So, growing up in Tasmania, we lived in Launceston but had family down here in Hobart. There was always one part of the journey that I liked in particular.
You see, on the way to Hobart from Launceston, you have to cross the Jordan river.
Then you go past Jericho.
This is actually for real, so of course it was like it had been made for me, as a kid. Joshua crossing the Jordan and going on to Jericho.
That’s what’s going on here. Joshua first readies and announces to the people of Israel that they’re about to move out. It’s time to break camp and enter the promised land.
Tonight, I feel like I’m preparing a sermon. There’s three points that stand out to me as I was reading this chapter.
First of all, though, the overall picture. Here it is, the moment that the Israelites have been waiting for. It’s time to cross the Jordan river and enter into the Promised Land. They’ve been wandering for over forty years, through the wilderness and desert surrounding these lands, and finally it’s their time, finally they’re standing there, with one final thing to do.
Cross a river – that’s in flood for the harvest.
So three things come out of this:
1. They consecrated themselves.
To consecrate, is to make one’s self holy. If I go to my trusty source of Merriam Webster and look up Consecrate, I get these two definitions in particular:
- To make or declare sacred; especially: to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony.
- To devote to a purpose with or as if with deep solemnity or dedication.
Before stepping into the promised land, after all the journey that we’ve been through, we need to be dedicated. We need to be devoted to God.
Reading that definition is challenging for me. Especially the first one. To devote irrevocably to the worship of God – that means, there’s no going back. Once your life’s consecrated, it’s God’s, devoted, dedicated, given to him without any reservation to take it back into our own control. That’s a hard one – and one that I haven’t taken, and find it a struggle even to imagine that one day I could take it.
Irrevocable’s a pretty strong word, but that’s what God gave us. He’s not going to revoke the grace that has been provided to us through Jesus’ sacrifice.
2. It required a step of faith.
Let’s remember, this river was flooding – it was harvest time, so the Jordan would have been racing pretty heavily. Joshua sat there and told the priests to set foot in the river, and march the Ark of the Covenant out into the middle of the river.
This wasn’t just a step of faith for the priests – although it would have been a pretty big one for them – it was a big thing for everyone. The Ark of the Covenant was their physical connection to God, and here they were watching the priests just carry it into the flooding river.
And let’s not forget Joshua. Here was the real test of his leadership. Imagine how long his leadership would have lasted if those Priests had washed away with the Ark of the Covenant?
Stepping into the promised land doesn’t just take being holy and a good person, it takes a step of faith.
3. They crossed over on dry land.
Following on from the step of faith, God did the rest.
Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. ~ Joshua 3:15-16
As soon as their feet touched the water’s edge, the water stopped flowing. They took that step of faith, and then God did the rest to let them walk into the promised land.
I wonder – what stops us from taking that step of faith ourselves? We hear so many stories, not just from the bible, but from the very people we know and trust, of God coming through when a step of faith is taken, and yet still we hesitate. I crave, I absolutely crave to one day have such faith that I would be able to step into the Jordan, with complete confidence and knowledge that God’s going to stop the flow from way upstream.
So, I’ve come to a plan – I’m going to cease doing the little life updates with these blogs on the Bible Journey and just focus each post on the relevant chapter. It should make them shorter, and thus easier to read, as well as more direct and to the point.
I’ll probably still do blog entries, under the Blog category on the menu. Enjoy!
Balak still hasn’t got the point.
Here he is, once again taking Balaam to another location and asking him to curse the Israelites.
Something, though, seems to click in Balaam’s head this time. It would appear that even though he’s been blessing the Israelites in the previous two locations Balak took him, he hasn’t necessarily been totally acknowledging God.
Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert. When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him. ~ Numbers 24:1-2
As I read this, something clicked. It almost seems to suggest that Balaam was using sorcery to try and connect to God in the previous two attempts that he had made. This time, though, he just gives up. He’s realised that no matter how much power in the spiritual realm that he can muster, God is still more powerful.
Ultimately, it’s God.
