A few nights ago I was awakened by the Holy Spirit, who began walking me through the texts of Joshua 3 & 4, bringing them to life line by line, without my Bible!
He wanted to reveal what it feels like to be “in the middle of a miracle.”
This portion of the book of Joshua tells the story of Israel crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. It parallels the miracle of the Red Sea crossing with Moses. I believe these words will be encouraging to those of you who are called to be leaders and prayer warriors for the Lord.
~ It is the priests who go down to the Jordan first and set their feet in the water as they carry the ark of the covenant. (Joshua 3:6)
This biblical group of “priestly pioneers” needed courage to take the nation’s first steps of faith into a river that was not yet dry!
Pioneers and forerunners are often “first in.” They’re the first ones God sends to bring hope or restoration to spiritual or natural situations.
While being first can seem like an honor or a glorious role to those who follow, the truth is that spiritual pioneers must have a boldness and courage that not all possess. The faith, excitement, and resolve felt at the beginning of an assignment can quickly be dampened by the shock of cold water pooling around your feet!
~ The Jordan river begins to dry up 20 miles upstream, between Adam and Zarethan. (Joshua 3:16)
The waters miraculously stand up in a heap, “a great distance away,” at Adam. In other words, there is a waiting period before that riverbed runs dry!
Adam represents our origins or foundations. It is said to be “the city that is beside Zarethan,” which means “distress.”
In the same way, leaders are often called to stand as priests and deliverers somewhere between the point of creation (our foundations) and places of distress (whether personal sins or the sins of a nation), making intercession.
No matter what your call, the work God gives you to do as His representative is meant to bring healing and restoration to those around you.
Israel’s priests stand in the middle of the Jordan, committed to their call and carrying precious cargo: the ark of the Lord. They dare not make a mistake; every carrier of that holy ark knows the price of presumption would be death! (2 Samuel 6:1-10)
Yet there is a delay between the time the priests reach the river to the time the flooding recedes, and another from the time Israel crosses over until the priests themselves are released from their burden.
In the same way, from the time we begin praying and believing for our miracle, God is moving (Daniel 10 is a good example of this) - but faith is sometimes tried by patience as God sets up the right conditions for our promotion or deliverance!
~ The priests are the first to experience the fears and inner battles associated with this deliverance.
Stepping in to the Jordan, the ark-bearers probably experience a wide gamut of emotions:
Fear of the unknown - What if the river doesn’t dry up?!
Fatigue - They are publicly tasked with carrying the Presence of God for many hours in an extremely stressful situation. This isn’t just a river; this is an overflowing-the-banks, harvest time, flooded river!
Pride - It is an honor to be chosen to go out at the head of the armies - but the leaders are also separated from their families for this historic moment.
Anger or Resentment - The priests’ task requires greater strength, courage, and endurance than the “laymen” who are unburdened and can cross over quickly.
Grief - Like the rest of Israel, they are undoubtedly longing for previous “safer” situations!
Joy - The Promised Land is now within view. Their excitement and joy builds as they watch an entire nation - over 40,000 people - walk right into their destiny!
Fear of Abandonment - The priests’ families and friends cross over long before they do. They may wonder: What if we are stuck here after the rest of Israel crosses? What if the waters flood us and wash us away, just as the Red Sea drowned Pharaoh’s armies?
Everything in these men wants to get across the river quickly and get OUT of that Jordan! Instead, God calls them to stand, pray, persevere, trust, and believe. He is developing in them a compassion for more than just themselves or their ministry.
1 Peter 4:12-17 gives us God’s perspective on such challenging situations. We’re not to be surprised at fiery trials or sufferings because as we embrace them, God’s glory is revealed in us.
Judgment begins with the house of God first. Yet rhe resulting glory will also rest on the house of God first!
~ The same leaders who are “first in” are also “last out.” (Joshua 4:10-11)
God’s timing hasn’t changed much since Joshua’s day. While prophetic promises may seem clear and glorious at inception, they are much more murky and tedious in application!
The priests watch all of Israel cross over - a direct benefit of their own obedience! Their courage has enabled others to take the same bold steps across.
Now it seems it's finally time for their own journey to be completed.
Instead, Joshua commands 12 strong men to return into the river they just crossed to gather two sets of 12 stones. A celebration is in order!
One "cairn" is to be erected at the place where the priest’s feet stand in the river. The other heap of stones becomes a memorial at Gilgal, to remind Israel’s children of the miracle.
These are no little rocks; strong men are needed to haul the stones on their shoulders! The stones must be large enough not to be moved from their places on the land and in the river for generations to come.
