“Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. 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.
The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”
“When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.”
The world we knew a couple of months ago is gone. When we emerge on the backside of this pandemic, the world will be forever changed. What kind of world awaits us is still anybody’s guess. So, we wander in our modern day wilderness between the familiar of what was and the uncertainty of what will be. The children of Israel who wandered in the deserts of Sinai for 40 years remind us that wilderness wanderings are a part of the human journey.
The wilderness distorts reality. In the wilderness toilet paper and navy beans become more precious than gold.
In the wilderness, the preservation of life itself supersedes the importance of the GNP, a shift in perspective. While not minimizing the importance of a healthy economy to all of us, in the wilderness we get to pause an ask who serves whom?
In the wilderness we pause our fighting with each other. We join forces to defeat a new, dangerous and common enemy that threatens us all and requires a united effort to achieve victory.
In the wilderness we rediscover the importance of family and community as we are forced to exist a part from one another through social distancing, our only weapon against this new global threat.
As people of faith, we trust that just as God did not abandon the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings, neither does God abandon us in ours. And when the time comes to cross into the new life that awaits us, when COVID-19 is at bay, we can trust that God will lead the way. We can also trust that the same God we knew before the wilderness will be the same God after. What will change is us, our perspective of what God values most in us, in our relationship with God and in our relationship with each other, our neighbors, our world, our planet.
God hit the reset button for the Israelites when they crossed into the promised land. The lure of the past, their baser instincts, never let them go. It didn’t take long (as soon as the first threat came) for them to reduce God to golden idols, to altars of worship adorned with the images of foreign gods that the people sacrificed to and bowed before. God’s promised power against their enemies was exchanged for political alliances with greedy and power hungry kings of other regimes. In the end, after roughly fourteen hundred years of Israel’s history, they ended up where they began, a conquered people. God never left them. They abandoned God.
Leaving the wilderness with God as our guide gives us the opportunity to hit the reset button with God, too. The choice will be ours as to what we do with the chance we have been given. Whose voice and influence will hold the most sway over the priorities we establish once again when given the chance to cross over into the world that awaits us post COVID-19.
In Joshua 24:14-15 we hear Joshua speaking to all the people,
“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Let us choose to truly serve the Lord.
Be a blessing to someone today!