As I prepared to write this posting, the Lord reminded me of a personal testimony which I share with you. My second daughter was about school age as we sat together at the edge of a swimming pool, our feet dangling in the pool. She had been ‘swimming’ and had come to sit next to me. We didn’t speak as she took her floatation rings from her arms and put them on her feet. As I thought to myself in silent slow motion: “this is not a good idea,” she jumped into the pool; but her feet stayed on the surface and her head was at the bottom of the pool. I slipped into the pool, lifted out and sat her back where she had been a few seconds before. As I took the floatation bands from her feet and put them back on her arms I told her in a calm, plain, unhurried and matter-of-fact voice, “Don’t do that again huh” or words to that effect. Then I forgot about the incident and never mentioned it to anyone. Number two daughter then went on to run an “interesting” life with all sorts of ups and downs, yet no matter how dire her situation at the time, she always had time for me; such that in the depth of a crisis, she would listen to me while apparently avoiding or ignoring others. A couple of years ago, and almost twenty years from the swimming pool incident we were talking and I brought up that shared episode. She asked me “You knew, didn’t you.” As I recall I said, “Yes, but I was a bit slow to do much about as the whole incident was over in a flash”.
A trust was borne out of that incident which has allowed us a unique father-daughter relationship, though we have lived in different continents for a long time. It allows us to share and trust at the deepest level when needed. Indeed, I have asked her for her permission to share this with you, for as I say, no one else knows. She replied yes, adding “I thought I could maybe stand on water”.
As we look at the first six chapters of the Book of Joshua we find a similar building of faith and trust. In Joshua it is between the Lord and His people. You will recall that for 40 years the Lord’s chosen people had been wandering in the wilderness until the older generation died off – those under Moses, whose fear of the inhabitants of their promised land, was greater than their fear of the Lord.
In Joshua 1 the Lord tells them v2-3 “My servant Moses is dead. Now, therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people to the land which I give to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, I have given that to you, as I said to Moses.” He promises them all the land upon which their feet fall, without exception. He also reminds them to be both meditate on and obey the law; “that you may be careful to do according to all the Law which My servant Moses commanded you” such that “you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall act wisely”. (v7-8)
In Joshua 3 we find all the people ready to cross the river Jordan, which was then flowing in flood at full spate. The Lord told them to put the Ark of the Covenant on the shoulder of 12 priests, (one from each tribe) in order to cross the river, and that (v13) “as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that carry the ark of Jehovah, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above. And they shall stand all in a heap.” And that is just what happened. As soon as the first foot stepped into the Jordan River, the water stopped flowing and heaped up, the “Priests who bore the ark of the covenant of Jehovah stood firm on dry ground in the middle of Jordan” (v17) so the whole throng of Israel could cross on dry land. Once can almost imagine the prayers on the lips of the priests ‘Lord, please stop the river before we cross….’ But that is now what the Lord calls us to do: He calls us to step out in faith first and then and only then, He will meet us there when we do.
Israel had now arrived in the Promised Land, a land they had now to take by force of arms from those who lived there. They were effectively now in the land of their enemy, with a river in full flood flow behind them and countryside full of the enemy, before them.
As the Israelites gathered after their miraculous Jordan crossings, there was no doubt eagerness in their camp to attack the enemy, before they themselves were attacked. But the Lord in Joshua 5 has different plans for them, for “at that time Jehovah said to Joshua, Make sharp knives for yourselves and circumcise the sons of Israel again, the second time.” (v2) The Lord knew that those born since leaving Egypt had not been circumcised, so Joshua arranged it, (v8) “and it happened when they had finished circumcising all the people, they stayed in their places in the camp until they were well.” Not only was Israel trapped between the enemy and a river in flood, their fighting men were now incapacitated by circumcision. Despite whatever pleas they had made to the Lord about defending themselves in this physical condition if attacked by the enemy, the will of the Lord prevailed.
As time passed and they healed, no doubt preparing themselves mentally to proceed on Jericho. They were also likely to be in high spirits at having recovered physically without any attacks on them by the enemy. Now at last it seemed it was their time. But the Lord had other ideas.
By now it was Passover time and the Lord required them to keep (v5) “the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho”. Instead of going out to engage the enemy, the Lord keeps his people for another week of worship in camp celebrating the Passover while the city of Jericho just sits there, across the plain.
At last, with the walls of Jericho in their sight and an air heightened by a pending attack on its walls, for (6:2) “Jericho was completely shut up because of the sons of Israel. None went out and none came in.” They were now strong: healed and recovered from circumcision and fortified by the Passover, when the Lord spoke again to his people.
All the men of war were to go around the walls of Jericho once each day, for six days. Seven priests were to carry sever shophars (rams horn trumpets) in front of the ark and on the seventh day, all were to go around the Jericho’s walls seven times with Priests blowing the shophar. Then the Lord said (v5) “it shall be when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout. And the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up, each man straight before him.”
And so it was that the army of Israel, no doubt with some trepidation at first and some head-scratching at this unique battle plan, circled the walls of Jericho within bowshot range for seven days. Then (v20) “when the people heard the sound of the ram’s horns, and the people shouted with a great shout, the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, each man straight before him. And they took the city.”
The Israelites, like us, no doubt grumbled at the beginning, but as time moved on they began to get an understanding of obeying the Lord and relying on Him for direction. For He always does as He promises. But if we look closer at the texts of Joshua chapters 1-6, we can see that not only has the trust in the Lord been developing chapter by chapter, but so too has the Worship of God and a real figure. This is no longer a God who is remote – somewhere out there – this is a God who is relevant, who is here with us, who is giving advice/instructions and who can be relied upon if and as soon as we step out in faith. God calls us deeper and deeper, closer and closer, not just in intimate worship, but in total life dedication to Him and trust in Him for all things and at all times.
Praise the Lord. Amen and Amen.