Remember - throughout all this celebrating, testifying, and monument-building, the priests are still standing in the middle of the river, holding the ark! Between the “flushing out” of the enemy and the “flooding in” of God, there is sometimes a delay.
I wonder how often these leaders look behind them, eyeing the wall of water that threatens to consume them at any moment. In the middle of a miracle, our focus must remain on the Presence of God in order to dispel fear or discouragement.
For those of you who are standing by faith for your breakthroughs, the middle of your miracle may feel like a hotbed of activity. Yet you have been called to stand still in a very dry place, perhaps for much longer than anticipated!
When others find victory but your deliverance seems delayed, it is essential to trust in God’s perfect timing. Waiting on the Lord becomes a test in itself! Yet we - like the priests - are not forgotten by God.
I believe the Lord wants to encourage those of you who are waiting for the command to begin moving again. Perhaps you’ve been holding a position or carrying a burden in the Spirit for some time now. This position feels like an uncomfortable place; a dry and barren place; a place of great uncertainty.
You may feel like the enemy is lurking just upstream and that a torrent of death could be unleashed on you at any moment, but God is saying: “STAND FIRM!”
“While all the people of Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests of the Lord STOOD FIRM on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, until all the nation had finished crossing over the Jordan.” - Joshua 3:17
Those who are called into Christian ministry are given the unique privilege of being often broken before God.
Leaders may step into their call with boldness and strength, but as IHOP worship leader Justin Rizzo wisely says, “The stage is meant to break you!”
I believe Joshua’s priests experienced a radical transformation as they stood firm, carrying the Presence of the Lord. An entire nation - thousands of people - passed before them into the Promised Land, and still there they were, interceding for the people!
I believe that every one of those priests probably battled various fears and doubts as they wondered how long they would have to “stand firm” before God’s deliverance was complete!
While others were celebrating a “Memorial Day,” the priests were still working. Their assignment would not be finished until every detail in the Lord’s heart had been completed. Yet they would come out with something unique and enduring.
ENDURANCE INTO ENCOURAGEMENT
James 1:4 reads: “...you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Why does God subject His ministers to greater discipline? Biblical laws of warfare require that before every battle, the priests are to speak to people to encourage them, saying: “‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’”
Authentic encouragement for any army can only come from mature believers who have conquered fear themselves! If you are holding your ground in a difficult place, the goal is that your endurance will be made perfect so that you are able to encourage those just entering the battle.
Our places of deepest need and brokenness become places of great strength and anointing, but the ability to be an encouraging leader comes at cost. Your reward will be to see your own spiritual offspring, just as Christ is now seeing His (Isaiah 53:10; 54:1).
YOUR MIRACLE IS COMING
I hear the Lord saying: “Stand firm; your miracle is coming!”
When you wonder: “Where is Jesus?” Jesus is with you just as the ark of God’s Presence is with the priests in the middle of that dry riverbed.
Our compassionate God chooses to enter the hotbeds of emotion and passion, rage and accusation, fear, sickness, doubt, and confusion so that He can bring us out!
Christ is the first and the last. He’s the first to come and stand humbly with us as a man, carrying the Presence of God within Himself. As our High Priest and Great Intercessor, Christ sets the stage for those of us who follow after Him to carry the glory of God to the nations around us.
Those who stand firm in barren places will receive their reward, just as Christ did. You will inherit your promises and see your promised land! You may emerge from the middle of your miracle with a broken and humble heart, but you’ll also carry an enduring testimony of what you have seen firsthand.
The Lord is encouraging those who have been praying and standing firm for deliverance, whether for yourself, for others, or for your nation. You are priests and warriors called to a quiet work only God can see. You may feel forgotten. Your feet may not yet be moving. But your hearts and spirits certainly are!
God sees what is done in secret. God vindicates those who wait for Him. In the middle of your stillness is His victory!
If you are in the middle of your miracle today, Holy Spirit wants to comfort you with the knowledge that God will bring you through this just as He enabled Israel to cross the Jordan.
I pray that you’ll use the middle of your miracle to allow the Lord to touch your heart and bring humility where there is pride. Faith where there is doubt. Strength where there is weakness. Hope where there is despair.
Like Joshua’s priests, you carry the very Presence of God within you as a living testimony. Many will come to know the Lord because of your faithful endurance in this hour. Your lives will be the “memorial stones” for future generations.
STAND FIRM in the middle of your miracle, knowing that God Himself stands with you to encourage you!
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.