A New Year’s Message
I asked the Lord to give me a Word for the new year and He gave me a picture in my mind of the children of Israel crossing the Jordan River. Just as we are stepping from the banks of 2015 and crossing into the new year of 2016 ahead, the children of Israel were leaving their old life of wandering in the wilderness to begin a new life in the promised land. Everything about it was meant to be new. They were leaving behind the familiar mountains, valley and desert that they were used to encircling and wandering in, in order to enter a new land, to abide in and possess it permanently. Wandering was out. Dwelling was in. They were losing the supply of daily manna that they had grown accustomed to having delivered to them, and now they were to work the land for themselves and eat of its increase, for the “manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land”. They were no longer juveniles, but were being called to maturity. They mourned the passing of Moses, who represented the law, and were being tethered to their new leader Joshua, who was for them a foreshadow of Jesus Christ – God is salvation. They had buried over 600,000 friends, family members and loved ones who had perished in the wilderness because of their disobedience, and they were going to be separated from the land of graves to enter a land of God’s promised rest. Jordan’s waters would soon shut the way behind them separating them from their old life and hedging them securely into the new.
The Jordan is symbolic of many things for the child of God. It’s both an ending point and a starting point. It’s a place of death, burial and resurrection. It’s a place of baptism, new life and victory.
Read the text of Joshua Chapters 3 & 4
The first thing I noticed was that God is teaching His people the principle of death and resurrection. While this is a continually recurring theme throughout the entirety of God’s Word, it’s especially highlighted here. Notice in Joshua 2:22 the spies were hidden (buried) in the hills for 3 days before returning to the camp. Then in 3:2 the officers combed through the camp for 3 days to exhort the congregation to strip off the old and sanctify themselves. They were not only to “travel light” but to begin to travel “in the light”. I couldn’t help but reflect on how Abraham received Isaac from the dead figuratively after 3 days, and of course our Lord Jesus was entombed for 3 days prior to His resurrection. If we miss God’s intention to lead us from death to resurrection we miss everything.
1 Come, and let us return to the LORD;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
2 After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
3 Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth. – Hosea 6:1-3
I would like to share with you twelve exhortations from this passage in Joshua. If it would help, think of them as twelve stones of encouragement to live by, meditate on and carry with you into the New Year. Set them along the timeline of 2016, just as the children of Israel carried twelve stones and placed them on the west bank.
• Joshua 3:3 – Go after the ark. This can have a double meaning. First, the people were to allow the ark of the covenant to be their focal point and frame of reference. They were to be completely in sync with it, yet behind it. For them, the ark represented the very presence of God. Their entire lives were now governed by the presence of God. Secondly, go after it can also mean, do not get ahead of God, but go after Him. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Give Christ preeminence in all things!
• Joshua 3:4 – Give God space to move. There was a specific distance that the people were meant to stay behind the ark. Simply put, God is leading, and we need to give Him space to move and work as we follow Him. God’s reasoning is clear “that you may “know” the way by which you must go. When I am impatient, hasty and stuffing God into my tiny little box of how He should work, I often lose direction, but when I release all to Him and allow Him to have space and time to work, I can see clearly from a vantage point of submission.
• Joshua 3:4 – You have not passed this way before. God is about to do something completely new with His people. Everything is about to change for them. “Behold, I make all things “new”. God loves to do a new thing. He is a God who always has New Wine in reserve, and He delights on pouring it into new wineskins. Often times we miss out on God doing something new in our lives because we are simply not open to it. We’re living on yesterday’s manna and our faith is as old as Egypt. We can’t see the promised land because the stench of leeks and onions is trapped in our nostrils. Let God do something new in your life this year. Let Him change you from glory to glory in a way you have never gone before!
• Joshua3:5 – Sanctify Yourselves. Tomorrow was going to be a day of wonders among His people, so how were they to prepare? They were to clean house. This is more than just a physical cleaning, but spiritual. Cut ties with all known sin, answer your conscience with certainty in the place you’ve been avoiding it. Walk in the light, withdraw from all forms of compromise, and leave everything behind that defiles. Separate the precious from the vile, be clean and separate, says the Lord. “Therefore let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” – 2 Corinthians 7:1. Live life every day as though God is waiting to work a wonder in your midst…are you willing to prepare for it?
• Joshua 3:8 – Stand in the Jordan. God is not only the God of the New, or a God of Holiness, but also a God who is manifold in His diversity. Unlike the Red Sea, that parted while the people nervously looked on, this time God was waiting on them to take a step of faith. Nothing would change for them until they got their feet wet and stood in the Jordan. Sometimes we want God to do everything the same old way, like He did with the Red Sea, but often times He’s testing our faith. You may never know the answer to what you are waiting for until you get your feet wet. It’s all faith from here.
• Joshua 3:11 – The Ark is Crossing Over. Remember the promise that God gave to Joshua? I will be with you wherever you go! God’s presence was leaving the wilderness and going into the promised land. Are there giants in the land? Yep. Are they going to face new hardships. For certain. Is it risky? You betcha. But God is WITH THEM. Whatever you may be facing today, know this, the Ark is Crossing over too. You aren’t alone. God will never leave you nor forsake, and He has NOT left you alone as an orphan. God has already crossed into 2016, way before us. Fear not, and follow Him into the New Year.
