Along the Jordan River, between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, are the plains of Jericho – the mound of the ancient city and its ruins are visible for all to see.
But for today I don’t want to look at Jericho; we can discuss that place another time. (And those going with me on the 2022 Texas Scorecard trip to Israel will see it in person!) Instead, I invite you to look east from Jericho across the plains to the Jordan River and Gilgal. Not much to see out there.
First, a little background. You might recall the story of Moses and the Israelite slaves leaving Egypt. As the Egyptian army was approaching, the Jews were pressed against the Red Sea with seemingly nowhere safe to go. Moses was instructed by God to raise his staff, and the sea parted for the people to pass – with the waters then crashing down and drowning their foes.
After that amazing display of God’s power, the people of Israel stumbled – they were afraid to take the final step and enter the land promised to them. As punishment for their faithlessness and timidity, they had to wander the desert as nomads for a generation.
Some forty years later the Israelites were finally allowed to enter their promised land. Yet this time the raging waters of the Jordan protected them from their potential adversaries – the closest of whom are behind the strong walls of Jericho, a city they could literally see from across the swollen river.
At Gilgal the Israelites were told, in essence, to do the opposite of what they did fleeing Egypt. They were told God would turn the raging river into dry land so they could cross into the enemy’s reach… but first they had to get their feet wet in the dangerous river.
It’s one thing to have faith when we see the waters part, providing an easy walk to safety away from an advancing army. It’s something else entirely to have faith when crossing a raging river in order to advance into the arms of a stronger, entrenched enemy.
So it was at Gilgal where the men of God carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the raging waters… and God then dried up the river for the people to pass. Leaving the comfortable scarcity of the wilderness, they stepped out in faith toward the certain fight of claiming the long-promised land of Israel.
Do we have faith to leave our safe places and fight the fights ahead? Rather than flee to safety, do we have the faith to rush into the enemy’s grasp?
Just as the Israelites did at Gilgal, we must step boldly forward despite our fears willing to fight faithfully.