At church yesterday, God gave me what I needed to inspire me to look with anticipation at what is yet ahead in 2008! I hope to share it here with you on this New Year’s Eve. Even if it isn’t short!
Pastor Dean Koontz (not the novelist with the same name, but a newly published author just the same) presented a message yesterday called “Living With Wonder.” Oooh…just the title of the message thrilled me!
My own thoughts and commentary are mixed in with paraphrased quotes from Pastor Dean. I apologize to Pastor Dean for that! If you see anything of value here, credit him. If anything that sounds off base…blame me! 🙂
From Joshua 3:1-5
1 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. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
As you look ahead at the New Year, can you pin point any attitudes, fears, thoughts that you have? It may be possible that you have something in common with what the Israelites were feeling as they stood on the brink of the new land following their “wanderings in the wilderness.”
The Israelites may have had:
1. …an attitude of Reservation.
2. …an attitude of Preparation.
3. …an attitude of Anticipation.
An Attitude of Reservation
Looking back over their wilderness journey, the Israelites may have felt intimidated at the “impossibilities” that still lay ahead. Certainly, the taste of past failure was yet on their lips. They had, after all, been to this place before—on the edge of the new land, only to be held back by their own shortcomings, hindered by their own short-sightedness.
Have you wandered around in your own wasteland, hoping to make headway, to give this battle with food, overeating, obsession with your body to the Lord? Do you find yourself troubled by past “failures” that it causes you to be skeptical as you look ahead? Do you find yourself held back by your own shortcomings and hindered by short-sightedness? You are not alone!
But God… (I love those words…)
But God… has something in store!
Focusing on nagging failures or besetting sins only feeds the shame that keeps us repeating the same kinds of failures and besetting sins. It doesn’t serve God’s purposes for us at all.
God’s presence in the midst of His people was represented by the Ark of the Covenant. Nevertheless, they may have been tempted to focus on the enemy…not upon the Lord. This may have intensified the Israelites’ hesitation. It may have magnified their reservation as they stood on the edge of “something new.”
Who are you focused on? Are you focusing on the Lord God, present with you? Or does the enemy have your attention? Or do you fill your own focus?
In all my struggles, I have often been so pre-occupied with…well…ME…that I couldn’t see the Lord, let alone fix my eyes on Him, the author and perfector of my faith. (Hebrews 12.)
An Attitude of Preparation
In verse 5 Joshua challenges the people to prepare themselves for what was ahead by consecrating themselves. Consecration is being set apart *from* sin and *to* God… God called His people to hate sin…not just turn from it, but to feel about it as He feels about it. Then, they were to turn to Him, to consider themselves fully given over to Him, for His purposes, His will and His way.
The Israelites were prepared and willing now, in this moment, to follow their savior, Joshua, wherever he led.
Are we willing to follow our “Yeshua” wherever He leads?
In Joshua 24:15, Joshua says: But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
The people had a choice, as do we. Will we follow our Lord? Our Savior? Or will we bow down to another?
Sanctify yourself to God. Then set your eyes on Him and follow Him where He leads.
In Joshua 1: 7, God says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you.” The attitude of preparation has at least three components to it.
1. The first aspect of an attitude of preparation is to be strong.
Because the Lord is with us, we can be strong in His strength and in the power of His might. (Joshua 1:9)
AtJericho, an unlikely victory was delivered to the unlikely winner in an unlikely manner because the Lord empowered the victory HIS way. The Israelites were strong in HIM.
How often do I attempt to pull myself up by my bootstraps and work myself into enough “will power” and “self-discipline” to accomplish that which God alone can (and will) accomplish in me? The victory that we seek is an unlikely one (for most of us) short of His power released! We must be strong in the LORD!
In fact, if you look further at what happened after Jericho, the conclusion of the second battle in Canaan didn’t go so well. Maybe it was pride at what was accomplished at Jericho..maybe they forgot that it was the presence, power, and provision of God that had delivered the victory. The battle for Ai was a miserable failure. The Israelites were defeated.
In Joshua chapter 7 we see that the Israelites arrogantly assumed the town of Ai would be easy to take so they sent fewer men to attack. They did what looked wise in their own eyes.
Following the defeat at Ai, Joshua threw himself upon the ground and poured his heart out to God about what happened (Joshua 7:6-8). God, in effect, says “There is a time for prayer and a time for repentance. Get off the ground and take care of the evil in your midst…get rid of idolatry.” We discover the truth…they hadn’t been consecrated to the Lord. There was sin in the camp.
How often do we allow the victories that the Lord brings, to cause us to tend toward pride and arrogance? Then, before we know it, we pompously march into “battle” and find ourselves flattened by what “should” have been no match for us? In our flesh, we have no strength. If there is a tiny reserved place in our home or our lives where idolatry is allowed to go unchecked, the Lord will not empower us. We will not experience His strength.
We must be rid of the idols…Return to being consecrated to the Lord.
2. Another component of an attitude of preparation is being courageous. (Joshua 1:3).
Hebrews 13 promises us that God will never leave us or forsake us and in this we can be courageous. We can face whatever foes come with the assurance that God IS present.
3. Yet another aspect of having an attitude of preparation is obedience.
Imagine the command of God to the priests who were told to take the ark and step into the Jordan—at flood stage! It wasn’t until their obedience was committed in faith that they would see the parting of the barrier that kept them from the land.
In Joshua 3:13 they were promised: And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD -the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.
The priests had to “set foot in the Jordan” and THEN the waters would be cut off. Obedience had to come first. Obedience would release the omnipotence—the mighty, untamable power—of God Almighty on their behalf.
In a moment, they would choose to either step foot and trust—make a faith-filled choice that God would be reliable and do as he promised—or to hesitate and refuse—make a flesh-filled choice, allowing their emotions, their fear, to decide. They could, instead, take that moment captive for the Lord and obey His will, His way—as impossible as it sounds. And they did…
We see what happened because of this faith-filled choice. Joshua 3:15-16a says: Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away.
The peoples’ obedience released God’s omnipotence.
Can you choose to believe God in this moment? Even if you fear and quake at the sight of “flood waters” that seem too insurmountable to pass, can you trust to step forward in faith knowing that what God commands He also empowers? Your obedience just may well release the omnipotence of God in your life as well. Rather than be swept up in flood waters, you may be swept up in the powerful flowing current of the Holy Spirit!
An Attitude of Anticipation
Can you imagine being the Israelites? There they stood on the edge of the Jordan knowing that across the river was a new life…filled with promise, adventure and, of course, uncertainty. (Does this sound familiar to you who hope to leave behind disordered eating, obsessive dieting and unhealthy focus on your body?)
Yet God had traveled with them and was with them now, leading them across the river, promising them a future and a hope.
Imagine…stepping into the DRY river bed…what had been under raging waters just moments before! Consider the miracle of walking past the priests who remained in the middle of the river bed…and the WONDER of seeing the waters piled up, held back by an unseen divine hand! Imagine the awe, the reverence the respect emerging from deep in your heart for so powerful a God as this who could stop the flow of raging currents…
God can do the same in our lives. Let us allow Him to put in us an attitude of anticipation. As Isaiah 43:19 says: God IS DOING a new thing! Do you perceive it? Are you on the edge of your seat anticipating what it will be?
Let’s enter the new year with the full intention of possessing everything that God intends for us to possess in Christ! Let’s believe what HE says! Let’s embrace by faith what is our inheritance! Anticipate by faith the good things He has in store for those who trust in the Lord! Let’s live with WONDER!