Crossing the river

Crossing the river

It’s 1978 and your life is before you.  You’re full of hope, full of plans… and 40 years later you find you’re still doing the same old thing.  You feel trapped, as if you have just been wandering aimlessly through life.

Because of their unbelief, the children of Israel were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. That’s a long time!  Now they are poised to enter into the promised land. They are ready to claim their inheritance.  However, before they can enter, they must first get past one final, major obstacle; the Jordan River.  Normally, this would not have presented much of a problem, since where they were the Jordan was only 100 feet wide.

However, God often does things in such a way that no one can boast of having done them on their own.  You see, He brought them to the Jordan River at the time of harvest, (3:15), when it swells to an impassable width of over 1 mile.  That’s some distance!  There was no way they could cross this river on their own.  They needed supernatural help.

We each have Jordans that we face from time to time.  When we look at the obstacles, that stand between us and spiritual victory, we may feel that we will never be able to enter our promised land and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus promised to us, His followers.  However, we have a God who specialises in overcoming what appears to be impossible challenges.

Crossing the Jordan involved three challenges to the Israelites.  They were challenged to:

  • Watch God
  • Follow God, and
  • Honour God
The challenge to watch God

When the time came for the people to cross the Jordan, God gave instructions as to what they are to do.  The Israelites were to watch for the Ark; it was to go in front.  Remember, the Ark symbolised the presence and power of God.  It was the dwelling place of God; with it the Israelites knew that God was in their midst.  So when God moved, they were to move.  When God stopped, they were to do the same.

This is encouraging us to be sensitive to the movement of the Lord in and around us.  You see, God wants us to see Him moving around us, simply because He loves us and wants us to see that He is a God that is alive!

Jesus said this in John 5:19-20,

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

Like Jesus we are to watch God at work.  When we do, He will teach us how to live day by day.

In watching, the Israelites were to follow God.

So these instructions were designed to help them follow the Lord better; He was going to lead the way.  Therefore, when the Ark of the Covenant moved, they were to “move out from their positions and follow it”.  When God moved they were to pursue Him!

The challenge to follow God

As believers there comes a time when we must “move out from our positions” and pursue God.  This often requires us to leave our comfort zone.  Israel was about to do that as they followed the Ark through a fast-flowing river that was over 1 mile wide!  That couldn’t have been comfortable, but it was necessary and right.

Following God is not always the easiest thing you will ever do, but it will be the best thing you ever do, if we are to know His leading in our lives.  In order for us to enter the promised land God has shown us, personally and corporately, we have to learn to follow Him obediently.  We do this through believing that Jesus is, “the way and the truth and the life.” and that, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The challenge to honour God

Notice that the Israelites are told to stay at least 1000 yards behind the Ark.  We must never be guilty of treating God like one of our buddies. There must always be a holy reverence and a fear of the Lord in our hearts.  God help us if we allow a spirit of familiarity to cheapen our walk with God for, we must remember who we are worshipping!

Joshua told the people “consecrate yourselves.” (v 5).  This was a command.  They were to be as clean and holy as possible.  This involved examining themselves and getting ready for the Lord to do something great for them.

If you and I are ever going to get past the Jordans in our lives, we are going to have to learn that one of the first things we must do is examine our lives to make sure they are as clean as possible.  For the Lord is ready to help us realise that there are many things in our lives that prevent us from walking in an increased sense of Christ’s victory.

As we examine ourselves may we remember that there is forgiveness in confessing our sins to the Lord.  Remember 1 John 1:9-10…

“If we confess our sins, God (he) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make God (him) out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

Trust and commitment

If we’re going to respond to any command, we need to demonstrate a level of commitment (v 9-13).  You see getting across the Jordan did not rest on their shoulders, but on the Lord’s.  It was His plan to get them over and so whatever problems were in front of them were His.  God made a promise; He will bring them through in a powerful fashion. All that was required of Israel was that they trust God.

For us things are no different.  Today God is still calling us to trust Him.  Scripture is full of God’s kept promises; we can certainly trust Him.  But sometimes we seem unable to get past the obstacles in our lives.  Often this is due to a lack of faith.

Through this story of Joshua God is saying that He is the Lord and that He is greater than any problem we have ever, or will ever face in life. His desire is that we simply learn to take Him at His Word and trust Him.  We need to remember that what the Lord has promised to do, He will do, (Rom, 4:21).

As we take this message to heart we will see more miracles in our lives.  So, Joshua could have seen the size of the river and decided to wait until the flooding had abated.  But God was calling him to act now.  Don’t be like the 10 spies who came back with Joshua 40 or so years earlier and said the problem was too big to face.

