God is Working 19 Miles Upstream

God is Working 19 Miles Upstream

Modern society encourages individuals to only trust what they can see, examine, and immediately verify. Believers in Jesus Christ are called to have a different mindset and perspective. Believers are to have hope even when there are no answers in sight. Believers are to have faith even if it is difficult to see or understand what God is doing.

God’s love for you is sure. He has a plan for you (Jer. 29:11), He will never leave nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5), and right now He is working out His perfect and sovereign plan (John 5:17).

In Joshua chapter 3,  we read of how the chosen people crossed the Jordan river and moved into the Promised Land. The story is amazing for many reasons—but my favorite reason is that God caused the water to ‘stand in a heap’ not where the Hebrews could see and verify it, but rather, 19 miles upstream. In fact, the water flow was likely stopped by God hours before the Hebrews were to step foot into the Jordan. They did not know it, they could not see it, but God had long been at work before the Lord urged an anxious people to face their fears and cross the seemingly uncrossable river.

God is still working 19 miles upstream. He is always a step or two (or trillion) ahead of us. He knows what we need, and He helps us to do what He calls us to do. So, let us be faithful. Let every follower of Christ have hope, and believe that God surrounds His people with his love, grace, and care.


The Story

Josh. 3:9  And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.

Josh. 3:10  And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Hivite, and the Perizzite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Jebusite.

Josh. 3:11  Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.

Josh. 3:12  Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, for every tribe a man.

Josh. 3:13  And it shall come to pass, when the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters…that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off, even the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand in one heap.

Josh. 3:14-15  And it came to pass…when they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brink of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of harvest,) Josh. 3:16  that the waters which came down from above stood, and rose up in one heap, a great way off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan: and those that went down toward the sea of the Arabah…were wholly cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.

Josh. 3:17  And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all Israel passed over on dry ground, until all the nation were passed clean over Jordan.

From the structure of the story we see…

  • God desires, and is able to rescue those in need.
  • We can move forward toward a bright future when we have mastered the present.
  • A new day or new blessing is often associated with new faith.
  • God can do all without us, and we can do so little without Him.
  • God is in the midst—and He is living and powerful (V. 10).


New thoughts from an old story 

  1. God’s leading is perfect, even when it does not make sense to us.

In this story, God extended a very unusual and seemingly illogical command. Cross the river, when the waters were fast, where there was no bridge, with a great weight on the backs of the leaders. It is easy to imagine that someone was thinking—surely there is a better way.

Not only is it probable many thought God’s leading was questionable, it is likely that many thought it was dangerous. Whispers of where’s the bridge? Where are the rafts? I can’t swim. My children will drown probably swept through the crowd. However, God called the people to replace their fears with faith—to trust Him not because they understood all of the hows, but because they knew the Who.

It was God who was with them. It was God who was leading them. About 3400 years ago, on the banks of the Jordan River, Israel learned that when you walk with God, you walk toward blessing.

Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is always working, and I myself am working…’”  (John 5:17) 

  1. God takes the initiative

In this story, we see that it was not necessary for humans to make God aware of dangers or options. God was aware. God had everything in hand. God took the initiative to make a plan, stop-up the water and communicate the plan which would lead the people toward blessing.

It is good to know that these important details were not left up to Joshua or his leaders. The safety of the people was not dependent on Joshua’s plan—it was dependent on identifying and following God’s plan. The story does not just reveal what God did then, it reveals what God does today.

God has a plan for you just as God took the initiative to make a plan (which led to blessing) in the days of Joshua. Our prayer then is not to request that God bless our plan, but rather, that we might be able to discern His plan, and be faithful to embrace it.

  • 2:10 (LB) “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus, and long ago he planned that we should spend these lives…helping others.”
  • I…know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity…plans to bring about the future you hope for.” (Jer. 29:11)
  • “But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!” (Rom. 5:8)
  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit…” (John 15:16a)
  1. The invitation God presents is often time-sensitive

In this story, success (crossing the Jordan) was the result of doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Here’s a summary of what happened: Joshua led the people to the banks of the Jordan River. The people saw that the water was running fast. The situation was dangerous. Nervous whispers swept through the crowd. Joshua told the people that God would make a way and called the people to pray and commit themselves to God. The people prayed through the day, but likely keep one eye on the water, watching to see how God was going to provide. The next day, when God prompted Joshua, orders were given for the people cross the Jordan, even though there were no apparent changes in the river. Tension and anxiety grew with each step they took toward the river.

What Joshua and his people did not know is that before the people stepped into the water, God had already dammed-up the river some 19 miles upstream. A miracle had unfolded, but the window of opportunity to share in the blessing was limited.

Being able to share in the wonder of stepping out into the water and immediately seeing the waters recede, and then reappear when the last of the million or so sojourners crossed the river was dependent on all being faithful to do what God called them to do when God told them to do it.

Though it would have seemed logical for Joshua to order his people to wait until the dry season came and the waters were slow and low, following God’s directives, exactly as given, was essential to victory. The spiritual principles noted in this story apply today. Delayed obedience is disobedience, and blessings come to those who are quick to follow God’s leading.

  • “…behold, I have set before you an open door…” (Rev. 3:8b)
  • “Be wise in the way you act…making good use of every opportunity you have.” (Col.4:5)
  • “[Know]…the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep…” 13:11a (KJV)
  • “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Cor 6:2 (KJV)
  1. Our challenge is to strengthen our faith. Great challenges facilitate great faith.

Most are conditioned to want things to be quick and easy. The smooth road is the preferred road. Bumps in the road, setbacks, and challenges are resisted and often associated with something negative (God is angry, I am being punished, God has forgotten me, etc.). However, from this story, we see that the ‘bump in the road’ and ‘challenge’ did not come because God was angry or the people were being punished. (i.e., We must cross the river but the waters are high and fast, and there is no bridge.)

God’s aim was not to bring about something bad, but something good. The decision to have Joshua and his people face challenging circumstances was designed to facilitate greater trust, greater faith, and a greater appreciation of the wonder of God.

“My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way…so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing…” (James 1:2-4)

“[We are], by the power of God…guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now. for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  (1 Peter 1:5-7)

The truth is, it is fairly easy to look back on historic events and see how God was good, had a plan, and was in control. It is more difficult to see these things when you are in the midst of a difficult situation. But remember, God never changes. God was good then, and God is good now.

In the days of Joshua, God’s desire was to bless and see His people grow in faith. The same is true today. When you face a challenge or setback, pray that God will help you to see what He wants you to see and grow in ways He wants you to grow. In that you will be blessed.

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