Those are the opening words to the book of Joshua. The nation of Israel has been wandering in the desert for 40 years, waiting for the opportunity to step into the promised land. The Israelites have experienced the incredible faithfulness of God in His delivering them from Egyptian servitude by parting the Red Sea, being fed daily with manna from heaven, being led by the pillar of fire at night and the pillar of cloud by day, and His delivery of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sanai. Indeed, Israel had witnessed some of the most profound and powerful works of God.
And now they stand on the precipice of yet another promise of God: the promised land. Moses, their faithful leader, has died. It is time for the next chapter in the life of Israel. And God speaks to Joshua, passing the torch of leadership to a man who has been willing and waiting to enter the land for 40 years. He and Caleb are the only ones left of those who exited Egypt. And now, because of their trust in the power of their God, they will walk into the promised land. But there’s a river at flood stage standing between them and their land. This time, instead of simply lifting up a rod and witnessing God part the waters, they are going to be required to take a step of faith, literally:
13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
And once again God displays His mighty power and the nation of Israel walks across a dry river bed. After crossing, God instructs Joshua to choose twelve men, one man from each tribe, to go back into the river bed and gather twelve stones. The twelve stones were to be carried by those men and left at the place where they would stay that night.
Why? God provides a very clear reason:
He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’
God knew Israel had a very short memory and tended to look back instead of looking forward. At the first sign of challenge once they were freed from Egyptian rule, they complained to Moses and wanted to return to Egypt where they at least had good tasting food, even if they had to be slaves to get it! He wanted some type of tangible reference point, something that would remind the Israelites of just how much He had done for them. So He had them establish a memorial, a simple reminder of what happened on this day. Because He knew they would forget.
Before we get too judgmental, isn’t it true of us as well? We tend to get lost in the trial of the moment, forgetting all that God has done to bring us to this very point in our life. We get frustrated, impatient and begin to look around, giving the opportunity for jealousy and envy. We don’t understand why God is blessing that family but not ours. We tend to get extremely myopic and narrow our field of vision to simply this moment in time.
What we need to do at that moment is to step back, take a deep breath, and begin to develop perspective. We need to put things into context and recognize the incredible tapestry of our lives. God has done so much to get us where we are today, but He wants us to trust Him to do the next thing in our lives to take us where we need to be tomorrow.
Last Friday, we had our first chapel of the year, and we had the opportunity to “pin” our new C9 students, welcoming them into our Founders Club. The pin represents the front red doors on our North Campus. Those doors are reserved for special occasions, and only high school students may walk through them. They represent a transition into high school, the transition from children to adults. Those red doors have become symbolic of our North Campus.
Those red doors on our pin also serve as our own memorial stones. It is a vivid reminder of what God did to give us our North Campus and our high school, lest we forget how much God has done on our behalf to make this possible. It was only a few years ago that our board gathered together to seek God’s direction after discovering we would not be able to move forward with our plans to build on the South Campus. Just 18 months from the launch of our high school, we had no idea where we would be able to house that first high school class. Unable to uncover a suitable path forward, we dropped to our knees and prayed.
One month later, we received a call from the owner of the Rock Spring Presbyterian Church (RSPC) campus asking us to submit a proposal to purchase their campus. The most remarkable aspect of this development was the fact that for over three years we had been in monthly communication with RSPC inquiring about the possibility of purchasing or leasing their space and had received no response from them. And now, running out of time and desperate to find a place for our high school, a month after seeking His face and direction, God opened the door, a door we had been knocking on for years and, if we’re honest, had given up any hope of opening. God moved.
A few short months later, during the middle of the pandemic, we signed the Letter of Intent to purchase the RSPC campus, closing on the purchase on Thursday, December 31, 2020. On Friday, January 1, 2021, we began the renovation of this beautiful campus, and on Monday, August 9, 2021, we dedicated this campus to the Lord and welcomed our first high school class, the Class of 2025. God moved.
There are pages and pages of additional details I could share with you that, to this day, continue to send chills down my spine. This is OUR story. This is the story I hope and pray we never forget. That when we see those red doors, we remember how faithful and how incredibly generous our Father was at that critical time in the life of Heritage Preparatory School.
There will be trying times ahead, and we will be tempted to become fixated on the issue du jour, losing sight of what God has done to bring us to this point in time. Lest we become as the Israelites, let’s keep our eyes fixed on Him, trusting that what He has done thus far has brought us to today, but He wants us to trust Him to do the next thing in our lives, however hard or difficult, to take us where we need to be tomorrow.
It may require us to take a step into a river at flood stage. Whatever He desires of us, we must be willing to do. There is nothing more thrilling than to see God move.