Theme: God’s Power and Holiness
This week’s lessons teach us about the character of God, as seen in the ark of the covenant which went before the Israelites through the Jordan.
Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he 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.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
The second lesson is that the God who goes before us is the same God who has gone before His people at all times. That, too, was symbolized by the ark. He is the God of the exodus who had brought judgment upon the Egyptians, and who had parted the Red Sea, and who had led the people out with a strong hand. This was the same powerful, sovereign God now who was leading them into the Promised Land, just as He had led them out of Egypt. And the symbolism was clear: just as God had parted the waters of the Red Sea to lead them out of Egypt, so God parted the waters of the Jordan in order to lead them into the Promised Land. Moses was the channel through whom God did that first miracle. And now Joshua is the channel through whom God works again. But the point is that it is not Moses or Joshua who are important, but God Himself, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God of Moses is the God of Joshua, and the God of Joshua is our God, too.
The God who is the same in His power is also the same in His holiness. In the ark itself was kept the stone tablets of the Law of Moses, The ark thus contained the summary of God’s moral standards for his people. And it seems impossible for any Israelite on that occasion to not remember that within the ark of the covenant was the law of God, the same law that had been given to the people by Moses on Mt. Sinai. So the law of God does not change. The holiness of God does not change. It’s a way of saying that the moral nature of God does not change.
And how we need to know that, especially in our relativistic age. We live in a time where we judge morality by consensus. This means that whatever most of the people are doing must be right because, after all, most of the people are doing it. Actually it works the other way: what most of the people are doing is probably wrong because most of the people are doing it. But we think the other way, and we feel our views are justified by the fact that other people are doing what we would like to do. And if they’re doing it, we can do it, too. But that is simply making morality relative; that is, morality is being determined by what people want it to be, as opposed to what God declares it to be in His holy Word.
What is the basic biblical definition of holiness?
How does the Law of Moses reflect God’s holiness?
What are some examples today of how morality is being determined by consensus?
What are some ways you have observed the power of God at work in your life, particularly in a difficult situation?