The River Jordan and Being Courageous With Your Faith
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua stands in front of the River Jordan as God’s newly appointed leader of the Israelites who left Egypt over forty years earlier. God has asked that he lead the Israelites to the promised land of milk and honey, across the River Jordan.
Many years earlier, Joshua as a young man, stood on these same banks and was part of a group sent by Moses to investigate and see if it was safe to cross the River Jordan. Joshua, and a man named Caleb, advised Moses that they should proceed across the River Jordan, but others convinced Moses they shouldn’t cross. The others told Moses there were too many obstacles to overcome and they would die on the other side even though crossing the river meant going to the place that God told them was their promised land. The Israelites refused and even began wondering if they should have left Egypt in the first place!
So God left them wandering in the wilderness for forty more years and each year members of the original group died without receiving God’s promise. After forty years the only people that remained of the earlier group were their descendants, Moses and Joshua and as they approached the River Jordan for the second time, Moses knew he would not be going to the promised land. Moses would see the promised land, but he would die on top of a mountain that overlooked God’s gift.
Joshua stood on the banks of the River Jordan, getting ready to lead the Israelites across. There was to be no investigation of the other side, just Joshua’s belief that God would protect the faithful, as he had seen God do many times before in the previous decades. As Joshua left to cross the mighty river, he had God’s simple directions; Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
This second crossing was very dangerous. The River Jordan was flowing at flood stage and would be difficult for the Israelites to cross. God told Joshua to have the priests go first and carry the Ark of the Covenant, and when the priests stepped into the water, the raging waters of the River Jordan stopped, leaving a path for the Israelites to cross.
This group of Israelites was much stronger in their faith than their predecessors; they crossed over and settled the land. Although they faced many obstacles in their settlement, God protected them and was true to the promise he made to Joshua; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. This faith allowed them to reside in the promised land of milk and honey.
At this point you may ask why didn’t the first group trust God and cross over when they had already seen many of God’s miracles. On their journey from Egypt, God had Moses part the Red Sea and released them from Pharaoh and He gave them manna from heaven to eat and produced water from stones. Despite all God had done for them, they allowed their human fears, of great danger and doom of the unknown, prevent them from crossing the River Jordan. They made up stories to defend their position about people who were giants on the other side and allowed their humanness to swamp their faith in God.
For many the River Jordan is both historical and symbolic. Over the years many have used this story to inspire themselves to move over their River Jordan. In fact, when you look up the River Jordan in Wikipedia, part of the description is about its symbolism.
This story easily extends to future readers of the bible to imagine and connect with their own life challenges. This story is about being brave with your faith and trusting God so we aren’t left wandering in our own wilderness but are released from our bondage.
So while we can wonder why the first group didn’t trust God and cross the River Jordan, shouldn’t we also focus on our own personal crossing of the River Jordan? What is it in our own lives that is our current River Jordan? Is it a delayed call to a friend to apologize? Is it a long put off task? Perhaps it is something bigger, like drug addiction or alcoholism. Maybe a nasty bad habit.
Whether it is large or small, not crossing our personal River Jordan leaves us in our personal wilderness, like those who first approached the River Jordan. We know what we must do, but don’t believe we are brave enough or courageous enough to cross. In those moments we forget the promise of God; to not be afraid; to not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
This is the point of faith; not letting our fears swamp over our trust in God. This is simple to think and say; or even to advise others. But when we are standing on the shore of our River Jordan, even at flood stage; the decision to move across is deeply personal and unique to each of us.
Inevitably it means letting go and just crossing. It means remembering the times God was with you in the past. Sometimes it takes a friend to encourage you. The River Jordan must be crossed, or we are left wandering in our personal wilderness adrift from God.
Ironically, the moment you cross over, you immediately feel relief and are rid of your fears. Many times you may be left thinking what was the fuss all about. This crossing strengthens and revitalizes us. Most importantly we will know God was with us.
And this is the essence of our relationship with God; letting our fears go to accept God’s promised land of milk and honey.
Listen to the Full Podcast – Crossing Our River Jordan
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman