As we have stated before, the book of Joshua is a story about walking by faith and not by sight of both individuals and a nation. Paul writes in Romans 15: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” This account of the nation of Israel entering the Promised Land contains instructions for us as individuals and as a nation. This is what happens when individuals and a nation obey God and walk by faith and not by sight.
Do you know how we will overcome the world? “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the son of God.” (I John 5) Moses said in Deuteronomy 6: 23: “But He brought us out from there (Egypt) to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers.”
The only way we can go forward is by faith. If we walk by sight in unbelief we will spend our time
Wandering in the wilderness as did the generation who said- we cannot take this land of giants. Remember this verse found in Hebrews 11: 6- “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Here is the bottom line: God is showing us in His Word, He uses a variety of people with different backgrounds, education, skills, and personalities. But they all have one thing in common: they all believed God’s promises and did what He told them to do. God has not changed. But when we look at the church today we see the attitude of the people has changed. It appears we do not believe God and act by faith in His promises. When asked to do something which is beyond our scope of understanding, and our abilities, we seem inclined to throw up our hands and say- you just can’t do that anymore. And as a result we fail to enter into the Promised Land, due to unbelief.
Here is what walking by faith calls for you to believe:
- God has a plan that involves you.
- God’s plan will be found in His Word.
- God’s plan is to bring spiritual success in your life. This plan and promise to give you success is conditional. You will be successful and experience the abundant life, when you obey His Word.
- This abundant life Jesus came to give us will not come without conflict and adversity. Therefore it will require us to be (individually and nationally) strong and courageous. Our strength and encouragement come from God and His Word, His Promises.
This is why Peter said we should not consider it strange when we encounter fiery trials. This is the normal Christian life!
So with these truths in mind let us explore and be taught by this story of crossing the Jordan and learn all we can about walking by faith.
LESSONS IN WALKING BY FAITH:
Sometimes God will ask you to go where you have not been before*.
The people are gathered at the banks of the Jordan River. They have camped there for three days. And now the order comes to get ready to cross the Jordan. For the past 40 years, the nation of Israel has wandered in the wilderness. They have never entered the land which God promised to them. They have never been this way before. They are facing a crisis of faith. Will they be found faithful? The Jordan River, we are told in verse 15 is at flood stage. The Jordan River was part of the natural protection, the inhabitants of Canaan trusted to protect them from invasion. Anyone crossing the Jordan would be an easy target for them- plus it was at flood stage and the Israelites had no boats.
Now remember, the walk of faith is by one step at a time. Do not step out before you have been given the command to step out.
God will go before you.* The people are told specifically when to move out. “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests who are the Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go since you have never been this way before.” How do we go somewhere we have not been before? The answer is simple: By faith in God’s Word. Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going. We want to have a detailed ‘road map.’ MapQuest- gives specific directions, which turns to make; how long it takes; and even takes into account if you have arrived at such and such location, you have gone too far. GPS tells you which way to turn before you get there. If you miss the turn, GPS will re-route you to get you back on course. We want the Lord to provide us with this type of directions. Guess what? Jesus said, “I am the WAY.” Jesus tells us to follow Him one day at a time. His mother told the servant at the wedding in Cana of Galilee: “Whatever He tells you to do- do it.” ( John 2) When we get to the place in our walk of faith where we can trust Jesus to guide us one step at a time you will experience a peace and a freedom. Free from fear of making the wrong decision, making the wrong turn.
Jesus came not only to save us from our sins and make a way where there was no way; he also came to be our example of how to live a life of faith and by faith. In John 5, Jesus tells us: “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too, am working. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son does also. For the Father loves the Son and show him all he does.” Jesus watched to see where the Father was working and joined Him.
When we study the Scriptures, they teach us how God has worked throughout history. This tells us this is how God will work today, for He is the same today as He was yesterday. Here is the key: if we are to walk by faith one step at a time, one day at a time- we must stay close to the Lord for daily guidance. He basically is saying, stay close to me, just follow me and I will show you the way.
Here is some food for thought: Do you ask God what is your will for my life? Or do you ask God – what is your will? Our desire should be to know the will of God and adjust our life to His will. Let us look at this example Jesus gave us in John 5 and summarize it in this manner:
- The Father is always at work and is working right up until now.
- Now the Father wants me to work with Him.
- I do nothing on my own initiative.
- I watch to see what the Father is doing
- I do what I see the Father is already doing.
- The Father reveals to me what He is doing, because He loves me.
- He shows me what I need to do- when and where I need to do it.
Jesus said: “I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. But apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15)
Do you understand the significance of this statement? You can do nothing of Kingdom value on your own. We have a natural instinct when a problem arises, when a crisis strikes to do something. We see leaders of our nation when a crisis arises, come on television and tell us the steps they are taking to take care of the crisis. None would dare come on national television and say like King Jehoshaphat and say- ‘I am alarmed and I have resolved to inquire of the Lord. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 20) The key to victory in battles is to recognize the battle is the Lord’s. Now be sure you fighting the Lord’s battle. I find the biggest battle I sometimes face it with my old nature. It is true, sometimes we have met the enemy and it is us. This was the message of 2 Chronicles 20- make sure it is the Lord’s battle and not yours. When we are doing God’s will, it will always be His battle. His weapons are mighty and will pull down strongholds as we will see the walls of Jericho come tumbling down. But His greatest weapon is a surrendered life. Surrendered life is a life which places one’s self in God’s hands. He is the Potter and we are the clay. Does this describe your life? Your relationship with the Lord? Are you the clay in His hands to be molded for His use?
