When Obstacles Become Oracles
“…as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests…shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters…shall be cut off…and they shall stand as a heap.” Joshua 3.13
Wet feet. That’s what I want. Feet that are stepping into the cool waters of expectation, hope, and deliverance. Toes that sink into the bedrock of faith. I want to cross my Jordan River, at flood stage, at the appointed time, with my covenant keeping God pressing upon my shoulders.
That’s what the priests of Israel experienced in Joshua’s day. When it was time to enter the Promised Land, they stepped up to the Ark of the Covenant and stepped into the waters of the Jordan. And the waters stopped, and the waters stacked, and the waters stayed…and then they spoke. As they piled high, the waters proclaimed the voice of the LORD; “These are My people and I am their God. This is their destination and I am their Deliverer.” Everyone within eye-shot heard. The Israelites had arrived, and upon their crossing, even the waters proclaimed their entrance.
I love this story. I remember the first time I stepped into it and its truth stacked up…and then crashed down…upon me. Somehow, in times past, I had skipped over the stacking up of the waters. I noted the crossing of the Jordan, I noted the river at flood stage, I even noted the passage upon dry land, but I failed to notice the original Tower of Terror. I failed to see the river for the water! How could I have missed so great a miracle? But once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it.
I’m not the only one who has had a difficult time unseeing this aquatic wonder. I’m quite certain the people who saw it first-hand struggled with this vision as well. While I don’t know the actual height of this upside-down water fall, I do know that the distance it left uncovered was a 15 mile stretch. In Joshua 3:16, we read “that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam…so the waters that went down into the Salt Sea failed and were cut off.” This was no small pathway but rather a sizable passage into the land of promise. The waters that once flowed downward, now stacked upward. And I wonder, did the pile of water climb as high vertically as it flowed horizontally? While I don’t know how God stacked it, I think the waters piled as high as they plummeted. I think God simply put His hand down and the waters began to pile up…and up…and up. If that is how it happened, then the tower of water would have risen a heaping 15 miles…or 79,200 feet…or 7,200 stories! Can you imagine such a display? The tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa located in Dubai which stands an impressive 2,722 feet. Its presence is daunting; its height is menacing; its strength is intimidating. And yet, compared to God’s Aquatic Wonder, it’s but a drop in the bucket! Its height is out-towered by nearly 30:1; its stories are out-stacked by nearly 29:1!
Now let that image pile up in your mind…and elevate the ceiling of your imagination. I can’t quite picture it. I can’t even fathom how high this tower would have stretched, but one thing I can see is the impact it must have had on those who did look upon it. One thing I can imagine is the look of shock, amazement, and fear that must have been etched upon the faces of those who beheld it. And, when they regained their ability to speak, do you think they were silent about what they saw? No way! How can you not talk about a pillar of water that reaches to the heavens? I think the first ever water tower made the front page news of the Adam Gazette and the Jericho Post! I think the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites became Rumor-ites as they spoke endlessly about the waters that not only rose beyond them but towered over them! And while the surrounding countryside was astounded, what about the people who passed beside it and under it? What was their reaction to these rising waters? Did their courage heap up as well? Did their faith pile high to the heavens? Did their expectations stack up as they walked upon the dry grounds of deliverance? Surely their joy, like the Jordan, overflowed its banks. After all, when God delivered on His promise to lead them to the Promised Land, He didn’t do it quietly. He marked their crossing with an exclamation mark; a 79,200 foot exclamation mark! And the people talked because the water spoke.
And, as I stretch my imagination around this towering event and crane my spiritual neck to scan its heights, I wonder if it’d be wiser to look around for giant water-stalks in my own life. I wonder if the God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, still sticks His hand in our rivers and heaps up our waters. I wonder if, as He did with the Jordan River, God is turning my obstacle into an oracle; if the pathway He’s paving is also the pillar He’s piling…for my deliverance and for His declaration. If that’s the case, then I’d better be looking around for some memorial stones!
When the children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land, God told Joshua to have twelve men remove stones from the bed of the river in order to erect a monument of testimony. As a reminder of the waters that had been piled up, so the rocks were to be stacked up; as the people who saw the waters questioned the source of their elevation, so too would the people who encountered the rocks question their source of existence. And so the questions would rise, and then the answers would flow…and the waters would speak.
“Why are those rocks stacked up in a heap?”
“They are reminders of when God stacked up the waters that once covered them.”
“Why did God stack up the waters?”
“To clear away an obstacle.”
“Why was there an obstacle?”
“So God could uncover the rocks.”
“Why did God want the rocks?”
“So you would ask about them.”
While God speaks to us and through us, He also speaks around us. When He pauses our waters, He makes sure those waters speak not only to us but to those who are both near and far; He makes sure our horizontal obstacles become vertical oracles that proclaim His power and love and provision. When God delivers on a promise, He makes sure it is promoted. Balloons? Too bouncy. Billboards? Too stationary. Sky writing? Too airy. Water towers? That should do it! That will get My people talking! And for a souvenir…I’ll place some rocks in the midst of their crossing…for them to place on the other side.
Wet feet…and water towers…and rock piles; they come from the same place: the Obstacle River. Promises…and passageways…and praises; they too come from the same riverbed. The name of the river, however, changes upon reaching the opposite shore. For once the Obstacle River has been crossed, it becomes the Oracle River, for from it God speaks, through it we pray, and after it we proclaim.