“Walking by Faith!”
Joshua 3:7-17 / Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
When I was a high school student, I went on a Summer vacation with my friends. We went to a Mountain called Odaesan which was one of the most beautiful mountains in Korea. There were many valleys in the mountain and one of them seemed perfect to ride an inflatable boat I had. So, one of my friends and I went up along the valley and we stopped at some point because there was a water fall in front of us. We thought that was a good starting point for the ride. It was very close to the fall. I sat in the front of the boat and my friend was supposed to push the boat forward and to jump in it to seat in the back of the boat. But he made a mistake. Instead of pushing forward, he pushed down and jumped in the boat and the boat was capsized. That was the moment that I thought I might die. I was stuck under the fall and at the bottom of the water. The power of the fall was so strong that I couldn’t move at all. On the bottom of the river, I lost my mind and went completely insane. I frantically tried to move my body but it didn’t work. I don’t know how long I was there. Finally, I felt I had no energy to do anything and completely relaxed and prayed, “God, help me!!”
Right after that, I felt my body shooting out of the water. I was alive. Out of the water, I saw my friend was happy to see me. He thought he lost me. That day, I learned lessons from the accident. First, do not put your boat in too close to a water fall. Second, don’t push the inflatable boat down and jump in it. It would be capsized. More than those lessons, I have never forgotten the feeling I had from the accident. It gave me a strong message about my relationship with God. When I tried to save myself, it didn’t work but when I left myself to God, I could experience the grace of God saving me from trouble.
This experience is one of my Christian formative experiences in my life and this experience tells me how weak we sometimes are before challenges. Have you had any experience like that, the experience that you are not able to cope. How have God worked for you?
In today’s Scripture, we can see the people of God who face the challenge they cannot cope and how God works for them in the challenge. Let us take a look at the text. We finally see a pivotal moment in life of the Israelites. Their journey in the wilderness is almost over. They are standing on the eastern shore of the Jordan River looking across to the Promised Land where milk and honey are flowing. The goal of so many years in the wilderness is in sight. God, who called Israel out of Egypt, has been faithful. Even though their faith in God has been up and down in the wilderness, they now face the last step to get to the Promised Land.
Can you imagine how they were emotionally touched? They had been through tough challenges in the Wilderness. They had lost parents and family members. These people are not the same people who escaped from Egypt. The men and women who began the journey from slavery into freedom had been buried in the wilderness. The ones who stand on the bank of the Jordan are their sons and daughters, granddaughters and grandsons. Confronting the Jordan River, they might say, “Thank God, finally, we are here!”
However, their challenges aren’t over yet. At this last moment of their journey, they face a challenge which threatens their lives. As their parents and grandparents faced the Red Sea, they are being confronted by the Jordan River. According to the Scripture, the river is flowing strongly from the rains of the harvest season (v. 15). They cannot wade very far into the water for fear of being swept away and drowned. It is very dangerous. “God led us into the wilderness and now the Jordan River. We all will be dead soon.” They might say like that. After being happy, they are now discouraged.
Now that we know the Israelites face the Jordan River, I would like to invite you to think of what happened at the beginning of the wilderness wanderings. Moses and the Israelites were blocked by the Red Sea. Deep water was before them and Pharaoh’s armies were behind them. All seemed lost. There was nothing they could do to get themselves out of the situation.
However, at that moment, God intervened. That was the moment the Israelites witnessed God’s presence and power, protecting and sustaining them. The waters were parted on the left and on the right. The people crossed on dry ground and escaped Pharaoh’s wrath. God saved the people as they began their Exodus journey.
Forty years later, the people, once again, find their way impeded by water. This time it is not the quiet waters of the Red Sea. It is the raging current of the Jordan River. If the people are going to cross, they, once again, will need to see the hand of God.
The good news in this story is that God, once again, intervenes. Joshua, the new leader of the people, is told to command the priests to pick up the Ark of the Covenant which contains the ten Commandment tablets and to wade into the raging waters. The priests obey with the faith in God. As long as the priests stand in the river bed, the waters stop flowing. When all of the people are across and the priests ascend the west bank into the Promised Land, the waters resume their course. Yes! God intervenes in their trouble.
This story leads us into another key message in today’s sermon. Not only does God intervene and act for God’s people, but the people also walk by faith. Based on this story, we can draw a picture of the scene in which there are raging water and the people walking by faith. Of course, they might tremble. But they are walking in faith that God will be with them. God intervenes in the life of God’s people and strengthen them to be able to walk through the challenges.
Let me wrap up today’s sermon with the following text, Psalm 107:1-6 which expreses my feeling when I escaped the water fall. “Give thanks to the LORD, for God is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever… Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town… Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and the Lord delivered them from their distress.”
We as well as our family, friends, and neighbors have challenges like the Red Sea and Jordan River. We have loneliness, bad habits, uncertainty about the future, addictions, financial strains, and physical pains. You name it. We feel so small before the vastness of the Red Sea and the turbulence of the Jordan River. But here is the good news. God intervenes and makes us able to walk through. The Holy Spirit working within us speaks to us, “Trust me, lean on me. Everything will be alright!” With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can humbly and faithfully walk with God. Our God is greater than the vastness of the Red Sea and the turbulence of the Jordan River.
Let us together be witnesses to the good news from God in our lives. Let us together be messengers sharing it with our neighbors. Let us together walk by faith.
Let us pray.
Loving God who intervenes in the midst of our lives and leads us with the power of the Holy Spirit, thank you for your message this morning. Help us believe that you are always with us. Bless us to faithfully walk by faith. And bless us to witness your power and presence in our lives and our neighbors’. In your name, we pray. Amen.