All Articles

You Have Not Passed This Way Before

The story of Joshua is a familiar one to us all.  You’ll remember that Joshua became the newly-appointed leader of God’s people. The children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for over 40 years. And now they are about to step foot for the first time into the Promised Land.  It’s here we find the following text:

Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”
Joshua 3.1-4

Instructions were given as to how they were to cross the Jordan and enter Canaan. The ark of the covenant was to go first. A distance of 2,000 cubits was to remain between them and the ark. If you’ll recall, a cubit is 1.5 feet, so the distance between the ark of the covenant and the Israelites was to be 1,000 yards, the length of 10 football fields. This made it possible for the ark to be visible as they crossed over into the land. And remember, within the ark were 3 items:

  1. The stone tablets of the covenant,
  2. Aaron’s staff that budded, and
  3. The golden pot that had manna

Promises, power and provisions.  The ark was to remind them that, as they set across the Jordan to possess the land, they must do so not in their own strength, but in God’s. His instructions were clear: follow the ark of the covenant “in order that you may know the way you shall go.”

“For you have not passed this way before.”

In the 15th century, mariner’s charts crudely outlined the shore of Europe and Africa. On each map there was a spot in the Atlantic Ocean, beyond which no ship or sailor dared to venture. Written were the words,

“Here be dragons. Here be demons. Here be death.”

We have come a long way since the 15th century, but there is still a certain apprehension about venturing into the “unknown.” Facing the future can be awesome, fearful and dreadful. It can also be inspiring, challenging and exciting.
Remember this. All of life is new. There is not a step of it of which it may not be said to us: “You have not passed this way before.” Every day’s path is new and peculiar to each one of us. We do not know what experiences it will bring to us . . .

  • what new joys or sorrows,
  • what new struggles,
  • what new responsibilities,
  • what new revealings,
  • what new duties.

Joshua 3 serves as a reminder. For each of us, our need is to fix our eyes upon God and follow Him each day. When Israel failed to look to the Lord for direction as to where and when and how they ought to go, the consequences were disastrous. It was a bitter lesson learned over and over again.

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians said:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Ephesians 6.16-18

“I have not passed this way before.”

Thank God we have been blessed with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and the opportunity to pray “at all times.”
Are you using these God-given resources? Who knows what today will bring for any of us? 
The Lord God Almighty knows. 
He has provided everything we need in order to know the way we ought to go, come what may. Though we have not passed this way before, we don’t have to travel alone.
Today is full of wonderful opportunities to hear from our Savior and King. Tomorrow is a blank page to be filled in by the passing of time and events—tomorrow means hope and opportunity.
Let’s faithfully keep in step with our God this week, for we have not passed this way before.