Read Joshua 3:7-17
Also read about feeding the multitudes.
400 years in captivity.
40 years in the wilderness
4 days camped next to the Jordan River at flood stage.
The spies sent to Jericho had returned and reported to Joshua that the people were melting in fear because of God’s people drawing near.
The people in the land that was promised to Abram’s descendants knew that God’s people were coming and they were afraid.
But there was this river that was raging at flood stage. A few spies could manage to get across. There are always some healthy young men who volunteer for the most dangerous missions; but what about the people as a whole. Fighters, families, livestock, tents, pots and pans, and other possessions made a fording operation all the more difficult.
These people had been wandering around in the desert for 40 years. They had not been working on their amphibious assault skills or riverine operations. The last time they faced anything similar, God just parted the waters, but that was 40 years ago.
And so with the mantle of leadership passed from Moses to Joshua, Joshua comes up against his first major leadership challenge.
He could have said, let’s just camp here for a couple months and then make an easy crossing.
He could have said, let’s just go for it and get across with as many people and as much stuff as we can.
He could have said, ok, who here has ever built a bridge?
What Joshua did was to send his officers thoughout the camp giving instructions to follow the ark when it passed by them, careful not to follow too closely.
God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because he would lead the people into the land.
Almost 4 decades before, Joshua had eyes to see victory in the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb could see this victory. The others could only see the size of the enemy.
Joshua trusted the size of his God.
Now the time had come to enter the land.
It was a land that Joshua had not lived in. All he really knew was that it was thataway across the Jordan River.
So Joshua had his officers tell the people when the ark passes your encampment, follow the ark at a distance of about a kilometer and keep going thataway. He doesn’t know all of the details of what to do but he knows what to do and where to go.
Cross the Jordan and take possession of the land. Some fighting may be required.
And as Joshua made ready to cross the Jordan and enter the land, the Lord spoke to him. He told Joshua that this day he will exalt Joshua as he did Moses so the people will know that the Lord is with him.
The Lord told Joshua to send the priests and the ark into the river ahead of everyone. They went accompanied by one man from each tribe. You have to read the next chapter to see why they were singled out.
The tribes of Israel followed.
When the priests and the ark entered the water, the water stopped flowing. It was described as being piled up in a heap some distance up stream. The water downstream contined into the Salt Sea.
Once again, the nation of Israel crossed a body of water on dry land.
God’s chosen people crossed the Jordan River on dry land.
Logistically, waiting a month or so might have been prudent.
Urgency did not seem to be a factor. Having the people in Jericho tremble in fear for another month or so could only work in favor of God’s Chosen. Over time those living in fear might just defect.
But God wanted to show that he was with Joshua.
God wanted to show his people that he was with them.
God wanted his people to know that he was the one who would deliver the land unto his chosen. There would be some sword swinging required but the outcome was already set. God would make good on his promise.
God would deliver the land.
Just to make sure his people knew that it was not by their own strength that they would take possession of the land, he gave this mighty act and his own people crossed the Jordan River on dry land.
If you were to say, I crossed the Red River on dry land you might not even get a smirk or a raised eyebrow. Most of the time that’s all we see in some of our rivers is dry land.
But God picked the rainy season. God picked the time when the river would be as high as it gets.
When God shows his glory, he doesn’t set the odds in his favor. He stacks the man-made odds against himself.
When the prophet Elijah went up against the prophets of Baal, Elijah had the false prophets dowse the wood to be consumed with water. They put so much water on the sacrifice and the wood set to burn it that the water gathered in the ditch all around the animal that had been prepared.
Elijah wanted all to see the God of the universe at work. That God sent down fire. It was enough not only to ignite the wood but to consume it and the sacrifice and even the standing water around it.
When God wants to make it clear that his hand is in something, he likes the odds stacked against him.
Whether it is fire from the sky or water from a rock or manna from heaven, God makes it clear when he directly intervenes into the normalcy of human life.
God’s Chosen People crossed the Jordan on dry land. They had another dry land experience to share with their children’s children.
But even this mighty act would soon fade into a distant memory.
God’s Chosen People would forget or forget the significance even if they vaguely remembered the event.
Witness and testimony seem to be transitory.
People veer from the path.
The people crossed the Red Sea on dry land. They had manna from heaven. They had quail in the desert. They got water from a rock. They crossed the Jordan on dry land. The walls of Jericho came tumbling down. God gave them victory after victory in taking the Promised Land.
But generations of God’s Chosen had only the testimonies that were handed down to them, and they did not seem to be enough.
We know the story of God’s love in Jesus not because we were there but upon the testimony handed down generation after generation.
Jesus said, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
I don’t think it took much for the people to believe in an all mighty God when they were in the middle of a raging river in the middle of flood season and they were walking on dry ground.
Faith comes on the other side of the river when the years have passed and the bills are piling up.
Faith comes when the river crossing is a distant memory and the car won’t start.
Faith believes in all mighty God when you live in a land where you would give good money to see a river at flood stage again.
Our challenge in this 21st century is to stay connected to the mighty acts of God. Our challenge is to know with certainty that God created everything.
God spoke this world into existence.
God created life and a special form of life into which he blew his own Spirit.
God picked a people through which he would send his love into the world.
God parted waters and gave victories and from fire from heaven.
