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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Step in Faith

Knowing God~He is with me

Joshua is getting ready to cross the river, his first major feat after Moses' death. He instructs the people to prepare themselves for God's wonders that will happen the next day, by sanctifying themselves. He instructs the priests to carry the ark of the covenant in front of all the people. Then God speaks to Joshua and encourages him. He says, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses." (Joshua 3: 7) He gives Joshua some last minute instructions and then Joshua tells the Israelites to gather around.

It's interesting that here we have a repeat of what happened at the Red Sea. An insurmountable obstacle, a river instead of a sea but still lots of water, dry land to cross over on, this time there is no one chasing the Israelites but it seems like yet another opportunity for them to learn to trust that God will open up a path where there is none. One of my favourite verses in Psalms says, "Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen." The Psalms are actually filled with references to the Israelites and their experiences of wandering in the desert and rebelling against God in the promised land. Psalm 106 and 78 are excellent examples of this.

God tells Joshua that he is the one to tell the priests what to do, and that they must go right up to the edge of the water, put their feet in the water, and as soon as they do so the water will stop flowing and a dry path will appear for the people to cross over on. Joshua then encourages the Israelites, telling them that God's promises (ark of the covenant) will cross in front of them into the river, and this will be a sign to them that God is with them and that He will drive out all their enemies.

When God made the dry land appear in the Red Sea, the Israelites were terrified that they were going to die. Moses told them to stand still and see the deliverance that God was going to perform. The Egyptians would also see God's power that day and recognize that He was God. Now Joshua was encouraging the Israelites to recognize that God will deliver them from the enemies that lie ahead of them, rather than behind, and that once again He will overcome the insurmountable.

As I look at the story and think about how this can apply to my life, I think about how the priests had to actually put their feet in the water before it would stop. They had to act on faith that God would do what He had promised to do. They could have refused to put their feet in the water, they could have compromised and said they would stand at the riverbank and wait till the water dried up before they put their feet down on dry land, rather than getting their feet wet. But God specifically says, "you shall stand still in the Jordan." He didn't say, go forward in faith and then continue on blindly and presumptuously. He said, Go forward, take that first step trusting that I will fulfill My promise, and then stop and wait for Me. Wait to see that I have honored your trust and wait to see My promise fulfilled. Then you can continue on safely and in the assurance that you are in My will.

I've been struggling a lot lately with trying to understand how I can know that I am doing what God wants me to do, particularly when it comes to getting a job. I have had two really difficult experiences in the workplace, both happening in jobs where I was convinced that God was leading me to work there. I have seen family and friends looking for jobs and the conflicting schools of thought have thoroughly confused me: wait until God opens a door you haven't knocked on and take that as a sign that He is blessing you, or knock on doors until one opens and take that as a sign that He wants you to go through that door. I believe God works in providential ways but I also believe that He has gifted us with the ability to reason so that we can make logical conclusions.

Reading this passage and thinking about the priests taking that first step encourages me because perhaps it can be applied to this question that I have. Perhaps God asks us to trust His promises, which say He will provide for us and bless us and has a hopeful future for us. Perhaps we have to take that first step in faith that He will fulfill His promises, even as the water seems to be rushing very quickly in front of us and we are afraid to step forward because we fear we will be swept away by the current of life. Perhaps as we take that step, when we stop and wait for Him, He sees that our act of stepping forward demonstrates our faith, and He then honors His promise to still the waters and we can see a clear path in front of us.

It's not a perfectly lined up example that fits with my whole job-question. I'm not sure what happens if I take that step, I'm waiting, and then life gets messy and those river waters come rushing back and overwhelm me even though I'm still doing what I believe I should be doing. Perhaps, though, that part isn't my fault. Perhaps even in leaving I can still be acting in faith. Perhaps I'm simply taking another first step into unsure waters--in a different direction this time.

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