January 16, 2023

What Does Consecration Mean?

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

There’s a bit of doggerel which says, “Three moves are as good as a fire,” and anyone who has packed his possessions more than twice in a given year mumbles to himself, saying things such as, “What in the world am I keeping this for?” Nonetheless, you keep that old stuff–just in case you might need it some day.

It’s a very good thing that shrouds have no pockets and hearses are not followed by trailers or vans, because, like the Egyptians who buried their dead along with possessions for the afterlife, if we could, we’d try to take it all with us.

I’ve been pondering the lost significance of crossing the Jordan when the vast army of men and women, toughened by the blistering heat and burning sands of the Negev, were finally positioned on the east side of the Jordan, looking across the narrow ribbon of muddy water separating them from Canaan. You can read about this in Joshua 3 and 4 in your Old Testament.

Joshua–the one who had succeeded Moses–told them, “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River.” Three days later, the hour of march came. On the eve of that momentous day, Joshua gave them further directions: “Consecrate yourselves,” he said, “for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5).

It’s true that from generation to generation, the meaning of word changes. Catchwords, idioms, and certain phrases seem to lose their meaning, I fear that’s part of what contributes to our ignorance of what Joshua meant when he said, “Consecrate yourselves…”

Did that mean, “Get your washing done, fast!” or, “Ladies, get your hair put up and make sure your nails are painted. It’s party time!”? Negative. There are two spiritual concepts that are close to each other, yet different. One is consecration, the other, dedication. The latter, dedication, is something that you do as an act of the will. We say, “That businessman is really dedicated to his work!” We mean, he really pours himself into what he is doing. Nothing is wrong with that.

But what is consecration and who does it? Consecration is what you do as you prepare yourself spiritually for something which God wants to do. It’s like transferring ownership of your property to God Himself, realizing that He already owns it but wants to use it for a joyous celebration.

For three days, they pondered this whole matter. Forget three days; try clearing three hours for spiritual reflection and see what happens. There is value, though, in stopping what you are doing for spiritual reflection, inward purification, and moral house cleaning.

Busyness has become the curse of our age, with the voice of God overpowered by the noise and din of traffic, the ringing of phones, and the beep of pagers, to say nothing of the cacophony of voices–many of which are legitimate, but all of which distract your thinking about God and your relationship with Him.

There is no way of knowing whether any of the people regretted the decision to march across the Jordan, but I can tell you for a fact that for those who did consecrate themselves to what was before them, it was a joyful experience because they had transferred responsibility for what was ahead to Him who rolled back the waters of the Jordan and went before them. Consecration still precedes the awesome, wonderful things which God intends for tomorrow.
Resource reading: Psalm 51:10-17