That God Dammed River


Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away . . . so the people crossed over. (Joshua 3:15-16)

The Bible is filled with incongruities, improbabilities, and downright impossibilities.  That’s why I believe it.  If you ask me, the reasonable approach to life is highly overrated and not nearly as much fun.  Where else can you find a terrible and all-consuming fire of a God who punishes a nation by sending frogs? Where else can you find bread falling out of the sky or angels two-stepping on an entire army?  Where else, I ask you, can you find chariots made of fire or dead people coming back for snacks or floating anvils?  Where else but in the Bible can you find folks walking on water or walking through walls?  Compared to this wackiness, normal life is—well, so normal.

So here’s the people of Israel (like maybe 600,000 of them, not counting pets or undocumented workers), and they’re standing on the east side of the Jordan River. They want to get across so they can kill the current occupants and take over.  The problem is that the river is at flood stage.  Their leader Joshua assesses the situation and comes up with a great plan: “Hey, you priests!  Pick up the God Box and walk it into the river!”  The priests, valuing their jobs and their heads, pick up the Ark and do what they’re told, thinking with each step, “I hope this works.  I hope this works.  I hope this works.”  When their feet touch the raging waters of the river something amazing happens.  The water magically stops flowing and piles upstream some distance away.  Voilá!  The whole group crosses over on dry land!  As soon as the priests follow them to the other side—whoosh!  The river is back in operating order and nobody gets wet.

Now there are basically two ways to look at this story.  One is that this is a bogus exaggeration of a lame stroll across a creek that needed some epic reinforcement in order to play on Broadway.  Add some dramatic tension, some special effects, and a few dance numbers for pizazz.  Call it Cecil B. DeMille meets Andrew Lloyd Webber.  But this take on the story is highly improbable, especially when you consider how hard it would be to rehearse the dance numbers with 600,000 people.

The other option, and my preference, is to take the story as is in all its preposterous glory.  The river balked, the people walked, the witness talked.  Give God some credit for creativity.  I think he did a good dam job.

[See the Lego version of the Joshua account here.]


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