Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days, the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people. When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, 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. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it. Joshua 3:1-4
Joshua and the second generation of the children of Israel finally came to the time of crossing the Jordan River to possess the land God had given them. In order to do so, they still had a vital lesson to learn. As we have seen, their parent’s choice to follow their own ways resulted in their own death. Now that Moses was dead, Joshua’s challenge was to teach them a whole new way–how to follow the Lord and be guided in paths of righteousness (see Ps. 23:3). What was he going to do?
Joshua and the Israelites could be compared to the “cast sheep.” They were at a critical time where they were unable to survive without the help of their Shepherd. They desperately needed to be guided. They needed a miracle to get across the river at flood stage. If they had been able to do this in their own strength, the previous generation would have done it. Likewise, in our lifetime, we have many rivers to cross that require a God-sized miracle.
Only through experience, do we learn to hear the Shepherd’s voice more distinctly and to follow His will as He goes before us (see John 10:4). Three lights show the way: His Word, the Holy Spirit’s nudging in our heart which includes counsel of Godly Christian friends, and circumstances. These can be easily remembered as three harbor lights. For our purposes, the ship is our life, and the harbor lights are three specific guiding points we must be aware of for every decision we make. If we, as pilot of our own ship, disregard these lights our ship will crash.
Lighthouses, or harbor lights, are landmarks for sailors, serving as big street signs for the ocean, and all are different, depending upon what their harbor is like. The lighthouse purpose is to keep boats and ships from running ashore or crashing into rocks. Each one has its own distinct signature light, allowing the ship’s pilot to pinpoint where he is on the map by the particular signature lights.
We are the Pilot of Our Ship as it is Guided by Our Captain
Before we look at the harbor lights, we need to understand what it takes to be a maritime pilot, because that is who we are. He is “a person who is qualified to assist the master of a ship to navigate when entering or leaving a port. He guides the vessel through traffic, rocks, reefs, shoals and narrow channels to its destination.”19
“The first step to becoming a pilot is to first be a professional mariner with drive and determination. There is no direct path. There are no ‘pilot’ schools or any training system that takes a totally unfamiliar person off the street and turns them into a maritime pilot.”20 The only way to learn is by gaining knowledge through experience–having been placed in a situation of need to know. In Oregon, only individuals who have hands-on knowledge of currents, tides, soundings, bearings and distances of shoals, rocks, bars, points of landings, lights and fog signals are allowed to direct large vessels on certain waters of the state.21
The next requirement of a pilot is to trust in the captain (our master, Jehovah-Rohi) completely. Kathleen’s father had been a pilot. She was flooded with memories when she entered a ship. The captain welcomed her, and then turned his attention to the pilot. She said, “Their immediate trust in each other was evident. The captain is always in charge of his ship . . . . A trusting relationship is critical to a successful docking.”22
The final attributes of a good pilot are summarized by what Kathleen says of her father. “I learned much from his lifestyle: patience, a matching love of water, respect for weather, and listening skills. Dad was never in a hurry . . . the pilot’s work is never routine.”23
Likewise, following Jesus is never routine when we are willing to risk all we have to follow. A disciple of Jesus Christ must leave behind old familiar ways, the ruts going around the same old mountain, pulling up anchor and embarking into the unknown, uncharted waters. The only way to know which way to go is to listen to the master captain’s voice. He promises us, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isa. 30:21). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isa: 43:2).
We are Guided by three Harbor Lights
The value of pilots is realized when they judge an approach correctly, anticipate accurately and react effectively. One particular harbor has three lighthouses that guide to a safe docking in a narrow channel. The lining up of these three harbor lights, over time, reveals God’s will and our Shepherd’s guidance:
HARBOR LIGHT #1: THE WORD – 80%
The Lord spoke to Joshua. He initiated the conversation, as He always does. Joshua listened, as he always did:
Be strong and courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. -Joshua 1: 7-8
God can do whatever He wants to do–by speaking as He did in the Old Testament, or sending an angel to give encouragement or instructions; however, the main way He speaks is to “cause our thoughts to become agreeable to His will” (Prov. 16:3 Amplified). Of course, this is when we have committed and trusted our works wholly to Him. His voice comes to our minds, as a still, small voice.
