It seems like the #1 prayer is “God give me patience and give it to me now.” I am counted among most of us who seem to get impatient when waiting for evidence of God’s movement. If we have made our own plan and are asking God to confirm or deny it, we sometimes accept a slow response. But when we fell called to movement and then see slow response… that can get frustrating.
Since I count myself in that group, I can fully imagine the feeling of impatience that was growing in the hearts of the Israelites as they set out to cross the Jordan. Every one of them knew their heritage. Every one of them knew the stories of their ancestors racing away from the Egyptian armies and how Moses parted the Red Sea. It was an instant response. After all, it was only one generation ago. Moses prayed, God answered, Moses acted by raising his staff and the sea parted… only to later come crashing on the Egyptian army in their pursuit.
Now here they are, a generation later, facing another raging body of water… the Jordan River at full flood stage. Joshua is at the helm now and seeking to lead his people into the promise land, now within sight. God is telling him to cross the river but what they see is a river that “overflows all its banks” (Josh 3:15b). His instructions where clear. The priests would carry the Ark first and their feet would touch the water first. Once this step of faith was made, God would act.
Knowing how their parents faced the Red Sea and how God responded, you have to believe that every Israelite believed they would see a similar act. Amazingly enough, God rarely responds the same way twice. Yes, He would deliver His people through a water based miracle, but it would not be the same miracle. You see, the moment that the priests stepped into the Jordan, God DID act. But His actions were not seen by them for hours.
“15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest),16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.” (Josh 3:15-18)
The Jordan doesn’t have near the flow it used to, but even at the fastest estimated flows, when God stopped the waters over 12 miles upstream from their crossing, it would have taken a minimum of 2 hours for the river to dry up. Two or more hours of them standing on the banks, the priests holding that Ark in the air and their legs in the water. I imagine when nothing happened instantly, they likely thought they needed to go a little deeper, perhaps up to their knees. Nothing yet, perhaps waist deep. Imagine two or more hours, standing in the raging flood stage river and seeing no response. Doubt had to set in. But they stayed persistent and eventually saw that God HAD acted and they all crossed.
Sometimes we step into the river and wonder why God has not acted. We may even grow impatient and step back out of the river. But God calls us to remain faithful. If your step into the river was directed by Him, be faithful that He as already acted upon your step of faith… it may just take some time for His actions to reach you in the river.
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