Notice they are to stay 1000 yards back from the ark. Give God room to work. Do not get ahead of Him or rush Him. Patience is a virtue and an important part of maturing our faith. Wait on the Lord.
Let’s observe the commands given to the people on this fateful day:
The officers tell them when they see the ark carried by the priests you are to move out and follow them. The Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God, the Ten Commandments and the Mercy Seat covered with the blood which sealed the covenant. They are literally and physically following God’s Word, believing it and trusting in His covenant promises sealed by the blood. The Ark represents the Presence of God and the Promises of God sealed by His blood.
Joshua tells them to sanctify themselves. This meant to bathe and put on clean clothing. This represents a new beginning. But also, it tells us we must cleanse ourselves from all sins which so easily beset us so we will not be entangled and can run the race, walk the walk of faith. This is a necessary preparatory step to following God and getting in on what God is up to.
Joshua has a message for the priests. Joshua is a type of Christ. And as such he instructs his servants how to serve. And in serving the Lord completely, they must step out by faith in the Word of God leading by example. And the Lord Jesus is our example, our High Priest, who is a King who died for his servants. A servant leader who humbled Himself and became as servant, even washing the feet of his disciples.
Message from the Lord to Joshua. The Lord tells Joshua I will be with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests to go stand in the river. Faith sometimes requires we get our feet wet.
Joshua then tells the people what God has promised to do.
In his study, “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God”, Henry Blackaby gives us an outline of how God works through His people. Here is Blackaby’s outline which is as clear and simple picture of how God works as any I have studied. It is scripturally accurate.
God is always at work around you.
God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
God speaks to His people by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His way.
God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
This is where the abundant, spirit-filled life is found. You and I will have to walk by faith, cross the stormy Jordan River, face the giants and go places we have never been before. God is revealing to us the abundant life is a life of faith and blessings, of conflict, battle and victories. It is overcome by our faith in Him and His promises.
Let us look at the example Blackaby uses in his study.
God was already at work around Moses. The Israelites were groaning and crying out to God to save them out of their slavery. God remembers his promises and will approach Moses, a fugitive who has been living in obscurity for the last 40 years as a shepherd for his father-in –law. God uses the weak and the foolish to confound the wise and the strong. Moses will go against the most powerful country in the world and the most powerful individual, the Pharaoh of Egypt.
God pursues a continuing love relationship with Moses that is real and personal. Notice it is always God who takes the initiative. God sought me, not the other way around.
God invited Moses to become involved with Him in His work. His purpose was to free the Israelites from their slavery. This is still the work God wants you to join Him in- setting captives free for the sin which enslaves them!
God speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through His word, prayer, circumstances and the church. God spoke to Moses through a burning bush. The Word of the Lord came to Moses and called to Moses from a burning bush.
God’s invitation for Moses to join Him leads Moses to a crisis of belief which will require faith and action.
Moses had to make major adjustments in his life to join God in what He was doing.
Moses came to know God by experience as he obeyed God and God accomplished His work through Moses.
I know what you are thinking: I am no Moses. I am just an ordinary person. I do not have a formal education or talents or skills.
Guess what? God likes to use ordinary people. Do you know why? When God uses ordinary people, the weak, the foolish, the despised, then God receives all the glory. We like to elect accomplished, educated, successful people by the world’s standards to run our governments, to fix our problems and provide us with the security and peace we want.
What does the Bible say about Elijah? He was a man, just like us/me. He was ordinary. Yet he prayed to God it would not rain for 3.5 years and it did not.
What about Peter and John? Do you remember what the powerful leaders of the Sanhedrin said about them: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and took note they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4: 13) It’s time, past time, for ordinary people to step out and step up and astonish the world around us because we have been with Jesus!
D L Moody was a poorly educated, un-ordained shoe salesman who felt the call of God to preach the Gospel. He heard Henry Varley say: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. “ Moody reasoned, he did not say a man who was educated, brilliant or anything else- just wholly committed to Him. Moody determined he would be that man.
Brother Bob Ervin was my pastor and one of the most influential people in my life. Brother Bob was a salesman for Gerber baby food, when he got saved and felt the call of God on his life to preach the Gospel. This created a crisis in his life where he would have to leave a good job, a man with a family of small children. In seeking counsel as to what he should do- he was asks three questions by Steven Alford:
- Do you believe God has called you to preach the Gospel? Brother Bob said yes.
- Does your wife support you in this? Yes.
- Do you feel you are qualified? No, said Brother Bob.
Stephen Alford said you answered every question correctly. God uses the weak for it is in our weakness Christ’s strength is made perfect.
While sharing my testimony and my battle with alcohol, Brother Bob asks me to share my testimony with the church on a Sunday night. It was Brother Bob who entitled my testimony- “From a Sot to a Saint.”
Later in a conversation with Brother Bob regarding a book I was studying, Brother Bob’s face lit up and he said: “I have been praying for a teacher to teach a special class. You are the one.”
I accepted the invitation and began teaching and have continued to do so for 26 years. It called for adjustments in my life.
If you feel weak, limited, lacking in ability, and ordinary – guess what? You are the type of material God is looking for through which He can work.
I know- for he used an ordinary, college drop-out, failure, alcoholic like me to tell His story.
And I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true!
This is how one will experience God. This the abundant life.
May all of us who are the ordinary, unschooled step out and step up and astonish the world because we have been with Jesus!