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Step into the Water
The children of Israel are ready to leave the wilderness for good and claim their Canaan, the Promised Land of abundance and victory...the land of milk and honey.
In their way is the swollen Jordan River.
God tells them they are going to cross the river, which looks impossible. But mark it down and take it to the bank when God gives you such a challenge...for He will make a way! [Israelite Crossing!]
Got any rivers that seem uncrossable?
Got any mountains you canít tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
And He knows a thousand ways to make a way for you!
God parted the waters again like He did 40 years earlier. And the people crossed. This was a huge victory, but they had many more victories to win.
The hymn book has several songs which picture Canaan as heaven...songs which talk about crossing over Jordan to our final reward. ďI Am Bound for the Promised LandĒ says the same sort of thing, and if true would mean ďIím not walking in victory, but Iím one day gonna get there!Ē
Well, Israel has many more battles to fight. In heaven there will be no more war.
Canaan pictures the victorious Christian life. It means you are no longer a slave to habits and sinful thinking and ways of life. Not perfect, but in the midst of a major make over! Itís a place of joy, not necessarily happiness at all times. But walking with God and trusting Him in all things, not like some Christians who walk around looking like they were baptized in pickle juice!
Sure, we all have rivers of difficulty in our way. But donít let those rivers keep you from your land of opportunity. You know in your heart God has more for you in life, and you are right!
Whatís your river? Doubt? Fear? Discouragement? Distraction? God commands you to cross that river and good news: Heíll make a way!
1. The Reality of Miracles.
v. 5 Ďwondersí = miracles
Some people donít believe in miracles. They think they can explain it in some other way. They are afraid it will make them a fanatic. But if you believe in God, you should believe in miracles.
ďGod is deadĒ was the cry of the hippies. News flash, Heís not dead...Heís not even sick! And Heís still performing miracles today. Iíll say something else. I donít want to pick a fight here, but I want to say to those who worship idols or historical figures like Mohammed, ďMy God is alive! Too bad about yours!!Ē
God is not bound as a prisoner to His own laws. We talk about the laws of nature. But God formed nature. They arenít laws of nature but laws of God. Nature obeys God. The laws of physics are Godís laws and physics obeys Him. The laws of science are Godís laws and science obeys Him.
God has the right to step in and interrupt those laws anytime He wants to Ė thatís what a miracle is!
Ill.óa model train enthusiast spends great time and effort laying out tracks and building the set, and finally, putting the train together on the tracks. But what if he gets a whim in the control box to turn the engine around backwards and make it pull the train in a way never intended? Is he allowed to leave the control box and step in and interfere with his creation? Sure! Itís his train. He designed it, assembled it, and can do anything he wants to with it.
How do you explain the miracles of the Bible? Not the way the Learning Channel will try to explain them. They try to give possible natural explanations for supernatural events. Thatís just man trying to understand how something impossible could really be possible. But you canít explain a miracle any more than you can explain God. By the way, Iím glad I canít explain God. I wouldnít put much confidence in a God I can explain. Whyís He my God anyway, if I have Him all figured out?
Ill.óI canít explain electricity. I donít know how it works. But I donít intend to sit in the dark until I have it figured out! And I wonít deny Godís miracles or deny myself of something that is good just because I canít understand it all.
Miracles are real, and many of us have experienced them. But on the other hand, we may use the term too lightly sometimes.
Godís providence is different than a miracle. Sometimes God supplies something thru a natural means. But sometimes thru a supernatural means. Both are wonderful! But there is a difference.
Ill.óHas God ever woke you up when youíve drifted off at the wheel, just in time to prevent you from running into the back of the vehicle in front of you? Thatís providence. But if you didnít wake up, and God lifted your car over the one you were about to hit, that would be a miracle. Both are plausible, and I know, Iíve experienced both.
Iíll never forget the time I was heading up a mountain pass on my motorcycle, pushing the limits, and got into the gravel on a corner and began sliding toward a rock cliff right in front of me. It was so real and so obvious that I was about to die that I closed my eyes and experienced that slow motion sensation as I waited for the inevitable collision...which never came, and eventually I opened my eyes to find I was back upright in the middle of the road when I experienced something else phenomenal, which was God telling me not to do anything like that again. That voice of God may have been providential in my heart, but it was so loud and clear that I canít debate that it might have been miraculous, out loud!
Iím just making a point about how we should view miracles. Donít say when you get a good parking place, ďThat was a miracle of God.Ē It cheapens the reality of true miracles, like if the person in front of you checking out doesnít need a price check!
In our text, the priests had to get their feet into the water before the water parted. Sometimes before God steps in and does something on our behalf He requires us to do our part and take a step of faith. That first step was the hardest step they took. Their obedience led to Godís promise coming true.
