The children of Israel were preparing to enter the promised land when they were commanded as follows (Joshua 3:3-4)
1. When they saw the Ark of the covenant being carried by the Levitical priests they were to follow it.
2. They were not to follow too closely behind but were to leave “a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure” between them and the ark. The reason for this distance? So that they may know the way by which they should go for they had not passed that way before.
God told the Israelites to keep a distance between them and the ark so that they would know which way they should go because they had not gone that way before. What instantly springs to mind is this statement: Whether they kept a distance between them and the ark even the exact distance required of them by God or not, the fact still remained that they had never passed that way before. So why was it so important for them to keep that distance of “about 2,000 cubits by measure?”
When we read and meditate on the Old Testament, we conclude that the God of Israel revealed Himself in different ways which resulted in the different names by which He was referred to by the Israelites.
His names reveal who He is and how His people saw Him then and do so now. His names also reveal His elevation and exaltation above other gods of false religions. Therefore while the God of Israel or our Lord Jesus Christ on one hand manifests Himself as a personable God who even used emotional words and phrases to express His longing for His through His prophets on the other, He also presents himself as One to be elevated and revered or as one to whom Israel were expected to have a reverential fear and therefore to ascribe their uttermost respect through worship of Him alone. In fact one of the seven Spirit of God is the (reverential) Fear of the Lord (Isa. 11), we must also remember God is Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in Spirit and in truth.
When one is respected it means that who they are or their presence and acts of generosity, love and kindness are not taken for granted and treated with familiarity and lack of esteem or prestige. The ancient Israelites had been brought up giving God and His presence represented by the Ark placed in the Holy of Holies in the tent of meeting in the wilderness (later in the Temple) the reverence and respect due them. It is therefore not surprising that they would not think it strange to be told by God to keep a specific distance between them and the Ark of covenant.
They knew that their complete obedience was important to God. Many times in scripture we encounter a God of precision.
Even in the building of the tabernacle or tent of meeting in the wilderness God gave specific instructions and measurements as well as where every item should be placed.
In addition was not permissible by God that Saul during his battle with the Amalekites had killed all of them but spared their king and kept the best of the livestock to use as sacrifice to God. This is because God had instructed him to destroy all the Amalekites including their possessions which included livestock. Saul’s partial obedience was still disobedience as Samuel told him and also told him about the adverse consequences of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
Obedience to God should not be partial because we think we would be pleasing God and others by obeying partially. We must endeavour to obey God completely regardless of the cost which may include mockery or loss of reputation.
The exact or complete obedience of the Israelites was seen by God as an expression of their love for Him and affirmed that they held Him in the highest esteem as one to be revered or respected above anyone or anything.
In return for their absolute obedience they were led or directed to exactly where God intended His presence (the ark) to take them which was the promised land of Canaan.
NEW COVENANT CONTEXT
The Lord is speaking to us today clearly through this account as New Covenant believers in Jesus Christ.
When we are about to start a new undertaking such as a new project or job or to commence a new day or year, we are to liken our preparation as ones preparing to enter into our “promised land” in other words, we should be as the Israelites, expectant of receiving our God given inheritance or promise as a result of the “journey” or out working of whatever we are about to begin. As children of God, we must trust God that His presence always goes before us in whatever we do, always praying:
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths Lead me in thy truth, and teach me for thou [art] the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.(Ps. 25:4-5 KJV)
We have a great High Priest Jesus Christ seated at the Right Hand of God making intercession for us. He also left us with the Holy Spirit who indwells every true believer in Jesus and is also our intercessor and enables us to know God and His will for our lives.
In order to “see the Ark of Covenant & be positioned in the direction the priests are taking it” or more clearly to abide in the presence of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, God requires our absolute or complete obedience. Our God has not changed from ancient times in terms of His fundamental requirements and principles.
As the ancient Israelites expressed their love for God through complete obedience to God’s command by remaining a certain distance away from the Ark when following it, and in other ways we read in the Old Testament, so too we express our love to Jesus by obeying his commands as he said:
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him….Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:21,23 KJV)
The rewards of our obedience are also clear from these verses;
Father God will love us and both He and Jesus will come and make their home with us.
This is a clear indication that the fundamental key to abiding in God’s presence is obeying the Word of God in its entirety; if we obey Jesus’ commands we are doing so, because He is the Word of God personified (John 1:1-5,14).
In His presence we receive His joy (Ps. 16:11), His protection (Ps.91) and the ability to see our way forward for we gain revelation and insight into His will, plans and purposes for our lives and are able to help others as well.
In His presence therefore we are His true brides immersed in His love through Jesus Christ our bridegroom. A relationship of everlasting love sustained by our obedience which in itself speaks of our reverence and respect of God and Christ so that we give them the highest place in our hearts.
“Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23 NIV)
Brethren, the heart of man can be deceitful even when we are saved as Satan never gives up on us! Therefore in order to ensure we are led and guided by God daily and at the beginning of every undertaking, we must constantly guard our hearts and minds so as to sustain a life in the Fear of the LORD and in His presence.
This can only be possible if we do so in exactly the way He requires, a respective distance away (meaning through exact obedience with reverence) so to speak, so that the idiom “familiarity breeds contempt” does not in anyway manifest, even subconsciously, in the way we treat or relate to our God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Brethren let us have this mindset and it shall be well with us.
You are blessed, determine to stay blessed!
Deborah Esther x
©Deborah E. Nyamekye 19/11/2015