Lessons from the book of Joshua
Joshua 3: 14-17 – The Tools of His Trade
It is no coincidence that it was priests in active service, bearing the Ark of the Covenant, who “led” the way though the floods at Jordan that day.
First, by doing this God left us a clue that a heart and life that is yielded to God in committed service will always have the empowerment to weather any storm and find some dry ground through any flood that life may bring. Therefore, the example of these priests show us that no rough situation should keep us from service and that those of us who are in service of the kingdom should always take the lead when things get “flooded”.
Second, it may not be obvious that God was doing something in the background that day until one considers the fact that Joshua was neither a priest nor a prophet; he was not even a Levite.
It would have been the natural order of thought that all the leaders of the newly forged nation of Israel must be Levites when the three most prominent persons (i.e. Moses, Aaron and Miriam) in the “first republic” were all Levites. It would have been natural also to think that Moses led the nation because he was a prophet. Only a prophet could tell the priests what to do; only a prophet could order the priests around. It is in the absence of the prophet that the high priest, who had the sacred Urim and Thumim, could discern the mind of the Lord and chart a course for the nation.
But Joshua was none of these.
And in spite of the “qualifications” of the cabinet of the first administration, they had problems again and again with people, especially Levites, who felt they were equally qualified to lead the nation (Numbers 16). They even had these issues amongst themselves (Numbers 12). It would have been too easy to impeach Joshua’s administration.
There was no spiritual reason for priests who bore the sacred ark of the holy God to be submitted to a man like Joshua unless God demonstrated that He chose Joshua, a seemingly not-so-spiritual person to lead a tribe of “spiritual” people and indeed the entire nation (Numbers 16:5b, Psalm 65:4a). But by doing this, God silenced the potential opposition and left us yet another clue: Our stand with God is not based on our qualifications or our illustrious human heritage but by His election of grace alone. We stand where we are, the way we are, by God’s grace alone (Romans 11: 5-6).
Thirdly, where was the great and powerful rod of God by which Moses did great wonders? Wouldn’t it have come in handy right about now? I mean, if the rod could part the Red Sea, surely a little brown river should be no problem, right?
That was the very kind of thinking God wanted to expunge on that very day. It was not the rod that was doing the wonders; it was the God behind the man who held the rod. He gave the orders that Moses carried out and, although in almost every case, the rod of God was involved, the power was not coming from the rod but from the God who owned the rod. It was the rod of God because it was what God chose to work with at that time. And it was in His divine power to choose whether or not to use it at any particular time or to dump it and choose something else. This puts a whole new concept to the title, “Man of God”.
God was teaching Moses the same lesson but Moses didn’t learn it and it cost him a dear price (Exodus 17: 1-7, Numbers 20: 1-12). In the first instance, the only thing that represented God’s manifest and tangible presence was the rod in the hand of Moses and everyone had become used to that but God had a next level in mind (Numbers 11:29). God wanted all of Israel to have access to His manifest presence. So He made the ark, and the tabernacle, so that at the sight of it or by turning in the general direction of the tabernacle (and later the temple), any Israelite could communicate with God and access His divine presence and power.
God’s annoyance with Moses was because Moses did not sanctify Him in the presence of the people. Rather, by striking the rock instead of speaking to it as commanded, Moses sanctified the rod before the people. The statement “God in the midst of His people” suddenly has a new relevance. God didn’t want to be with Moses alone; He wanted to be with the whole of Israel. The sign that this was His objective was demonstrated by what God eventually started doing with Joshua – leading by the word of God, encountering divine manifestations by following God’s instructions (i.e. His word) alone.
Through all this, God was leaving us another clue: anyone in the household of faith has access to God’s presence and power, and he will have this access through the word.
If we now consider that the word is not only written, and or spoken, but is also the one that became flesh and dwelt among us, this whole discourse shifts to another level, and one might begin to decipher the gravity of Moses’ mistake.