Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What does it mean to be set apart for the Lord’s purpose? Today we’ll look at the life of Joshua, and you’ll have the opportunity to consider how the Lord may be setting you apart for His plans and His kingdom. We're going to talk about that today on Revive Our Hearts.

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Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, September 23, 2014.

If you spent much time in church growing up, you’re probably familiar with the term consecration, but do you know what it means? We’ll see a clear illustration of the term as Nancy continues in the series, "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 8): Before We Conquer." 

Nancy: We have a number of gospel songs and choruses we sing that refer to Canaan land or the Promised Land, and many times those songs equate Canaan with heaven. There are some similarities, perhaps, but as I study the Scripture and this whole book of Joshua, I’m convinced that in the scriptural application, Canaan is not heaven.

Canaan is life here on this earth. There are battles to be fought in Canaan. There are enemies to be overcome, things that we will not have in heaven. Canaan, in the Scripture (and we’ll see this more as we get further into this series), is a picture of our spiritual inheritance, the spiritual possession that God intends every child of God to have as his own possession. But, as we’ve said, there are enemies that have to be fought; there are hurdles we have to overcome in order to take possession of the land.

Beginning at this point in the book of Joshua, we’re going to see some really helpful insights into how we can take spiritual possession of the inheritance that God intends for us to have as His children. Those insights begin in chapter 3, where we’re picking up today, with some preparations that are needed before we can go into our spiritual inheritance.

Just by way of background, let me back up to Joshua chapter 1, where in verse 10 Joshua commanded the officers of the people to pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, “Prepare your provisions.” Now that word prepare is important, and that’s what we’re going to talk about over these next several sessions. How did they prepare to go into Canaan?

“Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” The Lord God is giving you this land, but you’re going to have to do some things to possess it.

Now God had first promised this land to Abraham more than 500 years earlier—Genesis chapter 15—and the Israelites had waited all those years. Four hundred of those years they had spent in Egypt as slaves. Forty years—the most recent years—they spent in the wilderness, in the desert, wandering around. You notice in Scripture that God’s not in a hurry? He always has a plan; He knows where He’s taking us. “He’s not slow, as some men think, to fulfill His promises,” 2 Peter says (3:9, paraphrased).

The fulfillment of His promises—giving us possession of the land—may seem to take a long time, but God is always on time. God knows the process that needs to take place in us to prepare us to take possession of the land.

The Israelites had been through slavery; they’d been through the wilderness for forty years. Now it was time to go in and take possession of the land, but preparation was needed. They had to prepare their provisions, as we just read in chapter 1, but even more importantly, they had to prepare themselves. They had to prepare their hearts, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at in Joshua chapters 3, 4, and 5 over these next several sessions.

Now, just to give you a context of where we’re going to pick up in Joshua chapter 3, you remember that back in Joshua chapter 2, Joshua had sent in two men to secretly spy out the land. That’s where they met Rahab the prostitute—we talked about that in an earlier series on the life of Rahab, and we’ll see when we come to chapter 6 that Rahab’s life was preserved as a result of her faith—but when you come to the last verse of chapter 2, the two men, the spies, have come back and given their report to Joshua.

They say in verse 24, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” That was the report. “We can go in; we can take over the land. The people are terrified of us. They’ve heard what God has done, and they are scared, and God has given us this land.”

The very next verse, chapter 3, verse 1, tells us, “Then Joshua rose early in the morning.” Now, before I finish that verse, let me just make a comment on that phrase. This is the first of four references in the book of Joshua—there’s this one in chapter 3, there’s another one in chapter 6, another one in chapter 7, and another one in chapter 8—references to Joshua rising early in the morning. I would say this apparently was a pattern of his life. If the Scripture tells us that detail four times, it appears that Joshua had a pattern of being an early riser.

As I’ve meditated on why he might have been an early riser, I think he was a man—he’s a man of faith, for sure—so he’s a man who has anticipation. He’s a man of readiness. He was a man of eagerness. You get the sense that he couldn’t wait to get started each morning doing whatever it was God had given him to do that day. He was always expecting God to do something great in that day.

