This post last updated on December 28th, 2021
Nothing is more frightening or exhilarating as actively pursuing the living God and walking in faith. When you do, be prepared to step into a torrent because it’s sometimes part of the journey. There are many examples of steps of faith being required as your events unfold, I’ve noticed this pattern while living out my own faith, and maybe you have too.
Most of us know the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, of the marching around the city, the blowing of trumpets and the walls crumbling down at a shout in Joshua 6. Do you know about the faith that was required for him to lead Israel to that battle, and beforehand how the priests had to actually step into a river that had well overflowed it’s banks before God responded? (Joshua 4)
Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.Joshua 3:17
What 2 spies and a prostitute can teach us about faith
At the time of Joshua’s leading of Israel, Jericho was one of the most well established cities and was effectively fortified. The problem he encountered is that this pagan city stood between Israel and their destination, and a raging, flooded river flowed between them and Jericho.
Two spies managed to cross over and went into the city to gather whatever information they could. We’re not told how the king knew they were there, but we do know that Jericho’s king summoned a prostitute by the name of Rahab, knowing that these two unwanted visitors entered her house.
Rahab had heard the stories of how this nation of slaves escaped the mighty Egyptians, survived the desert and destroyed some pretty strong kings. By faith, Rahab hid these men and gave them the information that they needed to press on, that the people of Jericho feared the God that was with them.
When the spies delivered these reports to Joshua, he knew it was time to find a way to cross the overflowing Jordan with an entire nation.
Jericho and the Jordan
To understand the magnitude of the faith we’re about to witness, we have to picture the landscape.
The Jordan River starts at an elevation of over 9,200 feet in the Mt. Hermon range in the far north of Israel, where Lebanon and Syria border. From there, the river travels quickly in a 47 mile drop to Lake Hula, and when it makes it’s exit it drops another 16 miles to the Sea of Galilee, ending in the Dead Sea.
Between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, the river journeys through what has been called a “ravine within a ravine” (Expositors Bible Commentary). The outer ravine is the Jordan valley, which is six miles wide in the north and much wider in the south. Because of the time of year, the people of Jericho believed the encampment of Israel at this location to be a great miscalculation, and their hopes were that Israel couldn’t reach them. This is where we find Joshua in chapter 3 leading Israel to step out in faith.
3 Lessons of faith from Joshua
1. Follow God Without Hesitation: Joshua 3:3 tells us the first step of faith was that the people were to “go after” or follow the ark of the covenant, which represented God’s presence. We would do well to remember that we also need to determine God’s will and “go after” God without hesitation.
2. Remain Focused on God: Joshua 3:4 states that a distance of 2,000 cubits were to remain between the people and the ark, a distance of about a half of a mile, so that the people of Israel would always be able to see it as it went in front of an entire nation, rising and falling with the terrain.
We must also keep a clear space between us and God. When we fill that space with busyness, entertainment, or other distractions, we have a very hard time seeing where He is leading and there is little room for faith to reside.
3. Be Sanctified: The third instruction given in Joshua 3:5 was that the people would need to sanctify themselves. When you have an important meeting, interview or date you would certainly prepare with clean clothes, fresh breath and I’d of course fuss over my hair until it was perfect.
When we follow God by faith, we have to prepare, but not with fancy clothes and perfect hair, but with a clean heart. We do this by coming before Him and confessing our sins and by faith receiving His mercy and grace, moving forward in that.
The end of the story
Joshua 3:15-17 tells the rest of the story. The priests “dipped” their feet in the fast flowing Jordan, and as soon as they did, the water not only stopped, but “stood in a heap.” The men stood “firmly on dry ground,” but they had to get wet first.
Imagine the magnitude of what was seen that day! Joshua 3:16 confirms that the waters were dried up “very far away” from “Adam, the city beside Zarethan” (see 1 Kings 7:46) and the Dead Sea. This was a distance of about thirty miles, farther than you can see, and the nation crossed “on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:17)
Though at times He may allow it, God probably doesn’t want you to approach an overflowing river. But, when walking in faith, be prepared to step into that torrent. Sometimes it’s required.