However, there shall be between you and [the ark of the covenant] a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.
As Joshua and the Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land, the leaders went through the camp and commanded their various groups to be mindful of some things. This morning’s verse is one of those things.
This instruction is practical. Keep a good distance — 2,00 cubits works out to about 5,000 feet or so — between yourself and the ark of the covenant.
First, because it was known that the ark was holy and only the Levites were supposed to heft the poles that it was carried on. A respectful distance was prudent.
Second, because the Israelites were entering into uncharted territory for them. The leadership notes to the Israelites that you have not passed this way before. The Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, so knew that area pretty well. They had not been across the Jordan, so it was prudent to make sure that they knew which way the ark — the physical representation of God’s Presence — was going.
The principle I can draw from this is simple: Do not get ahead of God. God sometimes reveals a portion of His will to believers — sometimes even to non-believers — and it is an easy mistake to try to run off and do what God has revealed without waiting on Him to tell me when and how He wants His work done.
The Israelites could have gotten across the Jordan and run off to storm Ai and they would have lost that battle, because God was not sending them after soft targets first, He was sending them against Jericho — the hardest of hard targets available.
In the same way, God will not always send me to do the thing that I think will further His work. He may send me to do something that I think is unrelated. I heard a story of a missionary who arrived in the country to which God had called him and the missionary saw graffiti denouncing the leader of that country. God put on the missionary’s heart to clean up that graffiti. So he did. And someone saw him doing it and brought it to the attention to the leader of that country. The leader called the missionary in and the door for missions work was thrown wide open to that missionary. Cleaning graffiti hardly seems related to missions work, but God has a way of connecting dots that we do not even realize are on the same page, let alone related. So I need to wait for God to show me where He wants me to go.
7 years ago, I had just completed a temporary teaching contract and thought that I would be able to find work in the area into which I was moving. I was preparing to marry and my fiancée and I were looking for a place. I had applied to every opening even remotely near the places we were considering living and nothing was happening. I felt like God was telling me to look elsewhere, so I retooled my resume and went looking for writer jobs. I received some very polite “Thank you, but No Thank You” letters from some of the places to which I applied. I went to job fairs and interviewed for all manner of job. Eventually, I began substitute teaching. Then God opened a door to another temporary teaching job. The very day I was signing that contract, I received a call inviting me to interview for a writing job. I interviewed and was hired on. 6 years and change later, I am still in the technical writing profession, but I never would have found my way here had I not followed God’s instruction and been ready to respond in God’s time.
Some of my stories do not go so well. Sometimes, I think I see where God is taking things and I try to prepare the way for them. The trouble with that is that He is my Shepherd, not the other way around. He prepares the way ahead of me. Let me learn both from The Bible and my own experience and wait for God to show me where He is leading.
Thank you, Father, for going before me into every place I will ever go while following You. Thank You for preparing those paths. Please give me eyes that look for You, feet that follow in Your footsteps, and a heart that is ready to wait for You to direct me.