Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.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."
In this passage, the Lord clearly conveyed the plan to cross the river to the Israelites. He told them to have the priest carry the ark, step into the Jordan River, and the water from upstream will stop flowing down and "stand up in heap." To the Israelites, crossing the Jordan River and crossing the Red Sea years ago were totally different. When they cross the Red Sea, Moses pointed his staff to the water, and the sea parted for the Israelites to cross on dry land. This time, the priest needed to step into Jordan River with the ark, and then river was supposed to part. Even though it didn't seem like a big deal for them to step into water, but it was a big step in their faith. Before, they could step out after they saw dry land, but this time they had to step forward by faith before they see the outcome. That's a lesson of faith!
When I was considering to enter into full-time ministry, my great struggle didn't happen when I was seeking God's will, but rather it came after I found out God's will. When you didn't know God's will and was seeking, you felt spiritual and others think you love the Lord; once you know God's will, then you must decide whether to obey. It took me a while to turn in my resignation to my manager and I told him that I was going to seminary. His first reaction was wondering whether I had gone mad. Of course I didn't go mad, but my heart was indeed filled with struggle. After I resigned, Belinda told me that she was pregnant. After brothers and sisters found out, many of them advised me to think twice. After a while, even the organization that was going to hire me for a part-time job decided to eliminate the position due to budget cut. My mood really hit rock bottom.
At that time, God gave me this passage in Joshua, and showed me this important spiritual principle. If our feet don't step out by faith first, we won't see God's abundance later. Feet must be in the water before the water will part! Belinda and I decided to courageously leave Washington D.C. by faith, and moved to Philadelphia for seminary studies. I thank God because after I took the step, God started to provide us with all our needs. The church we belonged to actually had a scholarship for seminary students, and they decided to grant all of it to us. During the two years in seminary, our bank account bank was higher than any other time, and we didn't have to worry about livelihood at all! Praise God, even until today we've never had financial shortage!
Are you also facing a juncture in your life? May the Lord help us to take a step forward by faith, and we will surely see the outcome of our faith!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, please uphold the faith of the brothers and sisters who are facing important decisions in their lives. Not only help them to understand your will, but also help them to follow your will by faith. I ask that you complete their faith by your faithfulness and power. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.'" Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.
Our God is the God who leads us to move forward. The Lord is never a follower, but always the general, and He also demands that we follow Him. When He called Peter, He didn't tell Peter that he will suffer for the Lord, and even die for Him. The Lord simply said, "come and follow me." When He called Zacchaeus, He said: "Zacchaeus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today." When a disciple said, "Lord, I want to follow you, but I must go bury my dead father first," the Lord simply said: "Let the dead bury the dead, you come and follow me!" Some people think that the Lord doesn't respect parents, but that's not the case. The Lord was simply reminding the man to make up his mind.
Following the Lord should not be just one of the many things in our life; when there are other important things then we'll leave the Lord aside. Following God should supersede everything else in life. He is God who moves forward; just like how God led the Israelites with cloud when they were in the desert, when God wants to move forward the cloud will ascend. No matter what was happening in your life, when the Lord says you need to go then you must go. When the Lord says you need to stop, even if you are only an hour away from the well, you still need to stop. He is the Lord and the general; not only does He lead the way, and He will also cast out the enemy before us. In the spiritual warfare, it is Lord who achieves victory, and we simply proclaim victory against the enemy in the Lord. It is the Lord who casts out the enemy, and we simply step out by faith.
Many Christians don't understand this fact; they want to use their own might to discipline their bodies to defeat the enemy. Many are using their own heart and mind to preach the gospel, and do not understand that it's the Lord who can destroy the stronghold of the enemy. We depend on people more than we depend on the Lord Himself. Reverend Miller once said: "Why do you all come before me but not go to God Himself?" May the Lord's Spirit remind us once again that it is always the Lord Himself who leads us to victory in our life!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you are always the God who walks ahead of us. Even though our eyes often cannot see your path and thus depart from your way, you still patiently wait for us. Help us to understand that you are our Lord, our help and our king. Let us follow you all our life! I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
And the Lord said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses."
God's presence is extremely important in our faith, but we often trivialize this truth. After the Israelites left Egypt, they made a golden calf in the desert and started worshipping it. God called Moses to descend from Mount Sinai and brought down His judgment, then He said to Moses: "Go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you..." Moses, however, prayed to God: "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" In other word, what sets up apart from the world is not our prayer or devotion, observing the Lord's Day or tithing, not even us helping people or doing good deeds, but it's the presence of God.
