a day in a place with no lakes, and very few springs. No wonder, people who really do not believe in God doubt that the Exodus ever happened. Their shoes and clothing did not wear out for 40 years.
ILL. There is a song that Margaret and I have loved for many years. It is entitled “all the way.” We have been through good times and difficult times, but our God has led us all the way. He has gone before us.