Crossing the Jordan
I began reading the book of Joshua recently. Early on in the book, the people of Israel approached the river Jordan. In order to take the land that God had promised them, they had to cross. At around 100 feet in width during normal conditions, the Israelites approached whilst the river had burst its banks and was in flood (as it was around harvest time) We are told that the priests were 1000 yards in front of the people, and that they were in the middle of the rivers. That’s a minimum of 2000 yards to cross. Imagine trying to cross that distance with one or two people, let alone a nation.
We are all familiar with the account. The priest carried the Ark of the Covenant into the middle of the river, and the waters dried up.
The people walked across on dry land.
I wanted to share some thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading.
The priests had to take a step of faith – the Jordan was in flood at that time of year.
God had spoken (through Joshua) – but they still had to step out. It wasn’t until they stepped into the river that the waters parted. Sometimes even when we hear clearly, and have a course plotted out for us by God, we don’t get the final confirmation until we take that step of faith, until we get our feet wet.
It was the priest that had to take that first step. The people were gathered, all ready to go. There was no sense of trying to rush things though, of trying to get across before the priests had led the way.
The third thought that I had was that the priests were 1000 yards in front of the people they were leading.
It’s often lonely at the front. Often, leaders are standing alone, having taken a step of faith, having showed the people the way. At 1000 yards away it can be difficult to see what is going on clearly. The priests would have had a much better vision of what lay on the other side of the river than the people. Are you ready to trust your leaders? They are further along the path than you are and have been shown what lies beyond where you currently are.
I also find it interesting that in standing firm in the middle of the river, they allowed the people to pass them by. To go and take the land on the other side whilst they stood firmly where God had told them to be. Protecting the people, ensuring that before they moved on everyone was across who was going across. Are the leaders who are reading this willing to hold the ladder that you have put in place and allow others to climb it before you? Perhaps that means that they will see the things you have longed to see sooner than you. Are you prepared for that to happen?
It takes tremendous courage to take the first step of faith into the unknown. How much more courage does it take to stand whilst those you lead are forging on ahead? I love how the priests were resolute in their task. Not only were they making sure that everyone got across, they were also ensuring that those that had crossed didn’t try to go back. The way forward was the only way that they could inherit the land that God had promised. There was nothing for them if they went back to the wilderness, back to Egypt.
The priests did the job they were asked to do. If they had tried to rush it or had moved forward rather than standing in the middle, the people would have perished, just like the Egyptians when the Red Sea parted to allow the Israelites to cross. In standing in that middle ground, they were protecting the people. Your leaders are doing the same for you.
Let me encourage you to pray for your leaders. I would suggest that leaders outside the church need prayer too, as leadership can be a very lonely role, even if it is done as part of a team.
There were further instructions for the people after they had crossed. They had to go back and collect stones in order to build a memorial to what God had done for them that day. All that time the priests stood there. Waiting for the purposes of God to be fulfilled. You might wonder why your leaders seem to lead you somewhere then pause for a while. Some of you will be excited to move on to the next thing, but good leaders will often wait for a season to allow everything that God has promised or commanded to come to pass. It is good to maintain a momentum, but it is also good to wait. Isaiah wrote “those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength, they will rise up on wings like the eagle. They will walk and not grow weary they will run and not feint.”
Once the priests had moved on out of the water the way behind them was shut off. The waters started to flow again. The way back was blocked.
Once the task/mission/ direction from God has been accomplished it is important to head to the next one (in this case Jericho.) This was to be the first of many battles after the miracle of the waters parting.
The people had waited knowing the importance of prayer, worship and leadership in getting where they were supposed to be. Until the priests came to set the atmosphere for the next battle, there was no point in going forward.
We cannot take strongholds alone. Prayer & worship are essential. We need leaders that are prepared to model what to do. That might mean looking a bit silly in front of perceived wisdom. No battle tactician would have suggested walking around a city singing and playing your trumpet would be successful. When your leaders seem to be modelling something a bit new, or different to how they have done things before, are you willing to follow in their footsteps, believing that they have heard from God?
The concept of submitting to anyone, especially leaders isn’t a popular thing these days especially outside the church. I think that the reason for that is that we have been subject to some bad examples who had demanded submission. The Greek word hupetasso means to arrange oneself under. There is a sense that arranging under a leader is not burdensome or difficult, but actually something that brings joy, comfort and security.
May I encourage you to submit to your leaders, as a choice, not because they expect it. Choose to follow, even if that means getting your own feet wet, even if it means standing up to be counted, even if it means doing something that the world may laugh at you for.
But most of all, pray for them.