“You Have Not Passed This Way Before”
Our daily Bible reading plan carried us into the early chapters of Joshua this past week. Joshua was the newly-appointed leader of God’s people. After more than 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, these descendants of Abraham were about to step foot for the first time into the Promised Land. But all sorts of unknowns awaited them on the other side of the Jordan River.
A generation before, spies had reported that there were giants in the land and that the cities of Canaan were fortified and very large. How could these wilderness-wanderers possibly succeed? How would they know where to go, when to go, and what to do?
They came to the Jordan, [Joshua] and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” (Josh 3:1-4)
God’s instructions were clear: follow the ark of the covenant “in order that you may know the way you shall go.” Why? “You have not passed this way before.”
You and I aren’t following a golden box wherever it’s carried by a group of Israelite priests, but we have been blessed with God’s complete revelation to mankind and prayer. Thousands of years after Joshua, we have received our own God-given “marching orders.”
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance… (Eph 6:16-18)
Why? Why worry about carrying the shield of faith? Why carry the sword of the Spirit? Why pray? Isn’t the reason the same as in Joshua’s day? “In order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”
When Israel failed to look to the LORD for direction as to where and when and how they ought to go, the consequences were disastrous. It was a bitter lesson learned over and over again. But am I any better off if I approach a new God-given day without the helmet of salvation? “I have not passed this way before.” Thank God we have been blessed with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and the opportunity to pray “at all times.” Are you using these God-given resources? Will you lean on them as indispensable to life and success this week?
If the Lord wills, in just over three weeks, 2018 will give way to 2019. We have not passed this way before. Today is the start of a brand new week. We have not passed this way before. Who knows what just today will bring for any of us? The Lord God Almighty knows. He has provided everything we need in order to know the way we ought to go, come what may. He has promised,
“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5). Though we have not passed this way before, we don’t have to travel alone.
Today is full of wonderful opportunities to hear from our Savior and King. Let’s say with Samuel, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” Let’s faithfully keep in step with the Spirit this week, for we have not passed this way before.