Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 17 Number 5 May 2015
Page 2

Editorial

It Really Happened!

Who Turned Off the Water?

Louis RushmoreSome events in everyday life are remarkable and astonishing. Then, consider God’s miraculous interaction with humanity in the past. Some biblical incidents would be unbelievable if it were not for the all-powerful hand of Almighty God in them. The child of God can exclaim regarding numerous such occasions throughout the biblical text, “It really happened!” Despite as much as they stretch one’s imagination, “They really happened!”

Who Turned Off the Water?

Through the hand of God 40 years earlier, the Israelites had escaped slavery in Egypt after a series of plagues and a stupendous crossing of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit. Because of a humongous detour circumventing the land of Edom, finally a new generation of Israelites found themselves standing on the east bank of the Jordan River. The Promised Land for which they and their parents had longed for decades since it was promised to them (Exodus 3:8) was only the breadth of a river away. However, between them and their Canaan Land destination was a serious obstacle—the Jordan River.

There were no bridges spanning the Jordan River at that time, but there were over 50 well-known shallow spots or fords for crossing it (Joshua 2:7). However, the Jordan River was at flood stage (Joshua 3:15). Therefore, the inhabitants of Canaan did not feel threatened by the millions of Israelites teeming on their borderland—as long as they remained on the far side of the flooded Jordan. Further, the Canaanites saw no need to fortify the west bank of the Jordan River since the flooded watercourse was viewed as a satisfactory barrier to prevent at least temporarily the inevitable Israelite invasion.

The flooded Jordan River itself was perceived by the inhabitants of the land as sufficient defense against a feared Israelite offensive (Joshua 2:9-11). Furthermore, the overflowing waterway would have arrested the forward march of the Israelites in the absence of bridges, fords or boats to accommodate that swelled swarm—if it had not been for the miraculous intervention of God.

The worst fear of the seven nations (Joshua 3:10) living west of the Jordan River was expedited when God turned off the water flow, and millions of Israelites entered the Promised Land unopposed. God interrupted the water flow of the Jordan River and caused it to stand in a heap 25 miles above the head of the Dead Sea. This afforded the massive Israelite nation ample opportunity to cross the emptied riverbed. About two and a half million Israelites ambled down the eastern river embankment, possibly through brush, across a dry river bottom (Joshua 3:17) and climbed the western riverbank, maybe using tree limbs as handles to pull themselves up and into Canaan. The wide expanse of the waterless channel negated any necessity of marching in columns; this would have accelerated getting everyone across the river.

Miracles that day included turning off the water and drying up the river bottom. Those two miracles afforded the great Israelite horde both the relative ease of crossing a significant natural obstacle and doing so with no armed resistance. Imagine how that even in the absence of the water at the Jordan River crossing how it would have been if soldiers, families, livestock and household goods had to navigate river mud and fight their way into Canaan. The crossing itself, especially during flood time, without having to confront defenders corroborates the miraculous element of this historic event. Yes, it really happened!

Application

The miraculous period of God’s interaction with humanity served its stated purpose (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4) and came to a close around the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century A.D. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). Still today, though, dependence upon God can permit Christians to achieve formidable tasks. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5). “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Colossians 1:11).

We can persevere spiritually, though we may suffer physically or even if we do not survive (2 Timothy 4:6-8). “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. …And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:22, 28). “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled’” (1 Peter 3:14).

Despite the cessation of miracles, God still operates today through His providence to accomplish His will regarding us. Miracles were obvious, supernatural events that were intended to be observed and to prove or validate something (John 20:30-31). However, providence is neither obvious nor observable, and hence, it is not intended to prove or validate something to humanity. God’s providence operates behind the scenes to accomplish the will of God. The same divine power that made miracles possible powers providence today.

The most apparent demonstration and declaration of divine providence concerns Jacob’s son Joseph who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:7-8). “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Neither Joseph nor certainly his brothers could have foreseen that a series of circumstances over many years would have yielded the result that it did with Joseph rising to become the second highest ruler in Egypt. No earthling could have beforehand seen the correlation between slavery, prison, ruler in Egypt, famine and preserving the bud out of which the Jewish nation bloomed. Nevertheless, behind the scenes and in conjunction with human freewill rather than in abuse of it, “it really happened!”

God’s providence also operates unobserved by mankind in the governments of the world (John 19:11; Romans 13:1). “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings…” (Daniel 2:21; Psalm 113:7-8). “Make the arrows bright! Gather the shields! The Lord has raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes. For His plan is against Babylon to destroy it, Because it is the vengeance of the Lord, The vengeance for His temple” (Jeremiah 51:11). We have no reason to doubt that God continues to unfold His providential will in raising up or pulling down nations. Yes, God has even used evil nations to punish other evil nations. He used Assyria to punish Israel, Babylon to punish Judah, and Medo-Persia to punish Babylon. God could foreseeably spank wayward America, for instance, by using another country as a paddle to punish or chasten (Hebrews 12:5-11).

As Christians, we need to do two things, generally, respecting the providence of God nationally. We need to make sure that we are part of the solution and not part of the problem respecting our nation’s reputation before God. Secondly, we need to influence our fellow citizens and the course of the country in the right spiritual direction (Ephesians 5:11). Remember this. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (Psalms 9:17).

God also works in our lives today, though we may not be able to see the bigger picture than ourselves. We may not be able to muster sufficient objectivity or simply lack the vantage possessed by God to look far enough beyond ourselves to understand and appreciate how God’s providence may affect us. Yet, we need to trust God’s plan and not work against it. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Everyone, sinner or saint, is the beneficiary of general providence and blessings (Matthew 5:45), but special providence or blessings are reserved for God’s children (Matthew 7:7-8).

Summary

The Israelite nation could have entered the Promised Land in one year from the time of their exodus from Egypt—even though God directed them on a southern route in the Sinai Peninsula. However, because of unbelief and rebellion, God made those Israelites wander in circles throughout the desert for 39 more years before their children actually entered Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:35-40).

Each of us needs to check for unbelief and rebellion (2 Corinthians 13:5), and if we find those tendencies within ourselves, we must speedily reject that mindset and behavior. Certainly, we do not want to be like those who perished in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). Surely, we do not want to wander in circles for four decades in our own early wilderness. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).


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