Crossing Over God's Way - The First Step of Faith (Part 3)
By Sophia Prinsloo
with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
A Bible Story About Joshua
(Continued from Part 2)
"E-M-I-what?" Betty wondered as her teacher, Mrs. Barnes, introduced the new student, telling them that Silvana and her family had emigrated from another country. Betty wanted to ask exactly what that meant, but she didn’t get a chance because Mrs. Barnes had already begun the lesson of the day.
That night at home, Betty asked her mom, "Mom, what does E-M-I … uh … E-M-I-G-R-A-T-E mean? We have a new girl in class and Mrs. Barnes said she E-M-I-G-R-A-T-E-D from another country."
Betty’s mom replied, "It means that Silvana and her family were citizens of another country but decided to become citizens of our country, making this their new home. Usually it takes lots of time and paperwork to prepare to move to a new country."
Betty wondered out loud, "But why would anyone want to leave everything they know to go, live in a strange, new country?"
"Most of the time, it’s because they see the new country as a better place to live or they’ve heard there are better opportunities in the new country than theirs. But let me tell you a story about a whole nation which emigrated from a hot, dusty desert to a land which the Bible tells us was flowing with milk and honey."
For forty years, the children of Israel lived a boring life, wandering aimlessly day after day in a dry, barren wilderness. It was their punishment for being too fearful and not believing the Lord would help them enter the Promised Land. Finally, the time of punishment came to an end and they all breathed a sigh of relief. They were sick and tired of the taste of sand in their mouths.
Hearts pounding with great anticipation, women were running back and forth, packing up belongings, telling their children where to carry things. Perspiration filled the air as sweaty men helped one another pull down and pack up tents. Everyone was busy packing camels and donkeys, and running every direction filling wagons. On the move once again, the great mass of Israelites left their campsites in Shittim. As they stepped out, they looked down at their sandals in amazement because, after all those years, their shoes still looked as new as when they put them on for the first time.
They were quite a sight to behold!
Wagons were rolling, cows were mooing, donkeys were braying,
...children were laughing, babies were crying,
...and men were yelling after straying, bleating sheep and goats,
...while camels hoofs could be heard, clomping over the hot sand.
Tramping for hours under a blazing hot sun, at long last they arrived at the border of the Promised Land. Men, women and children were filled with excitement knowing they were on the brink of leaving the dusty, windy, bone-dry, barren wilderness to take possession of a land overflowing with milk and honey. Unfortunately, the swirling, murky waters of the Jordan River flooding its banks during harvest time were blocking their way to the Lord’s age-old promise to their forefathers.
Crossing over the Jordan River was on the lips of everyone in the Israelite camp but, at that time, there was no bridge, no pontoon, and no ferry for them to use to get to the other side. In any case, there were too many people. Watering their animals at the river’s edge, waiting for them to quench their thirst, the weary Israelites wondered how on earth they would cross over. Deep, swirling waters scared even the best swimmers. More importantly, mothers with babies and small children needed to safely reach the other side. Besides, living in a bone-dry desert, not even one of the Israelites had ever learned to swim.
And what about the animals? Flocks of sheep would refuse to swim across because getting their woolly fleeces wet would make them so heavy they would sink all the way to the bottom of the river and drown. Their stubborn goats so detested getting wet that they wouldn’t dare enter the river. Maybe the larger animals — the camels, donkeys and cattle — could possibly swim through the strong stream without being swept away, but then their little ones would drown. Besides, there could be nasty, jaw-snatching crocodiles lurking in those murky waters! On top of that, the children of Israel couldn’t cross at the fords of the Jordan River because the vicious heathen nations on the other side were closely watching those shallow crossings. They would attack the children of Israel if they dared to cross into the Promised Land there.
Yet, this new generation of Israelites remembered their parents’ and grandparents’ stories of God’s supernatural deliverances using Moses and his rod. When they were still alive, the elders told their children and grandchildren over and over again how God parted the Red Sea for them to pass through on dry land when they left Egypt many years before. Moses and his rod were gone now, but Joshua was still there, leading them. He was there when they crossed the Red Sea on dry land 40 years before and he was certain that the Lord would do something similar for them now as well.
