Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 3, 2009

Stay Behind This Year

   When I was a kid, I used to spend lots of time with my grandparents. One of my favorite rooms in their home was my grandfather’s study — a room filled with books and maps, accented with bric-a-brac from around the world. One of the most fascinating items in the room was a little sealed bottle of water from Antarctica. My uncle Phil, a nuclear health physicist, had brought the water back from McMurdo Sound, Antarctica in 1962. That little bottle of water, mixed with my active childhood imagination, became my passport to the frozen continent. I would often daydream about what it must be like to journey to such a faraway place where few have ever walked.

   We have just stepped over the threshold into a new year — a place where we have not walked or passed before. Reflecting on my childhood dreams of Antarctica and on the year ahead reminded me of a favorite verse from the book of Joshua. As Joshua prepared to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, he ordered the Levitical priests to lead the procession by carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the national symbol of God’s presence, before the people. Joshua then ordered the people to follow the ark. “Do not come near it,” Joshua warned, “that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4).

   What a beautiful picture of proper priorities when venturing into the unknown: God leading and His people following. No one was permitted to walk or run ahead of the ark. Everyone was to follow God’s leadership because they were going to a place they did not know. It’s always dangerous to run ahead of God, especially when venturing to an unfamiliar place or facing new and challenging situations. Look again at Joshua’s instructions.

Do not come near it… | In other words, stay back! Walk in such a way that you can see the leadership of God. For the Israelites, this meant keeping a distance of 2,000 cubits (or about 1,000 yards) between them and the ark. The Ark of the Covenant would go before them, blazing the way into uncharted territory. Staying back and following God is certainly the surest way to get ahead.

that you may know the way by which you shall go… | Someone asked Daniel Boone, the American pioneer and trailblazer, if he had ever been lost. “No,” replied Boone, “but once I was a bit bewildered for three days.” Follow the leadership of God or you might end up lost, confused, and bewildered in the months ahead. Getting ahead of God is the surest way to get confused.

for you have not passed this way before. | As carefully as we may plan, we do not know what tomorrow holds. There are no human footprints yet on the sands of tomorrow. However, God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) and is already at tomorrow waiting for us. He knows better than we do the way we should go. So, seek and follow His leadership. Following His leadership is the surest way to stay on track.

   We have just taken our first steps into the New Year. We’ll certainly face many uncertainties as we venture into the uncharted months ahead. But we can also count on facing the promise of blessings as we choose to follow and obey God; the prospect of battles against the world, the flesh, and the Devil; and the possibility of bereavement. So, make the wise choice and stay behind this year. Let God lead the way!


  1. ‘Stay Behind This Year’

    I am keep reading through this passage and trying to understand. I am sure that here are lots of good things I can learn.

    I read Joshua 3:4- when we follow God. He shows us right path.

    Isaiah 57:15-……but also with him who is contrite and lowly in sprit, to revive the heart of the contrite.

    This is good message for the beginning of the year.


  2. This is a good message for all to hear…we need to stay on the path right behind God – close enough to hear His voice, never getting ahead or venturing off-course. I can still see these paths of righteousness on the side of the hills in Israel. They are there in my mind to remind me of staying ever so close to Him.
    Excellent reflection for the new year.

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