Cross the Creek, Pt. 2

  • Pete Johnson
Sunny dirt trail in the woods

The last time you and I were in the blogosphere together, my friends and I stood at an impasse. Laying before us was a fifteen-foot canyon with a mighty rushing river and a thirty-foot waterfall to our immediate left, with no good option to cross- a small birch tree that had providentially fallen across the gorge.  This problem left us with a decision to make, risk everything and cross over, or turn back and never speak of that day again for fear of the shame and reproach of not completing the journey. I’m almost certain that in the two weeks since then, the burning question in your mind, the unmistakable assumption has been, did they really risk life and limb to cross over that creek? Surely, these mature men must have considered the cost and turned back!  

Well, we threw common sense and caution to the wind and decided that we would cross over! The first two in our party crossed over successfully, a young man full of life, and an older man… still walking and upright. Now it was my turn. I must admit, it was with some fear and trepidation that I found myself crawling over that fallen tree to the other side of the canyon! But I did it. On the inside I was screaming, “why on earth am I doing this?”, on the outside, cool as Bear Grylls! Then the fourth in our merry band, another young man, crossed over, reluctantly, yet successful!

The rest of the hike had other challenging complications. First was another, even deeper gorge to get over. Secondly, an easy opportunity to leave the trail early at the halfway mark instead of finishing.  We were able to successfully navigate those complications as well, partly because of our experience with the first crossing. Our Old Man Hike turned out to be a lot longer and harder than we had originally anticipated, but we made it!

The Old Testament book of Joshua gives the account of the children of Israel’s journey to the Promised Land. Moses has recently died, and Joshua has been appointed by God as Israel’s new leader. This would be a journey that would not just test the people’s courage and strength, but more so, their faith in God.  God had promised the nation of Israel, through Abraham, the land some five hundred years prior to this account. That’s a long time to hold onto a promise! Yet God is faithful, and God always keeps his promises.

However, there was a major problem facing the Israelites, the Jordan river! The Jordan river was in flood stage. To cross the Jordan river at this time of year with women, children, wagons, and livestock were impossible. “You can’t get into the promised land if you can get across the Jordan!” So why would God ask them to cross now? Why not wait till the waters resided, and then cross over?  It’s impossible right now!

God does His best work in the impossible!  Nothing is impossible with God. Just as God rhetorically asked Abraham in Genesis 18:14; “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”  God would prove His power and faithfulness to the Israelites. They were being asked to do something, go somewhere, that was unfamiliar and dangerous and impossible for them. We pick up their story in Joshua 3

 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Joshua 3:1–4


The crossing of the Jordan was significant for the future of the Israelites. So much so that they erected two memorials to God’s power and His faithfulness after they had crossed over. One was made from twelve stones taken from the riverbed of the Jordan and placed on the side of promise and one in the midst of the riverbed itself.

They had never passed this way before. They had neither strength nor wisdom enough to cross the Jordan river. They needed the LORD’s guidance and direction. This one event helped them to see that as they were obedient to God he would bless and guide them.

Life is like that. There are “canyons” and “raging rivers” and parts of the path that we are unfamiliar with. It is in the deep canyons and raging rivers of life that we need God’s strength and direction, for we are lost without it, for we too “have not passed this way before.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3: 5–6