Jump Start # 2206
Joshua 3:4 “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.”
Our verse today takes us back to the moments before Israel was to cross the Jordan and enter the promise land. Instructions were given about how this was to be done. Joshua reminded the people to consecrate themselves for the next day, the Lord would do wonders among you.
The ark of the covenant was to go first. It was their GPS. They were to follow the ark. A distance of 2,000 cubits was to remain between the ark and them. This would make it possible for the ark to be visible. A massive crowd made up Israel. You have tried to stay with someone in a crowd after a ballgame. It’s hard to do. This distance would keep the nation on track. A typical cubit was 18 inches. The distance between the ark and the people was 2,000 cubits or 36,000 inches, which is 3,000 feet, or 1,000 yards. A football field is 100 yards, so the distance of 10 football fields.
Three lessons here:
First, God must always be before us. We follow God. The Lord didn’t tell the people to just cross the Jordan and run scattered throughout the new land. There was direction, order and obedience involved. The Lord would keep them together. Have you ever been to a theme park before the gates are opened? A crowd gathers. The gates are opened and people scurry in. Some rush to the very back of the theme park to try to beat the crowds. Others start at the front and work to the back. Others go to their favorite ride. Left, right, hurrying to the back, it’s mass chaos. Israel was to follow the ark. Keep it before you.
What a grand principle that follows throughout the Bible. Keep God in front of us. Fixing your eyes on Jesus is what the Hebrews were told. Modern churches have rushed past God and are exploring new concepts and ideas that are not housed in the Bible. They vote upon what they want to believe. They have written creeds and declarations. It all seems good until you remember that we must follow the Lord. He must be before us. Israel was not to walk in front of the ark. They were not to walk beside the ark. They were to keep a distance and to follow.
Second, God knows the way that we should go. The priests carrying the ark would be directed by God. He was leading this massive march into the new land. This principle carries through the Bible. God knows how to get us to Heaven. God knows how to build broken relationships. God knows how to heal hurting hearts. God knows how to conquer temptation and addicting sins. This is why the ark was before the people. This is why God’s word must be before us. Church growth experts try to introduce catchy ways to attract the world and through food, fun and slick slogans, they market the church like big business. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel is the Lord’s method. We must keep God in front of us. Clever ways to raise money are introduced to make the church have more funds available. God said to give as you have been prospered. We must keep God in front of us. God’s way works. God knows what He is doing. This is a trust issue.
Third, you have not been this way before. Israel was walking into new territory. They had not see the land, the people, the weather, the animals, the soil. It was all new for them. God had. God saw it centuries before when He promised this land to Abraham. God saw it long before that when He made it. God has always seen it. There never was a time when God had not seen it. This was all new for Israel. It wasn’t for God. Easily, God could have said, “I’ve been here before, let me show you around.”
There are some principles here that we ought to learn from this statement, We have never been here before. We need to pay attention to what God says, because He knows.
We’ve never died physically before. It’s a one time event. The door swings only one way. You don’t know anyone at work who died over the weekend and was back to work on Monday. That doesn’t happen. When a person dies, they remain on the other side. Since we’ve never been that way before, we ought to listen to what God says about it. Books abound on the market about people who claimed they died and they came back. How? Just how did they come back? In the Bible that’s referred to as a resurrection. The only way a soul can reunite with the body once it has left is by a miracle conducted by an apostle, prophet or the Lord. I’ve read these books. Someone died, went to Heaven for a few minutes and then came back. They then write a book about all the adventures they saw, which is odd. Paul in a vision went to the third Heaven but it was unlawful for him to repeat what we heard. He didn’t write a book about the experience. I don’t just have questions, nor doubt these claims, I don’t believe they are true. Maybe a dream. Maybe trauma from an injury. Maybe drugs that were given to them. Maybe made up. But, it didn’t happen. You have not been this way before. Lazarus was raised from the dead and nothing is said about the other side. A young man was raised and nothing was said. A twelve year old girl was raised and nothing was said. Yet, today, book after book, dozens of them, make the claim to have died and came back with vivid stories to tell. We’ve never been this way before. Best read Luke 16 about what happens when we die. Keep that ark in front of you and don’t go past it.
We’ve never been to Heaven either. People are expecting to see amusement park rides, butterflies, ballgames, chocolate, pets and all kinds of fun. Heaven is viewed as an eternal play day. Won’t that be fun. Why wouldn’t everyone want to go there? However, these ideas do not come from the Bible. They come from the imagination of people who have never been there before. Best keep the Lord before us. Heaven is His home. Read what the Scriptures say about Heaven. The Lord knows Heaven. Heaven is about God’s presence. So many ideas about Heaven exclude God. It’s as if we have taken it over and run God out. Selfish concepts and worldly ideas fill the dreams of people who just want to play, play, play. Without God there is no Heaven. If you don’t like God you’ll not like Heaven.
God knows how to build a church. God knows how to restore people. God knows how to make faith strong. God knows who ought to lead His people. God knows how to shepherd lives. God knows how to build strong marriages and incredible families. God knows how to preach a sermon. God knows how to drive out fear and worry. Moderns have relied upon support groups, counseling sessions and exterior help to do what God has been doing for centuries. I wonder how those early Corinthians overcame alcohol without AA? How did they deal with homosexuality without exit groups? How did they turn from stealing without support groups? Somehow, for centuries, God has led His people into righteousness. Yet, today, we feel compelled to turn to other things feeling that without them we can’t make it. Have we forgotten who is before us? Have we forgotten that we may be in new territory but God hasn’t. He’s been there before.
Keep that ark, which for us, is God’s word before us. The ark contained three items: stone tablets, a budded rod and a bowl of manna. Promises, power and provisions—which is exactly what our Bible contains. Keep that before us and follow it and God will get you safely into new lands.