"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fitted for Wonder

Long decades and many miles after the Israelites had been led from Egypt by God's omnipotent hand, they finally stood poised to begin their conquest of the Promised Land.  God's hand had not left them, and the wayfaring nation stood ready.  Now the surging Jordan River lay between them and Jericho, and God was about to work a wonder. 

The next day, His might would see this flooded, coursing river utterly stopped, its torrents piled in an inexplicable heap miles away, until the Israelites, stepping out onto the soft bed before them, would find naught but dry ground beneath their sandals.  God in His limitless power would once again prove unencumbered by the very natural laws which He had laid down at creation, and Israel would soon have a home. 

Joshua said to his people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." (Josh. 3:5b) This is an interesting sort of imperative for him to issue on the verge of the parting of the Jordan.  Why should they consecrate themselves?  What bearing might it have?  Indeed; Joshua did not say, "Consecrate yourselves, so that tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."  Indeed, there is no cause and effect suggested here at all.  What, then, is the purpose of this command?

1.  The worthiness of God.  God deserves, richly and in every way, to be attended by holiness as He works His wonders.  He Himself is the Sun of holiness; it radiates from His very being just as light and heat issue from our central star, and He commands His people, "Be holy, for I am holy." (Lev. 11:44, etc.) Is it not wholly fitting that the Israelites, being made aware that greatness, unspeakable and divine, would soon be upon them once more, should seek to clothe themselves in a humble and pure godliness?  What could be a more appropriate response to the miraculous and gracious working of a holy God on behalf of an often wayward people?  Our God deserves holiness from His people, and indeed has laid works of holiness before them (Eph. 2:10). 

2.  The gladness of His people.  The Israelites could not rely upon the pure wonder of the God's work to stir their very human hearts.  If they wanted to savor the undiluted glory of it, if they wanted to rejoice in the Lord at the sight of it, they needed to prepare themselves beforehand.  We see this in our own lives at times, do we not?  In those moments when pride has free course in our hearts, we are unmoved by the moving hand of God.  God's provision in difficulty, His resolution of a demanding situation, even His salvation of a previously unyielding and dead heart do not move us, but leave us only with a vague sense of scorn, skepticism, or indifference.  By God's grace, sometimes this spiritual apathy is enough to startle and to stir us into repentance, but oh!  It is a far, far greater thing to see His work with holy eyes and to come unencumbered to His throne in humble adoration.  It is an exquisite and lingering shame when the sounds of God's matchless glory fall upon the deaf ears of His very own children!

Joshua's words serve as a warning and a challenge to believers in all ages.  Are we honoring a dserving God with consecrated spirits?  Are our hearts so cleansed as to desire to see His glory?  Do the manifestations of His amazing grace find a glad welcome in us?  If we do not see much of God's work around us, miraculous or otherwise, should we not consider that perhaps we are not cultivating holiness in our hearts, and so are not looking for or desiring His glory as it comes down?  Friends, let us fight the spiritual decay that can lead only to spiritual apathy!


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