Joshua – Crossing the River

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The time has come. The people watch in reverence and silence as the priests step in unison carrying the ark of the covenant. It is the sign! They wait patiently as it passes through the camp. They know when it reaches the front, they will wait until the ark is a certain distance beyond them, and then the movement will begin, tribe by tribe.

Usually, the Jordan River is not particularly deep, but the spring rains and the melting snow from Mount Hermon have caused the river to be at flood stage. As they walk closer to the river, those toward the front begin to see the rushing water. The younger ones have never seen this much water. Imagine the fear in their hearts.

        

Think about the priests. They guardedly carry the ark, being careful not to stumble. A pole runs through two rings on each side of the ark. The four men each grasp the poles at the ends. The ark itself is not to be touched. If the ark falls toward one man, touching him, the man will die.

Imagine their fear as they approach the surging river. They have been instructed that,

… as soon as the priests set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. Joshua 3:13

Wow, sounds like the Red Sea miracle. Evidently God decided the younger ones needed the same assurance of His presence and power.

But just think about these priests. The miracle doesn’t happen until the first two put their feet in the water, all the while balancing the ark! We are talking about faith and steadiness of hand, not to mention trusting the Lord to support and guide. Makes my hands sweat just thinking about it.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves carrying a load, trying to balance it with other things going on. At times we have to manage the load with other people. It calls for steadfast faith. It may even call for trust beyond our knowing. Can you trust God with it?

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17

The priests made it! Let’s watch the people as they pass through. There is the grandfather who, just last night, taught his family about the time when he walked through the Red Sea. With tears of joy, he touches his heart with one hand and raises the other in praise to God.

       

Over there is the father who is suddenly a child again gawking at the wall of water—just like he remembered it so long ago.

And here is the child, his face filled with wonder as he realizes those stories he heard over and over were really true. His eyes dart from water to dry land to the ark that represents the God of miracles!

~ Joyce ~

 

“Come Thou Fount” – verse 2

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we pondered the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” That second verse has a word that is not very well known—other than singing it in this hymn. 

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come.

So what is an “Ebenezer” anyway? Well, it’s both a place and a thing. Let’s dig in.

During Samuel’s day in the Old Testament, the Philistines where marching north all the way up to Ebenezer, the place where many Israelites lived. The Philistines stormed in and killed 4,000 of them in one day.

The Israelites questioned why God had brought defeat on them. They decided to bring the ark of the covenant from Shiloh to Ebenezer, feeling that the ark would protect them.

When the ark came into the camp, all Israel raised such a shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. I Samuel 4:5-7

The Philistines began wringing their hands, sure they were in big trouble. They remembered the reports of how the Egyptians had been struck with the plagues and were fearful of the God of Israel. But the Philistine leaders led a powerful pep talk and the men bravely fought, killing 30,000 Israelite foot soldiers.

Not only that, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant. We’re talking big-time defeat for the Israelites! This became a monumental lesson for the them. The ark was a reminder of God’s presence, but they had made it a substitute for God Himself, depending on the thing rather than God.

It reminds me how lightly we often “use” prayer promises. Perhaps a friend has a concern and we slip into auto-pilot to say, “I’ll pray for you,” as though that is a good luck charm. Perhaps we utter a few words to God so  we can say we have done it, honoring the statement but not the God of prayer. Or perhaps we think we are “protected” if we just go to church regularly, thinking a building is the key rather than the God of the building. Insert any number of “ark idols” that might apply.

Samuel helped the Israelites understand. The people mourned and sought after the Lord. They rid themselves of their foreign idols; they fasted, confessed their sin, and continually called out to the Lord. 

Meanwhile, every time the Philistines took the newly acquired ark to a town, the people there were afflicted with tumors. They finally realized that this ark was not a good thing for them. Unbeknownst to the Israelites, God was working in the background. 

Perhaps you’ve experienced this as well. You are in the midst of a challenging time, only to discover that God has been at work in the background performing one of His God incidents.

Well, next week we’ll see how God honors their humility which causes Samuel to raise an “Ebenezer.” 

~ Joyce ~