Thursday, September 26, 2013

Not Too Wide

Have you ever seen pictures of the Jordan River and wondered why the writer of Joshua ever made such a fuss over the nation of Israel crossing it? Most pictures show a small not-to-be-feared river. It doesn't look to be too difficult to cross. But in the beginning of the Biblical book of Joshua the writer tells us the river is over its banks. After living in Texas for so many years, I know how a babbling creek can rise and become a river that packs a mighty wallop. There's a reason for the saying, "God willing and the creek don't rise."

During a sermon message years ago I learned that the Jordan River at flood stage could be as wide as a mile. . . now, we're talking Mississippi River size. The commentary in The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible and A Visual Guide to Bible Events both mention that the river was not only wide but also deep.

Obviously the current of the flooded Jordan River couldn't have been too bad since the spies crossed over to Jericho and returned back across. Swimming with and against the current would have been difficult, but obviously, manageable for two strong men. However, when you add women, children and animals into the mix that's another story.

So now let's look at the crossing of the Jordan River by the nation of Israel. The river is overflowing it's banks. The priest have to step into the fast moving water while carrying the heavy ark of the convenant without stumbling or dropping it. And, at the same time, trust God to do what Joshua said God was going to do.

Sure enough, as they touch the water the river stops coming down from the north. In fact, it piles up in a big heap further upstream. First, the flooded grassy lands are exposed and then the river bed. Everything south of the ark is now a dry creek bed, which is a good thing because the people needed the space to cross over.

Keep in mind the people had to distance themselves from the priest and the ark. I have to admit reading Biblical measurements is hard to comprehend. I was surprised when I figured this one out. The people were told to stay back from the priests 2000 cubits. Now each cubit is the same as 18 inches for us. To me that didn't sound like very far away, but when you do the math the distance becomes 36,000 inches. And, in case you were wondering, that figures out to be 3000 feet. Hello, that's over half a mile.

But can you imagine how frightened the people of Jericho were. From their perch and elevation they would have seen it all happening not far from them. A large group of people chose the worst time to cross a river that rages without stopping during harvest time. And not only did they cross it, but the river itself stopped and rose up as though respecting the golden object the front men were carrying.

The goal had been for the people of the earth to fear God and that should have done it. How wonderful that must have been to see a flooded fast paced river stop in it's tracks and allow a million people with animals and goods to cross over to the other side.

It just goes to show you, nothing is too wide for God to help man through or over. We just have to do as the nation of Israel did and keep our slate clean before God and be prepared to see his hand at work. (Joshua 3:5)

Friday, September 13, 2013


How many times a day do you speak a word of blessing into someone's life or actions? A kind word? A word of thanks? A word of positive acknowledgement? There are so many ways to do it. Now here's a bigger question. . .how many times a day do you speak a blessing to God?

Recently I found that the word "praise" and the word "bless" in the Psalms are interchanged depending on the Bible translation. It comes from a word (barak; berakh) whose root meaning speaks to kneeling in adoration, blessing, praising, saluting, thanking. What I found so interesting when reading Listening to the Language of the Bible was how and why the Hebrew people would bless the Lord. Think of the things you praise God for and where you do it.

The Hebrews did it everywhere. Do you bless God for thunderstorms? The Hebrew people did because it showed his power and strength. Did you know they also blessed him when the trees and plants brought forth flowers? It acknowledged him as creator and provider. And when a wedding, or birth, or something else joyous happened they blessed him for allowing them to live long enough to see the day come and go.

That all seems rather natural and appropriate, but they went further in their blessings. They blessed him as they woke and dressed. Thankful for bodies that worked and God's provision of clothes. And one I find hardest of all, in the midst of grief, when something terrible happened, they blessed him anyway. Giving him credit as a righteous judge.

Do you bless God this often? I remember hearing my mom thanking God every morning she awoke to a new day. I have to admit the first time I heard her do this I was struck with doubt as to the need of it. But she was in the right. None of us are guaranteed to awaken in the morning with the same bodily function as was present the night before. Or, with all our possessions about us.

I found the more I thank God for events and activities the easier it was to see his hand working in my life. He became more real, even in the little things. I see him more as a constant companion, going with me everywhere. I don't have to shout out for him to hear me and come running to see what my need is. He's already here. If I thank him or bless him as things happen I don't have to wait until Sunday to do it, and risk forgetting something.

He is real. Most of us know that. But thanking him continually brings blessings back to us and our lives. Blessing God, praising him each day in each moment allows us to sense his presence as a reality in our personal walk. If you don't believe me, start blessing God for the little things, for everything, and see what happens.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gone to the Dogs

What comes to your mind when you think of dogs? To a cat person they might seem big and loud with a bit of a drool. Others may see an obedient companion who can bring you joy through their silly antics. I can understand both these descriptions.

Recently, observing my son's new puppy play was a joy, filling our moments with lots of laughter. Course, it did help that she had been given a medical collar that prevented her from licking her recent surgery site. Her frequent change of direction due to the collar getting caught on pieces of furniture and her reaction that followed were often hilarious.

With the exception of a few breeds, dogs are fun to watch run about chasing a ball, or rabbit, or squirrel. Some are smart in the retrieval process. Others make you wonder if they have any kind of plan of action at all.

It's hard for me to visualize dogs overall as being something to be avoided. Most people think of dogs as being loyal and protective. So I have to wonder, how can the Bible refer to people as dogs in demonstrations of how bad people are? Or as a punishment to be avoided? People are reported as being eaten by the dogs, or being thrown down to the dogs. Yuck.

But I'm thinking like a modern person. Dogs have come a long way since the days of the Bible. The Chronological Study Bible points out that many dogs ran free and wild back then. Sure, they avoided humans by coming out at night. . . makes you kind of want to stay off the streets after the sun set. And they ate whatever they could find. . .that much hasn't changed. Although, they did often eat bloody dead things which made the Hebrews consider them unclean animals. And, as far as eating them goes, they had paws which was considered unclean to begin with.

So next time you read about people being as bad as dogs, think hungry dog pack. Think of something just short of wolves. That gives me a better picture of what the writer is trying to say.