Faith Into the Water

A reflection on Joshua 3.

My name is Hashsha, son of Kadosh, descendant of Levi. Earlier this morning I sat in awe on a bluff overlooking the Jordan river at flood stage. It is the time of the barley harvest and the melting snows on Mount Hermon are filling this valley with a torrent of icy turbulence. Broken branches, entire trees, and an occasional animal struggling to survive are being washed away downstream. It is so loud I can barely hear the busyness and preparations of the 40,000 fighting-age men and their extended families camped behind me. I have been watching this spectacle for three days. Yesterday I walked about ten miles south to the Arabah Sea and a couple days earlier I walked the same distance to the north. Everywhere the crossing was treacherous. Here, the water fills this valley and is maybe a mile across. It is utterly impassable.

The land that is our inheritance is within sight. This is what Yahweh has promised through Moses and I am both excited and scared. I am thrilled to finally reach a destination that has only been a dream for most of my life. At the same time, I am terrified enough to just curl up in the safety of my tent -- the tent I was born in less than 40 years ago. But as a Levite, my purpose in life lies west of here.

I evaluate the alternatives. There is no way to cross south of here -- I witnessed that first-hand. And the fords to the north are way too dangerous for this many people. Animals and wagons would most surely be caught in the current and swept downstream to death. There is no road across the Jordan. To get from here to there seems impossible no matter how much human effort or thought we put into it.

And the seemingly impossible problem truly cannot be solved unless we stop to include God in the process. For the only way to succeed is to stop evaluating possibilities and step out in faith. The only way to achieve what is possible with God is to allow ourselves to be steered like a willing and obedient horse in His direction.

Joshua selected me to be one of the bearers of the Ark holding it with long acacia wood poles on my shoulders. He wants me in front, leading the way. Joshua instructed me and my kinsmen to carry the Ark directly into the river so that we may see the road we are to follow, for we have not seen it before. He commands us now to get our feet wet. For a fleeting moment I question his sanity.

We are camped on the Plain of Moab which is an area bordering the Jordan for about eight miles and is about seven miles wide. We have been well-supplied with refreshing, pure, spring-fed streams, and we are gathering our strength preparing for battle as the leadership staff passes from Moses to Joshua.

As ordered, I hoist the Ark on my shoulders along with my nephews, sons, and cousins and we carry it through the camp heading straight for the raging, angry waters. The people are praising God, they are singing, they are dancing, there is great celebration. But they are also packing up, preparing to move, for they have been told to follow us across the river. They are falling in behind us, at the prescribed distance, filled with the anticipation of finally entering the land which to this point has only been a promise. A dream. And to some, an empty one at that -- until now.

And I am thinking, "Are you kidding me? This better work!" There is no pillar of fire or smoke coming from the Tabernacle. There is no visible assurance that there is a road here somewhere that we have not seen before. There is no assurance that I and my relatives will not be swept downstream to our death.

My faith is faltering.

Then, three feet before reaching the river, I am tempted to hesitate. The water is not stopping. The road is not appearing. This isn't going to work. The urge to yell "STOP" wells up inside me. Surely if I go two steps further I will be swept downstream and die.

I feel like a stiff-necked horse about to rear up and resist ... because of what I know ... because of what I see as the truth ... because I can't see God in this.

But then the stories of God's past faithfulness, the parting of the Red Sea, the water streaming from a rock, our daily provision of manna, spark a hint of faith in me. It's not much, but it is just enough for me to take one more step into the river. I feel the icy cold water cover my sandals and flow over my toes and you know the rest of the story. The upstream waters pile up. The downstream waters run away and a route across suddenly appears. My people cross the Jordan on a road only God could see -- the one beneath the water. 

I couldn't see God, but He could see me. My faith in God was thinning while God's faith in me was as thick and solid as it always has been.

As I stand in the middle of the river valley holding the Ark on my shoulders watching our nation cross into the Promised Land, I begin to weep. I begin to understand.

I begin to realize that faith always involves action in the face of risk. Without risk, without some element of danger, uncertainty, or obstacle there is no faith. If I strategically overcome or avoid an obstacle with my own cleverness, I am devising a plan of my own making and executing it. I then can accomplish merely what is humanly possible.

In order to participate fully in God's plan, I have to get my feet wet. I have to be faithful all the way into the water.

All the way into the water.

And when I reach the other side, I know that He will caress my heart, kissing it gently, showing me where we have been together. That is what causes me to weep, for I am not worthy to be asked to carry out God's will -- to participate in the redemption of our people, nor indeed the redemption of all of Creation.

I am not worthy to be standing here witnessing a miracle of God that is occurring simply because I obeyed Him -- because I said "yes" when He asked me to work with Him – because I had faith.

Faith includes God's Presence. Not just the kind-of-out-there, sort-of-kinda this is what I think He wants, and if I halfheartedly do it hopefully it will all work out. No, that's not faith. That is a distant God. The God of our faith is within us ... in relationship ... deep within us. We carry the Ark of His presence with us always leading the way for all who wish to follow.

Joshua has told us that Yahweh is with us just as He was with Moses. The realization of that makes me weep, but also fills me with hope and the strength to allow Him to continue to work through me.

My faith is growing towards assurance. I feel that rock solidifying beneath my feet and supporting the scaffolding of my entire soul.

And I pray your faith is headed there as well.

May the blessings of our Lord God always reward your faith. And through your soaking wet sandals may you always feel the rock of His road beneath you.

-- Hashsha

1400 years later, John the Baptist is standing in this remarkable river calling for repentance. It is time for Jesus to announce his intention to fulfill His destiny and to receive the anointing from the Holy Spirit. It is here we see Jesus receiving the power of the Holy Spirit -- power descending upon him in the form of the mildest and meekest (most steerable) of all birds -- a dove.

John the Apostle records that Jesus' baptism took place at a very significant spot
at Bethany. The old name for Bethany is Bethabara, which means, "the place of passage." One tradition holds that this was where the Israelites entered the Promised Land under Joshua.

It was there that John the Baptist first proclaimed who Jesus was. Joshua (old Hebrew)
-- Jeshua (Aramaic) -- Jesus (English). Its the same name in different languages meaning "Yahweh is salvation". Through him the children of God, then and now, enter the Promised Land. Through Yahweh, through God, is salvation -- of me, of us, of our people, of our planet.

And it all begins with a step of faith
-- walking all the way into the water so that we may see clearly the road God has planned for us.

The place where Joshua and a few faithful Levites stepped into the water to lead a nation into the Promised Land is the same place where Jesus stepped into the water to begin leading us. If we have the faith to get our sandals wet, He will reveal the road for us which lies beneath the obstacles. He will part the waters revealing where our destiny on Earth has been from the beginning.

But what does that mean? When I have jumped into the muck with both feet and nothing good happened; when I have prayed in faith for decades and the fighting and abuse doesn't stop; when I am weary of it all and am tempted to default back to what people do who have no faith; when I am frustrated, tired, defeated, then what? What does this mean to have faith all the way into the water?

Lord, reveal this to me! Reveal to me the way that only You now can see. I will have faith all the way into the water! I will wade into the swamp! I will immerse myself into the flood waters! I will lead the way for my children, for my friends! I will fully accept that role.

I will? No, Lord. I am. I am taking that step. I am taking that leap.

The leap of faith ... all the way into the water. I am doing it now!

And I am doing it to exalt You, not me.

The LORD promised Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses."
And the same promise closes the book of Matthew, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." It's the promise which leads me, guides me, and gives me a wet-sandal life of faith
-- a full life in Christ.