Today’s Scripture: Joshua 3
It finally happens! The Bible has been building up to it for four books. It’s been a 40-year-long drumroll and now, FINALLY, the Israelites get to enter the Promised Land. Only one thing stands between them and their new home: the Jordan River. The Jordan River is usually a pretty gentle river, but our scripture tells us that the Israelites arrive at the time of the harvest and the river is flooded. That would mean it was churning and turbulent and quite dangerous.
I imagine Joshua was planning to have the Israelites wait until a more reasonable time to cross, but God has other plans. God tells Joshua that the people are to cross the river on that very day. Joshua must have been an amazingly faithful man, because rather than questioning God’s plan, he chooses to trust. You’ll remember that back in Exodus, Moses parted the Red Sea with his staff, while the people watched. This time, the people won’t get to be bystanders; God expects them to participate along with Joshua. God instructs them that the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant have to walk out into the dangerous, turbulent river and trust that God will show up and stop the waters. To do so, they would risk not only their lives; but also something even more valuable: the Ark of the Covenant, the most precious possession of their people. The Ark of the Covenant was where the Israelites believed the very presence of God rested. Imagine being asked to walk out into a churning river carrying your most prized possession, something that represented your past and your ancestors and also represents your future and your children’s future. Would you do it? Would you be willing to take that risk? I hope I could, but I’m not sure. The priests, too, must been people of great faith, because they do not hesitate. They step out in faith (or step in in faith, rather). It is only when they step out in faith and trust that the miracle happens and they are able to walk on dry ground.
Friends, we all have our own Jordan Rivers to cross, whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual. We all come across obstacles and fears in our life that hold us back from something new, something better for us. Perhaps some of us are afraid of being vulnerable in a new relationship because of the hurt we have experienced in the past. Or maybe some of us are unwilling to acknowledge that we need help because we are afraid of sacrificing our independence. Or maybe some of us are staring at a raging river of resentment and anger and have been unwilling to forgive a loved one. Whatever your river is, the good news is that God is with you and you will not need to cross it alone. When we do our part and step out in faith, God will show up and make the journey manageable. It may not be easy – I imagine that the Israelites still had to deal with some mud and muck along the way – but they were blessed because of their journey and were brought safely to a new, better life.
What is your River Jordan? Is today the day you might make the first step in crossing it?