Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about half a mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.” Joshua 3:2-4
Pastor Obed’s message today is to provide insight and foresight so that you never have to live life in hindsight! The book of Joshua gives a clear illustration of walking in the presence of God, as God instructs Joshua to take the presence of God to a place where his predecessors were called but never arrived.
So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.
Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground. Joshua 3:14-17
We’re often stuck seeking the hand of God rather than the face of God. God only calls us to face His face.
The word “presence” in Hebrew is “panim” (Pah-neem), meaning the facial expressions of God or His divine attributes. We’re often stuck seeking the hand of God rather than the face of God. Everyone is facing some issue - at work in finances, with health, or in relationships, but our problem is often that we have our faces in the wrong place. God only calls us to face His face. If we face our difficulties, we are overwhelmed and overcome by them, just as Peter began to sink in the water when he took his eyes off Jesus. As long as Peter focused on the face of Jesus, he could do the impossible! We have power when we face the presence of God.
In Joshua 1:5, God is preparing Joshua to enter the Promised Land, just as John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord. The book of James tells us that trials aren’t working against you, but for you, as they allow you to come out with more faith. How will you know God is the God of salvation if you’ve never been lost? How will you know that He provides for all your needs if you are never in need? How will you understand His healing if you are never ill?
The reason we go through preparation is that God has to prepare you before He propels you. When Joshua comes into leadership, God affirms him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you...be strong courageous.” We see a similar affirmation when Jesus is baptized. God declares His pleasure in Jesus, not because of what Jesus does, but because of who He is. God gives us affirmation as well. When we walk in God’s affirmation and trust Him, we don’t look for the acceptance and approval of others and we don’t need to be concerned with what others think.
In Joshua 1-5, God prepares Joshua and beginning in chapter 6, He moves Joshua into conquering, to take back what the enemy has stolen from them, and in chapters 15-24, He moves Joshua into abundance.
In order to be trusted with the promises that await, we have to be tested! Just as a car maker tests their vehicle before it goes to market and it returns to be adjusted until it passes the tests, Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years, failing God’s tests and repeating their assignments until they could be trusted to enter the Promised Land.
God instructs Joshua to cross the Jordan because he didn’t experience the miracle of his predecessors (the parting of the Red Sea). He needed his own miracle so he would have faith for the next one. God orchestrates this miracle so that the Promised Land (abundance) awaits on the other side of the Jordan (the impossible), then the presence of God stands between the impossible and the Israelites. He doesn’t command the Israelites to focus on the Jordan, but on His presence before them. Similarly, God calls us to keep our eyes on His presence and follow it, as it will lead us somewhere we’ve never been before.
Facing the impossible you’ll always be overwhelmed and overcome. You’re not meant to be overwhelmed by what’s around you, but to overcome by following the presence of God. Focus on the face of God! If God is for you, who can stand against you?
As soon as the Israelites take the presence of God into the Jordan, the river obeys Him - it splits right in half! Jesus walks on water because the water obeys Him. The wind stops at His word because it obeys Him. And if you want to get through your Jordan (the impossible), you must focus on God’s face and follow God’s presence, allowing His power to part the waters.
1. The presence of God always leads you to the promises of God.
As long as I focus on the presence, it will lead me to the promise. What you see is what you get. If you see negativity, you get negativity. If you see trouble, you get trouble. If you see pain, you feel pain. But if you see the presence of God, you sense the presence of God and you can walk in the presence of God.
God never calls you out of something unless He is bringing you into something else He has prepared for you. He commands the Israelites to follow His presence because they are going somewhere they’ve never been, just like you are - so follow His presence. And what do you do when you get there? Follow His presence.
When the Israelites first went in to conquer Ai in Joshua 7, they didn’t follow the presence of God. They were defeated and God rebuked them, instructing them to get into His presence and return. (Battles are lost because of the absence of God’s presence!) When they return with God’s presence they have victory. In the city of Ai, there is an abundance of gold, silver, and bronze. God instructs them to bring the riches to His house. But one man named Achan sins against the Lord. He sees the riches, covets them, and hides them in his own house instead of God’s - and pays for this with his life.
When you take your eyes of the presence of God, you begin to covet things that were never supposed to be in your life. But if you seek His presence, you’re moved by God, not by the abundance you see. God wants you to bring your inheritance to His house first because He wants to make sure your eyes are still on Him and not on what He’s allowed you to inherit.
The Israelites didn’t make the riches of Ai; they already existed, just as you don’t make money but inherit what already exists. The carpenter doesn’t create wood but re-creates what is already made in the tree. The chef doesn’t make filet mignon but recreates the meat found and created in the cow. If you can’t create something, you don’t own it. We are created beings created by the Creator to re-create.
God tests the Israelites with a little in order to bless them with a lot. The wealth that the children of Israel inherited was always in the wrong hands, so God leads them to get it back because it has been promised to them. What in your life is God giving you now to bring to Him so that He can trust you and help you regain what has been promised to you?
2. The presence of God is where I receive the presents of God.
You’re not going to go through the process of being prepared and conquering without God rewarding you. God wants to see that He can trust you with gifts because He has more in store for you. Ai was a small treasure that God asked them to give back to Him, but the northern region of Canaan was very big, and that was set aside for their own blessing.
Pastor Obed shared a story in which his son, having been entrusted with $20, gave the money away to a child who didn’t have any money to buy a toy. As a loving father, Obed was intensely moved with trust and inspiration. Everything inside him compelled him to open up in generosity and give his son even more. That is how our heavenly Father feels when He can trust us with the blessings He’s given.
Like Joshua, you are being prepared so that you can conquer and prosper. Remember to focus not on your seemingly impossible problems, but on God’s face. And when God brings you into that place of blessing, you can’t take the credit for it because you won’t have created it, you’ll have inherited it! You will be led to an established place of blessing by the presence of God.