Have you ever used the phrase “Do it for Johnny”? When I was about 10, I yelled this slogan in a soccer game, after one of our best players (named Johnny) left the game with an injury, not even knowing where the line came from. Only recently I found out the line is from the movie version of The Outsiders, based on the book by S.E. Hinton. As the character Dallas, Matt Dillon’s delivery of the line (9 second clip below) is classic and everyone should give it a try at least once. I’ll wait if you want to do it now.
Now let’s return to the scene of yesterday’s post, where Joshua was about to lead Israel over the Jordan. Imagine someone in the crowd yelling “let’s do it for Moses!” In The Outsiders, Dallas was rallying his troops to action against a rival gang, who had killed Johnny, so maybe remembering that Moses didn’t make it would inspire Israel? Sadly, that would be completely missing the point.
Knowing why has to do with knowing why Moses wasn’t there. While leading Israel, he decided out of frustration to add his own input to God’s easy instructions. The story is from Numbers 20, where Israel was in the wilderness, but there was no water (that they knew of). Moses and Aaron, responding to the ongoing grumbling of the people, went to God asking for a solution. God responded not with anger or judgement, but with a provision for His people. Moses was told: “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” What Moses actually did was to say “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then “Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.” Therefore, God told Moses he would die before Israel made it to the promised land “because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold me as holy at the waters before their eyes.”
Why exactly Moses actions deserved such a harsh rebuke is debated, but it’s clear that Moses mixed what he wanted with what God told him to do, and therefore tried to take glory that belonged to God for himself. Moses led God’s people for a time, but their success was from God. Moses learned, and we learn through him, that honoring God first, above all others, is necessary to receive God’s promises. No honor for God; no promised land.
In Joshua 3:5, Joshua tells the people before miraculously crossing the Jordan to “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” He was not telling them to consecrate themselves to Joshua as Moses’ replacement leader. The point wasn’t to transfer loyalty from Moses to Joshua, but the point was to eliminate all loyalty other than to God. Israel wasn’t supposed to consecrate itself to Moses, then when he was gone, consecrate itself to Joshua. Israel needed to focus on glorifying God alone and eliminate any other motives from their hearts. The first time Israel tried to enter the promised land, mixed motives resulted in 40 years wandering the wilderness.
So, whatever your preferred slogan, whether it’s: “Do it for Johnny”, “Do it for [insert any leader]” or “Let’s go [fill in the blank],” it will be replaced with only one in eternity, where God will welcome His people from all tribes and nations:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!” – Revelation 4:8
Therefore, “Consecrate yourselves” because although none of us will achieve perfection this side of paradise, Jesus declared in Matthew 10:33 that “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
Crossing the Jordan was hard, and sometimes life is hard on purpose.
Sometimes if we want to cross a river, God wants to teach us first how to trust Him and Him alone.
Soli Deo Gloria