“Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, where they camped before crossing. Three days later, the Israelite leaders went through the camp giving these instructions to the people: When you see the Leviticus priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark, make sure you don’t come any closer. Then Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.’ In the morning Joshua said to the priests, ‘Lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river.’ And so they started out. The Lord told Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you great in the eyes of all the Israelites. Now they will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. Give these instructions to the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant: When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop’. So Joshua told the Israelites, ‘Come and listen to what the Lord your God says, Today you will know that the living God is among you. He will surely drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites. Think of it! The Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River!
When the people set out to cross the Jordan, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. Now it was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up at a town upstream called Adam, which is near Zarathan. And the water below that point flowed onto the Dead Sea until all the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by them. They waited there until everyone has crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” Joshua 3:1-17
When our children were young, we took them to Disneyworld. Unlike the trend today of telling children the day of…we let our children in on the plan a few weeks before we left, and thus began the creation of the “paper chain countdown” in anticipation of our big trip. Every day they’d cut a link in the chain in anticipation of the one promised day when they could ride the rides and meet The Little Mermaid. The anticipation was as much a part of our trips as the trips themselves.
Webster defines anticipation as “an act of looking forward”. The Bible is filled with stories of people “looking forward”. Noah built an ark in anticipation of a big flood even though it had never even actually rained! God promised a barren Abraham that he’d be the father of many nations, and the people God called “His own” living in immense oppression, lived with the anticipation of deliverance from their bondage. I love that Webster’s definition includes the word … “act”. Noah BUILT an ark. Abraham BELIEVED God and in Exodus 4:32 the “leaders of Israel were CONVINCED that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron” while they were still in chains.
So here we find the nomadic, wandering, anticipation-filled Israelites facing a dilemma. The prize was in plain sight, but so was a swollen Jordan River…. impossibly filled with thick waterlogged reeds, weeds, and rapid rushing water. Here God asks them to do three things. He asks them to fix their eyes on Him (the ark of the covenant was the symbol of His presence), consecrate themselves, and step out into the water.
It’s interesting that God didn’t part the waters, dry up the land and then ask the priests to step forward. He asked the priests to take a step and THEN He parted the waters and dried up the Jordan. They stepped out in full anticipation that God would make a way.
Perhaps you are feeling God nudge you to step out. Are you and I living in faith-filled anticipation? My NewLife family, today I pray that we fix our eyes on him… the author and perfecter of our faith. I’m praying that we might set aside anything that keeps us from being unclean and unsure, set apart. And I am praying that you and I might step out in bold anticipation!