Crossing the Jordan
Last week we began a series on the Book of Joshua. Zach used the first chapter of Joshua to teach us about real leadership. We saw that leadership:
- Is God appointed
- Knows and trusts in the absolute, objective truth of God
- Takes action and doesn’t wait for others to do it
- Leadership is recognized by others (when it’s good and when it’s bad)
- Is proactive rather than reactive
Today we are going to look at the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land by Joshua and the Israelites after spending 40 years in the wilderness until every original person who escaped Pharaoh’s army had died—except Joshua and Caleb. Remember how it was only these two faithful leaders who believed that God would lead them to victory over the inhabitants of Canaan, while the other 10 spies and all Israel refused to believe. For their faithfulness in God, Joshua and Caleb are rewarded by possessing what God had promised Abraham about 500 years earlier.
Moses has died at the age of 120, still strong and sharp of mind. Now Joshua is God’s leader and spokesperson to the people of Israel. We are going to skip over Joshua 2 for now—the chapter where Joshua sends two spies to Jericho—but let me make one or two comments before we move to chapter 3.
First, it’s significant that when Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho, addressed the spies, this pagan Canaanite rightly points out that Israel’s God is the one true God. Listen to what she says: “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.”
When others see the mighty work of God, whether they are followers of Jesus or not, they can’t help but take notice. Rahab said something we will hear again by the spies when they report to Joshua in verse 24: “all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” You see, it’s because of God’s deliverance and God’s presence with Israel that they are feared. It’s NOT their size or their abilities that brings Israel success and the respect of other nations, it is God’s PRESENCE!
But more significant to me is what these two spies first tell Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands.” Notice the contrast from 40 years earlier when the ten spies said, “we are like grasshoppers to the inhabitants of Cannan.” Before they operated out of what they saw; now they are operating in what the KNOW!
God is their deliverer. He is their provider and sustainer. They have wandered in the wilderness for a generation. God has provided them manna and quail, water and even victory over two mighty kings, Og and Sihon. God has provided them a way in which to live in union with Him and with one another through the Law. Now…after time and experiences…the Israelites are ready to trust that God has surely given them the whole land.
That sets the stage for what comes next in chapter 3. Listen to the story unfold. Here are a few takeaways from today’s scripture for us today.
1.Joshua is preparing Israel to move, and the sign of their movement will be the movement of the ark of the covenant carried by the Levitical priests. The ark has NO POWER. It represents the presence of God’s power. The ark contained the LAW. The ark was covered by two CHERUBIM with wings, which was the very MERCY SEAT of God. The ark represented the very PRESENCE of God. Unlike pagan worship of false gods, the ark was NOT an image of God, it reminded Israel of the presence of God. In much the same way, some of us wear or carry crosses, or maybe a smooth stone, or even a Bible verse. By them we know that God is our God and is with us wherever we go.
2.Joshua tells the people to consecrate themselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among them. To consecrate means to prepare…to make oneself ready to receive what God has for us. Consecration would have involved cleaning oneself, abstaining from sexual intercourse, prayer, and possibly fasting. Something new was about to happen and they needed to be ready.
Here’s a question for us. What kinds of amazing things might God be willing to do among us if we made ourselves ready to receive him?
- Does God want to restore your relationship with him that has been damaged by sin?
- Does God want to redeem a broken or lost relationship with a family member or friend?
- Does God want to provide you a new direction in your life? One free from self-blame and pity? One free from anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, guilt, or shame?
What if we repented of our sin? What if we opened hearts and minds to God’s truth and direction? What if we cleansed ourselves of all the other gods in our lives—those things that compete for our affections, our time, our money? What could God do if we were wholly consecrated to him? Dwight L. Moody is credited with the statement, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.” Will we?
3. The Lord spoke to Joshua and said, “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.” Joshua’s position as leader—his acceptance by Israel—was only as great as the PRESENCE and POWER of God in Joshua’s life. Joshua would need to put God first in his life. He would need to position himself to receive God’s instruction and God’s spiritual authority in his life. Joshua would need to be willing to respond to God’s voice instead of the voices of a million fellow Israelites.
That wasn’t easy to do for him and it’s not easy for us. But if we are going to experience God’s presence and power, we have to place ourselves in situations to receive it. Prayer. Reading and studying God’s Word. Worship. Giving and Serving. Listening. Expecting. We need to remain available to God just as Joshua would. That’s why God tells Joshua in the first chapter to meditate on His Law (Word) day and night in order to be the leader God could use to conquer the Promised Land. And we, too, are called to do the same.
1. The final part of chapter 3 is the crossing of the Jordan River over dry land. Because of God’s presence and power represented by the ark, all Israel crossed without even getting their sandals wet! The Levitical priests held the ark of the covenant in the middle of the river bed that had been miraculously parted while a million folks hurried across. But there’s another significant moment that we can’t miss and it’s the final point I want us to see in this story: God is calling for Israel to remember the mighty salvation of God—the presence and power of God.
A man from each of the twelve tribes was to take a stone from the middle of the Jordan across to the western side of the Jordan and set up the stones as a reminder. Stones of remembrance keep us grounded. They help us remember our roots…where we come from and how we got here. In a minute we will celebrate Holy Communion. While we do not believe that the bread and juice metaphysically become the presence of Jesus Christ, we do affirm that the bread and wine remind us that we have been delivered from sin and death through the body and blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
In addition, we are reminded of the presence and power of Christ in our lives through his Holy Spirit. Jesus is Victor! And Jesus is Alive! And Jesus is Present with US through the Holy Spirit.
Joshua 4:14 says, “That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they stood in awe of Moses.” If we want to be exalted by God, we must not do what is POPULAR among the people, but rather do what is RIGHT in the sight of God Almighty.
Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” To fear God is to humble ourselves before Him…to accept that God knows best and wants what is best for his children…to honor God by obeying him, which is to say we are to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS.
To experience the presence and power of God in our lives we need to put ourselves in a position to receive Him. This consecration of ourselves takes humility, repentance, and a receptive heart. When we do, we may very well see a mighty move of God. And WHEN we do, we are called to REMEMBER…to TELL our story to others (especially our children)…SO THAT they, too, can believe and experience God’s power of forgiveness, deliverance, and everlasting life. AMEN.