Joshua 3:5

‘“Sanctify yourselves;
for tomorrow Yahweh will do wonders among you.”’

(Joshua 3:5)

God does amazing things for and through His people. We should be expectant about that and prepare ourselves accordingly. In this verse Joshua was encouraging the ancient Israelites about such things, before they crossed over the Jordan river, to possess the land that God had promised to them, i.e. Israel to be.

This had been promised to Abraham centuries earlier: ‘“go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you [i.e. his descendants] a great nation”’(Genesis 12:1-2), but first they were to be ‘“foreigners in a land that is not theirs [i.e. Egypt, for]… four hundred years”’(Genesis 15:13ff.). After that, Moses led them out of Egypt, by God’s ‘“hand”’(Exodus 13:3). Now, after wandering ‘“in the wilderness for forty years”’(Acts 7:36, cf. Joshua 5:6), Joshua had been commissioned by God to finally ‘“bring the children of Israel into the land”’(Deuteronomy 31:23).

These world shaping events had already been accompanied by amazing ‘“wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness”’(Acts 7:36), similar to (although interestingly different from) the ‘“mighty works and wonders and signs”’(Acts 2:22) that accompanied Jesus’ ministry centuries later. With Joshua, God’s people were about to experience such ‘“wonders”’ again, as they passed through the swollen ‘Jordan’(Joshua 3:15), ‘on dry ground’(Joshua 3:17), a sign that ‘“the living God”’(Joshua 3:10) was with them, as they crossed over to ‘“‘possess the land’”’(Joshua 1:11).

We should note that ‘“all things are possible with God”’(Mark 10:27) – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, including amazing wonders that can take many forms, but also that such things happen in accordance with God’s plan and in line with His promises, prophesies and word in general. So Joshua was careful to be guided by ‘“the words of Yahweh… God”’(Joshua 3:9ff.). As Jesus put it, ‘“apart from me you can do nothing”’(John 15:5). This should include God’s presence with us. So we must plead like Moses, ‘“If your presence doesn’t go with me, don’t…”’(Exodus 33:15) let me go/do/be etc., always remembering that Jesus has set the agenda from now on in: ‘“Go”’(Matthew 28:19), following His instructions, and this presence will be with us ‘“always, even to the end of the age”’(Matthew 28:20), in ‘“power”’(Acts 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 2:4). Then we can have great expectations, like Joshua here, and be ‘“strong and courageous… for Yahweh… is with”’(Joshua 1:9) us.

However, we should note God’s timing too. His plans might take centuries to unfold, so we mustn’t become unduly discouraged when feeling stuck in an Egypt or wilderness of some form, never forgetting that ‘one day is with the Lord as a thousand years… a thousand years as one day’(2 Peter 3:8). So ‘patience’(Galatians 5:22) is required, which He also wondrously provides, through His presence, even ‘in’(John 14:17&20) us, ‘the Spirit’(John 14:17). Moreover, the Holy Spirit now works though ‘each’(1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10) of God’s people, by giving us spiritual ‘gifts’(1 Corinthians 12:4ff. & Romans 12:6ff., cf. Ephesians 4:7ff.), many and varied, which enable us to serve Him, with Him, in His good timing, whatever form such ‘“works”’(John 14:12) might take in our particular time, place and situation.

So let’s ‘“sanctify”’/consecrate ourselves as called for here. During Old Testament times this involved things like sacrifices of ‘“atonement”’(Exodus 29:33), clothes being ‘washed’(Exodus 19:14), the sprinkling of sacrificial ‘blood’(Leviticus 8:30), and special ‘anointing’(Leviticus 8:12&30) with oil. Such were the ways to be made holy – set apart and dedicated for service alongside the presence of God. Now, through Jesus’ perfect ‘atoning sacrifice’(Romans 3:25) and blood, we’ve been ‘“washed”’(Revelation 7:14, cf. Revelation 1:5-6), ‘sprinkled’(Hebrews 10:22) and ‘anointed’(2 Corinthians 1:21), ‘according to His mercy… through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit… poured out on us richly’(Titus 3:5-6). Since we’ve been ‘sanctified’(1 Corinthians 6:11) in this way, we should live appropriately, including being like a spiritual ‘soldier’(2 Timothy 2:4), dedicated, ‘sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work’(2 Timothy 2:21), ‘perfecting holiness’(2 Corinthians 7:1) even, and ‘zealous for good works’(Titus 2:14). Then, adorned with ‘the armour of light’(Romans 13:12, cf. Ephesians 6:11ff.), rather than Joshua’s physical armour, we can ‘be strong in the Lord’(Ephesians 6:10) and fight ‘the good fight’(2 Timothy 4:7) as we march towards the eternal promised ‘“Kingdom”’(John 18:36, cf. Revelation 21:3ff.).

However, we should note the element of conditionality here too. The Israelites were told to ‘“observe… all that is written… then you shall have good success”’(Joshua 1:8, cf. Matthew 7:21). It’s even possible to do the right things, but ‘in an unworthy way’(1 Corinthians 11:29). So let’s sanctify/consecrate ourselves aright, then see what wonders ‘“tomorrow”’ will bring…

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