People cannot feel the Lord's presence because the Lord is not manifesting His presence. Actually, God's presence can so mild that we'd never feel His presence, or so strong like what happened in Acts 5, where Ananias told a lie and was struck to death before God. The early church grew so fast not because of what we typically learned in the seminary - Small groups praying together, studying the Bible, or doing missions. It was because of what Acts 2:43 says: The secret for the growth of early church is because people feared God. When God's presence was manifested, people can feel that God is right there.
Have you experienced God's presence? The Lord is glad to manifest His presence in our life as long as we are focused on seeking Him. First, we must welcome work of the Holy Spirit, and learn to praise and worship God with our heart and soul. Many people cannot comprehend why God needs us to worship Him. Actually, God doesn't need to be worshipped, but we need to worship God in order for us to experience His presence. Of course God is worthy of our praise and worship! Also, we must contemplate about the Lord's heart; whenever we come before the Lord, we must think about what the Lord is thinking and what He wants to do. In other word, we must obey the Lord and let His be our top priority. Once we become sensitive to God's will, God's presence will readily manifest.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, please help us to value your presence. In our daily life, let us praise you and obey you; not just value your blessings, but to value you alone. May the Lord's Spirit remind us not to let our hearts depart from your path! I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."
Obedient is one of the most important messages in the Book of Joshua. It brings an important result: Holiness. Indeed, the reason God wants us to be obedient is not only to show his authority, but also to make our lives more complete, just like that of Jesus. As such, Joshua told the people to consecrate themselves. It can be seen that consecration prepares for God's work. We often believe that God likes to use those who are talented or gifted, but actually God likes to use those who are obedient.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:20: "In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble." I used to believe that precious vessels must be those of gold and silver. Those are the ones with great blessings. We are merely wood and clay, lowly vessels. But Paul continues, "If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes" In other words, whether noble or humble is not a matter of silver or gold, but whether it is clean. Would you use a gold vessel if it is oily and filthy inside? I believe not. You'd rather use a clean wooden vessel, don't you? Holiness indeed prepares the way for God's work, and only when a man is holy before God will God use him!
When God uses a person, that person does not necessarily have to be amazingly gifted or eloquent; instead, God needs obedient people. An obedient person will surely walk on the path of holiness because this is God's will. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:22, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Prayer is the way to obtain freedom, release, and also the path to make a person humble and clean. Through prayer, God's work will surely be fulfilled!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, may you give us soft and obedient hearts; let us gladly be clean vessels before you so that we may be used by You. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
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."
Joshua clearly instructed Israelites two things: First, the direction - to cross Jordan river; second, the way - to follow the Ark. How were they supposed to follow? By keeping a distance of about a thousand yards. The main reason is that the Ark represents the presence of God as well as the purity of God. On one hand, it's God's will that we are close to Him. On the other hand, God reminds people that we are filthy in front of God, such that we can not get close to God at will. God wanted them to keep a distance of one thousand yards so that Israelites could cleanses themselves, so as not to be killed by God's holiness.
In the New Testament time, Jesus made a new and lively path so that we can pass the curtain and enter the Most Holy Place. The wall that separates God and men was tore down because of the work Jesus had done on the cross. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence, and we should never overlook this grace. The author of Hebrews reminds us that God is a great fire who cannot be treated with disrespect.
On the other hand, there is another reason to keep a distance of one thousand yards from the Ark. It was to let Israelites know the right way. There were about two million Israelites, with women and children. For such a large group, it is not easy to stop or make turns. The instructions have to be given early. That's why God asked them to keep a distance. When Joshua saw the Ark turned, he could give signal on time, such that procession could prepare for the turn.
This was the path that they never travelled, even for Joshua. From a man's perspective, it was a very frightening thing: even their leader, Joshua, never travelled before. But spiritual paths are just like that: it was not that Joshua didn't know where to go. He knew that God wanted them to cross the Jordan River. But which way do they cross the river? It was completely in the hands of God. Even Joshua had to obey. "You have never been this way before" may refers to the way God would lead, or the way God would provide. Joshua reminds us again, when God leads us going forward, we must leave old traditions and concepts behind, and bravely go forward. Brothers and sisters, are you at the juncture to move forward spiritually? I pray that God gives you brave heart to seek His leadership and be obedient to His guidance.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you; because of your grace, we can stand in front of you just like Joshua. May the spirit of the Lord renew us again and let us not to be bound by old ways or past experience. When You call on us to move forward, we will be obedient to your leadership, walking on the path we never traveled before. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 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.