They were going to need FAITH to enter into the Promised Land GOD’S WAY!
Joshua’s confidence in the Lord’s power to help them cross the Jordan spurred on the faith of the Israelites. He reminded them that the Lord their God would again make a way for them and help them cross the river. They couldn’t wait to see how! Joshua, as their leader, also wanted to make sure that no sin or uncleanness would hinder God’s presence, guidance or wonderworking power among them so he told the people:
"Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."
Filled with excitement and anticipation, the people eagerly and wholeheartedly obeyed, cleansing themselves thoroughly.
Joshua also wanted the people to know that although Moses was dead and the pillars of cloud and fire were no longer there to lead them, God continued to be with them. In their midst, they still had the Ark of the Covenant as their most precious possession, representing God’s awesome presence and power. So Joshua ordered the leaders to spread the following word throughout the camp: "From now on, you must follow the Ark of the Covenant, but you must be a half mile behind it wherever it is being carried by the Levites. That way, you’ll know when and where the Lord wants us to go." The Israelites were mighty pleased to know their wonderworking Lord was still with them.
The next morning, with complete confidence in God, Joshua ordered the priests in their priestly outfits: "Lift the Ark of the Covenant and lead us across the Jordan River!"
Noticing his faith, the Lord told Joshua, "Today, I will begin to make you to be respected by the whole of Israel, so that they will know that I will be with you just as I was with Moses. Tell the priests carrying the Ark to stop at the river’s edge."
Joshua obeyed and then he gathered all the people around him and told them, "Come, listen to the words of the Lord! He said that today you are going to know that the living God is with you and that He will drive all the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, Perrizites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites out of this land that you will inherit. The Ark of the Lord is now going to lead you across the Jordan River. Watch closely, for when the Ark bearing priests take that FIRST STEP OF FAITH and the soles of their feet touch the water, the waters coming from above will be cut off and they shall pile up like against a wall. Now also select 12 men, one from each tribe, for a special task."
The people believed what the Lord had told them through Joshua. Selecting the 12 men, they set out to cross the Jordan.
It happened exactly as the Lord told them.
As the priests carrying the Ark took that FIRST STEP OF FAITH, their feet touching the water, suddenly, far up the river at the city of Adam, the water started piling up as against the wall of a dam. As the priests continued to walk towards the middle of the river, the water below that point flowed away into the Dead Sea until the riverbed was empty.
In awe and wonder, the people joyfully began crossing the Jordan on dry ground. It all happened near the city of Jericho. Marching in front of the procession, 40,000 armed men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh led the awestruck children of Israel all the way across the river, to the Promised Land. The priests carrying the Ark stood in the middle of the Jordan until all people and animals were safely across.
Then, as the Lord instructed, Joshua told the 12 selected men to each go, pick up a large stone in the middle of the Jordan where the priests stood. Each had to carry the large stone on their shoulders to the camp where they would spend the night. The stones were used to build a monument to remind the Israelites that the Jordan River had miraculously stopped flowing in order for them to cross over. Joshua also let them build another monument in the middle of the Jordan where the priests stood. He told the people that when their children and grandchildren would ask them about the monument, they had to tell them the whole, amazing story.
After all the people and animals were safely across and the monument in the middle of the Jordan was built, the Lord ordered Joshua to call the priests carrying the Ark to come up, out of the riverbed.
Amazingly, as soon as the soles of the priests carrying the Ark left the riverbed, the water of the Jordan returned with a mighty rush to the level it was before, overflowing its banks again. There was no turning back now. That day, the tenth of the first month, was the day the Lord made Joshua great in the eyes of all Israel. They were in awe of him, just as they had been in awe of Moses, and they respected him highly for the rest of his life.
When all the kings of the Amorites and the Canaanites west of the Jordan River heard that the Lord had dried up the river so the Israelites could cross over, their courage melted away completely and they became paralyzed with fear. Now, more than ever, they knew their time was limited.
