Eli knew that he had been selected for a great honor, but he was still apprehensive. He was one of the priests who would carry Ark of the Covenant, across the Jordan River, before the people of Israel. It was just getting dark, as he stood by the banks of the swollen river. The water rushed by him; it seemed to overwhelm him. As darkness fell, he lifted his eyes to heaven. God of my fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I know that this is what you have commanded, but my heart is wrapped in fear. Give me the courage to do what you have called me to do.
As the first light of dawn appeared on the horizon, the priests took their places in front and behind the Ark. All the people were assembled. There was an air of anticipation, excitement and apprehension. Joshua addressed the people with words of challenge and encouragement. “Today the Lord will do an amazing thing in your sight.” The command was given, the priests grasped the long poles and shouldered the Ark.
Eli was the first priest on the right front. His eyes were firmly fixed on the rushing water before him. Joshua gave the command, and the priest began to slowly walk forward. They descended a gentle slope, which lead into the shallows of the river. Eli could feel the cold water engulfing his feet. With the weight of the priests and the Ark behind him, he kept moving forward. The water began rising on his calves. He could feel the first signs of the strong current pulling on his legs. Involuntarily he closed his eyes and steadily moved forward.
Wait, something is wrong! He could no longer feel the tug of the river. Eli quickly opened his eyes. He was walking on dry ground. For a great distance to his right and his left, there was no water, just dry ground. As the priests reached the center of the river, they stopped. The command was given and the people streamed across the now dry river bed. Eli was overwhelmed. He no longer felt the weight of the Ark on his shoulder. He began to quietly speak words of praise to Jehovah, as the tribes of Israel passed by him in perfect order.
As the last of the people climbed the far bank, twelve strong men came to the place where the priests stood. Each man selected a large, smooth rock and hefted it onto his broad shoulder. Finally, Joshua gave the command, and the priests resumed their march across the dry river bed. As the last of the priests stepped onto the far bank, Eli heard the sound of rushing water. He glanced back to see the river quickly refill. It again rushed by at flood stage. A collective cheer went up from the people.
So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 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, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.