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Burn the Boats

Burn the boats.” If you love history, then you perhaps know who said those words and the meaning behind that statement. It was Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, who commanded his men to “burn the boats” as they embarked on their conquest of the Aztec empire in the year of 1519. The meaning was to literally “burn the boats,” to impress on his men that “retreat” was NOT an option. They would only move forward, giving everything they had to be successful in their campaign against the Aztec empire. Cortés’ desire to be victorious would prompt him to utter those words “burn the boats,” implying “no turning back,” which I believe speaks volumes about one who is “all in” and committed to the cause before them.

This story prompted some spiritual thoughts. I first began thinking of the Israelites who had some conquests before them as they were traveling to the land promised to them by the Lord. We know that even after the Israelites had been delivered from Egyptian captivity, having crossed over the Red Sea that it wouldn’t be long before they would “retreat” in their desires to go back to Egypt, as they pined for the past. The Lord wanted them to “burn the boats.” The children of Israel would struggle with this and would suffer the consequences time and time again as they would “retreat” to their own ways, turning back away from the mission the Lord had before them.

As I was reading Joshua 3, there’s a statement that struck me. In verses 1-6: Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 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. And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.”

The children of Israel have been delivered from Egyptian captivity, they have endured the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and now were embarking on their journey to possess the promised land. The report of the spies who were sent out to “view the land, especially Jericho” (2:1) came to Joshua saying “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us” (2:24).

It was now time for the Israelites to make their way across the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. The journey they were embarking on was new territory to them, as noted in Joshua 3:4. As the children of Israel are preparing to tread this new path, a path they have not trekked before, it was imperative that they heeded the guidance and instruction given to them by the Lord, for they did not know the way or what was before them. It was for them to follow as the Lord went before them, guiding them. They would face great obstacles ahead of them, certainly great walls and giants, but if they would follow the Lord and His word, committed faithfully to Him, nothing would be impossible for them.

There’s a lot that could be mentioned, but one thing I would impress upon your mind is the importance of following the Lord. To follow the Lord and His will means that we are committed to Him who knows the way. Even with uncertainties, as well as obstacles, “paths” that we have not passed through before, we remain faithful to the Lord, focused on the goal of the land promised to us by the Lord (cf. John 14:1-6). We do as the Jesus says in Luke 9:23-24: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Following Jesus means to be committed, no turning back. In Luke 14 Jesus impressed the importance of “counting the cost” of being a disciple. It would mean that one needs to “burn the boats.” In Jesus explanation of the cost of discipleship in the latter verses of Luke 9, Jesus had those who said that they had some things to take care of before they could come and “follow Him.” Jesus said in Luke 9:62: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Friends, although Jesus is telling us to give all of ourselves, may we take comfort in the fact just as with the Lord with the Israelites in Joshua 3, He would go before them, lead them, guide them, comfort them, strengthen them. He knew the way. Interestingly Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He knows the way, because HE IS THE WAY! He will certainly lead us and guide us to victory over sin and death (cf. 1 Cor. 15), but we need to “burn the boats.” Just as the Israelites were told to move forward, we need to do the same, trusting in the One who goes before us with no “retreat” or “compromise” in mind, but to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), being “strong and of good courage” (Joshua 10:25), as we conquer the desires of the flesh and claim our relationship with our Lord who gave His all in all for our sins so we can have a citizenship in heaven (cf. Romans 6:1-6, Colossians 3; Philippians 4:17-21).

Won’t you “burn the boats” and keep your eyes focused on the mission before you? (cf. Hebrews 12:1,2; John 6:68)  If I can help you “burn the boats,” as you desire to live a life pleasing to God, let me know.

Something to think about. Have a great week! 😊

About Author

DJ Dickerson

Evangelist | La Porte Church of Christ

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