As the children of Israel were preparing to cross the Jordan River, Joshua sent the ark of the covenant ahead. He instructed the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”1
“Never been this way before”—I often feel that way! I run into a situation or a dilemma that’s all new to me, and I have no idea how to tackle it. Should I go or stay? Should I take this offer or turn it down?
Some decisions are easy to make. Sometimes the path ahead seems pretty straightforward, even if you’ve never taken it before. Other times, it can feel like there are potential dangers and pitfalls all around. Looking ahead can be exciting, but it can also be a little frightening because of the many unknowns.
As I write this, I’m facing a dilemma. I’ve been offered a job that seems pretty appealing. It’s work that I’d enjoy and the pay is good. But it would mean a major move to another city—when it feels like we’ve only just gotten settled where we are. It would mean putting other goals on hold and moving away from relatives and new friends. It’s exciting, in a way, but it’s also challenging, because I don’t know how things are going to turn out.
The children of Israel didn’t know how things were going to play out for them either. They knew there was a promised land ahead, but there was also the River Jordan blocking their way.
The Israelites hadn’t traveled that way before. That’s why they had to follow the ark, which represented God’s presence and His promises. By following the ark—by following God—they could walk confidently, knowing that they were headed in the right direction.
Sometimes, the way God leads doesn’t seem to make sense. Sometimes it can look downright crazy, like when He instructed Joshua to tell the priests who carried the ark of the covenant to “take a few steps into the river and stop there.”2
I imagine some of the people were more than a little anxious as they approached the flooded riverbanks. But we’re told that “as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away.”3 The priests stood in the middle of the dry riverbed while all the Israelites walked safely across.
I think this story offers a pretty awesome formula for making decisions. When you’re facing tough choices, when you “haven’t been this way before” and you’re dealing with brand-new challenges or seeming impossibilities, keep your eyes on Jesus. Only God knows what’s ahead, so it’s a good idea to follow His lead.
God cares about your problems and concerns and dilemmas just as much as He cared about His people stuck at the banks of the Jordan River. The Bible promises, “The Lord is kind, and as soon as he hears your cries for help, he will come … and he will guide you. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying, ‘This is the road! Now follow it.’”4
God’s Word contains solid promises that you can stand on and claim in prayer whenever you’re desperate for His answers and direction in your life. Then as you keep your eyes on Jesus and follow His lead, you’ll be able to march confidently into the future God has in store for you.