After crossing over the Jordan God’s way, Joshua and the Israelites pitched their tents at Gilgal. There the Lord instructed Joshua to circumcise the Israelite men because none of those born in the desert had received this sign of the Lord’s COVENANT with their ancestor, Abraham. The Lord wanted them to know and to bear the sign that they were INCLUDED in his covenant too. After they were all circumcised and healed the Lord said to Joshua, "Today I took away and ended the shame of your slavery in Egypt and of being uncircumcised." So they called the place Gilgal which means "to end." Then they ate the Passover and, from that day on, the manna stopped and they ate from the produce of the land instead. Finally, the Israelites truly knew they had crossed over, not only from a desert to the Promised Land, but into a new life of becoming victorious conquerors.
"You know, Betty," her mom said as the Bible story ended. "Not knowing and living for Jesus is also like wandering around in a desert. Your soul feels dry and empty and you’re always looking for something to soothe your soul. God wants us to take that FIRST STEP OF FAITH and become citizens of the kingdom of heaven."
Betty was amazed. "But, Mom, mustn’t we die first to become citizens of heaven?"
Mom replied, "No, you can become a citizen of heaven right now while your body is still alive. That first step of faith is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ Who loved us so much that He gave his life for us on the cross. He wants us to know the joy of sins forgiven and the joy of living for Him. God also wants to give us new meaning in life and make us useful for his glory."
Betty replied, "But, Mom, am I good enough for Jesus? What will my friends say?"
Mom’s heart leaped with joy. "My dear child, it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel good enough for Him because He dearly loves you just as you are. That’s why He paid the price for all your sins and weaknesses on the cross. He loves you more than all your friends ever can, and He’ll help you love them even more. It’s up to you to take that FIRST STEP OF FAITH, confessing your sins and putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Accept his love for you and give your life to Him. Never let anything or anybody stand in your way. You’ll never be sorry. He’ll help you over every hurdle in life."
That day Betty gave her life to Christ with her whole heart, and her life was never the same again. In her Bible, she wrote down her name and the date next to John 3:16 and even got baptized in order to always remember the day she crossed over into the kingdom of God.
(Continued in Part 4)
Crossing over to a wonderful, new life in Jesus Christ requires that you take that first step of faith in Him, confess your sins and start serving Him with your whole heart.
1. What was blocking the Israelites from entering the Promised Land?
2. What can hinder us today from serving the Lord Jesus Christ?
3. Why did the people have to sanctify themselves before crossing over the Jordan?
4. How can you sanctify yourself today? How about believing in Jesus and confessing your sins?
5. Would you like to become a citizen of heaven?
6. What did the 12 men do with the stones?
7. Why did they build two monuments?
8. What can you do to remember what God did and is still doing for you?
A VERSE TO LEARN
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26).
AN ALTERNATIVE VERSE TO LEARN
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Have you taken that first step of faith by giving your life to Christ or is there something that hinders you? What helped the Israelites get the faith they needed to cross over the Jordan River? Let me give you a clue: The priests carried it.
[After discussion:] Yes, the priests kept their eyes on the Ark of the Covenant, following it where it led them. Today, we don’t have the Ark of the Covenant, but we have something much better. We have a New Covenant, an agreement with God because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Where can we find that New Covenant? Yes, it is the Word of God. We must learn to keep our eyes on the Word of God, do what it says, and grow in faith in order to find our way in life.
God wants us not only to take that first step of faith, but to also live by faith daily. Maybe there's something that God has put on your heart to do for Him? Maybe you can do it today or maybe it’s a dream for one day in the future. How can you take that first step of faith and be obedient to what God tells you, to see your God-given dreams come true?
Let’s take a moment and pray that nothing will hinder us from following Jesus Christ. Let’s ask Him to help us be obedient to his Word, give us the wisdom we need and faith to act upon it each day, for the rest of our lives.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending your Son,
Jesus Christ, Who shed his blood for us! Help me to
take that first step of faith in Jesus and cross
over into a new life, trusting You for the rest of
our lives. We thank You and love You.
In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
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