by Noel Santiago
“Since you have never traveled this way before…” – Joshua 3:4a (NLT)
Assembled on the Plains of Moab, Israel received the Mosaic laws outlined in Deuteronomy and mourned the loss of their leader, Moses. Now Joshua is to lead the people of Israel. A generation before, the people did not want to enter the land God had promised Abraham, so they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They had crossed the Red (Reed) Sea and experienced the Lord’s deliverance from Egypt’s might.
Now this generation, under new leadership, finds themselves on a similar path. They were to cross the Jordan River by following the Ark of the Covenant, the place of God’s presence as noted in Joshua 3:3-4: “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.”
The instructions to the people continue in Joshua 3, “Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.” (NLT)
In the wilderness, God had used a pillar of cloud and pillar of fire to lead, protect, and provide for the people. That generation was accustomed to experiencing God’s presence and leading in these pillars. Now the new generation is being instructed to follow the Ark of the Covenant. What happened to the pillars?
All these sojourns and symbols point to and climax in Jesus. From pillars of fire, the Ark of the Covenant, and New Testament imagery like ascending on a cloud and tongues of fire descending on disciples, there is a coherent connectedness through which God’s story flows from one generation to the next.
How might we understand our story in this larger narrative of God’s story? What pathways are we on? What rivers or seas do we need to cross? What mountains are we invited to climb? What are ways of knowing and following God’s Holy Spirit that might be different than previous generations?
Noel Santiago is the Leadership Minister for Missional Transformation for Mosaic Conference.