Transitional moments come with growing up: the changes from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood. At other times these transitions are artificial. The ages of 16, 40, and 65 have significant implications. Transitional moments can be forced upon people—divorce, relocation, early retirement, loss of job.
Transitional moments impact a community: Growth and expansion or decline and decay. A community where significant racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic changes are taking place is in transition.
Chapters three and four of Joshua detail the children of Israel after decades of wandering in the wilderness crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. In this narrative the words crossing over is used twenty-one times. It marks a transition in their lives. It indicates an arrival in which they had been preparing for over forty years. It implies the entrance to a new beginning. The “cross over” required a new faith experience in order to occupy the new land God had in store for them.
Their experience will help us as we face the transitions in our lives.
1. Follow God.
Up until this time, during their time in the wilderness, the Hebrews followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. These two divinely instituted symbols now have been removed. The Ark of the Covenant takes the place of the daily cloud and the nightly fire. The ark symbolized God’s presence and power. It was the sign that God was leading them.
If we are to move confidently into new situations, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. We must follow him. He knows the way. He sees the road farther ahead than we could possibly ever see.
2. Purify yourselves.
Whenever we face new opportunities, God tells us “Consecrate yourselves” (Josh. 3:5 NIV). Then and now God calls his people to holiness, purity, and separation. For the Israelites on the edge of the Jordan, this meant washing themselves with water and practicing the ceremonial rites that would make them clean.
For us today, it means that we should come afresh to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus that washes away all sin.
Purification gets our soul in a position to be used by God.
3. Hear from God.
Often in our excitement, either from joy or worry, when undertaking new ventures, we fail to slow down and hear from God. We want to rush in, get busy, and move ahead. But, like Joshua instructed the people of Israel (v. 9), we need first to stop and to listen.
We live in a fast-paced, hurry-up world. If the devil can keep us busy and in a hurry, half his battle is won. We need to slow down and tune in to God. We need to hear from him.
4. Move ahead in faith.
After decades of wandering, the Hebrews were now ready to transition into the Promise Land. There was one minor problem—the Jordan River was at flood stage and there was no bridge, no boat, no ferry. The command from God came to Joshua to organize the people in a straight line behind the Ark of the Covenant and march directly toward the raging waters. And somewhere along the way God would intervene. First, the children of Israel had to step out in faith. In fact, only when the people in front stepped into the water did God miraculously part the waters.
Like the children of Israel, we want to move out toward our new opportunities, our new ventures. But doing so requires a step of uncertainty. Transforming faith happens only in the context of movement. The power of God comes to those who obey. Often God provides no solution until we trust him and move ahead.
5. Know that God keeps his promises.
Did God choose the time of the crossing when the river was at its highest to demonstrate his power? God never performs a miracle without a purpose. This miracle set the stage for the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land. Can’t you hear some of those Israelites saying, “If God can dam the waters of the Jordan, he can surely help us defeat our enemies.”
This miracle showed that God keeps his promises. The transitions of life cannot hide our faces from God. The transitions of life cannot change the purposes of God. The transitions of life cannot destroy the child of God.