Footsteps of Faith Messenger – Issue 251
Some people live in the past. I find myself doing exactly that from time to time. I sometimes catch myself thinking back to my wrestling days in High School, and can remember as if it was yesterday wrestling my last competitive match as a Senior facing the soon-to-be-crowned State Champion, who, by the way, ended up beating me by 2 points. I think back to, what we now call, the “Hey Days,” of my group, Dreamer’s, musical performing career singing to forty-five thousand fans, and signing thousands of autographs until our writing hands were literally cramped. And, I think about business days when we were growing by leaps and bounds and revenues were really good.
Do you think back to times when you were on your game and life was really grand? I prefer “being on top” memories to bad ones. Mountain top experiences make great memories upon which to recall and dwell!
Other people live in the future. Entrepreneurs certainly do that, always planning, building, and projecting on how it’s going to be “some day.” Others focus on the future so much so that the present, “today,” is somewhat ignored, serving only as a bridge to future days when things will be much easier – when finances will be better; when there will be less obstacles; and when “we can relax because there won’t be any problems.” Ah, days when a gently swinging hammock, a cool breeze, and a glass of ice-cold lemonade await!
Still others live day to day, not consumed by either the past or the future, but thinking primarily about the pleasurable conversations, comforts, and recreations that are going to occur today! What movie are we going to see? Where are we going to eat? What football games can we watch? You know, I just can’t wait for today’s nap! Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
The history of the children of Israel during their desert years contains stories of how many of them longed for “the good old days” back in Egypt. Due to the constant challenges facing them in the desert, many turned their thoughts to days past when they lived in Egypt – quick to forget the hardship and oppression they were forced to endure as slaves under the ruthless rule of the tyrannical, Pharaoh. They were now so miserable in the desert that they literally cursed Moses for taking them away from the comfort of their past life, even though they were slaves! The phrase, “a known hell is preferred to unknown heavens” comes to mind. Even though God was leading them to the Promised Land, too many Israelites resorted to grumbling and complaining along the way.
Moses led the children of Israel in the desert for 40 long years. He was God’s man without question. When he died, the able and courageous Joshua, at the ripe old age of 80, took over the helm. It was a momentous change of leadership – the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.
Those 40 years in the desert found Israel “In-Between Crossings,” and not just regarding the change in leadership. They had crossed the Red Sea to escape Egypt and Pharaoh’s army, and they were now about to cross the Jordan River to enter Canaan, the Promised Land – the land that flowed with milk and honey. The Red Sea, their first Crossing, had to be at the same time both a stressful and triumphant event. It is one of the most important events in our Judeo/Christian heritage, recounted on multiple occasions throughout the rest of Scripture.
But at the end of their desert experience, the people of Israel were faced with a new “Crossing.” No tribe can enter foreign land even when fulfilling God’s promise of occupation without having to seriously plan for the uprooting of the indigenous population. The inhabitants would certainly not acquiesce without a battle. Indeed, war loomed in front of Joshua and his tribe.
Surely, one of the biggest concerns was the actual crossing of the Jordan River itself, which at several points is a mile wide and 12 feet deep. Scouts could have found a suitable location, but even at the shortest distance between shore lines, there was no bridge or ferry (or boat) of any kind, certainly not enough that would facilitate transport of the two million men, women, and children and all their possessions. And due to the melting of the mountain snows and the steep drop in the river’s elevation, the Jordan’s flow rate would have been swift and ominous. That their timing was not optimal, but would present a difficult logistical challenge, is confirmed in Joshua 3:15a, “…the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest.”
I reviewed several wonderful articles dealing with the question, “could have the drying of the Jordan River that gave the Israelite’s safe passage, been the result of a natural phenomenon, such as an earthquake?” One author details the geography of the Jordan River and asserts, that yes, the river lies on a tectonic fault line not much different than our San Andreas Fault in California. Sizable earthquakes and river stoppages have occurred four times in the last century alone in the same area; so, yes, the stoppage of water could have been explained as a phenomenon due to an earthquake. But the timing of such an earthquake, and the stoppage of water upstream, would have to be described as a miracle in and of itself. That water-flow stopped and dry land appeared coinciding exactly when the Priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant entered the Jordan, and ending precisely when the Priests carried it out on the other side, can only be explained as a miracle of God, earthquake or not!
If it was an earthquake, the timing of the movement of tectonic plates leading up to precisely those moments that the Priests entered the water, would have been eons in the making. Likewise, the waters piling up perfectly and precisely in a heap downstream, is nothing short of a phenomenal miracle. And the story recounts that the waters resumed their torrent immediately after the Priests walked out of the river onto the other side.
God speaks to us throughout this story as He does throughout His Word. Several key verses leapt off the pages as I studied this Scripture. In Joshua 3:5: Joshua tells the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Consecrate means to sacredly prepare and dedicate your will, your mind, your purpose, and your actions for God, because, as Joshua prophesies, “God is about to perform a mighty miracle!” Joshua is saying, “Prepare yourselves for an incredible miracle that only God can and will perform.”
And as we read further, God did indeed perform an incredible miracle. The Jordan became dry and the children of Israel, preceded by the Priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, crossed over into the long-awaited Promised Land.