So when we face a difficult situation don’t forget about God.  Where we see only problems, God sees solutions, and says, “Follow me, I have a plan!”  As we follow we begin to exercise our faith in the truth that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life.”  That “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The truth is God expects us to take steps to follow Him.  He won’t give things to us on a plate.  If we try to solve our own problems, we are not walking in faith.  It’s not until we let God take the reins that we will see it taken care of for His glory. So it never is about what we can do, it is always about what the Lord is able to do, (Eph. 3:20).

In one way or another I’m sure many of us are facing troubled waters in our lives.  No matter how minor a trouble may seem, it is a major trouble if it stops us from experiencing His peace and presence.  The source of the trouble may be sin, it may be some person, it may be some trial.  Whatever it is, and however big it is, God is greater.  Come and let Him, through Jesus Christ, take care of it for you.

Are you ready for action?

Are you ready for action?

Exodus 3: 1-14

There are many strange sights in our world and universe.  We’re greeted with a strange sight in Exodus chapter 3 – a burning bush that is not being consumed by the flames; but it got Moses’ attention.  He’d taken his father-in-law Jethro’s flock of sheep on a bit of a trek “to the far side of the desert” and to the Mountain of God, Horeb.

As Moses approached and stood before the burning bush, God called out from within the bush – “Moses! Moses!” Now Moses must have been really intrigued.  Not only was he looking at a bush that was “not burning up”, but the bush also spoke.

I think, Moses response was brave, “Here I am” he said.

Unbeknown to Moses he was standing on Holy Ground for God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

This voice revealed clearly who was speaking from this bush; “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

How did Moses respond to this?  He hid his face.  Do you see the connection here with how the Israelites reacted when Moses met with God when they were in the wilderness – his face glowed and they asked him to cover it up because it was too much for them to look at.

By taking off his shoes and covering his face Moses was demonstrating reverence, which conveys his unworthiness to be before God.  God loves us, always has done, and always will, but he is also our Sovereign Lord, and because of this we are not to approach him frivolously.  If we do this, we are showing a lack of respect and sincerity.

So when you seek God’s face, when you seek His presence, whether it be in your own personal quiet time, or in an act of corporate worship, what is your attitude to approaching Him?  Do you come with a casual attitude, or do you come as someone invited as a guest before a king?  This account of God speaking to Moses encourages us to think about how we approach God.  Do you need to adjust your attitude so it is suitable for approaching the One True Holy God?

Moses knew how his people were being treated.  After all, he had run away because he had murdered an Egyptian who was treating a fellow Hebrew badly.  God also knew that his people were being treated badly.  Having heard their cries, now was the time to act, and He intended to act through Moses.

How willing are you to hear God, and listen to Him when he calls you?

Your willingness to hear and listen to God will determine how much He will act through your life.  You see, God is ready to take action, are you ready to for God’s action?

If we are to go with God’s action, we have to be prepared to go for God, for His plans involve us in action.  We are not to be mere observers or by-standers in God’s action.  No, He wants us in the thick of the action.

But like so many of us, Moses didn’t really want to act for God.  He says “Who am I, that I should go…”

I think pride is at work here – Moses is not believing God when He says “Go, I will be with you.”  He was reluctant to take up the call God was placing upon him.  Isn’t that the same for us all?  I know that is my experience – too often I am reluctant to take up God’s call, let alone follow it.

Through fear and pride I hesitate, I hold back.  Sometimes when I do this I miss a God-given opportunity to act for Him.  How does God respond to this?  Well, He either gets someone else to do what He’s called me to do, or He comes at me in a different way, patiently waiting for me to recognise His call and so respond appropriately.

Like Moses I come up with excuses as to why I can’t do what He is calling me to do.  Yet God’s response may seem a little strange – “I am WHO I am”!

What does this mean?  Well, it means, “I am in control, I am everything you need.”  It is true, I am not capable on my own, BUT God is capable of all things, especially the things He is asking me to do.

Too often we are like Moses, we question what God is saying to us.  So, how well do we recognise God as the “I am WHO I am”?  You see, in our “I am not” we can find that the great “I am WHO I am”, for God will be there with us.  He is dependable, faithful.  He has an unchanging nature and an eternal power, who desires the full trust of His people, we are His people today!

Remember that in verse 12 of the passage, God tells Moses “I will be with you.”  We can trust Father, who lives in Heaven, for in Him we find stability and security, for as we read in Hebrews 13:8, God is the same “yesterday and today and for ever”.   Because of this we are free to follow Him and enjoy Him rather than spend time trying to figure Him out.

May we find the blessings God has for us in His “I am WHO I am.”

[Image of burning bush Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence]