Read verses 1-5
Q: Who is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament Joshua?
A: “Jesus” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew “Joshua”. All the good figures in the Old Testament prefigure the Messiah in some way, but Joshua is one who particularly stands out.
Q: How did Joshua figure out which method to use to cross the flooded Jordan River?
A: Trick question—he didn’t. God gave him the necessary instructions.
Application: We are to proceed in life in strict accordance with His Word and ways. This is the only way to conquer this life in the course of pursuing our new life in Christ. By man’s reasoning alone it cannot be accomplished.
Q: What did the Ark of the Covenant represent to Old Testament believers?
A: It was the presence of God within which was always carried the Word of God. This was the dual aspect of the “seat” on the lid and a copy of the Torah carried within.
Observation: The term “ark” will be used some 10 times in the passage being studied, and is therefore the overwhelming theme of this study.
Q: What does the Ark of the Covenant represent to New Testament believers?
A: It is a representation of the Messiah, made of wood to represent His humanity and covered with gold corresponding to His deity. And as we learned from John 1, Jesus the Messiah IS the very Word of God.
Q: Why must this distance—approximately 1 KM or about .6 miles—be maintained?
A: The presence of God always carries with it the holiness of God, which is actually something quite dangerous for ordinary people.
But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.
— 2 Samuel 6:6-7
Application: Believers are to never engage in undue familiarity with the things of God; holiness requires holiness.
Q: So what is the greater spiritual meaning of how the Ark is being used?
A: The Ark going before the people and providing the means to pass through the river corresponds to the fact that Christ always goes before His people and opens the way for them.
Q: What might be particularly powerful about the instructions to stay in a specific relationship to the ark, “for you have not passed this way before”? (v.4)
A: Believers are defined by their adherence to God’s Word. Just as Israel was entering the Promise Land for the first time and would need to live by God’s Word to succeed, so Christians leaving the old life and embarking on the new in Christ are likewise guided. We are on a journey to an ultimate spiritual destination which we have never previously travelled.
Q: What is the more formal term for this process?
Q: How is the process of sanctification expressed in the text?
A: This is found in v.5 when Joshua instructs, “Consecrate yourselves”. The underlying Hebrew here literally means, “make yourselves holy”. In other words, to do what is necessary according to God’s Word to make one’s self biblically acceptable to be in the presence of God.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
— 2 Corinthians 7:1
Application: New believers find that they are going to be led to a new life in a new way, for which they must prepare themselves by the working of God’s Word. A special working of God requires a special preparation.
Observation: Note how this is present in many examples in Scripture: Jesus spent the night in prayer before choosing the Apostles, withdrew and prepared in Gethsemane for the Crucifixion, the Apostles’ time in Jerusalem between the Ascension and Pentecost, Paul’s three years in Arabia, and so forth. A time of proper preparation is always necessary.