Scripture – Joshua 3 (ESV)
Israel Crosses the Jordan
3 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” 9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
Engaging the Word
Here in this passage of scripture we see as the people of Israel have received news from the spies out of Jericho that the Lord had given them the land that lay before them. So, our Lord through Joshua sets about performing a miracle within the life of the Israelites. As we look at this passage of scripture it is evident that our Lord takes the Israelites through some very specific steps before they experience what lay before them in the Promised land. This morning as we go through this passage, I pray that if you have struggled to experience the promise that God has given you, that you will perhaps see the spiritual reason why this has been a struggle. I pray even more that you will see the spiritual answer on how to experience the promise of our Creator.
So as we look here, we see in verse 1 and verse 3 that the people of Israel set out from where they were, to place themselves ready to conquer the promise land before them. In verse 1 it says that they set out and in verse 3 the leaders of camp called the people to set out and follow when the ark of the covenant moved before the people. The people had probably grown used to being in the desert. They had been in the desert for 40 years and because of their lack of faith to believe God would give them they land, they then had to remain in the desert for another 40 years. They had probably grown accustomed to the manna from heaven and the provision of water from our Lord. They had probably grown accustomed to the camp lifestyle and so this was a big change in their lives.
If any of us had been in a place for 40 years, that place would be a place of comfort. It is for that reason that most people don’t move more than 50 miles from where they were born or went to school. Whether you are the Israelites or people of Vallejo, moving into a new spiritual era is hard and requires trust and faith in the God that goes before us. In our spiritual lives, unfortunately too many of us take what we carried with us for most if not all of our lives into our Christian life. Yet, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 our Lord tells us that, “if we are in Christ, we are a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come.” Why is it that when we see all that God has to offer us in the promise that lies before us that we want to take what we are with us? Whether it is our sin, our hurt, our hang ups, our trust or love for the things of this world. Even within my own life, this was an issue that I had to struggle with as a young husband. Because I am an easy going individual, because I inherently don’t like confrontation and because I don’t like the burden of leading those around me, even when I became a believer unfortunately I carried these elements into my Christian walk. However, many years ago my Lord kept pointing to this deficiency within my life as a believer and with the support of a wife who desired to be led by her Christian husband I left what I had carried in my life for so long. As the word tells us in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Today as I stand here as your shepherd, it is only through the miracle of what God has done in my life and the desire to leave what I carried for so long behind in the desert. Today if you have carried all that you have for so many years, our Lord is calling us to set out, to get up from where we are at and to let go. What has it brought you but hurt and frustration? Our Lord is here to give us freedom. He is here to give us promise.
Following the Presence of our Lord
Next in this passage within verse 4 we see that the leaders of the people of Israel call the people to follow the ark of the covenant from about 2000 cubits which is about 1000 yards (3000 feet). As we read this instruction to the people of Israel it is easy for us to place this within the context of protection for the people of Israel. But this was more than just protection for the people, this was about vision. You see as the people of Israel came together it was easy going to be thousands if not millions of people following the leaders into the promise land. And because it was this many people, the leaders of Israel did not want the people to follow with such earnest that they lost perspective of what lay before them and land up putting themselves in danger by getting to close to the presence of our Lord. With that many people following the leaders into the promised land it would have been easy for the people to follow the person in front of them and not the presence of our Lord.
Unfortunately, this is too often the case within our lives as well. As we begin the journey of Christian fellowship too often in our earnest to experience all that lives within the body of Christ we get too close the people or concepts that surround us and lose the vision of our hope and promise in Christ. Hebrews 12:1-2 puts it this way for us “let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Notice that it says every weight and sin. It is easy to look over these two words, but it is more than just sin that prevents us from running the race that is set before us. Sometimes it is the weights of this world, the intellectual perceptions, the emotional attachments, the following of a person and not the presence of our Lord. Sometimes we follow those around us so closely that we lose sight our Lord and find ourselves way off course from the path that has been placed before us. Our calling is not to follow the people that surround us (our families, our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our Pastors) but rather it is a calling to look to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith. This morning, if you have found yourself lost in the fields of this life, off the path that God has set before you our Lord is calling you back. He is calling you to step back, to take your eyes off of the person or attachment that has beset your eyes and place your eyes upon the presence and person of Jesus Christ.
