Friday, October 7, 2011

Sometimes you're just an extra in someone else's movie

"the water from upstream stopped flowing"
Joshua 3:16

Okay, so imagine you're living in ancient times.  Bible times.  But, I mean, Old Testament times.  You live near a river, in a small village.  One morning, you take your family's clothes down to the river to wash them.  Or rinse them.  Do you have soap in your Old Testament Bible times?  Okay, well, anyhow, you bundle the clothes in your basket, and start walking.  You are enjoying the cool of the early morning, and a little alone time, with the family still at home, tidying up after breakfast, and starting the day's work.

But as you draw closer to the river, something seems amiss.  You can't put your finger on it.  There's a change in the air somehow.  A greater feeling of aloneness somehow.  You slow your pace a little as you wonder, but closer to the river you gradually come.

But as you near the last rise, before the river is in sight, you realize what's different:  you hear nothing.  Silence.  A powerful, pounding silence that somehow assaults your ears.  You come over the hill, not knowing what you expect to see.  But what you see, is nothing.  There is no river.  There are just dry rocks and some shriveled-looking water plants.

Now, if this was you, you would not know ~ yet ~ of the miracle God had done upstream.  You might have heard of the Israelites, and the stories about their God.  Maybe you've even heard the legend of their crossing the Red Sea on dry ground.  Perhaps you didn't believe it.  But now you wonder.

All you know is, you can't do your laundry.

I love this story in Joshua.  I love that God can do what He can do, as many times as He wants to do it.  He is a God of miracles, and of promises, and of doing immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20)

But He is also a God who works in the lives of His children.  And that's what He was doing here.  He promised the Israelites that they would live in the land of milk and honey, and it was across the river from them.  So He performed this miracle, that accomplished a few things.  First, it got them across the swollen river.  Second, it reminded them of His power, and His love for them.  Third, it showed the Israelites that their new leader, Joshua, had His backing, just as Moses had.

But we can't ignore the effect this miracle had on others.  For a time and a place that didn't have the communication sources that we rely on, word certainly got around.  Rahab, for instance, had heard about the parting of the Red Sea.  She knew about the power of God, and what He did for His children, and it was the reason she lied to hide the spies who came to her.  So we can know that word is gonna get around after this miracle, too.

And more than just hearing about it, many were going to be affected.  Everyone who lived near, or relied on, the Jordan River, would be affected.  The water wasn't going to be dried up forever;  after the Israelites had crossed over, God returned the river to flood stage, just as it had been.  But it reminds me that sometimes it's not fun to be a participant ~ or even a witness ~ in what God is doing in someone else's life.  Sometimes it's inconvenient; sometimes it's painful.  You might be a parent, or a spouse, or a sibling watching someone you love endure the consequences of their actions, or grow from a trial that He has ordained for them.

It might have nothing to do with you, except that you're along for the ride, whether you like it or not.  But the amazing thing ~ okay, one of the amazing things ~ about God is that He is going to work it for good in your life, too.

 Just look at Joseph.  Slavery + imprisonment = bad.   But through it all, God had a plan for Joseph, and he became the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt.  And through his wisdom, Egypt was prepared for the seven years of drought, and all of Egypt, and his own family, benefitted.  What Joseph's brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.  But Jacob, Joseph's father, was going through agony.  For years he had been mourning his favorite son.  A son he believed was dead.  His sons, Joseph's brothers, had done what they had done.  And God was doing what He was doing.  Jacob was along for the ride, whether he liked it or not.

You and I have to live with the consequences of other peoples' mistakes.  And we have to live with the work God is doing in the lives of the people around us.  It doesn't always feel good.  But if you belong to Him; if He is your Lord; if your desire is to be in His will, then He wants your best.  You are not just collateral damage in His plan.  He is a God of love, of mercy, of compassion, of kindness.  And while He's working in the lives of those you love, He's working in your life, too.

~ "We know that in all things, 
God works for the good of those who love Him" ~
Romans 8:28

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