Just like a child getting up early on Christmas morning . . . You don't have to tell the children, "Get up early in the morning. Set your alarm clock because tomorrow morning is Christmas." No, those children are going to up at the crack of dawn if not sooner. Why? Because they know that today is special. We have anticipation. They are eager. They are ready for what the day will bring forth.

I think Joshua was a man who was eager to obey God. He didn’t want to delay in doing what God had given him to do. So here’s a man who hit the day early so that he could obey the Lord, so that he could experience all that God had for him in that day.

I think there’s another reason Joshua got up early in the morning. Remember, he was now the leader of the Israelites, a million or two people—no small challenge to lead them. Remember, these Children of Israel were not exactly easy to lead. They were prone to unbelief; they were prone to complaining; they were prone to confusion and chaos, and Joshua had to lead them.

I think Joshua knew that if he was going to do what God had told him to do—which was to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night—that he needed to start before the people got up, that he needed to start early in the day.

The Scripture doesn’t tell us that he was particularly meditating early in the morning, but I’m convinced that he did, and I’m convinced that if you and I want to have a habit of meditating on the Word of the Lord, which is what God says will make us successful and prosperous in everything we do, then we’ve got to start that early in the day.

You say, "How early is early?"

Well, I'm not going to tell you how early is early. But I've been convicted as I've been reading this that I need to be taking advantage of the earlier parts of the day to seek the Lord. I need to be getting up with a spirit of anticipation and eagerness. Now, if you are going to get up in the morning, that means you've got to get to bed before.

You say, “I’m just not a morning person.”

I told somebody recently who told me that, “You know what? If you would start going to bed earlier at night, you would find out you might become more of a morning person.”

That early-to-rise habit was also the habit of Joshua’s mentor, Moses, who got up early in the morning, Exodus 24 tells us. It was the habit of Abraham, we read in Genesis 22. It was the habit of David, the Psalmist. We read that many times in the Psalms. “Early in the morning I will rise to praise You, Lord.” It was the habit of Jesus, the Son of God, as He lived His earthly life here on this earth.

I don’t know what God would say to you about that, but I wanted to say there’s some aspects of meeting the Lord early in the morning that you will not find as easy to do the rest of the day. Once you hit your day with everything else that’s coming at you, particularly if you have others in your home or you’re heading out to work, you’ll find it’s not easy to get a quiet heart later in the day if you don’t start the day with the Lord.

Well, “Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim.” This was their campsite east of the Jordan River. “And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over” (Joshua 3:1). This was about a seven to ten mile journey, which takes perhaps a day with that many people, going from Shittim to the edge of the Jordan River.

Verse 2:

At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, "As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it” (vv. 2–3).

Look for the Ark of the Covenant, and follow it.

Now, if you’ll take time to read through chapters 3 and 4, which I hope you will do on your own, you will see the prominence of the Ark of the Covenant in this whole passage. It’s mentioned explicitly sixteen times in these two chapters—the Ark of the Covenant. There’s some other pronouns that reference it, but specifically the Ark, the Ark of the Lord, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord is mentioned again and again and again.

The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of the character of God. It symbolized His holiness and His justice. You remember the tablets of the Law were inside the Ark of the Covenant—the law that the people had broken—and so the Ark was also a symbol of God’s mercy and His grace, because what was on top of the Ark? The Mercy Seat, where God said, “I will have mercy on you by the shedding of blood.” So God’s holiness and justice, but also His grace and His mercy, were pictured by the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark represented the presence of God. God Himself went before His people—pictured, symbolized in that Ark of the Covenant. I want to say that in anything you and I undertake for God, we must have His presence going before us—whether it’s in your job, in your marriage, in your parenting, in your ministry, whether I’m writing a book or teaching a Revive Our Hearts session. Whatever battles you may be fighting in your home, in your workplace—whatever God has called us to do, we cannot do it without the presence of God going before us.

The ark represented God’s guidance. We read over and over again through the Old Testament how God led His people. He led them in the wilderness with a cloud in the daytime, with a pillar of fire at night, and any time they moved from one place to another, what was always at the front of their moving? The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. God Himself led His people by His presence.

