“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… 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.’ Joshua said to the priests, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.’ So they took up the ark 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.”’” Joshua 3:1-8
The Lord was about to do a wondrous work for Joshua and Israel. He had installed Joshua as Moses’ successor, anointed him with His Spirit and distinct promises, and bolstered him with courage and His good commands. He had vowed His presence to guard and guide, the people received him with favor and allegiance, and the spies’ reconnaissance prepared their way to enter the land. And then, when all seemed ready, there was a three-day wait. (Joshua 1:1-9; 2:1,8-11,22-24)
We do not know details about these 72 hours, but can imagine the anticipation, buzz, excitement, restlessness, maybe even gathering fear. Why a delay? What was God doing? Had they heard Him right? Did He mean what He said? Would His promise ever come to pass? We know that Joshua was intent on obedience, and assume this was instructive for him always to give God time and space to do all He intended His way.
How do we react when we have received God’s clear guidance, have in hand His sure promises, consider ourselves armed and ready, and then are put in a position of waiting, with no word when it will be over? While it may be natural to begin to agitate with anxiety and doubt, what is God showing us about ourselves, and Himself? Have we trusted our own sufficiency, and failed to consecrate ourselves to Him for cleansing and readiness? Are we relying on our strength, expertise, and strategy rather than His perfect plan and timing? Have we, even unwittingly, set as a banner our personal order for success instead of God’s presence and truth?
The culmination came in a word to look for and follow the ark, and for the priests to step into the river in faith that God would make His marvelous way. Everything was set to loosen self-trust and bring all glory to God. (Joshua 3:11,14-17)
Lord, loosen my grip to give You time and space to do Your ineffable work, that You alone be praised.