After God showed Joshua His plan, Joshua immediately called upon offices to instruct everyone what to do. The premises for Joshua's success was his clear understanding of what needed to be done at the time, and then instructing everyone to follow. The stagnation of church's ministry today is because we know neither the direction, nor the path forward. That's why when we say: "Go forward", brothers and sisters do not go forward. Joshua was a person who not only know how to go forward, but also know how to instruct. This was the reason that Israelites become the most obedient army of that time.
Here, Joshua told everyone clearly two things: First, they will cross the river. Even though no one knew how God would part the water, the goal was clear, i.e. to cross the river. This was God's plan, and this was God's lead. When God leads us, sometime we only need to know that God will carry us through, not necessarily how God will clear the road for us in our current circumstance. But we need to have confidence in God's promise. Once Jesus said to the disciples, "Let's go over to the other side." The Lord said, let us go over to the other side, meaning we would "definitely" go over to the other side. Even though there was big storm on their way to the other side, during which disciples were all frightened to death, the promise of the Lord would not change. The Lord could sleep peacefully during the storm. Once He gives His word, it will be fulfilled.
Second, Joshua instructed them to follow the Ark. How would they cross the river? Simply follow the Ark. Where would Ark go? We don't know. But their responsibilities were to follow the Ark. Wherever Ark went, they went. This is how we shall follow the Lord. Ark represents the presence of the Lord. When we search for the path of God, we need to focus our attentions, focusing on the Lord, focusing on where the Lord is going. We likes to listen to others: guessing where my boss is going, where my family is going, where I'd like to go. But we seldom consider: Lord, where are you going? It's no surprise that we don't see the presence of the Lord. When we don't pay attention to the Lord, we easily go astray.
Last, when Ark departs, we need to follow. Verse three says, "you are to move out from your positions and follow it." It's not easy to leave the place where we live. Here, "your positions" represents the familiar life and familiar people. When the Lord asks us to leave and go forward, we should be glad to drop all these to follow the Lord. Brothers and sisters, are you willing to put down these many burdens of life to follow the Lord? May God's spirit draw you closer so that you will run to follow Him.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, if there were bondages and burdens in our past that made us unable to know you deeper, may the Lord break those bondages so that we can follow you today. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.
The time for Israelites to cross the Jordan River had finally come. Joshua knew that it was God's will that they would cross the river; however, he didn't know how God would lead them. So they came to the bank of Jordan River, camped there, and waited before crossing over. They waited because Joshua needed prayer, seeking for God's will. Brothers and sisters, when you are seeking for God's path, the first and the uttermost important thing is to seek for the Lord. Never ever rely on past experience. God's guidance to men is different in each battle.
At the time of Joshua, God wanted all of Israelites to cross the river, to enter, and to fight. You would think that spiritual battles are battles of everyone. By the time of Judges, God let Gideon lead only three hundreds to fight. You would think that the spiritual principle was victories of minority over the majority. By the time of Samuel's, Jonathan, together with the youth who carried his weapon, defeated Philistines. You would think spiritual battle was the result of two people with one mind. But by the time of David, David went forward to fight Goliath: one person represented the whole army.
It's not about which way we choose, but rather which way God chooses this time. That's why we need to seek with prayers. When David was fighting Philistines, first time he asked God. God told him yes. Then the army went and fought Philistines. Indeed, they won. When the second time the Philistines came, David didn't say that the last time he sent the army and they won. This time, he again prayed. God said that they have to flank the enemies from behind. God never followed men's traditions. Every time, He has a new guidance. That's why we need to seek. At the end of Joshua, Israelites lost two battles in Canaan: one at Ai, the other the deception at Gibeon. These are the results of Joshua not seeking God. We need to seek God every time, and through prayer that we may know His will.
Brothers and sisters, we need to know how to seek God in the choices that we make every day instead of merely rely on the past experience, because our God is a God who does new things. May God give us humble hearts to seek Him every day!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you again, and we ask that you give us humble hearts to seek you in our lives no matter what kind of obstacles we face. We also ask that you answer our prayers in your own ways. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!