Numbers 10 tells us, “They set out from the mount of the Lord,” from Mount Sinai, “three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them” (v. 33). Isn’t it a neat thought to think that God goes before us to find resting places for us, to determine where we should go?

The Ark of the Covenant also represented God as a warrior, as the sovereign Lord over all the earth. Numbers 10 tells us, “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you” (v. 35).

When God goes out, He goes out as a warrior. When you get out of bed in the morning, you’re stepping into a battle. You’re in a battle while you’re asleep at night. We live in a battle—not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers—and who’s our defender? Who is our warrior? Who is the one who deals with the enemies of God? It’s Christ Himself; it’s His Holy Spirit living within us. He is the sovereign Lord over all the earth.

Now, as the Children of Israel followed the Ark, we see that they did so with great respect and reverence. The presence of God is not ever something to be taken or treated lightly. There’s no such thing as an appropriate casual relationship with God. Yes, we can have a personal relationship with Him, but God is not a buddy like one of our other sisters or friends might be to us. There’s a reverence that is appropriate for the presence of God.

You see that here in Joshua chapter 3, verse 4.

There shall be a distance between you and [the ark], about 2,000 cubits in length. [Two thousand cubits would be a thousand yards.] Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.

So the Children of Israel had to stay more than a half a mile away from the Ark of the Covenant. They couldn’t get too close to it. This was to show their reverence for the holiness of God, and yet they needed to stay within eyesight of the Ark of the Covenant, keeping their eyes on it, keeping their eyes on the Lord, following Him so they would know which way to go.

Let me just say that the same God who led Moses and Joshua in those days leads us today. You say, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great if there were an Ark of the Covenant or a cloud or a pillar of fire that the Lord would show me which way to go? I could just follow that visible symbol of His presence, and I’d know, ‘Am I supposed to move? Am I supposed to take this job? Are we supposed to do this or that?’”

Let me tell you, we have a better way of leadership and guidance today—something every believer throughout all the earth can experience—and that’s the leadership of God through His Word and by His Spirit. His Word that lives in us and directs us. His Spirit who lives within us and makes Christ known to us.

God guides His children. He speaks to His sheep as a shepherd, and His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him. Thank God that He guides us today and remember that we have to always be following the voice, following the presence, following His leadership.

Now we come to an important part of the preparation of the people of God as they’re getting ready to cross over the Jordan, and that is the consecration of God’s people.

Picking up in verse 5, “Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’” He says, “Follow the ark. Don’t get too close, but keep your eyes on it, follow it, and then consecrate yourselves.” Some of your translations say, “sanctify yourselves” (NKJV). “Consecrate—sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

The Hebrew word there that is translated to consecrate or to sanctify means “to make clean; to make holy; to dedicate something or someone to God.”

One resource that I’ve used for study here says that this word signifies  an act or a state in which people or things are set aside for use in the worship of God. . . . They must be withheld from ordinary (secular) use and treated with special care as something which belongs to God. . . . Defilement makes the sanctified object unusable.

Another study tool I use says that the root of this word, consecrate or sanctify, is the word holy. The verb to be consecrated or to be sanctified means, "to be holy." Anything that He says is to be holy is set apart. It is removed from the realm of the common or the ordinary and moved to the sphere of the sacred. That which was consecrated to God must be for His use alone forever.

So Joshua is saying to the people, “Set yourselves apart for God, to be used by Him. You are no longer common. You are no longer ordinary. You are set apart for God’s use, for His worship, and that means you must be holy; you must be clean.”

Thirty-eight years earlier, when the Children of Israel—the parents of this generation—came to Mount Sinai, as God was getting ready to give His Law to His people in Exodus chapter 19, the people were consecrated. In this case it involved a three-day purification ritual. Exodus 19, verse 10,

The Lord said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (vv. 10–11).

In that situation, back at Mount Sinai, the people were to be consecrated, and they were to express that consecration by washing their clothes. The washing of their clothes was an outward symbol of their cleansing from sin. It was a symbol of their inward heart devotion to God. These people were being set apart for God’s use. They were ready for a new chapter. They were ready for a new beginning. They were preparing themselves for the glory of God to appear.

