Fair warning: It may take a while to cross this river and get through Joshua 3, which is where we are starting this week.


The spies came back with a good report: the Promised Land is ripe for the taking. Now there’s just this matter of getting all these people across the river and waging a war or two. Or three.

Joshua and his officers delivered the instructions to the people as they waited for the right moment to move. They had a good system of communication here, a kind of trickle-down phone chain approach that reached the entire community efficiently and effectively, but that’s not what I’m focusing on here. What interests me more at the moment is the instructions.

Now, it’s not the last time they’ll get instructions that don’t make complete sense and it’s not even the first time – this tactic has become something of a pattern for their journey – but each time, it does make you pause after reading it and wonder what is going on. This time, it’s leading with the Ark of the Covenant and leaving “about two thousand cubits” of space between it and the people.

Two thousand cubits, though debated, is apparently about a half mile. It’s about 6 1/2 times the length of Noah’s Ark. It’s a significant distance and it’s curious enough to wonder why. Why were they instructed to leave this amount of space behind the Ark. The initial thought is that the Ark was holy and the distance was a sign of reverence. That makes sense, but I think something else is going on here as well. A few things, actually.

I think of another passage of Scripture, a quote from Jesus, where He explains to the disciples that He is going before them to prepare a place. This was, of course, an allusion to the marriage tradition of the time, but I also get this picture as I’m reading this passage. If, in fact, God goes before us, then we will know which way to go. Also, we will be following closely in His will. As a leader, it is important to recognize who has gone before us and who, in turn, we are actually following.

The distance itself seems to force a perspective that would otherwise be lacking. From the distance of a half mile, you can see not only what is in front of you, but also what is peripherally around you. You can see, for instance that the river has stopped flowing miles upstream in order to clear the path for you. This is not just a skinny little pathway cut through the river, this is at least a mile wide, because they were supposed to leave that space on each side of the Ark as they crossed. Seeing this from a distance drives home the point that this is a significant event.

This perspective is extremely important for leadership. Leaders are supposed to be visionaries, but you can’t be a visionary if you’re stuck in the weeds (or waves). If you’re in the thick of things, you start to get caught up in all the activities surrounding you. You start to think your actions had more to do with the outcome than it did. You start to forget about those who have gone before you or alongside you. You forget to take in the scene and realize what’s really happening.

As a leader, you must maintain perspective. You must be aware of your surroundings and and limitations. Sometimes that means leading by going ahead. Sometimes that means stepping back and recognizing those who have gone ahead of you.

peace… love.. bdg…