Crossing the Jordan (part 2)
After 40 years of their ancestors wandering in the desert – and after much preparation…it’s FINALLY time for the children of Israel to cross over the Jordan River to their God-given promised land. (Joshua 3)
What is standing between you and your personal promise land? It’s time to cross over!
They encamp on the edge of the Jordan for three days and then Joshua gives the order. It’s that time! However, Joshua gives them this very important command:
“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.” – Joshua 3:3
Now we know that the ark of the covenant held the Ten Commandments, manna, and Aaron’s rod. It was Israel’s most sacred and treasured possession because it represented God’s presence. So we can see that Joshua’s command to them was basically saying “GET UP and GO AFTER GOD’s PRESENCE! This command hasn’t changed for us under the new covenant (Luke 14:27).
Joshua gave further instructions:
“…Do not come near it (the ark), that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.” – Joshua 3:4
They were told to put an appropriate amount of space between themselves and the ark because they were headed into unfamiliar territory and they didn’t know the way. Too often if God tells us where we’re going and what He has planned, we have a tendency to get ahead of Him. This was the warning to the Israelites “don’t try to get too close or worse, pass the ark, because you don’t know the way. You need to follow His presence!
Joshua gives them one more very important command BEFORE they crossed over:
“Sanctify yourselves…” – Joshua 3:5
- Set apart as or declare holy; consecrate.
- Make legitimate or binding by religious sanction.
Joshua was giving them a chance to leave their issues on this side of their promised land. Too many people don’t deal with their sin and try to move ahead into their destiny while still clinging to their sins and the things that hold them in bondage.
Verse 5 goes on to say that after they sanctify themselves, they will see God perform wonders!
“…for tomorrow the Lord will do wondersamong you” – Joshua 3:5
Joshua has a sense of expectancy…he’s joyfully anticipating how God is going to show His power and glory to the people. We NEED this same expectancy – when was the last time you went to church EXPECTING God to do something wonderful? Or how about in your own life, with your personal prayers? Do you expect God to perform wonders? I can tell you this, He responds to that kind of hunger (Matthew 5:6)
Joshua 3:6-8 – God gives Joshua “the plan”. Then Joshua tells the children of Israel “come here and hear the words of the Lord your God”. Then Joshua tells the people to follow the priests who are carrying the ark.
“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” – Joshua 3:13
God had promised Joshua that He would part the waters of the Jordan just like He parted the Red Sea. This was a sign that He was with them just as He had been with Moses. It was also to show the people of the earth that God’s hand was on Israel (Joshua 4:24 – more on this next time)
If anyone had reason to question God’s timing, it could of been Joshua. Not only were they making a trip into unfamiliar territory, already knowing they would eventually have to fight the inhabitants of the land…but first they had to cross the Jordan…which was now at flood stage.
“….for the Jordan overflows it’s banks during the whole time of harvest” – Joshua 3:15
It required faith –
- faith to believe God was with them, even after all this time – after their forefather’s murmured and complained, and ultimately disobeyed so that God was angry with them…they had to believe that God had not changed His mind about giving them this promised land.
- faith to believe that God would give them victory over the enemies in the land
- faith to believe that when the priests stepped into the water, it would stop flowing
- AND faith to believe that the water would hold, just as it did with the Red Sea, so they could pass through on dry ground!
“Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.” – Joshua 3:17
What can we learn from the Israelites crossing over?
- As your waiting to enter into the promises of God for your life, sometimes all you can do is stand firm!
- Even if the waters are surrounding you, in the presence of the Lord, it is dry ground (solid ground; He is our firm foundation).
- Let’s not go halfway and turn back, but like the children of Israel, we need to go completely across to the other side. No turning back, no standing still, no camping out in the midst of the Jordan…go completely over.
- The priests got to carry the presence of God (the ark), and the people followed them. The Bible says that we are kings and priests unto the Lord (1 Peter 2:9, Rev. 5:9-10) – as we follow Christ into our promise land, others will see it and want to follow too.