Have you ever observed troops marching in formation? There is no more beautiful sight than soldiers marching side by side in perfect unison, nor is there a more beautiful sound to hear than hearing them calling out their cadence. Troops in formation exhibit honor, discipline, strength, and unity as they march in step with each other.
Troops have been marching in formation for centuries. The Babylonian army marched across the entire Middle East conquering the territory for King Nebuchadnezzar. Napoleon marched his troops across Europe. Sherman marched through the south, destroying everything in his path. However, none of these infamous marches can compare to the march of the Israelites into the Promised Land. In this chapter, we will examine the two marching orders given to Joshua and the two benefits he received for obeying. We will learn from Joshua’s example how we should march toward the promises God has for us.
Falling in Ranks
We ended our last chapter discussing the orders given by God to Joshua. Let’s reexamine this passage one more time.
Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over.
The people of Israel are getting ready to cross into the banks of the Promised Land! Can you imagine the excitement they must have felt! However, they couldn’t just walk into this new land. They had to enter in an orderly manner. As we examine the orders given by Joshua to the people, I see two commands which we can apply to our pursuit of entering into God’s promises.
1. We must follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.
2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure.
This passage is a beautiful promise for us as believers. Joshua’s leaders tell the people to get ready to go! Notice what it says.
…the officers went through the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
The Ark of the Covenant was an important part of the Israelites worship. It was a long, wooden box, shaped kind of like a modern day coffin. It was completely overlain with solid gold. On top of the lid sat two solid gold sculptures of cherubim which faced each other. Their wings extended outward in an open direction.
The ark was kept in the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle. Whenever the Israelites set up camp, the Presence of God would descend on the ark and rest between the wings of the cherubim. The ark was Israel’s symbol of God’s Presence. By telling them that the ark would precede them, Joshua was saying the Presence of God would lead them.
For us, the Ark of the Covenant symbolizes the Holy Spirit. As we begin the journey into God’s Promise, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. Why is this?
… that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.”
We are new to this battle. Like the Israelites, we have never gone this direction before. This is why we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and deal with whatever sins He reveals to us. The Holy Spirit is the only One Who knows what areas of sin stand between us and the promises of God. He alone is able to convict us of these sins. He knows what causes the sins. He knows when they started. He alone can expose the demonic influences involved with the sin. We need to allow Him to point out our sins and enemies so we can properly deal with them and destroy them. This brings us to the second command.
2. We must repent of our sins and live a holier lifestyle.
Once the Holy Spirit convicts us of sins and points out enemies in our lives, we must thoroughly deal with these sins, repent, and live a different way. We see this in Joshua’s next command.
5 And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
Joshua commanded the people to sanctify themselves. The NIV uses the word “consecrate.” What Joshua is ordering them to do was cleanse themselves and abstain from anything that would defile them before God. In order to be in God’s Presence, they had to live holier lives. We need to do the same.
When the Holy Spirit brings an area of sin to our attention, we need to repent. However, this does not just mean asking God for forgiveness. It means a change in lifestyle. In the book of James, we read what true repentance means and how devastating it is to our enemy.
James3:7 Therefor, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble
yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
These verses are in direct correlation to how we should fight and defeat Satan. Notice James’ instructions.
First, he says we should submit to God. One way to do this is by being obedient to the Holy Spirit and dealing with whatever sins He exposes.
Next, James says to resist the enemy. How do we do this? By drawing nearer to God. This is done by acknowledging our sins and changing the way we live. We do this through proper repentance. What exactly is proper repentance? James gives us very pointed and specific commands.
James orders us to wash our hands and purify our hearts, or, in Joshua’s words, consecrate ourselves. This is proper repentance. It is not just a flippant, “Please forgive me.” James says that when we repent, we should grieve, mourn, and wail over how our sins hurt God. He says our laughter should be changed to mourning. This means we feel great sorrow over our sins. This sorrow should make us cry out to God to forgive us because we can’t stand the way our sins affect our relationship with Him. This deep sense of sorrow should make us never sin in this way again. We then begin to live in a new, godlier way. This type of repentance shows a brokenness and humility, which is exactly the attitude James orders us to have in verse 10.
You may be thinking, “This is extreme. Why do I have to go to such lengths to prove I am sorry? Does God really want me to wallow in my sin like this?”
My answer to you is this: What I described is not wallowing in sin. It is true repentance. The good news is: God doesn’t leave us brokenhearted. James ends this section by telling us that if we have this humble attitude of repentance, then God will lift us up and restore us.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
This is exactly what happens in the book of Joshua after the people consecrated themselves. Let’s examine the passage and see the two rewards of following the Holy Spirit and repenting of the sins He exposes.
Results of Marching God’s Way
1. Once we humbly repent of our sins, God restores us and makes us better than ever.
6 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.
7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
Joshua and the people were led by the Holy Spirit. This led to their consecrating themselves, or humbly removing their sins. Once this was done, God could exalt them and take them into the Promised Land. He did it, in a way that showed it was done through His power because He was pleased with the Israelites. He didn’t leave them wallowing in their sins. He forgave them and raised them up. He took them into the new land, and he exalted Joshua before all of the people and nations.
8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.”
9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.”
14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
The people, led by God’s presence, where taken across the waters by the hand of God. The waters stopped up, allowing them to cross over on dry ground. God took care of the people. He forgave them of their sins. He did what He said He would do and He did it in a way that proved to all the people that it only was done by His power. He gave them this power because they followed His lead, removed their sins, and humbly left the rest to Him.
The same is true for us. When we let the Holy Spirit point out the sins and enemies in our lives and then humbly repent of them, we can move forward in a new direction following God. Then we will experience the power of God in ways we could never imagine. To see what I mean, let’s re-examine the passage one last time.
2. God will come through in unbelievable ways.
So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
Not only did the people have to cross over the Jordan River, but they had to do it while it was running at flood stages. This made it even more treacherous. However, the Spirit led them there, so they had to go through. Miraculously, God made a way for them through this difficult time by stopping up the water.
I want to be completely honest with you. Following the Holy Spirit’s lead and dealing with the sins He points out can at times be extremely difficult.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit shines His spotlight on areas that are too painful to look at. There have been times when I would have preferred to die than face the thing the Holy Spirit brought to my attention. It is at this point we have to completely humble ourselves and allow God to carry us through the pain. The good news is that, even though it is hard and painful, He will get us through it.
God will forgive us of our sins and release us from our enemies’ grasp. He will stop up the waters of our sin and pain all the way back to the beginning just like He stopped up the water back to the town named Adam. He will get us through. All He wants from us is to stay open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, repent of whatever sins He reveals, destroy whatever enemies He exposes, and allow God to restore us to a place where He can use us.
As we bring this chapter to a close, we need to make a few decisions. Will we choose to march in step with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead us where He wants? Will we thoroughly deal with whatever sins He exposes in our lives? Will we have a humble attitude of repentance before God and confess the sins we have committed? Will we then begin to live a holy and righteous life before God, no matter how tough it may be? We must all face questions and decide what we will do. If you decide yes, then tie up your boots and let’s continue marching forward together.
1. Daily spend time alone with God. Allow the Holy Spirit to point out areas of sin and enemies in your life.
2. When the Holy Spirit reveals areas of sin, stop and analyze them. Discover when it started. Realize why you do it. Make a list of every time you committed the sin. Realize the devastating effects it had on you and your relationship with God and others. Then repent of each time you committed the sin.