Now we come to Joshua and the Children of Israel as they’re getting ready to come to the Jordan River, and Joshua says, again, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders” (Josh. 3:5).

That word wonders, by the way, speaks of things that are miraculous, things that are supernatural, things you could not possibly do yourselves. One commentator says the word wonders means “things that are beyond the bounds of human powers or expectations.” 2

When I read that definition, I think of that passage in Ephesians 3 that tells us, “He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think” (v. 20 paraphrased). He is the God of wonders, and He is wanting to do wonders for His people, but before the Children of Israel can experience those wonders, they have to consecrate themselves.

As the Israelites are preparing to go across the Jordan and into the Promised Land, their preparation is not what you might have expected. You could understand if they were making all kinds of military preparations, but God says, “No, the most important preparation you can make is the preparation of your hearts—it’s the spiritual preparation.”

When it comes to our lives and ministries, we tend to focus on methods, on strategies, on mechanics of life, on mechanics of ministry. God says, “You can do all that stuff, but what you really need to do is get your hearts ready, and then I will move.”

The Israelites had to get ready for God to move on their behalf. They had to be prepared for a manifestation of God’s power and God’s glory. So Joshua says, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders.”

It’s a reminder that you cannot do those wonders. Only the Lord can do the wonders, and Joshua is saying to the people, “He’s ready. He’s willing. He’s able to do those wonders, but what’s your part? You must consecrate yourselves. God’s part is to do the wonders. He will do that. Your part is to consecrate yourselves—to consecrate or sanctify or set apart yourselves in anticipation or expectation of what the Lord will do—in preparation for God to do wonders.”

We’re tempted perhaps sometimes to think, “Once I see God do the wonders, once I see God move in my situation, then I’ll consecrate myself.” But you see the order here? Consecrate yourselves—the implication is now. First you consecrate yourselves, and then God will do wonders.

Then we have that promise, “If we will consecrate ourselves, the Lord will do wonders among us.” Maybe you’re saying to yourself as we’re talking about God doing wonders, God doing miracles—things that are beyond the bounds of human powers or expectations—you’re sitting here thinking, That is exactly what I need. I need a wonder in my life. I need a miracle in my marriage. We need a miracle in the life of my thirteen-year-old child or grandchild. I need a wonder.

Do you need wonders in your life? In your ministry? In your family? Do you want to see revival? That’s a wonder that God wants to send in our day, I believe. The question is: Are we prepared? Have we consecrated ourselves? Are we set apart? How about you? Are you ready for God’s blessing and intervention in your life? Are you ready for God to show up and do wonders?

Second Corinthians 7 tells us, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves [sanctify ourselves] from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (v. 1).

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been calling us to a life set apart for God’s service. Each of us needs to evaluate our own hearts. Are we consecrated to the Lord?

That helpful teaching is part of a series called “Lessons from the Life of Joshua part 8: Before We Conquer.” To hear all the programs in the Joshua series so far, visit the archives. You’ll find the audio and the transcripts at Revive Our Hearts.com. You can also find information on getting this message on CD.  

When is the last time you attempted something impossible? Find out why impossible tasks are so valuable to us when the series continues tomorrow.

Now Nancy’s back to wrap things up.

Nancy: I’d like to just invite you, as we close this time, to bow your hearts with me, and I want to ask if you would be willing to pray a prayer of consecration and express your heart to the Lord, your desire to be set apart for His use. You might pray something like this:

“Oh, Lord, today, afresh, at this moment, I want to consecrate myself to You. I want to be set apart for Your use, for Your purposes. I want to be washed. Cleanse me, Lord, by the blood of Jesus Christ. Wash me from all defilement, from all sin. Make me a pure, clean vessel that You can use and through whom You can flow Your power. Thank You, oh Lord, that You are able to do wonders, and that You will do wonders, and I just want to make myself available to You this day, set apart for You to use however You choose.”

Lord, as we consecrate ourselves to You this day, I pray and thank You that You will do wonders in the days ahead—wonders which only You can do for Your glory. We pray it with thanksgiving in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are taken from the English Standard Version.

1Zodhiates. Complete Word Study of the Old Testament.

2Ibid.

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