“When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about half a mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark.” Joshua 3:3-4
This was not my intended post for today, however, due to the unknowns we face with the COVID-19 crisis, I am expressing thoughts and feelings of my own and perhaps for many of you as well.
The Israelites were in a position of marvelous opportunity and new beginnings. They had arrived at the long-awaited Promised Land. The only thing preventing entry was the Jordan River with its overflowing banks of raging waters. These torrents brought fear to the Israelites. They had never traveled this way before. And so there, near the Jordan, they parked, anticipating the greatness of what could be, while living in the season of the unknown.
The Israelites were encouraged to follow the leading of the Lord. This was encouraging to some, doubtful to others, and perhaps, foolish to a few. Encouraging to those who recalled His leading out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and the wilderness to this point. Doubtful to those who lacked understanding of the ways of the Lord. “Yes, He led us in the past, but can He get us across this river?” Foolish to those who trusted their own wisdom and logical mind… “Why should we follow the Ark of the Covenant? What we need is a boat.”
I’m sure the stories of God’s power over the Red Sea, water from a rock, manna from the sky, countless quail flying to their feet, had been passed down to this generation. So what’s the solution? The solution was the same for them as it is for us today. Since we’ve never traveled this way before, we are compelled to carefully and patiently follow the leading of the Lord.
I had travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo prior to this outbreak to visit and encourage the missionaries of our denomination. Upon hearing of this calamity, I placed a call from the DRC to our Associate Pastor. After a prayerful and very insightful discussion, we decided to follow the governmental suggestions and halt all worship services and meetings at the church for a two-week period. This brought relief, and to a minor degree, division. Some felt the action signified a lack of faith, “If God be for us who can be against us. Pastor, you need to plead the blood and believe.” Others felt the decision was prudent, “Thank you Pastor and Church leaders for considering the priority of all the members over the preference of gathering together.”
I admit, this decision was difficult. I mean, as a Pastor trained at an acclaimed Bible College I was never prepared for anything such as this. I graduated from one of the most renown seminaries in the country, where every book of the Bible was studied, extensive instruction of Greek and Hebrew were presented, and ethical instructions for Pastoral conduct were given, but never prepared for anything like this. I’ve never traveled this way before.
We have never traveled this way before. We have never experienced a virus that has claimed the lives of a thousand people in a day. We have never been advised to stay in the safety of our homes for the good of the community. We have never received the encouragement to practice hygiene as we do now. We have never traveled this way before. We don’t know how long this Shelter in Place will continue or if we will survive the aftermath.
So what do we do? We carefully and patiently follow the leading of the Lord. The Lord is leading His church outside of her hallowed walls and forcing us into the community. Pastors and religious leaders are utilizing digital methods to reach millions of people throughout the world with the hope and assurance of God’s presence. Following the leading of the Lord has led us to become better neighbors, considering the needs of the elderly, the disadvantaged, and those suffering loneliness in our communities. Following the leading of the Lord has increased family time, not just to home-school, but times of laughter, creating memories that will endure long after this crisis has ended. Following the leading of the Lord, we are intentionally connecting with family members for meaningful conversation of concern and love. More than anything, we follow the leading of the Lord to intentionally reach out to those in our circles and tell them about the lovingkindness of Jesus Christ.
We are not in isolation, but a season of solitude. That means we continue to worship God. We acknowledge the Sovereign Lord, for who He is and we are grateful for His presence among us. We discover fresh realities as we read the Word, pray, and listen to Him. We praise Him for His protection of ourselves and our loved ones. We thank Him for His provisions of shelter, food, and rest. Yes, while we endure this season of confinement God continues to provide His rest.
We have never traveled this way before. Think about it. Consider all the tremendous opportunities and new beginnings that await and be grateful.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.