Last weekend I had the sweet honor of speaking at our annual women’s retreat. The theme was ‘Come to the River’. The location of the retreat was spectacular. High above the Columbia River Gorge, nestled among the trees. Yet sporting a wonderful view of the river.
Come to the River, being the theme, I shared on 3 approaches to the river of God. The first being, ‘delivering waters, needing to be crossed’, the second, ‘healing waters, are to be immersed in’ and lastly, ‘satisfying waters are for refilling’. I know the gal most impacted was the one upfront, looking into the eyes of the women.
You too are now among us … delivering waters.
We begin our journey in Joshua chapter 3. To give a ‘brief ‘ summary of where we are on God’s time line, Moses has brought the Israelites out of Egypt, delivering them from slavery. They are heading for the Promise Land, their inheritance, a place to call their own. Due to MANY circumstances which could not be contained in this devotional ~ they wander for 40 years. Following Moses’ death, Joshua, whom now holds the reins of leadership, prepares the people to cross the Jordan River into the Land, to take possession of what is rightly theirs. Can you imagine with me, (for humor sake ) what it was like for Joshua as he opened Moses’ will… ‘to Jeped I leave my sandals, to Eliazer my cloak, and to Joshua – THEM. The thousands, those who complain, the dusty ones. May Jehovah have mercy on your soul’. ( Just kidding , totally kidding).
We look now at verse 1, it states that they ‘set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over’. The King James words it ‘they lodged’ there, they literally pitched their tents. They were SO close, across the river was their goal, they could see it, after all these years, THERE it was! Hm, how many of us too, have had (or are having ) let’s say ~ good intentions. We set out, yet come to the rivers edge and pitch our tents, we camp for while, (perhaps TOO long), knowing that across the river is our inheritance. Jumping ahead ~ it is expressed that the river is at flood stage (v.15). Oh great, we get here and this is what we find, it is bigger, wider, and deeper than we expected.
Joshua summons the people: ‘consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the LORD will do AMAZING things among you’, (v.5 emphasis mine). Looking at the flooded river, yep ‘amazing’ is what it is going to take! I love this ‘amazing’. In the Hebrew it is ‘pala’ (paw-law), meaning as you would think, amazing, wonderful, extraordinary. Yet there is more. Psalms 118:23 ‘The Lord has done this, and it is wonderful in our eyes. Verse 24, ‘This is the day the LORD has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it’. ‘It is wonderful in our eyes’, same word, ‘pala’.
Now track with me, we turn to Genesis 18:14, this is the story where God tells Abe and Sarah that in their old age they will have a son, and remember Sarah laughs ( who wouldn’t !). Backing up to 13, ‘Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘why did Sarah laugh and say, will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Then God says, ‘Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’ Too hard, ‘pala’. Is anything too amazing for God, too hard for HIM?
The river is RAGING. Joshua has the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, God’s very presence on their shoulders, go to the rivers edge. ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s water, go and stand in the river‘ ( v.8 ) There was no – raise your hands high, bow 3 times, SHOUT with all your might, (that comes later at the walls of Jericho). Just stand. Don’t get me wrong there IS a time to shout, bow and raise your hands, but also a time to ‘stand’, (see Eph. 6:10-18). To take the toe of life and place it in the water, the raging water, takes courage. The KNOWING that once we do, what is too hard, is an opportunity for God to do ‘amazing’ things among us. Jesus says in Luke 18:27 ‘What is impossible with men, is possible with God’. God takes the ‘im’ in impossible and turns it into ‘I AM’.
Verse 15, ‘Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from up stream stopped flowing‘. Go God! As they walked to the middle of the river, ‘they stood firm on dry ground’. Here is a wonderful analogy for us. As Israel passed by, the priests stayed right there in the middle of the river, until all were safe. God’s presence staying in the middle of OUR circumstance until we are safely on the other side. He goes into the water with us, He stays and crosses exactly where we are.
Twelve men were chosen to gather a stone from the middle of the river and take it to the other side, symbolic of God’s deliverance at the river. There in the sanctuary where I spoke, in the middle of the isle I had a treasure chest full of stones. I felt God wanted us as women to identify ‘our river’. We, standing on one side, and NEEDING to cross over to our inheritance in God, taking possession. At first I thought, a rough stone will do, we are after all, rough and still a work in progress, but the Lord told me, ‘no – a smooth stone,’ symbolizing too that as we cross over, walk through the river on dry ground, taking the Presence of God with us, standing and seeing God do amazing things in and through us, we are being smoothed. I likened it to God taking us and our circumstance in His hand, His fingers rubbing us smooth. The gals were encouraged to take a rock and write on it (pen provided) what was ‘too hard’, what they wanted – NEEDED from God. Joy, freedom from fear, no longer being insecure, deliverance from consuming habits, a real, REAL sense of His love. These can be the river we cross.
Coming to the river requires a decision. There is most often a tendency to hover near the waters edge. It is a meeting place with God, a place of dedication, devotion. Yes, take time to search, and be searched (Ps. 139) pray, but NEVER stay there. Our inheritance (joy, freedom, assurance, security, love), awaits us on the other side. Our option? Turn back … into the desert, wander some more, even go back to captivity. Us … too hard ~ God … AMAZING!
It is in the RIVER that we take that first ‘step’ and stand. We take God with us, to the very middle of the circumstance, and we stand FIRM! Safe and dry. We do as the 12 leaders did, we take something from the river as a reminder, and build that altar before God, HERE and now YOU preserved me, YOU brought me through, YOUR presence stayed there in the middle of it all, to see me to the other side! Isaiah 43:1-2 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…”
We need only to cross the waters. God with us, God in us, God delivering us.
In Him, DeDe (Ps. 92:4 ‘You thrill me, LORD …’)