Crossing Jordan—In Memory of Getting Over It
By C. JAMES JOHNSON
Now it came about when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, "Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from where the priests' feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you, and lay them down in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.
"Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, 'what do these stones mean to you?' Then you will say to them, 'Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.' So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever." And thus the sons of Israel did, as Joshua commanded. (Joshua 4:1-3 and 6-8a.)
When an eleven-day walk ends up taking 40 years, there are some things that you need to get over. Moses had to deal with the broken attitudes of 600,000 Israelites who had lost all sense of identity and worth. At the first sign of adversity these people immediately renounced all hope for new life. Imagine their claim that 400 years of hard servitude was better than being free to receive a promise that had previously been not much more than wishful thinking.
As though it wasn't enough for Moses to deal with the disgruntlement, insecurities and unbelief of a stubborn, stiff-necked, older generation! A new generation of younger men—accustomed to, and hardened by, the desert—represented a totally different class of people with which to contend.
There are many situations that result from hearing and acting on the word and will of God for your life. Circumstances can go from exciting to volatile as you move out of your time-tested comfort zone, into the desert wilderness that leads to fulfillment of the promise. Let's observe some of the obstacles one should expect to encounter along the way to receiving God's promise:
THOSE WHO REFUSE TO RELEASE (Exodus 7:14-12:36—The Ten Plagues)
In every move of God there are those who, for various reasons, will fight tooth and nail to keep you from moving out on the commands and promises of God.
In preparation for their journey, Israel encountered opposition from those who would endure almost anything to deny their release. Why would anyone suffer ten of the most devastating plagues known to mankind in order to keep a people they feared would join in a military campaign against them? Exodus 7:14 -12:36 records, with brutal detail, all that was endured prior to the release of God's people.
Don't be amazed to encounter those who will use every method known to mankind to keep you from moving out when the call comes to go. In many instances, the culprit will be the very one who has groomed you for such a time as this and has enjoyed the fruit of the service that you have patiently provided. Rather than release you into the purposes to which you have been called, they will incorporate schemes to slow you down, or even cripple your forward progress.
THOSE WHO CHALLENGE (Numbers 16:1-33—Troubles with Korah)
There will always be those who think that they can do it better than you, and will challenge your authority every chance that they get.
Korah's jealous actions cost him his life, as well as the lives of those who supported his untimely coup. Likewise God will remove the presence of any and every want-a-be who would attempt to usurp your authority. Perhaps not as dramatically as with Korah, but you can rest assured that He will not allow the rebellious to go unpunished.
Often it is someone who possesses great potential for leadership, but has fallen off the wagon because they are more focused on what they perceive as their own abilities. In the time when development should be taking place, these people find it hard to remain under authority. They are constantly seeking occasion to discredit the person in charge, while directing unmerited attention to themselves.
God forbid that the spirit of Korah be found in those leading his church!
THOSE WHO OPPOSE (Exodus 17:8-14—The Amalekite Attack)
After overcoming those who attempt to keep you bound by traditions and values that are in direct opposition to the call of God on your life, it is not uncommon to be met with antagonism along the way. As you start to move out, expect to have at least one battle over your ability to pass through enemy controlled territory. This represents land that you have no desire to take claim of, but must pass through en route to your promise. Even though you have no desire to fight, your very presence brings with it both intimidation and intrigue, the likes of which will shatter the stronghold of darkness. With outstretched arms towards heaven, Jehovah is your victory.
THOSE WHO ARE CRITICAL (Numbers 12:1-14—Miriam’s Pride)
The move of God brings with it life choices that are often beyond our control and understanding. Although strange in appearance, these circumstances are manipulated by God's perfect plan for the accomplishment of his purposes. When our choices come under attack by the criticisms of those with little or no understanding, God has a plan for correcting their self-righteous spirit.
In the case of Miriam, because she was of a pure bloodline and undefiled, she assumed that she was privy to communication with God. My mother would have said, "Her attitude is ugly!" Miriam found this out in a deeply profound way as her critical, self-righteous attitude gained for her an audience with God and the punishment of leprosy. Only after bearing her shame alone for seven long days was she received again into fellowship. It goes without saying—she got a new attitude!
THOSE WHO DOUBT (Numbers 13:25-14:4—In the Eyes of Spies)
The spies were to have seen the fruit of the land and experienced its wonders, as their counterparts waited anxiously for their report before claiming their long awaited inheritance. But the report that they brought was less than encouraging. In fact, it was stifling—even to the point of immobility. Just as the promise was about to be fulfilled, fear and doubt raise up their ugly heads.
It is in this atmosphere that the accuser of the brethren begins to aim his poisonous darts; challenging the way that we view ourselves and our abilities. Common phrases used by those influenced by doubt and fear are as follows: we are too weak, too small, too unprepared, and we just can't do it.
THE CHOSEN (14:6-10—Impossibilities Made Possible)
While everyone else is shrinking and crying, these are the few who come out of the background with a different perspective and will not be swayed by the obvious shortsightedness of others. These are leaders in the making who have the heart of those whom they follow. There is a fire alive in them that has waited for its season to burn with white-hot passion. When needed these few will be able to take the lead and chart the previously planned course to its completion.
Joshua and Caleb are representative of this kind of spirit. Having heard the negative report given by the others in their company of spies, they tore their clothes in anger and disgust. As the story unfolds, these two heroes of the faith are exalted to places of leadership that could have otherwise not been realized.
THE FINAL CHALLENGE (Joshua 3:13-16—Just Getting Over It)
The waters of the Jordan hold different meaning for each of us. There is no doubt that the challenges faced in preparation, and even up to the point of crossing, are shared universally by all those who would aspire to achieve for themselves and others the promises of God. It is at this juncture that everything must be in order, and every attitude in check, if we are to claim the final victory.
As the soles of their impatient feet stepped off the muddy shore of the Jordan, a sense of apprehension and amazement fell over the whole congregation. Silence fell upon the camp as they observed the already swollen waters retreat. For fear of giving the impression of disbelief no one spoke a word. These men had already endured the generation before them, whose corpses were resting undisturbed in the desert as a memorial to their unbelief.
The Memorial (Joshua 4:1-3—Getting Stoned)
After any journey, one must rest and refresh to avoid physical and or emotional burnout. This was the ultimate completion to a promise that took better than four hundred and forty years to fulfill. As would be expected, there was a great sense of accomplishment and relief among those who crossed over the dry path in the midst of the Jordan. Before the party started, there was something else that had to be done; something of lasting significance.
Joshua, the newly appointed leader, was instructed to have men from each tribe or family, gather stones and carry them to the place where they would rest for the evening. These stones would remain as a memorial to all that the Lord had accomplished in pulling back the waters of the Jordan. More significantly, these stones, taken from the floor of the Jordan, represented the victories that each family had overcome during this forty-year excursion.
There is a sense of renewed strength and encouragement that will be experienced each time that you look upon this pile of stones. They will serve as a memorial, speaking conclusively to the struggles and challenges over which you now have absolute victory. While victory is indeed sweet, don't get trapped in the reminiscent splendor of past successes. Lift up your eyes—Jericho is just over the horizon.
Reverend C. James Johnson is an ordained minister of the gospel who has been serving the local church community for more than 20 years as a guest speaker, teacher and counselor. He is the founding director of Pastoral Care Associates , Point Organization and the Editor of Ask-a-Pastor. He and his wife Sylvia live in Pennsylvania and have four children and four grandsons. You may write to Rev. Johnson through the Letters page of this magazine.