24 March 2020 – You have never been this way before

Our nation once more has stepped into a place it has never been before in its history in terms of the restrictions imposed by the British Government and the devolved administrations in the United Kingdom on Monday 23 March this year.

Although we were aware of the very real possibility of much stricter regulations concerning our conduct, I am sure we were all hoping that it would not have been necessary to have imposed them, changing our way of life so significantly for the foreseeable future.

In a medical crisis, as this undoubtedly is, it is our duty as citizens to give our full support to those seeking to lead us through it as citizens. We hope and pray that they make the right choices on our behalf. The pressures they must be under to get it right are immense. It is most appropriate that we are praying for them at this time.   

The events mentioned in this passage took place more than three thousand years ago.  We can read a fuller account of what happened in the book of Joshua in the Old Testament.Here are a few verses telling part of the story: Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’ (Joshua 3:1-5)  You have never been this way before (Joshua 3:4); 

It was a step into the unknown for this community of people. They were to face challenges outside their comfort zone in obeying what God had commanded them. They were urged to trust God to go with them into an uncertain future. What particular things do we note here?

1. They prepared as well as they could for what lay ahead(Joshua 3 v1). They made an early start eager to be in the place where God wanted them to be. Then and now the people of God rarely choose the social context in which we live, but may each of us be eager to seek to live for God in the right way at this time in history. This means that our heart as well as our head is committed to it. Living in disturbing and deeply challenging times may we stand firm through the difficulties but also embrace the new opportunities that may open up as we go into the future. 

2. They waited on God to direct their pathway There can be impatience about the speed at which God answers our prayers. We can pray something for years and still lack any evidence sometimes that God is going to answer it in the way we have desired. There can be many reasons – good ones – why our prayers are not always answered in the way we would have liked. The Israelites here were a good example of trusting God in the timing of their lives. Despite it being so hard just now may we be willing to follow in their footsteps of waiting for God to direct their pathway.

3.The blessing promised to God’s people as we trust Him with our futures Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you. (Joshua 3:5)  It was a monumental step of faith crossing over the river Jordan without the option of going back. God would honour their choice. We too cannot go back into a former era to live in a place more comfortable than it is just now. We must go forward with a resolute trust in God to provide for us. Many of us feel deeply anxious about what is happening in the world just now, but like those ancient Israelites may we trust God’s Word to guide and direct us through the challenges we face in the coming days.

Brian Talbot