Joshua didn’t know how he was going to cross the mighty Jordan. And, he didn’t question God, but rather followed the Ark of the Covenant, the embodiment and symbol of the promises and presence of God Himself. Joshua only knew that God was in control, and it turned out that God indeed provided the miraculous crossing at exactly the right time, which added to His (God’s) own glory. Joshua didn’t know how God was going to deliver the Promised Land to him and the Israelites, but He knew that God’s promises were true, and that He would come through in His power, might and proper timing.
At the same time, Joshua didn’t know how the upcoming battles with the indigenous peoples would be won; but He did know that God was leading and would make His people victorious – all to His glory. Joshua didn’t question. Joshua didn’t complain. Joshua didn’t moan. He simply trusted in God, and allowed Him to lead Israel through their difficult Crossing.
Have you endured some form of bondage in your life? Have you been in oppressive situations from which you thought you could never escape? Can you look back and see where, when, and how God miraculously provided, and you were able to experience a great Crossing from the old into the new? Are you able to look back and know that that miraculous Crossing could only be attributed to God Almighty – that it could only have been Him that you were carried through?
My friend, just like Israel, your and my life is full of Crossings. We are likely, today, in-between Crossings. You’ve had to accomplish the equivalent of crossing a great sea or river in your past, and you have a Crossing of similar epic dimensions in your future yet to even be imagined – but it’s coming. In our eyes, those Crossings and what it takes to traverse the Crossings will, at first, seem utterly impossible. The fact is, under our own device and our own strength, that approaching Crossing is indeed impossible.
Your next Crossings, my next Crossings, are real and inevitable. But we have the answer. We have the confidence we need, because we can absolutely be prepared for our Crossings. When we consecrate ourselves and dedicate our lives to God’s sacred purpose and mission for our lives, we will begin to take on a new resolve, a new fortitude, supernatural ability, and unnatural courage. The way will be clear when we choose to recognize that God is in control and our lives, our battles, and our Crossings – they all belong to Him. It is up to us to allow God to go before us, just as the Israelites did. They followed the Ark of the Covenant, and we can do the same today.
The Crossing of the Jordan was a major miracle, but that was not the end of the story. As we continue to read God’s Word, we see that the children of Israel were in for many, many more Crossings.
What was true for Israel is true for you and me. Some of our Crossings lead to abundance and times of peace. I have no doubt that you have other mountaintop experiences yet to occur. Other Crossings could lead to further challenge, and even bondage, as Israel would have to fight many more times to the point of being subjugated and taken prisoner by marauding, attacking nations. You and I, perhaps today, find our selves once again “In Between Crossings. But be strong and courageous, because the God of Israel Who led His people through so many Crossings, is the same God Who leads you and me! God Almighty will carry us through, from the old to the new!
Just because we’ve survived one Crossing, doesn’t mean there won’t be more. The hammock, the little drinks with the umbrellas on the beach may actually happen at times, but to think that life will at some point turn into a permanent vacation is a figment of a not-too-realistic, and certainly overly optimistic imagination. What is more likely is that our lives will be filled with testing and Crossings. That may at first seem like bad news; but be assured, God will provide the way and the strength needed for each of life’s Crossings. And if we are consecrated to Him, if we are ready, each crossing will be a time on which we’ll look back and say, “That can only have been accomplished by God! Thank you, Lord!”
Three more verses and we’re done…
Immediately after the Crossing of the Jordan, the conquest of Jericho ominously awaited. But prior to the battle of Jericho, another miracle took place. (Read Joshua 5:13-15)
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
For those of you who know your Bible, you know that God miraculously overthrew Jericho, giving it to the Israelites using a weaponry and strategy that would not have occurred to Joshua’s military leaders – trumpets and shouting! It always tickles me to think about Joshua laying out God’s game plan to his military leaders.
Today, as we enter into a new year, and perhaps a new chapter of our life, I want to challenge you to do something quite different. I want to ask you to consecrate yourself to God’s purpose for your life in preparation for your next Crossing. You may say, “I don’t know what that purpose is, and I don’t know what my next Crossing will look like,” to which I would reply, you don’t have to know. These three verses tell the story of a human being just like you and me, Joshua, who was faced with an uncertain and obstacle-laced future. All he knew was that God was with him and would provide for him amidst his Crossings, challenges, and battles.
I encourage you to recognize that your next crossing is not a question of “if”, but rather, a question of “when,” and that you will undeniably need God to provide His hand of guidance and strength in order to successfully negotiate that Crossing.
Right now, if you want to consecrate yourself to God, you may want to close your eyes. I want you to know that when you consecrate yourself by trusting in, and making a sacred commitment to your God, who has already sacredly committed to you – that you are at that same point that Joshua was – you are standing on holy ground. That ground is wherever you are now. If you commit today to consecrating yourself and your family to God Almighty, would you take your shoes off right now as I pray for us? That’s right, take your shoes off right now, at this very moment, and pray this prayer…
Lord, at this moment, we all know that we are sinners in need of your holiness and purity. We stand here on holy ground and commit our ways, our present, and our future to you – all that we are and all that we do. Lord, we recognize that where You are is holy ground, land, and air, and we want to be in that place and that place alone, always. Lord, help us to recognize your greatness and presence as we stand here today and as we live out the rest of our days in this life. We know that great Crossings await us. And we also know that you still perform miracles every day. We are expectant of incredible miracles in our personal lives. For your presence and miracles yet to come we give you all the glory. We thank you that we stand on holy ground! We thank You that You will be in the Crossings. Armed with that knowledge, we move forward to do Your will. We pray this prayer in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, amen and amen.