The title of this word sent for testing and response is deliberately ambiguous. On the one hand, it is directed to those in positions of authority in relation to the IWT – board of reference, regional executives, task force leaders, committed pastors and so on. Secondly however, it is a call to exercise authority in relation to what God is about to do in this city, most directly (but not exclusively) in relation to IWT.
My key text is Joshua 3:5, “Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”” These words are spoken on the threshold of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. God has chosen a specific time for Israel to do this, not in summer when the fords of the river could be easily traversed by foot, but when the river was at it’s height, in harvest season (“now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest” (3:15)). This meant a test of faith for Israel, but also an opportunity to immediately enter into God’s provision of the plenty of the land. Spiritually, the harvest today is souls, and the Jordan represents the obstacles that must be crossed by faith to appropriate the sovereignly given harvest.
Throughout the early chapters of Joshua there is a threefold sequence: 1. God tells Joshua what he is about to do (3:7; 4:1; 4:15) 2. He communicates this to the people (3:9 -13; 4:4- 7; 4:16) 3. The people obey the command and see the wondrous works of God (3:14 – 17; 4:8- 13; 4:17 -20). This sequence has a parallel in our day.
The relevant authorities for IWT, I , have already heard from God about what he is about to do (as Joshua heard). The challenge at the moment is for you to communicate this to the people with the authority that God has given. This is where the key text comes in.
The word for “consecrate” in Joshua 3:5 “consecrate yourselves,” is derived from a root meaning “to cut”, “separate”. The people were to separate themselves to God – by prayer, humility, focus, trust, because they were about to pass a way that they had not passed before (3:4). This would be possible only through a miracle (“wonder”, 3:5) equivalent to the crossing of the Red Sea. What the text records, is that after the whole of Israel (not just the priests) consecrated themselves and went forward, “the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.” (3:16).
The special thing I believe the Spirit directed my attention to this morning was that the cutting off of the waters as an obstacle to the taking of the land was in direct proportion to the people’s willingness to cut themselves off from all distractions that would work against the miracle power of God.
The challenge is to exhort the people, in the words of Joshua, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”” This is to go against the flow of the tide of indifference, apathy and spiritual laziness that threatens to overwhelm the church today. God’s “hand is not shortened so that it cannot save, or his ear dull that it cannot hear” (Isa 59:1), but that we live in a time when those in authority in the church often do not speak forth the word of command in a manner akin to the servant of God who took the old covenant people into the land of promise. To speak with such definite authority, in expectation of the coming power of God, is the exhortation that this word brings.
In New Testament terms, all of this finds fulfillment in Jesus. On the eve of his death, Jesus prays, “for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17). He fulfils the typologies associated with the crossing of the Jordan in the following way. He completely devotes himself to the cause of God, to the point of death. In his way he “cuts off” the flood of sin and judgement that would otherwise engulf humanity. He has opened up a harvest of souls for which primarily he and not we have laboured. If we remain centred on Christ in this way we will not fall into the trap of believing that a miraculous harvest is caused by our devotion.