“Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”
Forty years. The past forty years had been building up to this moment. After wandering through the barren wasteland of the Sinai Peninsula, then traveling around far to the south of the Dead Sea, through more harsh, arid climate, the Israelites were on the doorstep of the land God had promised to them—a land “flowing with milk and honey.”
But it was a new land, a strange land, a dangerous land. While it would one day be their home, for the time being, they would be unwelcome strangers in unfamiliar surroundings. Left to their own devices, the world around them would’ve eaten them up. The Canaanites, who lived in the land, were brutal, aggressive, and depraved people who, among many other sins, practiced child sacrifice.
Once they crossed the floodwaters of the Jordan River, how would the Israelites know where to go? The answer: The LORD would lead them. The ark of the covenant was the visible representation of God’s invisible presence. It was a reminder to Israel that the LORD was with them. When they weren’t certain where to go, all they had to do was follow the ark.
Here is a good lesson for all of God’s people whenever they enter new and uncertain territory in life: Follow the LORD. It could be a change of schools, like heading into high school or moving on to college. It could be moving away from home to a new city. It could be starting a new job. It could be a change in life circumstances—declining health, a debilitating injury, the loss of a loved one, etc.
We need this reminder. It’s easy to forget to follow the LORD when we are busy with entering a new territory of life. And when we don’t follow, one of two things happens. Either we ironically forget the one who blesses our success in the new territory of life, or we struggle precisely because we have not remembered our LORD and his commands and promises.
Let us remember God’s promises. He will never “leave us or forsake us.” (Deuteronomy 31:6—words spoken to Israel just before entering the Promised Land) He promises that when we follow him, we “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) He promises that when we follow him, we are blessed. (Psalm 128:1)
“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; 24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)