Resting our Souls
In verses 8 and 13 we see as the people of Israel are called to stand still in the Jordan or rest in the waters of the Jordan. Notice that in these verses it does not say that when their feet touch the Jordan that the waters of the Jordan would be separated. It was not like the moment when Moses stretched his staff over the waters of the Jordan and the waters were separated before them. Who knows how long the people of Israel had to stand with their feet in the waters of Jordan. It could have been for 30 seconds, it could have been for 30 minutes or for hours, we just don’t know but none the less it they were called to rest in the Jordan. It was as if, our Lord was testing the people’s faith to determine if they really wanted to experience the promise land that lay before them. The people had consecrated themselves, they had followed from a distance and now they were standing in the Jordan waiting for the hand of our Lord to be realized in this moment.
Isn’t it interesting how our Lord sometimes gives us the opportunity to experience the hope that lies in the person of our Savior. Paraphrasing Psalms 62:5 the psalmist writes, “my soul waits in silence as my hope is in Him alone”. It is so easy for us as believers to give up on what God has promised us. We expect Moses moments in every aspect of our lives and when that is not realized we leave the waters of our Jordan and look for the nearest man-made bridge. We see waiting as a trial and not as a promise, a promise of experiencing the hope that is in the person of our Lord. The people of Israel had not waited 40 years to experience this moment, but had waited 80 years to experience this moment. Imagine how incredibly blessed and exhilarated Joshua and Caleb must have felt to be finally standing in the waters that God had promised them. To them patiently waiting upon the hope of our Lord was a moment that they had waited for such a long time and now they knew that their God would not fail them.
This morning if you have found yourself away from the waters our Lord has before you (whether it is prayer for freedom in your life, healing, an answer to prayer for a loved one, etc.); our Lord calls us to come back and step into his waters of hope and promise. Experiencing God’s promise is not found on the man-made bridges of intellectual or emotional solution, but rather it resides only in the watered presence of our Jesus Christ.
The Heap before us
Lastly in this passage we find ourselves confronted by the glory of our Lord as he reveals the promise that He has given all mankind out of Jeremiah 32:38 that “He will be our God and we will be his people”. This truth is evidenced in verses 13 and 15 as our Lord evidences his promise. It is in this moment that our Lord stops the flooding waters Jordan to show the people of Israel that if they place their trust upon him, that He will stop the flooding waters of the Jordan and reveal to them a promise that they could never imagine. Folks in this truth we are promised a truth that we could never imagine. That no matter what we may face in this life from the struggles within our heart and emotional solutions that we hold onto, there is nothing that our Lord will not conquer. Imagine the spiritual lives of those Israelites as they stood in the water of the Jordan and watched as a heap of water stand before them in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in this truth that you and I can grasp the significance that no matter what we may face in this life, whether it is the flooding waters of the struggle against sin in our life or the emotional trial that earnestly seeks to tear us away from our Lord or the struggle that we face in this life that seeks to tear the joy of the Lord away from us. It does not matter what flooding waters that we may face, our Lord is our Savior and conqueror and today we can stand on the dry banks of the Jordan in the faith and truth that our Lord stands upon the throne of glory and gives each of promise that is beyond any other.
Today I would like to close off with a question, where are you in this path that is set before you? Are you still waiting in the camp scared to let go of all that you know? Are you following those that surround you (your brothers and sisters in Christ) or do you earnestly search after the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ in your life? Lastly have you moved from waters of the Jordan to the bridges of mankind or are you still waiting to see the presence of our Lord revealed in the heaping waters of the Jordan? Today only you can answer these questions and only you can experience the promise our God has given each of us. I pray that this truth is as alive in your life as it has been realized in many others before you. God give us great promise and today that promise lies before each of us as believers if we will just step into each of these truths as believers.