We Have to Get Our Feet Wet

Recently I preached a sermon based on Joshua 3. It seemed to help many people think through the issue of having faith when facing challenging times. In order to understand this passage of scripture, we must remember that forty years earlier Moses had led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. For forty years they had wandered in the wilderness because of their lack of faith that God could take them all the way into the Promised Land. Many of us have spent many years wandering in a spiritual wilderness. Somewhere along the way we became Christians but we have yet to experience the promises of God.

Verse 1 – Joshua started early the next morning and left Acacia Grove with all the Israelites. They went as far as the Jordan and stayed there before crossing.

Joshua started out early in the morning. God often interacted with His people early in the morning. It was early in the morning that Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to test his faith. It was early in the morning that Moses stood before Pharaoh and told him to let the people go. It was early in the morning that David battled Goliath. It was early in the morning when the women went to the tomb and found Jesus already resurrected. Therefore, it makes sense that it was early in the morning when God told Joshua to take the people into the Promised Land.

Though we can spend time with God at any point in the day, if we fail to do it early in the morning, most of us get so busy that we never get around to it the rest of the day.

They journeyed for several miles before making camp. Though this may seem like a short distance, remember that Joshua was leading a very large group of people.

When we try to lead a larger group, everyone has an opinion or an idea and they all want to go in different directions.

We need effective leaders but being a leader is not easy. In fact, leadership is in great demand and short supply. God has also asked men to be leaders in their families. Sadly, many men have failed to do that and families are struggling as a result. Pray for men to step up and lead their families.

Every company or organization needs capable leadership. When good leadership is present, people can go far. When bad leadership is present, people become paralyzed and unable to move. We should all endeavor to be good leaders in whatever circles of influence we are in.

Verses 2-3 – After three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God carried by the Levitical priests, you must break camp and follow it.

When we see God at work, we must be willing to break camp and follow. We tend to get comfortable with the way things are and do not like it when God tells us to break camp. God does not always do things the way we think He should and He seldom leaves us in our comfort zone for very long. But whatever God does is always the best way things should be done so we should learn to follow Him where ever He leads.

Verse 4 – But keep a distance of about 1,000 yards between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.

As Joshua led the people, he told them to keep a certain distance from the Ark. Joshua was not suggesting that they needed to keep a distance between themselves and God. Verse 9 tells us they needed to get as close to God as possible. Joshua simply wanted the people to be able to see the Ark at all times so they would not lose perspective on what God was doing. Too many of us have lost sight of God in our journey through life and we need to regain our perspective.

Sometimes we get so busy that we lose sight of God in our lives and taking a step back helps us regain our perspective. If we are too busy to think, we need to step back and eliminate something. If we are too busy to pray, we need to step back and eliminate something. If we are too busy to worship, we need to step back and eliminate something. We must make sure we do not eliminate the very thing we need most, time with God!

Joshua reminded the people that though they had not traveled this way before, God would guide them if they stayed focused. Life is full of surprises and we often do not know what lies ahead. This can be scary, but God will guide us.

Verse 5 – Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, because the LORD will do wonders among you tomorrow.”

If we want God’s guidance, we must consecrate ourselves. Consecrate comes from the Hebrew word kaw-dash and it means to prepare, dedicate, make holy, or be separate. How often have we really prepared ourselves to hear from the Lord? How dedicated to God are we? What aspects of our lives have we made holy? Have we done anything to set ourselves apart for the Lord? These are challenging questions for each of us.

Too many of us are so busy trying to fit into this broken messed up world that we have failed to grasp what God is trying to do. If we want to see God do wonders, we should stop trying to imitate a messed up world and start acting more like Christ. We will not see the wonders of God unless we set ourselves apart for God. If we are living unholy lives, do we really think God will bless us? We must be willing to live right before a holy God if we expect Him to do wonders in our lives.

Verse 6 – Then he said to the priests, “Take the Ark of the Covenant and go on ahead of the people.” So they carried the Ark of the Covenant and went ahead…

Joshua told the priests to carry the Ark out in front so everyone could see it. The ark itself was not spiritual. The ark was just a physical symbol of God’s Presence. We often need such symbols to help us visualize the Presence of God in our lives. That is why we wear crosses, or display them in our homes. That is why we observe communion. That is why we light candles. That is why we publicly baptize people. That is why we anoint people with oil. That is why most churches prefer to have a specific building in which to worship. None of these things are spiritual in themselves; they are powerful symbols that help us focus more clearly on the Lord. God was about to show the Israelites another powerful symbol that would seal in their minds His power and provision.

Verse 8 – Command the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the waters, stand in the Jordan.

To understand this verse, we must remember biblical history from Exodus. When the Israelites left Egypt, God parted the Red Sea so they could go across. Forty years later the Jordan River stood in the way of the people finally being able to enter the Promised Land and God was going to part it so they could cross over. God was trying to show a new generation that He was still in charge and had the same power that He had in previous generations. Parting the Jordan became a symbol of God’s power that they would remember for generations. What stands in our way keeping us from experiencing God’s blessings and promises? Did we get hurt by someone? Time to let it go! Have we refused to obey God regarding baptism or church involvement? Time to jump in with both feet! Have we willfully ignored something God clearly told us to do? Time to start obeying! Whatever we have let come between us and experiencing all that God wants for us, we need to let it go so we can cross over the Jordan and enter the Promised Land!

Verse 15 – Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season.

The river God asked them to cross was at flood stage! It took a lot of faith for them to trust God and step out into the water. It seemed like what God was asking them to do was crazy, but they could not enter the Promised Land without moving forward.

We all experience our floods from time to time. But when the river is overflowing its banks the most is exactly when God is calling us to experience His power the greatest!

Verses 15-16 -… But as soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan, their feet touched the water at its edge and the water flowing downstream stood still.

As soon as the priests took that first step into the water, God did His part.

But nothing was going to happen until they first stepped out into the water and got their feet wet. This must have been a hard thing to trust God for and even harder to actually do. But it was the way God worked then and it is the way God still works today. We must be willing to get our feet wet if we want to see the power of God displayed in our lives. We must be willing to step out into the water and do our part while trusting God to do His. Too often we want God to do everything for us and while He clearly has the power to do everything, most often He waits for us to do our part. Our God is a miracle working God but we have to get our feet wet and step out in faith and trust the Lord if we want to see those miracles.

Verse 17 – The priests carrying the ark of the LORD’s covenant stood firmly on dry ground…

The leaders of God’s people, carrying the symbol of God’s Presence among them, stood firmly in the midst of the flood believing God would make a way for them to cross into the Promised Land. Too many of us do not stand firmly in our faith.

We start, and then stop, our spiritual journey. We move one step forward and two steps backward. It is time to stand firm in our faith and watch God do His work in our lives. The Israelites had seen God provide for them in the desert, so they knew God had great power. But they needed this “experience” in the Jordan to help burn into their minds the need to stand firm for God. We often need an experience of some type in order to seal some decision we are trying to make for God. God often gives us some type of experience to let us know He is there and we should be grateful when He does.

Conclusion:

We may not know exactly what God will do in our lives or how He will help us overcome whatever challenge we are facing, but it is time to get our feet wet and step out and trust Him.