If the crossing of the Jordan river happened today, perhaps someone would write a letter like this one:
I am writing to report a serious health and safety breach and I recommend that immediate action is taken against those in charge of the crossing of the Jordan river by the Jewish people.
No attempt was made to risk assess the crossing before the priests stepped into the river and I have a number of concerns about this including:
- The river was flooded and was clearly unsafe for crossing.
- Having lived in a desert all of their lives, the people who led the crossing were unable to swim. Those in charge should be made to understand that proper training should be given and only those who are competent, able and experienced should be allowed to attempt a dangerous task.
- No lifeguards were positioned along the riverbank and there weren’t even any inflatables, life jackets or boats. Those leading the crossing were told to carry a heavy wooden box which anyone could see would lead to them drowning if they tried to hold on to it in the river.
- The priests carrying the box were told to step into the water and that it would part before them. The leaders of this bunch of cowboys couldn’t even prepare their workers for what was ahead by telling them they would have to swim.
- When the waters did part, it still looked very slippy on the riverbed but no ‘caution wet floor’ or ‘slip hazard’ signs were put out. The people had to wade through mud to get to their promised land and we need to make it clear to those in charge that flat, solid paths are really what is required to avoid accidents.
Joshua, who is the person leading the crossing clearly should be prosecuted under the Health and Safety act 1485BC.
When I spoke to him about this ‘disaster waiting to happen’, he said that he was following God’s commands and he also pointed out that the waters did part and that everyone crossed on
dry muddy land. He seems to think the operation was a huge success but I implore you to help him to see that this really isn’t an appropriate way to act in this age of health and safety.
A concerned citizen
ps Please note that my address is no longer in the desert. I am now resident in Jericho.
You can read about the events referred to in this fictitious letter in Joshua 3.
God told Joshua how to cross the river and Joshua and the priests took a risk and trusted God by stepping into the overflowing river. The Jews were instructed to follow the Ark of the Covenant (the big wooden box that contained God’s presence) because ‘they hadn’t been that way before’.
In the face of difficulty and danger, God’s people were to listen to, trust in and follow him. Through their obedience, ‘the disaster waiting to happen’ turned into a display of God’s power.
Our society is obsessed with health and safety and I wonder what impact that is having on the way we follow God. Are we still still willing to take risks when we are sure that God is leading us?
The priests had to step into an overflowing river before it parted.
The people had to wade through the mud on the riverbed which was hardly an easy and comfortable journey.
What about us? What difficult way is God wanting to lead us?
I find this Erwin McManus quote challenging, inspiring and frightening all at the same time:
No matter how we try and spin the story, the Bible is filled with tribes of irrational people. When Noah built the ark, he did not live in a flood zone. When Elijah called down fire from heaven, he had never tried it before. Go ahead. Give it a shot. See if it works for you. I don’t think so. David should have left the giant alone. Hosea should never have married a prostitute. What was Moses thinking when he pointed his staff at the red sea – that it would move because he commanded it? And that’s just to mention the more popular and highly admired followers of God. (The Barbarian way, p79)
God calls us to take risks and as we trust in him and obey, he is with us cheering us on and leading us forwards. Will we have the courage to follow his leading? After all, there’s a good chance that we haven’t been this way before!
If you enjoyed this fictitious letter then you may also want to read An imaginary letter from a 1st Century Pharisee.
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