(Joshua Chapter 4)
When we left Chapter 3 there were likely many things buzzing around in your head. There were for me as well. Admittedly, it's a lot to take in. And it might even help to re-read the chapter a couple of times. Sometimes that helps me re-emphasize something I need to hear, and help bring clarity to questions as I process.
Something we talked about at the end of Chapter 3 sets the stage for Chapter 4.
Leaders stand in the middle.
One very powerful and incredibly impactful thing happened after the whole nation of Israel crossed through on their Ocean Road (or river road in their case). Notice the end of Chapter 3 said "those priests...stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle...while all Israel crossed on dry ground."
The next statement leads us to believe that the priests had passed through as well.
"Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
Except there was something remarkable that happened before the priests left the middle. And that is where we pick up the beginning of Chapter 4.
God told Joshua to pick 12 men, each from a different tribe, to grab a stone. A marker of remembrance. He told them to take the stones from "...the middle...where the feet of the priests are standing firm."
They were to take them to the place they'd camp that night.
Think about that for a second. Every one was through. A giant PHEW, that was a close call! must have been the common sentiment. And then...Joshua sends 12 men back in to the middle, where the priests were still standing. How would you like to be one of them? Just when you think you are clear of the intensity of the moment, you are hand picked to go back to the middle of where the greatest danger was!
None of us can know for sure why God didn't have the priests just grab a few stone momentos on the way out. But I have a guess.
Each man was from a different tribe. Perhaps God knew that they would need a very personal reminder of the power of God, in the days, weeks, months...years ahead. That by sending them in, they would see the obedience on the face of the priests more clearly. At that point the rest of the nation would have passed. It was only 12 guys, and some priests. A very intimate moment where glances between these men and the priests would create a moment of remembrance. Perhaps these 12 would one day, in their own way, have to stand in the middle for their tribes...their families...their friends.
And that is why I bring this up.
Leaders stand in the middle.
There is a gap in my notes on Chapters 4 and 5. But as I write this book, the Lord is making it very clear to me why that was, and what fills that gap.
Sacrificial leadership grows fearless followers.(*6)
The sacrifice the priests made to go first, and stand in the middle, gave the 12 men the courage to go back in on Joshua's word. Where fear may have made them run through, right past the priests the first time...the example the priests set created an environment where they could walk back, in a confidence only God could provide.
Once they came out with the stones, God told Joshua that it was time for the priests to finish the job. And in that moment around 40,000 soldiers ready for battle...watching as the priests came through.
And once the very last foot hit the banks of the Jordan River?
"...the Jordan's waters resumed their flow...just as before."
The priests stood in the middle.
The 12 men went back in.
Both groups were obedient to the leadership moment they were given.
It's the same with us.
Sometimes we'll be called on to go first, stand in the middle, and leave last.
Sometimes we'll think we are clear, and we'll be sent back in to the struggle.
No matter when we are sent, this serves as a reminder that we are all called.
As a parent.
As a spouse.
As a business owner.
As an employee.
As a friend.
As a stranger.
As a child of the most high God.
It's not a matter of if, but when we will be called.
How and where is up to God.
The response of yes, and I'll go is up to us.
After the priests left the river, and the waters began to flow again, the people camped out at a place called Gilgal. They built a monument with the 12 stones.
"In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, 'What are these stones doing here?' tell your children this: 'Israel crossed over the Jordan on dry ground.' "Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan's waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed."
The impact of the moment and a monument. (*7)
"This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God's rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always."
What an amazing example for the next generation.
What an amazing reminder for ours.
As a parent...I know that there will be moments when I am called to go first. I know there will be times when I will stand in the middle. And like every parent would, be the last one out, so that my kids would make it through.
I'd do Anything. Anytime. Anywhere...for my kids.
I know you'd do the same.
It's what we do as parents.
And there may be times when I look up and see someone else standing in the middle for my kids...and realize it's time I go back in so that I can take a reminder out so that my kids never forget who and what came before them...so that they are where they are.
Chapter 4 of Joshua is a celebration of sorts.
The Israelites deserved that moment based on their obedience to walk it out.
But if it's left there, we just took in on a cool story, and forget what it can teach us.
If you are standing on your water's edge and can't see a way through, perhaps getting the focus off of you will help. It's helped me. It's a reminder I need, too.
I imagine that is what gave the priests the confidence to go first.
As a man...I might chicken out because it's about me.
As a parent, I'm all in because it's about my kids.
If we choose our response based on our individual preference, we could very well miss the blessing found being a leader acting in obedience.(*8)
The list of leaders is long.
The list of excuses not to cross over when we are called shouldn't be.
Stand in the middle.
Go back in.
Go all in.
The next generation is watching how we respond, so that they know WHO to follow.
The next generation is watching how we respond, so that they know WHAT to do.
Because when we know WHO to follow, we'll know WHAT to do.
Just like the Israelites needing to keep a distance between them and the priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant...I think it helps us to step back and allow God to speak to our hearts in a way only He can.
Think of it this way as you head into the Perspective Points for Chapter 4, and the reflection questions...
Perspective is found at a distance.(*9)
The further we are from it (our challenge, our struggle, etc...) provides the opportunity to gain the clarity in how we see it.
Remember...we've never been on this road before.
One step at a time to our calling.
A safe distance behind God's leading.
We'll arrive right on time if we trust Him on every step of the journey.
6. Sacrificial leadership grows fearless followers.
7. The impact of the moment and a monument.
8. Preference steals the blessing found in obedience.
9. Perspective is found at a distance.
6. What sacrifice(s) have you made lately, or will you commit to make so that those who look to you as a leader have the confidence to follow you?
7. Is the impact of your sacrifice so that you will get credit for it, or are you clear about the moment being a monument to God's strength through us?
8. Are you reacting or responding? Here is the difference. Reacting to a situation will always choose preference because it succumbs to the pressure you feel. Responding is knowing that when push comes to shove you will choose obedience to what God is calling you to...yes, even when and if it's hard. What areas of your life will you commit to share with someone close to you...that will walk this journey with you...so that you don't forfeit the blessing we find in our obedience?
9. Are you stepping back from your situation to find God in it, or rushing past Him to get credit for it? Are you trusting in Him from a distance, or your own strength in stubborn persistence?
*And here's a bonus encouragement for you. You've got this! I believe in you! God has put in you right where you are so that you can show others...through your sacrificial leadership what it looks like to live your life as a monument of praise to the God who will bless your obedience. And the coolest part about being a leader is watching that blessing show itself strong in the people we lead. Our kids. Our employees. Our colleagues. Our congregation. Our teammates. Our players.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite verses...
Perhaps you were made "...for just such a time as this."
(From Esther 4:14)
See you soon with Chapter 5!
Don't forget the comments section is open to you if you need it to share a thought, or ask a question. We're all in this together!
About the book
Brett W. Gould
Author. Speaker. Teacher. Coach.