Connections 11.05.2017: Standing on Dry Ground

Joshua 3:7-17

I love the Bible’s epic stories: creation, the fall, the flood, the tower of Babel, the crossings of the sea, the march around Jericho, Daniel in the lion’s den, and others. These stories describe life-altering events in the lives of God’s people, pointing to the hand of God at work in each element of the tale. While not every aspect of every story may be historically accurate, the overarching theme of them all is that God is with us in big, powerful ways!

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that again and again. November 5, the day of this Bible study lesson, is my daughter’s thirteenth birthday. Throughout these years of parenting her, I’ve run the gamut of feelings about being a mom: “I’ve got this,” “I’ll handle that situation better the next time,” “I have no idea what to do,” “I said/did the wrong thing,” “I’m a complete failure.” There’s only so much preplanning you can do when you’re responsible for a human being who is growing physically as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The process involves a lot of guessing, a bit of leaping out in faith, and more than a little failing.

Forget standing on dry ground with God parting the waters around me and showing me the way. Most of the time with my girls, I feel like I’m actually standing at the bottom of the sea, covered with water and only glimpsing the light of the surface very far away. Yes, often I feel like I’m drowning.

But, as we have seen God walk with people in the big events all through history, I have faith that God is also walking with me. Just as God cut off the flowing waters of the Jordan and made them stand in a “single heap,” I have seen God do the same in my little life.

God’s presence hasn’t always made me unafraid. Nor do I believe that the people Joshua led through the standing waters had no fear. What has happened, though, is that God’s presence has made me brave in spite of my fear: brave to move forward when I’m not sure what’s going to happen, brave to keep trying when my words and actions don’t seem to produce the best results, brave to maintain hope when a situation seems bleak.

While, in the grand story of God, parenting a teenager seems like a small thing, it’s the biggest thing in my life right now, and I have to believe that it matters to God.


1. What epic Bible stories are your favorites? Why do you feel inspired by them? What do they tell you about God?
2. What quieter moments in Scripture speak to you, and what do these tell you about God?
3. When have you last felt like you were drowning in a situation you faced? What pulled you out of the waters?
4. When have you last felt like you were able to stand on dry ground because God pushed the waters aside for you?
5. What is the biggest thing in your life right now? Do you believe God’s presence can help you be brave in spite of your fear?

Reference Shelf

The comparison here between Moses/Joshua (v. 7) and Reed Sea/Jordan River (vv. 14-16) appears fairly obvious. Just as Yahweh was with Moses at the Reed Sea, now he is with Joshua, and the Jordan becomes dry land just as the sea did (Exod 14:21c). The Reed Sea/Jordan stories are totally mythologized in the Psalms (66:6; 114:1-8). When the literary structure of the story in 3:1-17 is appreciated, questions of its historicity become superfluous. One of the major differences, however, between the story told here and that in Exodus is the presence of the ark of the covenant in the former. The ark (always a different word in Hebrew from the ark of Noah) seems originally to have been associated with war (Num 10:35). Its fortunes in Israel prior to the monarchy are not clear, but it was the symbol par excellence of Yahweh’s presence among his people (Birch). This lack of agreement among critical scholars (see for example Kraus, Soggin, and Nelson above) should create caution in anyone trying to make sense out of the material contained in these chapters. The ambiguities and complexities encountered here include the following (Nelson 1997, 55–62).

The command given to the Israelites to “sanctify” themselves (3:5) is nowhere said to have been obeyed. Nor is there any suggestion of how the people were to carry out such a ritual act. In fact, this verse interrupts the discussion concerning the ark that began in 3:2.

What happened at the Jordan is also ambiguous. Some texts suggest that the water of the Jordan was “cut off ” (3:13, 16) while at the same time claiming that the water “stood still” (3:16). On the other hand, 4:22, based on analogy with one version of the Exodus myth (Exod 14:21c), claims that Yahweh “turned the sea into dry land.” Moreover, the mention of the “twelve” men (3:12) who carry the stones abruptly interrupts the story of the ark and river crossing and is not explained until 4:1-9. The number, no doubt, was used by the Dtr to stress that all of the “events” described in this story involved “all Israel.”

John C. H. Laughlin, Reading Joshua, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2015) 90-91, 92.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).


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