1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 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. 4 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 [a] between you and the ark; do not go near it."
5 Joshua told the people "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."
6 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.
7 And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.' "
9 Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD -the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap."
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea [b] ) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
We have to know everything these days, don't we?
The Israelites didn't have a clue where they were going. All they knew was they were to follow the Ark of the Covenant.
That's having a real, living and breathing relationship with God. If we don't have that level of trust, we will never fully follow him the way we should, or to all the places he wants us to go. We must learn to be humble to get to that level of faith. Having to know everything is pride rising up and telling us that we deserve to know where we are going, what to expect along the way, and even convincing us that we could do a better job of being in charge. In essence, we are telling God to follow us.
In verse 5 we see that the people are to prepare themselves for the Lord to use them. This is so important, and I think it is a step that we don't think much about. We want to be used by God, but we don't want to look too closely at ourselves. But, God can't use something that is already full of something else. We should regularly look at our heart, our thought life, our spiritual health, and our physical health. We have to get rid of the things that are not glorifying to God before he can use us. We may have to address things that we would prefer to hide, but if we don't, we will not be in a place to be used by God. Even the smallest thing, when neglected, becomes the source of great struggle. It can even lead to a disconnect from God. Just as faith like a mustard seed can move mountains, so can sin like a speck become our undoing. Check everything about yourself and remove anything that isn't of God.
When we are prepared to be used by God, use us he will! Verse 7 shows us that God is very ready and very able to use us. Once we are in a place of being prepared, he will work a mighty truth through us for others to see. You may be inclined to think that God can't use you for something big, something amazing, but you would be wrong. God can use anyone, anytime, anywhere and in any circumstance to bring glory to his name! Oh, and make no mistake. It will be very apparent that we do what we do not through our own power or design, but through the one that created us all. His power. His glory.
The most important part of this, I think, is in verses 13-16.
The priests had to step out on faith and trust. The raging waters were fearsome and unknown; uncontrollable and dangerous, but the priests had to step in before the waters would stop. There really was no guarantee that the waters would stop. The only thing they had was faith in God. Faith to do something like that can not be weak. It must be strong, and it must be complete.
Just like the priests, God is ready to do mighty miracles in our life as well, but we have to have the faith to step out so that he can work through us.
In verse 17, we are told that the priests stood firm on dry ground. Yes, the water was held back, but you have to imagine, there was probably a wall of water right behind them. It was also probably raging, swirling, ready to surge forward at the slightest command from God. I think that would have been just the tiniest bit nerve-wracking. Don't you? But the priests stood there. Stood firm.
Once we are in the middle, we can't just walk off. We have to stand firm until it's done. Our obedience, resolve, dedication and perseverance can make the difference to those God sent to journey with us. If the priests had faltered in any of those areas, the waters would have surged forward, taking the Israelites that were crossing with it.
God will call us again and again to be faithful to stand for someone else. It is a huge responsibility. One misstep from us could cause pain to someone else. We have to be strong and solid in our faith.
Does that mean that we will never get it wrong? That our faith will never falter? No, I wish it did. But when we build and grow our trust and faith in God, those times are fewer and further between. God is ever faithful to be generous and compassionate with us.
In those times we can again fall back on God's promise in Isaiah 55:9:
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."as well as 1 Samuel 16:7b:
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."God knows we will get it wrong. Make the wrong choice. Forget to have faith. But he also knows what is in our hearts. He will know our intent. He will honor that. Even when we fail, he will know why we wanted to try, and why we will want the opportunity to try again.
I am encouraged again and again as I read through scripture. Not in the way you would think. I am encouraged because no matter how many times the Israelites got it wrong, God was faithful to them. I know he will be faithful to me as well. The God of the Israelites then is the same God who walks with me now.
I think sometimes we forget that.
The same God that could hold back raging waters, deliver an entire nation safely into a land that he held for them, and that repeatedly forgave and blessed a stubborn people, is the same God that I try to put in a box of understanding. He is unknowable, unchanging and unending.
Even though it isn't good to go backward, sometimes it's good to look back on the things that God had done already. If you are wanting to step out in faith, but are not sure where to start, perhaps looking back on all the ways that God has already been good to you will be a great way to begin.
Oh, and if you are like me, you have to take God out of that little box of understanding that you keep trying to fit him in. He is way to big for it. Just let go and step out on faith.
Be like the priests of the Israelites...jump into some raging water with both feet.
he promises he will be there.