Ill.ó7 yrs. ago I said, God, I think you want me to pastor. If youíll show me where to go, Iíll resign and go there. I started looking, but found nothing. On 9/11, God said, stop asking me to show you where to go and Ďthen youíll resign.í Resign, and Iíll show you where to go. I did and then YOU found me! Then we wanted God to sell our house so we could go, but we knew we should just go, and then God sold our house, after 6 months of having no prospects or even suspects, it sold thru word of mouth just days after being taken out of realty!
Iím just saying that God sometimes wants us to take a step of faith and get our feet wet.
Hereís a Biblical illustration: When Jesusí friend Lazarus died Jesus knew He was going to raise him from the dead. But what did Jesus do? He told them people to roll away the stone. Wait a minute. Why didnít Jesus just roll the stone away? He wanted them to do what they could do before He would step in and do what ONLY He could do! God helps those who help themselves.
What step might God be asking you to take right now? The greatest miracle is getting saved...and itís the first step out into the aisle that is the hardest. You take that step and God will take the rest!
1. The Reality of Miracles.
2. The Reasons for Miracles.
Many reasons are given right in our passage.
a. To start a new program.
v. 4b Weíre heading into uncharted territory to begin a new era w/ a new generation. In the Bible, miracles seem to come in Ďclustersí at the beginning of a new era. [inaugurate it]
∑ The Exodus
∑ Elijah and Elishaís ministries of calling Israel to repentance.
∑ Jesusí lifetime
∑ The dawn of the church age
Yes, miracles are real, but they donít happen all the time. Sometimes hundreds of years would pass in the Bible chronology between them. We arenít supposed to major on miracles and signs and wonders, but on the clear facts!
b. To signify a prophet.
v. 7 God was confirming Joshua to the people as being His man. This authenticated him...having Godís stamp of approval upon him.
2 Corinthians 12:12
In the early church days they didnít have the complete Word of God we have today. Some had not yet been written. In those days God had to confirm His leaders. They worked miracles! Today, God authenticates leaders using the standard of the completed Word of God. Just lay what I say up against the Bible and if it doesnít match, I should be out on my ear!
Another confirmation is souls truly being saved and lives truly being changed.
John didnít work miracles, but he did something greater: He told the truth about God and pointed people to the Lord Jesus Christ. I would rather be able to lead souls to Christ than to raise the dead, for one is a temporary fix and the other permanent!
c. To strengthen His people.
v. 10 This miracle built up their faith for what lay ahead. They were at least nervous, probably scared, and they needed confidence. And when we look back at great things God has done in our past, it encourages us for the future.
I could tell you about miracles Iíve been witness to. Iím talking about bona fide, certifiable things that cannot be otherwise explained. Itís not always Godís will to heal, but Iíve seen healings that can only be from God. And I have to say, they strengthened my faith. And when it is not Godís will to heal, Iíve still seen miracles of grace poured out on people, and sustaining grace, and dying grace given that can only be explained by God. And all of this helps me go forward in confidence that no matter what may happen in the future, I have a miraculous God with me that will make a way even when there is no way!
d. To show a principle.
Here is the principle: That God would be with them everyday, come what may. We should not focus on the miracle as much as the message behind the miracle. There is a message in every miracle.
The miracle stands as a memorial to the message...look at Joshua 4:5-7.
Those 12 stones were a memorial to the miracle and its message!
Ill.óAnanias and Sapphira lied before the church about their giving and God struck them dead. But He hasnít struck dead all liars since...He was sending a message by way of a miracle, and it should stand as a memorial to us even today. [Donít you know that boosted the building program!]
The principles to remember: God hates lying, esp. in church...and God judges those who rob from Him.
The reality, reasons for miracles...
3. The most Remarkable Miracle.
v. 11-13 We know from our Exodus study that the Ark of the Covenant pictures Christ. Do you know what the Jordan represents? Death. So, when the ark went into the river, the waters stopped. Translation: When Jesus went to His death for us, death stopped coming at us...we can cross over it untouched, and arrive alive on the other side!
Itís an OT illustration of the most remarkable miracle of all time, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ!
Itís the greatest of all miracles because:
∑ It came at the greatest cost.
Ill.óa student asked his Christian school teacher if there was life on other planets. He explained that the answer was no, because Eve means ďMother of all living.Ē The student asked then why have all these billions of galaxies and solar systems and other planets...why go to all that trouble? The teacher replied, ďWhat trouble?Ē
It took only a word for God to create it all. The only time He went to any trouble it was when He died for us.
∑ It had the greatest confirmation Ė historically speaking the resurrection is an undeniable fact, with more evidence to confirm it than to support that Columbus discovered America, or that Lincoln was assassinated. There were so many witnesses...over 500, and even secular history records this phenomenal occurrence. If Rome wanted to squelch out Christianity, and they did, all they had to do was open the tomb and produce a body, but they didnít, because they couldnít, because there was nobody there!
∑ It had the greatest consequences Ė our salvation, a miracle each time it occurs! Over time coal may become a diamond, and dino bones may become oil, but the most remarkable transformation is when a soul is saved!
It took a miracle to put the stars in place, it took a miracle to hang the world in space, but when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, it took a miracle of love and grace!
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