Present and accounted for

Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
- Joshua 3:6

The ark of the covenant served Israel as a visible symbol of God’s presence with his people. When they wandered in the wilderness, the ark was with them and so they knew that God was with them. When they fought battles in the wilderness, the ark was with them and so they knew that God was with them. When they crossed over into the Promised Land, the ark would go with them and so would their God.

The ark of the covenant contained sacred relics that reminded the people of God’s faithfulness. The priests carried it. In one story later in the scriptures, a man touches the ark and dies as a result. But the people never confused the ark of the covenant with the God of the covenant. The ark was only ever a symbol.

The ark led the way because God led the way. God went first. First into the river. First into the risk. First into the danger. In Joshua chapter 1, God had promised that his presence would go with Joshua and the people into the land. God’s presence was fuel for the strong and courageous life he was calling Joshua to live. God’s people acted courageously because they believed that God went ahead of them and with them.

We live lives devoid of symbols of God’s presence. Chances are high that no one carries an ark ahead of you into your workplace or into your school or into your kitchen. The places of danger and challenge that we enter into every day can so, so easily seem like they’re places where the presence of God is absent. But the same God who went ahead of the Israelites goes ahead of us.

No matter where you wander or where you roam, no matter where your courage-journey takes you, you will never be beyond the reach or presence of the God who loves you. He’s with you all the way, everywhere and every day.

Create for yourself a symbolic reminder that God is with your today. It could be a marker on your hand or a piece of jewelry. It could be a sticker on a cell phone case or a quiet watch alarm. It doesn’t matter what you decide. But pick something so that you can benefit from the awareness that God goes with you wherever you may go.

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