In the classic1 song, “Beyond Belief“, by the Christian band Petra, there’s a great lyric that we could miss if we don’t listen carefully:
“Waters never part until our feet get wet.”
This appears to be a reference to Joshua 3, as the Israelites were at the edge of the Jordan River, with the Promised Land on the other side. In order to cross a flooded river this time, God did not instruct Moses to raise his staff. The Israelites weren’t called to walk around a city, here (although that would soon follow). Instead, the priests who carried the holy Ark of the Covenant were called to step into the waters.
The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’”
Joshua 3:7-8 NLT
Now, I grew up close to a major river, whose main channel and tributaries had a tendency to flood from time to time. When an excess of water comes pouring down (whether from snowmelt upstream, or runoff from extra rain), parents remind their children to stay away. In these cases, even wise adults know where to be careful, lest they get caught in the current, stuck in the mud, or sideswiped by debris being swept downstream.
I don’t know what was going through the priest’s minds as they walked towards the river. However, even if it was intimidating (especially for those who may have grown up in a desert!), they stepped into it as they were commanded.
So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.
Joshua 3:14-16 NLT
Note that God didn’t keep the test going. He didn’t wait for a couple of the priests to be knocked off of their feet before halting the current. Instead, He glorified His Name and showed the nation of Israel that He was faithful to them – by immediately starting the miraculous process.
In our walk with Jesus, He doesn’t always prepare a clear road for us, with traffic signals and a red carpet. We might only be able to see a step ahead, or just one door that we need to walk through. The path might not seem like it’s in the right direction at all. It is here that we have a choice: when God clearly calls us to do something, we can act in faith (trusting Him because of His demonstrated faithfulness), or we can wait until the path is cleared, paved, and dry (at which time, the opportunity may have passed) before we take a step.
Don’t get me wrong: God is sovereign and all-powerful. He sometimes allows Christians to walk on a relatively easy path. However, I think that you’ll find from history that God sometimes chooses to do amazing things through His people when they don’t mind stepping forward when He calls them to (or when they do mind, but do it anyway).
So, the challenge for us today is to evaluate where we are, and to consider if God is calling us to step out into a raging river (or a stormy sea, like Peter). Sometimes, progress is made through an act of faith. This isn’t simply some sort of arbitrary irrational behavior, but it is rather the action of a follower of God, when directed by God, when the results don’t seem obvious.
Get your feet a little wet today, and hopefully I’ll do the same!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- And, by “classic”, I mean songs from when I was younger but have gotten fairly old, now! I don’t remember what set they played, but I did have the chance to see Petra in concert many years ago. ↩
2 thoughts on “Part the Waters”
Wow, I saw that concert (dates me) and have that Petra album. I have always loved the title “Beyond Belief” as I picture in my mind how belief takes us to the edge of the water, No further. From there we need “Faith” to go beyond our belief…Most of the time though I think the waters will part for you (most everyone else) but not for me as I tend to only think I’m doing what God asked. maybe that’s the tricky part.
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Thank you for your insightful comments. While I don’t remember the tour, I had the opportunity to see Petra in concert as well. While that risks dating me, too, playing songs from this album (like “Seen and Not Heard”) continue to remind me of important Christian principles…almost 30 years later.
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