• Joshua 3:13-16 – God is working even when you don’t see it. I love the picture. The Red Sea was so dramatic, and so tangible, and so visible. Colossal waters rose on each side of the dry path. But how about here? It says the waters were cut off and stood “very far away at Adam”. Do you feel defeated? Are you struggling to see God working in your life? Battling the self life? Fear not, God is working, especially where you can’t see it. Your former life was in Adam, you see, and that is precisely where the water was cut off. God is doing a new work of resurrection life at the source, where Adam used to reign, and you are being baptized into absolute newness in Christ! We walk by faith, not by sight. God is working, not in the visible, but in the invisible.
• Joshua 3:17 & 4:10 – Lead by Example. The priests that bore the Ark of the Covenant were the very first of the children of Israel to enter into the Jordan. In a sense, it was their faith that parted the waters for everyone else. Don’t you want to be like this? And then notice, that they didn’t reach the shore first, but instead stood still in the midst of Jordan, while everyone passed by them safely to the other side. Did they work the hardest? Yes. But guess what, they got to stand in the midst of a miracle the longest, and they were right in the center of God’s will and plan, literally. Ministry is tough work, especially when it comes to prayer, intercession and spiritual labor. They were the first ones in and the last ones out.
• Joshua 4:2-3 – The Resurrected Stones. God was up to something here and has a huge object lesson for His people, including us. Remember, these things are also examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:11). Remember the principle of death and resurrection? God had the leaders from each tribe choose a stone from the midst of the Jordan and place it on the shore to be carried into the new land with them. The picture is that they were to bring a testimony with them into the new land to testify of God’s dealing with them, and this testimony was a resurrected life! These stones would be a symbol of what God had done with them. He had washed them, polished them, and placed them into the new land, to be His own peculiar people. These stones were smooth, had a luster to them, and would not look anything like the other stones in the land. God has raised you up too, a resurrected stone, on display with a forever testimony of His glory and grace!
• Joshua 4:9 – The Buried Stones. With every resurrection, there must first be a death and burial. The resurrected stones shining on the west bank had their counterpart stones in the midst of the Jordan. Joshua himself arranged 12 stones in the midst of the Jordan that were to remain there. Once the water slammed shut, the stones would be buried and out of sight. While each set of stones was an identity of each tribe of Israel, one identity was to be clearly seen, and the other buried. Do you have yet to bury your old identity in Adam? Is there a habit, a tendency, a fleshly inclination that needs to be laid down in Jordan’s waters never to be seen again? If they were to go on into the land and possess the territory God had allotted to them, they had to make a serious dealing with the self –life here and now. They needed to die to selfish ambition, complaining and grumbling, carnal accusations towards God. All was to be buried, put out of sight. Leave behind in the old year all that will hinder and spoil you from becoming what God intends for you to be. On a side note, did you notice that it was Joshua, and not the children of Israel who arranged the buried stones? Let Christ order your death and resurrection! Also, there are now a total of 24 stones that have been arranged. What does that remind you of? 24 elders? Israel and the Church? The 12 on the shore were arranged by the tribal leaders, the 12 in the Jordan arranged by Joshua Himself, our very own type of Christ! This can be seen as a picture of the Church, hidden with Christ in God, “I will build My Church” says Joshua as He arranges His stones in the Jordan.
• Joshua 4:21 – Set up an Ebenezer. The stones on the shore were meant to be an object lesson to the children of Israel for generations to come and a teaching point to declare the faithfulness of God to the next generation. As you reflect on the past year, visibly set up ebenezer’s in your life to testify of when God has come through for you. Dwell on them and thank Him for those times. Arrange them on a wall or in a mural. Do something to remind you of what God has done for you in the past, so that when you face new trials this year, you can be reminded that God is with you now in the new land.
• Joshua 4:18 – Be Baptized into Joshua (Christ). In 1 Corinthians 10 we are told that when the children of Israel crossed through the Red Sea they were baptized into Moses, their leader (1 Cor. 10:2). Now, they have a new leader – Joshua, who is a type of Christ. Moses could not lead them into the promised land, but Joshua could. Where the law failed, grace prevailed. 1000 years later, Christ Himself will be baptized into these very waters at the Jordan. Again, the picture of baptism is one of death and resurrection. Buried with Him in baptism, raised with Him in newness of life. As Christ arose from the water the Holy Spirit “descended upon Him like a dove”. Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and even “overflowing” you might say. It’s no coincidence that the very word Jordan means “descending” or “flowing down”, both of which are aspects of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. I believe this new year should mark a year when we can all testify that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit was greater and more evident in our lives than ever before. Our identity with Jesus in baptism is real and absolute. As we go forth into 2016, with the self life buried behind us, along with our failings, regret and shame, we enter a new land flowing with milk and honey. This is the land of God’s promised rest. A life in the New Covenant, walking in the power of the Resurrected Life of Jesus. This is the overflowing, abundant life. Will you let Him overflow you this year? The time of Israel’s crossing was at Harvest, when the banks of the Jordan overflow. Let the waters of Jordan overflow you this year! (Joshua 3:15, 4:18).