Joshua 3 Crossing the Jordan

1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan,where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

A reoccurring theme in the story of God’s people is that of waiting.  Time and time again they are made to wait on the Lord.  I’m sure that after the news of Rahab the entire group was pumped up and ready to move out, but here the account says they waited.   What were they waiting for?  They knew that Joshua had been placed in charge of leading them to the promise land, and so they waited for his announcement that it was time to go.  What was Joshua waiting on?  Joshua waited on God.  He patiently readied the people in anticipation of hearing from God.

Application: We should be ready and prepared to do God’s work, but we must wait on His leading.

The priests then tell the people when it is time to move, they will wait on the ark to pass by first.  The ark is where the ten commandments were held, and represented God’s promise.  The Lord would go first into the land, creating the path for His people to follow.  They are told to be consecrated or set apart (made sacred before God), so they could accomplish the task ahead of them.  The same is true of every believer.

Application: God makes a path for us, and we must follow in it, set apart to Him, to see His promises realized.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

I love how often God reminds Joshua that he is important in God’s eyes.  God has chosen him for a specific purpose, and just as we all do, he needed to hear those re-assuring words from God that it was possible to do His will.  But notice that Joshua would not be able to do it by himself.  God was going to exalt him to the people.  Joshua would be a vessel for God to use to fulfill His plans.  All around us, every day, God is working.  We can either be ready to be used by Him (praying, reading the Bible, etc.), or we can be passed by.  It was Joshua’s faith and desire to be led that made Him the best person for the job.

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 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.”

Joshua lays out the plans of the Lord to get the people across the Jordan.  He carefully words his instructions letting the people know that it was God the creator, the living God who gave these instructions.  The ark is representing God’s presence going out before the people, causing awe and wonder at the miracle He would perform.

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 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, 16 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 (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Just as God used the miraculous sign of water parting when the Israelites came out of Egypt, it is used again to confirm their entry into the promise land.  God stands in the gap, doing for the Israelites what they can not do for themselves, dry up the river and cross safely.  Could this be a deeper illustration of what occurs when God calls us to give our lives to Christ?  “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4

Principle: God will create the way we should go, lead us, and sustain us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

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