Why Into the River?
If you have taken the time to check out this blog (thank you!), you may be wondering why I titled it “Into the River”. Being that I think that is a fair question, I thought it would be equally fair for me to share the answer with you. So here we go…
When you here the phrase “into the river”, there are more than likely a lot of things that come to your mind. Whether it is a childhood memory of jumping into a river on a hot summer day or throwing rocks in the river and watching the ripples, there is much fun to be had at a river. Maybe you think of launching a canoe or a fishing boat for life’s next big adventure or just relaxing by cool, waters contemplating life. Much of this comes to my mind as well when I hear those three words, but it was something very different that lead me to this name. One day as I was reading the Bible, I came along a story in the book of Joshua. Like many stories in this part of the Old Testament, it was about the Israelites’ journey into the Promised Land. Specifically, it is the story in Chapter 3 of the Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan River. As you may remember, Joshua tells the people to prepare themselves for God to do great things and instructs the priests to take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and pass on ahead of the people. After Joshua offers these instructions, the Lord tells Joshua to have the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant go to the edge of the Jordan River and then to go and stand in the river. Joshua communicates the Lord’s words to the Israelites and tells the priests to go into the river with the Ark of the Covenant. Picking up with Joshua 3:15 it says, “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (this is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:15-17 NIV)
This wasn’t the first time I had read this story, but it was the first time I realized the challenge and opportunity presented to the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. You see, I think it is easy to read this story and think about how awesome it is that God stopped the river from flowing, but miss the “step of faith” these priests were asked to take. Certainly God had promised through Joshua to stop the river as soon as their feet touched the water, but I can only imagine the myriad of thoughts that were probably going through their heads as they approached the Jordan. If you journey back in the Old Testament, you will read that people died just by touching the Ark of the Covenant. These priests were being asked to walk into a river bed, with the river flowing (prior to them stepping in) none the less. If you have ever walked into a river bed, you know it can be treacherous. The Ark of the Covenant was created based on God’s request and carried the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. What if the Ark of the Covenant was swept away by the river? It said the Jordan River was at flood stage. What if it doesn’t stop flowing and the priests are drowned? The challenge presented was great and it is easy to understand why someone might say “thanks, but no thanks”.
However, so was the opportunity? What if God is faithful and stops the Jordan River? The priests had an incredible chance to be a part of God’s amazing plan. As we know, that is exactly what happened. The priests came to the river, trusted God, stepped and the river stopped flowing. Not only that, but they were able to stand in the middle of the river until all of the Israelites had crossed over. Do you think their lives were different because of this experience? What if one of the priests “called out sick” that day and didn’t take the opportunity to be a part of God’s work? Do you think he would be asking “what if?” for the rest of his life? We will never know the answer to these questions for sure, but this I do know, those priests chose life. Despite what looked to be an impossible challenge, one that some might call crazy, the priests decided that God was big enough and the chance to be used by Him was worth the risk. By walking into the Jordan River and risking everything, they found life and, I would think, were different for it.
I believe God gives us the same challenge and opportunity. We are standing on the edge of what looks like a raging river wondering how stepping in could possibly be a part of the plan. We too have a choice. Step into the river and experience life to the full or wait on the bank and ask “what if” for the rest of our lives. As I have grown in Christ, I have come to realize that real life is found in the river. Even when it looks a little crazy, following God’s call on our lives presents us with the opportunity to see God work in ways we couldn’t even imagine. Will it be hard? Yes. Maybe even a little scary? More than likely. But when you step into the river, I believe that you will find that it is worth the risk and exactly where you are meant to be. So this blog is my challenge to you. Will you step into the river or miss your chance to be a part of advancing God’s Kingdom? The choice is yours.
What river might God be asking you to step into today?
As I mentioned last week, I had a neat opportunity to “step into the river” last week with a group of guys from Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach. Monday of last week, we loaded up three four wheel drive trucks with supplies and gear, and headed to Albellanas, a small rural village in Nicaragua. With the exception of Roger, who grew up in Albellanas before moving to Managua and eventually the United States, and a couple of the guys who had been there before, none of us knew what to expect. As usually is the case with “getting into the river”, God did more than we could ever imagine. Albellanas is a very remote and poor village with no access to running water or electricity. It is also a very challenging place in which to go due to the condition of the 8 kilometer road/path from the main road to the village. In fact, it took us well over an hour to travel there in vehicles equipped for the conditions. Upon arriving at the village, we had many opportunities to share meals and life with the people of Albellanas. Over the course of the two days we were there, we did build a structure for an outhouse, leave material for other outhouses, fix electrical issues and play games with the kids, but the real joy of the trip was the life change we saw. From getting to pray with a few of Roger’s family members who came to know the Lord to seeing twenty-two people give their lives to Christ after the Jesus film, the way we saw God move will impact us for the rest of our lives.
I will share more about the trip and what I feel God revealed to me while I was there next week. In the meantime, I have posted a few pictures of our trip for your viewing pleasure.
Have a great week and get into the river!
– James Belt