Lesson 4 - Dangerous Waters - God's Deliverance
The focus of this lesson is on the Israelites crossing the Jordon and the emotional place of feeling as if we are being swept away.
The Problem: The problem in this text is not simply the fact that the Israelites must cross the Jordon in the middle of its annual floods. The other issue, into which this crossing story is sandwiched, is that of the conquest of the land; a land filled with fortified cities and nations larger and stronger than Israel. The gist of the text is that the Israelites can neither cross the water nor conquer the land on their own. The river and its current are too strong as are the nations which are living in the land. In a sense this is a reversal of the Exodus event. In the Exodus the people fled through the water to escape their enemies. Here they will flee through the water in order to face off against nations that are stronger than are they. The question becomes, will God once again deal with the Jordon as God did with the red sea and the nations in the Promised Land as God did with the Egyptians? Unless God does these two things then the people are lost. They will either be swept away in the chaos of the waters (remember for Hebrews water represents chaos) and/or become slaves once again.
The People: The author mentions that there is something different about these Israelites (pg. 33). The reality is that, except for a handful of them, such as Joshua, all of those who whined in the wilderness have died and have been replaced by a new generation of Hebrews. These Hebrews know how to be faithful and so will be willing to risk going the wrong way in the water; toward their enemies and not away from them. In a sense these are the only people who can cross the water. Their predecessors would not have been able to do so because they would have been afraid. Notice that there is no hesitation when they are told to cross the river…even with dry ground. These will also be the people who are willing to take on Jericho and the other nations listed in the text.
The Ark and the Presence of God: the presence of the Ark is a visual representation to the people of the presence of God. The tradition through which this comes has a high view of the Ark (this will be seen later when some people die because they touch the Ark). By it preceding the people into the river, and then remaining there, the people can be assured that God is present and protecting. Thus, it is not merely blind faith, on the part of the people who cross, but it is faith based on a clear demonstration not only of God’s presence (the Ark), but of the fact that the waters have already ceased flowing…thus a repeat of the Exodus crossing.
The Power of Water: In the Psalm there is a sense of drowning. For a people that never learned to swim, or be at home in the water, this would be a terrifying moment. The bottom is not solid rock (on which one could walk), but is instead “mire” in which feet get stuck, and the water rises. The flood portion of the Psalm is a section that continues to resonate today. Consider how many people are drowned annually in the United States because they were swept away by water. The image is perhaps more powerful than the crossing of the sea, which appears to be not so dangerous because God has already stopped the waters.
1. How do you see yourself? As one of the people who believes that God has already pushed the waters back or as the person who feels like they are drowning? Or have you been both?
2. What does Psalm 69 tell us about the legitimacy of feeling as if we are drowning in life?
3. How ought the presence of Christ in our lives call us to be those new people who were willing to cross the river into dangerous territory?
4. How have you managed to regain your footing when it felt like you were being swept away?