Many of you know my wife Tena. She’s a large power supply packed into a small container. We were at a conference once many years ago when the speaker asked the question concerning the childhood game, “follow the leader.” The speaker asked those in the room who had ever followed the leader as a kid to raise their hands. The entire room responded with hands raised except for one person,- my wife. The speaker noticed that she didn’t raise her hand and plucked her out from the crowd and asked her why she didn’t participate in the childhood game, which she quickly responded that she did many times. He asked her why then didn’t she raise her hand when the question was asked, and she responded, “You asked if we had ever followed the leader, and the answer is no because I was always the leader.”
Now I know this sounds arrogant, but it was just an opportunity for my wife to have some fun with the crowd, which is usually not her character to do so. The point is, if you’ve never been that way before, then it is vital that you follow someone who has.
The truth is, you have never been this old before, you have never ventured this far into the year 2021 before, and every day we are entering into newly uncharted territory. We can chose to proceed blindly, with no guidance into this year, or we can follow the only leader who knows how to navigate the unknown, and His name is Jesus. Moving into this undiscovered year ahead, I think it’s imperative to focus on the leader and reasoning why we should follow him instead of someone or something else.
Joshua chapter 3 begins with Israel following the Lord into a new land. Verse 1 tells us that Joshua and all of Israel left a place called Shittim, also known as Acacia Groves. This was a place located in the plains of Moab. We must realize that in order to move into something new and free, we must first move out of something old and enslaving. Moab was an enemy to Israel, and to camp there was to still be enslaved to the wilderness. This was at the end of their 40-year wandering, but it was still not home. They proceeded from there to make camp at the edge of the Jordan River. God handed down a plan to the people and basically told them that if you are to be successful in this journey then you must prepare yourselves for the wonders of God, and, next, they were to follow the leader. Joshua told the people in verse 5 to consecrate or purify themselves before they were to cross through the presence of God and over to the other side of the river. He instructed them in verse 3 to follow the presence of the Lord because in verse 4 he reminded them of the fact that they had never been here before.
The ark of the Lord was the tangible presence of God in those days. It was their most sacred object. It was constructed of wood overlaid with gold and was in the shape of a rectangular box. The lid or top had two cherubim, or angels, facing each other, and inside it housed the actual Ten Commandments, manna or bread from heaven, and Aaron’s staff. So the presence of God contained the law of God, which represents his divine guidance, the bread of God, which represents life, and the staff of the priest appointed by God, which represents authority. So let’s get all this in order. Before we can ever think of moving into this new year, we must first move out from what wants to enslave us, consecrate ourselves for his presence, which we do through prayer and fasting, and follow his presence, which is what guides us, feeds us, and has authority over us to protect us in the unknown.
Crossing over from last year to this year is not an imaginary line that magically allows everything we didn’t like about 2020 to stay on that side and not bleed over into this year. If we don’t leave the old dwelling place behind then the same old Shittim will follow us into the future and become nothing more than old bondage masked as something new and free, all the while keeping us on the wrong side of the river.
Notice that Joshua had the people set themselves apart through consecration before anything else. Imagine this new year being the promise of God, and all you have to do is stop a raging river at flood stage, and cross everything you own to the other side without losing a single person. The only way to hang on to what’s important is to let go of what isn’t or else it will all get swept away in the current. God didn’t build them a bridge because their journey was always meant to be a one way crossing. God never intended for them to go back. So don’t build bridges this month, just cross rivers and leave the old Shittim where it is.
Let’s talk more this Sunday at Christpoint Church, on the square in Sparta. We will be waiting on you at 9 a.m. and again at 11 a.m. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.