Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
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.
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. 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.’”
Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 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. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 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.”
So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 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, 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 (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. (New International Version)
400 years of Egyptian slavery. Then deliverance from bondage. Another 40 years of wandering around the desert. It might have seemed to the ancient Israelites that getting to the Promised Land would never happen.
How can we know God is with us? Will divine promises really hold up? Can I keep trusting in the Lord, even though it is taking so darned long to get where I need to be?
Through yet another miracle of the parting of the waters and walking on dry land to get to the other side, Joshua and people of Israel (and us) are given a visual, tactile, experiential way of trusting God. By this indelible encounter, the people will know that the living God is among them, and without fail, the Lord will drive out all obstacles and opposition to entering and taking the land.
All the dramatic events that occurred were for the sake of the people, so that they would know that God is with them and will give them victory. To heighten the experience, the Jordan River was at flood stage at the time of the crossing. If you have ever been on the bank of a raging river, you know how significant a miracle this really was to behold.
Today, we may not have the experience of seeing a rushing river stop and crossing over on dry ground; yet we have these stories that bear witness to the truth that God is among us, that God will do what was promised, and that God will give us victory.
Know that the victory came after a long liminal period of moving from one reality to another. A “liminal space” (an intermediate position characterized by transition, a place where things are either coming or going) is where the Israelites had to hang out for a very long time. Now, the promises were about to be realized.
Miracles and wonders and victories are neither easy nor cheap. They come as a result of significantly hard movements from the past into the future. In other words, our present experiences can be quite adverse and difficult. If we lose where we’ve come from, and where we’re going, we may too easily lose heart or become afraid and simply give up all hope.
That’s why God gives divine promises, so that we will be sustained with God’s words until the promised time is realized. It’s our job to encourage one another and remind each other of those promises; they are meant to buoy up our flagging spirits when things get rough.
So, keep looking and praying for that miracle. Just understand that you may need to persevere in faith, patience, and holiness for a while before it happens.
Blessed and holy God, continue the good work begun in me, so that I may increase daily in wholeness, integrity, and strength. I rejoice in your goodness and think and do that which pleases you, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.