““Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.””
Joshua 3:4 (NKJV) Joshua’s instructions to the Israelites in how they are to follow the “ark of the covenant of the Lord your God” have always been somewhat confusing to me. Why would he tell them not to follow too closely? The answer is; I believe; contained in Exodus 19:12; whoever touches the mountain (where God’s presence rests) will die. God has placed a boundary around His presence across which no one may safely pass without His permission. This is to insure that we not treat Him as less than the holy and all powerful God that He is and begin to lose our fear and respect for His awesome presence. Some will say that we don’t have to fear God but merely respect Him. Imagine the scene in Exodus 19:16-20 when God called His people to gather around the mountain but not to cross the boundary lines; imagine then that this mountain is involved in an earthquake, it is on fire and smoke is billowing upwards, there is the deafening sound of a trumpet and God speaks to Moses from Heaven. In verse 16 it is said that all the people trembled; friends they did not tremble out of respect; they trembled because they were terrified at the nearness of God’s presence. It is painfully evident that most people today have lost (or never had) any fear and respect for God, treating Him as an absent grandfather type who is alright with most everything we do as long as we pay Him lip service. Nothing could be further from the truth; “For our God is a consuming fire.”(Hebrews 12:29); worthy of all fear and respect as well as our willful obedience.
The lesson for us all in Joshua 3:4 is that we are not to treat God too familiarly; not to presume that we are His equal in any sense of the word; to always remember that He alone is God and we are His creatures who were created to glorify Him through our joyful obedience to His word.
“I can almost hear the Trumpet”