It’s a well-used statement in “church” fellowships, especially in songs, that “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.”
This image here is, to me, a clear example of that. Balaam had access to the spiritual realm, and through that it would seem that God even connected to him and passed on at least the two messages for Balak that were spoken about in chapter 23. However ultimately, Balaam was forced to just give up what he thought was power in the face of God himself.
Ultimately, one day, every knee will bow down before God. One day, every tongue will confess that He is Lord. It doesn’t matter what a person’s purpose is, or what they might be trying to achieve. Every single one of us will one day stand before the Almighty King, and we will be under total compulsion to say that he is Lord. Not because we’re forced to, just because we will not be able to deny that truth.
The main question, then, is when we confess that He is Lord, will we be confessing it confidently, or fearfully?
I’ve been going through some old stuff of mine recently, sorting and trying to decide what I actually need or want to keep, and what is junk that’s just been following me around for years. As the years have gone by, I’ve just accumulated more and more boxes of stuff, many of which I don’t really even know what’s inside them.
What I found over the weekend, though, was some old notebooks and things like that. One of which was a collection of little notes that friends had written to me when my family moved from Launceston to Hobart back in 1998. Then, it was a really long way away, it’s funny how perspectives change.
As I was reading through these notes, though, I found myself wondering about the people. Some of them were friends who I’d been right through school with, since grade 2 when we moved to Launceston. Others had joined the class along the road, and then others were people who I only met when I started at Launceston College that year. These were the people who I wondered most about. They were in my life for such a small portion of time that some of them I don’t even remember.
One person, though, I did remember. I looked them up on Facebook and after taking a bit of a gamble, actually found them. There was a bit of head scratching at first but we found familiar memories after a couple of emails, and one email was one that said I was one of this person’s first friends at the college.
It got me thinking. Here I have a snapshot – an almost infinitesimal speck of memory of some people who were obviously important enough in my life twelve years ago for me to want to remember them; and now here I am again all those years later, wondering who they were. For one person, a nice little friendship blossomed fairly quickly; and even though we only knew each other at the time for a couple of months, there was obviously enough impact on one another’s lives to remember aspects of each other.
Don’t ever underestimate the impact you might make on someone’s life. You might only meet them for a moment, but that moment might change them forever.
See, now we’re well and truly into the interesting bits of Numbers. Funnily enough this seems to be where I’m starting to forget to do this every night. Which is surprising because I actually quite like this chapter.
So Moses picks out twelve people – one from each tribe – to go and explore the promised land. Here’s a group of leaders, ready to go and have a look around and bring back a report to say what’s been happening, what’s going on, what the place is like, how strong it is, all these sorts of things.
Away they go, they find a bunch of grapes so heavy that two of them are carrying it on a pole between them; along with pomegranates and figs.
The place is obviously quite amazing. As they return there’s comments about it flowing with milk and honey, we’ve got these great looking fruits that they’ve brought back, the place is just fantastic. So of course, Moses gets all excited! Here’s the promised land, the land God said he was going to give to his people, and it looks beyond their wildest imaginings.
But of course, what happens? Instead of looking at the great big grapes (I picture grapes the size of canteloupes) and stuff like that, most of these guys come back with reports of the people living there, who are giants and powerful. There’s all these other people there: the Amalekites; Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites and Canaanites.
I want to be Caleb in my life.
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” ~ Numbers 13:30
What belief, faith and confidence. Assuredness speaks for much, especially when going into battle. If you watch sport, then you’ll have probably witnessed what happens when a player or team’s confidence is down. They end up making mistakes they wouldn’t normally make, they don’t try as hard, it’s hard to actually get out of the rut. When a team or player is confident, though, then everything just seems to keep going right for them. They make the difficult shots, they hit the hard balls, it’s amazing how confidence just escalates our game to another level still.
It all comes down to what we focus on, though. We can, in our own lives, focus on the Anakites, these giants who are so much bigger than us, that make us look like little grasshoppers. Or, we can focus on God, and the confidence and assuredness that comes from knowing that he is on our side – and that’s when confidence grows.