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Just Coincidence


Joshua 3:14–17

So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

Adam is about 20 miles upstream from where they crossed. Mudslides there have been known to temporarily block the flow of the Jordan river. Some commentators think that explains what this passage is describing.

But an upstream mudslide can only explain part of it. The Jordan went from wet to dry much too quickly to be explained by a mere blockage. The Hebrew word in verse 15 that’s translated as “dipped” (נִטְבְּל֖וּ nit-baloo) definitely refers to dipping or immersing. So, the Jordan was a full-fledged river (“overflowing its banks”) when the priests got to the edge. Yet, the word in verse 17 that’s translated as “dry ground” (חָ֣רָבָ֔ה kha-ra-bah) is related to the word for drought. It definitely means dry ground, not just solid ground.

So, this was a miracle, not merely some great coincidence.

That’s important. This miracle is designed to strengthen the faith of the people. A mere coincidence would be nice, not to mention convenient, but that’s not enough to steel them for the battles ahead.

And some of the greatest battles won’t be with the enemy on the other side of the Jordan.

They’ll be with the enemy within.

The Israelis will prove very adept at defeating themselves. The armies on the other side of the Jordan aren’t the problem. Time after time, we will see people break faith and do something so stupid that the anger of the LORD will burn against them. The result will be tragic.

And this pattern will recur throughout the rest of the Old Testament. God’s people just can’t seem to be satisfied with doing things right.

So it is with us. Right now, there are many Christian groups praying for revival. But who do they think needs reviving? Everyone else, of course.

No, revival starts right here—in us. We’re the ones who need reviving.

Pray for that.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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