The problem lies in deciphering other voices. One is the loud voice of “self.” Another is the demanding, urgent voice of the Evil One. The only way to discern which voice we are hearing is by searching whether it contradicts Scripture, and waiting to see if the other lights line up, giving us freedom to act on the intuition or impression we think we have heard from God.
It has been said that God speaks from His Word to us in our everyday need for guidance at the rate of 80%, 10% by the counsel of the Holy Spirit and Godly counselors, and 10% through circumstances. Experience proves this true.
Many times though, problems of knowing God’s will lie in not knowing what the Bible says. The ideal would be to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but how many have? It is also not always wise to take a Scripture out of context, by pulling one out that speaks to our need.24 However, this is a way God speaks to us today. The Bible is “God’s effort to reveal Himself to humanity.”25 Jesus is alive, and He can get His Word and will to us however He desires, especially if we are seriously seeking and asking Him to speak to us. Even Billy Graham says he can open his Bible anywhere and God will show him something.
Marlene was Guided by The Word
The Lord spoke clearly to Marlene and guided her from the pages of her Bible. She was writing a book, and was halfway through. She kept procrastinating until she was discouraged, doubting her ability to write it. Satan taunted her, “And what makes you think you can find a publisher if you get it finished?”
One spring day, she sat down beside a stream, “God please speak to me,” she prayed. The wind blew the pages of her Bible to 2 Corinthians 8:10-11: “I want to suggest that you finish what you started to do . . . . Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now.”26
What happened to Marlene is the quickening of the Word. Webster’s dictionary defines it as, “to cause to burn more intensely; to cause to be enlivened; to come to life.” When we are using the B-E-A-R Facts of Faith, B-elieving God will speak, E-xpecting Him to speak, A-sking in faith that He will, we will R-eceive His word to us. Remember, Jesus tells us, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
When it was time to cross the river, Joshua and all the Israelites rose early in the morning, and “set out from Shittim, and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over” (Josh. 1:1). What were they going to do? “Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God'” (Josh. 3:9).
Rising early with the Lord comes before getting to the river’s edge. Lodging there with Him comes before passing over. Removing ourselves from past endeavors has to come before arriving somewhere better. The only way to get there is by scheduling God’s Word as number one priority in our day; thus, our life.
After three days, Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Josh. 3:5). Consecrate means “to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony.”27 It is hearing the Word of the Lord that brings this devotion and commitment to obey–leaving all self interest to follow Him. With consecration brings a cleansing from the Word where our heart’s desire is to ask and, “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:24).
19. http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/BMP/becoming_a_pilot.shtml (accessed April 18, 2006).
22. http://www.atlanticpilotage.com/main/content/newsarticle03.htm (accessed April 18, 2006).
24. Every Christian needs to learn to study and correctly handle the Word of Truth (see 2 Tim. 2:15). For the new student of the Bible, Halley’s Bible Handbook is a must. It was the first Bible help published (1973) and has been a best seller since. Dr. Halley’s goal was to help Christians to not only know about the Bible, but to get to know the God of the Bible. Anne Graham Lotz teaches one of the best ways to read, study, and apply a passage of Scripture in order to know what God is speaking to us personally. Her method is outlined in The Vision of His Glory workbook of the seven-session video series of the Book of Revelation-only one of her many studies available.
25. Halley, Henry Hampton, Halley’s Bible Handbook, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000), p.11.
26. Marlene Bagnull, Write His Answer (ACW Press, Phoenix, AZ, 1999), p.120.
27. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary-Eleventh Edition, (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, MA 2003), p. 265.