I grew up around a lake, not a river. I spent most of my childhood at the lake, jumping off the cliffs or just walking straight into the water. What we are familiar with shapes our understanding of the Bible; we can not picture what we don’t know. Tonight as I was in Bible Study we are studying through the book of Joshua. Spending Saturdays at a arroyo with my spouse, I got a different picture when I read the following passage tonight.
“You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ”
Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over ahead of you the Jordan. Now then, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man for each tribe. It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap.” So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” Joshua 3:8, 11-17
When I would go to the lake, there were spots where there was a drop off after you walked in, but you still just walked directly in (Unless you were jumping off the cliffs). So when I picture the priests carrying the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River, they were just stepping in.
Even visiting the Jordan River and walking down stairs to be baptized, I still did not get a different picture in my mind, not that I was thinking of the priests at the time. Tonight, I thought about my own experience with rivers. I have been to three I guess, the Mississippi, the Elk and the Jordan (Pictures below of the Jordon River). Each one I had to walk done to even put my feet in the water. I probably took this for granted on some level, as I walked down stairs to get to the river.
What really made me gain a different perspective is this weekend I ventured down into the arroyo where my husband likes to prospect. We have been going there for months, and I have never walked down into it because I have a fear of falling down. I don’t mind the hike up, which is challenging, it is the going down part that freaks me out.
He had given me a metal detector so I walked farther along the bank than I typically have. I came across a downward path that did not seem too steep. Then I walked back down the creek bed and up to where he was and surprised him. After he was finished for the day, it became a task as he was carrying things back up to where we parked his truck, despite having a wagon.
So as I read this passage tonight I imagined four priests carried the ark of the covenant, which was almost 4 feet long on poles. It wasn’t just a step out into the water, it was likely a trek down a rocky, sandy slope, likely a slippery slope since it is recorded to be in flood stage. It wasn’t an easy task, as step of faith into water, it was probably a little dangerous and a hard maneuver of the sacred Ark of Covenant.
It makes me think about how I respond to difficult tasks. I want life tests to be like stepping into a lake. I want the step of faith to be easy, even if I eventually have to take the plunge as the land before me drops off. I know how to swim, it is the fall that scares me.
I get discouraged when it takes a hike down and a walk in the flooding river. It doesn’t matter how deep the water is, it is the slippery slope that often deters me. I am scared of falling, even when I have a Heavenly Father that is directing my steps.
Then I think about the holiness they were carrying. I know that there was a weight to the Ark’s holiness and how it was to be carried. Uzzah died after taking hold of it, but it was not being carried as God had intended. It was being transported by animal, not man.
“They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.
But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.”
2 Samuel 6:3-4, 6-7
I too carry the presence of God. His holiness (See Ephesian 4:24). Am I careful to present myself as He has directed? Or do I treat His presence and holiness as common? Do I really think about His presence in me? Do I let His presence work through me?
There is so much to the priests stepping out in obedience to walk in the river. It was a step of faith, but it was also not an easy task to walk down a flooded river bank carrying a holy ark of the covenant. So too is my walk with God. It is not always easy, sometimes the task may seem too difficult to accomplish or like I will fall, but with God all things are possible. I just need to remember His presence is with me, and that He chose to walk in the river with me.