“…you have not passed this way before.” Joshua 3:4 (NASB)
The people of Israel had finally ended their wilderness wanderings. Joshua and his people were looking forward to entering Canaan, the promised land, and taking possession of it, and now the time had come.
“When you see the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:3-5 (NASB)
Notice the words “for you have not passed this way before.”
In other words, you’re about to go down a road which is new to you. It’s a new chapter, a new adventure with God. You’re about to travel through unknown territory, untrodden ways, uncharted waters. That, in principle, is exactly where you and I stand right now as we embark upon a brand-new year.
What guidelines does this passage offer us this year? Let’s consider some of them over the next four days. Today’s advice is this: let God lead you.
In verse 3, the officers told the Israelites to “go after” the Ark. Why? “…that you may know the way by which you shall go…” The Ark of the Covenant is mentioned eight times in Joshua 3. To the Israelites, the Ark symbolised the Presence of God. They were to pursue the Presence of God. In other words, when God moved, they were to move. When God stopped, they were to do the same.
As the people prepared to go into new territory, they were to follow their God who went before them. In a similar manner we need to prioritise the Presence of God in our lives. Pursue Him. Follow His lead. Don’t rush ahead and don’t lag behind. God required the Israelites to stay 2,000 cubits (1,000 yards) behind the Ark. This was for two reasons. Firstly, to respect the holy nature of the Ark of the Covenant. Secondly, it was to make sure that everyone had a clear view of it. Israel would accomplish this impossible task as they set their eyes upon God’s Presence, and followed only after His Presence.