Show me Your glory, I pray.
At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “When 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. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” To the priests Joshua said, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass on in front of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people.
“Lights! Camera! Action!” Get yourselves ready! The mention of “At the end of three days” in today’s scripture alerts us that something big is ready to happen. The reference to ‘three days’ is code in Scripture for God at work. It was on the third day of creation that the earth rose up out of the waters. It was on the third day Abraham received back his son Isaac from sacrifice, the third day Joseph was released from prison, the third day that Yahweh descended on Mount Sinai, the third day Jonah was delivered from the great fish, and the third day Jesus was raised from the dead. When Scripture specifies the third day or three days, readers are being prepared for something big to happen.
So, “At the end of three days” officers go through the camp readying the people to cross over the Jordan. No longer do the pillars of cloud and fire hover overhead; now the people look to the Ark of the Covenant as representing God’s presence with them. The Ark that had previously been in the center of the camp is now moved to the forward position signaling the Lord leading the way. The Ark that had been kept in the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies is now visible to point the people forward.
The prominence of the Ark of the Covenant is highlighted by being mentioned ten times in the 17 verses of this chapter. It is called the Ark of the Covenant to remind people of God’s covenant with them: “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7). Regarding the Ark the Israelites are instructed: “Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before; do not come any nearer to it.” Although the Ark symbolizes God’s presence, the people are to walk far behind it, “a distance of two thousand cubits”, the length of three football fields. The people will revere and hold in awe the presence of a holy God with them.
Because God is holy and set apart, the people are thus commanded: “Sanctify yourselves.” The Hebrew word qadash, translated “sanctify”, means “to set apart”, or to consecrate. Qadesh is the very word used for the vessels in the tabernacle “set apart” for service to the Lord. So the Israelites must, in their minds and hearts, set themselves apart to serve the Lord in the Promised Land.
Similarly, for Christians today, the Lord goes ahead leading us where we have never been before. God has made us “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9) for service to Him. And for this Jesus has promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
Eyes on Jesus to lead the way!
- In what specific ways might you “set apart” or “sanctify” yourself to serve the Lord?
- What might this mean for you in terms of your time, talents and resources?