Our God is a mighty God and just because we never crossed the Red Sea on dry land or did the same at the Jordan River, we do not forget that God intervened into the course of history which he established to show his glory and pour out his favor and fulfill the promises that he made.
Today we look for God’s affirmation in each step we take as we follow Jesus. Most of the time it does not interrupt the flow of water in the area.
But we do long to know that as we follow Jesus, God is with us.
We do ache for his approval and affirmation as we follow and believe, follow and believe, follow and believe.
And God still displays his mighty acts in this world, most of them uniquely tailored to our lives.
· The child who makes it home safely.
· The school that is protected from evil.
· The children without caring parents who are cared for by other caring parents.
· The unexpected gift arriving at the same time as the unannounced need.
· The hug and the God loves you message delivered right on time.
If we think back to when Jesus fed the 5000 and then the 4000, consider what Jesus did. He had the people sit on the ground and he gave thanks to God.
The disciples handed out the bread and fish which should have been enough for two dozen people at best but the disciples made it all the way through these multitudes and each time had more leftovers than the food with which they began this impromptu dinner service.
The disciples were in the middle of the miracle.
Perhaps today, that is where we need to be looking for the mighty acts of God. They occur in the middle of the work that his disciples are doing.
This whole business of connecting the disconnected is not a new approach to Christianity. It is not a cute buzzword that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is not the flavor of the month social program.
Connecting the disconnected is a mighty act of God. It is God showing his favor and his glory in the work of his disciples.
It is our piece of dry land amidst a raging river.
God is doing mighty acts in the here and now but instead of a really big one every 40 years or so out in the wilderness; God offers his mighty acts in our individual lives and in our small numbers gathered in the name of Jesus.
Today we witness and are a part of God’s glory, but we are more like the disciples handing out bread and fish than the herd of people that followed Joshua and the ark.
We should remember the story of the crossings of the Red Sea and the Jordan River but we should look for the mighty acts of God on a smaller scale but multiplied millions of times each day as his mighty acts are accomplished in his followers.
We have our dry land experience when we bring hope to the hopeless. People who have just given up on trying to make it in this world experience hope when they come into the presence of other believers.
We have our dry land experience when children come and hug us on Wednesday evening because they have received no other love that day.
I have a dry land experience every time I see parents dropping children off on the far side of the parking lot—for fear that I will come out of the church building to talk with them again—and the children run—they run to the church building. They know where to find love. Can we not see a mighty act of God in children running to receive the love of God?
We have a dry land experience when we disrupt the coffee shop bitterness and disdain for everything in our world today and we say that I for one am counting my blessings.
We have our dry land experience when a box of food becomes more than a box of food. It becomes the beginning of a relationship that will lead to following Jesus day by day and with the company and encouragement of the Body of Christ.
We have a lot of boxes of food that never amount to more than a box of food, but some of them bring that dry land experience. Some of them lead to a mighty act of God among a few people hungry for more than beans and soup.
We have our dry land experience when someone casts aside all pretenses and asks us to help them know the Lord.
We have our dry land experience when somehow we are prompted by the Spirit and overcome our fears and reservations and take the gospel to a stranger.
We have our dry land experience in every step we take following Jesus.
· In every step taken in faith not sight.
· In the smallest step taken in the way we should go.
Long ago, miracles were given before crowds and multitudes. They may be again someday, but today we who follow Jesus have our dry land experiences—are part of the mighty acts of God—in the smallest of encounters.
Jesus lives within us. The Spirit walks beside us. God almighty, God the Father is ready to do mighty acts through us.
In the days ahead, most of those mighty acts are going to be to connect the disconnected.
It will be to wrestle with mindsets that just want the free stuff and not the freedom of living in Christ.
It will be to desire to make a connection where we will be accused of judging.
It will be to know that the Bread of Life will be of greater value than the loaf of sliced bread that will be gone in a day.
Our dry land experiences will be to stay the course of being the church when the world is clamoring to fit us into its mold. What mold is that? To be just another help agency.
But we are not just another agency. We are the church. The gates of hell will not prevail against us. We are on a mission from God and God is with us.
Before the Lord told Joshua how he would do amazing things, Joshua was telling his people to consecrate themselves because the Lord would do amazing things.
Before the Lord told Joshua what to do, Joshua was already heading where he knew to go.
Joshua was headed to the land promised to this people. He did not yet know what God would do but he knew what he was to do: Enter the land.
Four decades earlier, well armed men of a giant size scared 10 of the 12 men that reconnoitered the land. That outcome would not repeat itself with Joshua. Fear of a raging river was not going to slow Joshua down. God had told him to be strong and courageous as he entered the land so the thought of not entering the land was banished from Joshua’s mind.
Joshua stepped out smartly leading his people to the Promised Land.
God stepped in promptly giving them a way across a raging river.
We must step out smartly doing the things Jesus commissioned us to do.
God will step in at just the right time to get us across whatever rivers are before us as we follow Jesus.
The nation of Israel followed Joshua and the Ark into the Promised Land. God made a way.
We who are the church follow Jesus, taking good news into a dark world. God will make a way.
We may not know all of the details but we follow the prompting of the Spirit.
We may not see beyond the single step that we take today but we trust our faith over our sight.
There may still be much mystery in what we are called to do, but we do it courageously.
We follow Jesus.
We will be strong and courageous.
God will make a way to accomplish our mission.
In whatever rivers rage against our work as the church, God will provide us with our own dry land experience.
God is with us.