1-4 Joshua was up early and on his way from Shittim with all the People of Israel with him. He arrived at the Jordan and camped before crossing over. After three days, leaders went through the camp and gave out orders to the people: "When you see the Covenant-Chest of God, your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile—be sure now to keep your distance!—and you'll see clearly the route to take. You've never been on this road before."
You've never been on this road before - I think this is the hallmark statement of Joshua's life. He was assuming leadership of Israel just after the death of Moses. The people are ready to move into the Promised Land of Canaan. He has been commissioned to be the leader who will bring them in and help them settle into the land. He had a lot to live up to and I am certain he was a little concerned that he might fail along the way. This was a huge task!
His statement tells us much about his perspective in leading the people. First, he rises early. A good leader is not afraid to be up before the chickens! He is willing to "put in the time" in order to be the kind of leader God wants him to be. There is much to be said about spending time with God first, then going about what it is he calls you to do.
Second, he reminds the people of the importance of keeping God in right perspective in their lives. God goes before them - not behind, not alongside - before. There is nothing more telling about the quality of a leader than to see where God is given priority in their lives. When God has the first priority, the leadership is made easier.
The placement of God in our walk is the most telling part of our success in the journey - simply because we have not been on the present path we are traversing before. We need God's perspective to help us navigate the unknown and to avoid the pitfalls. He challenges the people to keep an eye on the Ark of the Covenant - the presence of God - to take their "lead" from the presence of God in their lives.
Third, he was obedient to what God asked him to do - not compromising one instruction God gave him in the work that laid ahead. As they cross over the Jordan River into Canaan, they do so on dry land. This was a clear display of the power of God in the midst of a people who had given God the right perspective in their lives. God is amazing - he held back the waters, but he also made the ground dry beneath their feet. People, carts, animals, and all their belongings - pass over on dry ground. When we are reliant on the direction God gives, he makes the way clear, the path is prepared, and his power is displayed.
Fourth, as they crossed over the river, the people are moved into worship. It took the leadership of one who was willing to step into the river the first time to bring the souls of many into the presence of their God. There is a general sense of awe as the people stand on the opposite side of the Jordan, now flowing in its full current. They were out of the wilderness and into the promised land. They were awe-struck with the majesty of their God. There is a sense of the grace of God in recounting his delivering power and his keeping strength.
God made Joshua great that day in the eyes of the people. That is what God does when a man or woman gives him the right place in their lives. He lifts them up, encourages them, and delights in them. If we learn to rely upon God, are obedient to his direction, and keep him in proper perspective, he will bring confirmation into our lives that he is our God and that we are his people. God is all about making his identity in us as evident as it possibly can be!