Daybreak: Joshua 3:1 through 4:24
“And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.” (Joshua 3:3-4)
As a child, did you ever imagine what you would be when you grew up; where you would live; who you would marry; or how you would travel to see the world? Have all those dreams been realized in your life?
Though most of us have goals in life, none of us know where the events of each new day will take us. Often, it may seem that we are on course to reaching our goals until a sharp turn of events confuses us. Other times, everyday events alter the direction we are heading, and we put our dreams on hold. Regardless of where we find ourselves in relation to our dreams and goals, each day of our lives brings new challenges, surprises, and endeavors.
Our pastor tells of applying for a job, which he wanted so much that he felt his perspective was clouded. As he drove to what he expected would be the decisive final interview, he asked God to please step in if taking that job would be a mistake. God did intervene, and he did not get the job; a few years later, that company was out of business. God saw the future and turned the events in a better direction.
Understanding the predicament we find ourselves in when we face something new in our lives, God designed a way by which we can be assured that we are staying on course. When we become Christians and relinquish control of our lives to God, He becomes our Guide. Though we will still travel through places we have never been, we have an assurance in our hearts that He knows the direction that our lives should take. He often assures us of His leading by pointing out His blessings along the way. We learn that the more we rely upon Him as our Guide and the more closely we follow Him, the more assured and satisfied we become with our lives.
God has many wonderful surprises along the way, and often He will take us on a seemingly unusual route to prepare us for the good that is ahead. Learning to lean on His guidance gives us the best chance at making each day count for something positive. Through scary and difficult times, or through ordinary, everyday situations, we can trust our Guide, because He knows the way.
Joshua instructed the people to leave Shittim for the banks of the Jordan River and wait there for further instruction. Then, the officers went through the camp and told the people to start walking when they saw the Ark of the Covenant moving. The ark was representative of God’s presence with them, and He would be the One to lead them and give the victory. The people were to keep a distance of approximately one mile between themselves and the ark. This space showed respect for God, and it also kept the ark in view of the people. As they embarked on this journey, they were told, “Ye have not passed this way heretofore,” and God provided a way to guide them.
Instead of the people being told to prepare their weapons or draw their swords, they were told to prepare their hearts by sanctifying themselves. In this instance, this was not a ritual ceremony but rather a spiritual preparation for what was ahead. God was going to work for them in a mighty way and their hearts were to be ready to receive His mighty works.
It is of great interest that God chose the time of their crossing when the Jordan River was overflowing. At this time, the time of barley harvest, the waters of the river were usually sixteen to twenty feet above flood stage, and the river was about a mile wide. Twelve Levitical priests were instructed to carry the ark into the rushing waters of the Jordan River. What great courage and faith the priests demonstrated by putting their feet into that rushing torrent! As soon as the soles of their feet touched the water, God stopped the river’s flow, and the priests stood on dry ground. Through their faith, the people were able to enter into the Promised Land.
The Lord commanded Joshua to have twelve men, one man from each tribe, carry a stone from the bed of the river. These men took the stones to Gilgal, Israel’s lodging place that night, which was located approximately five miles from the banks of the Jordan River. The purpose of the stones was to commemorate the miraculous event of the crossing of the Jordan. When subsequent generations asked what the stones meant, the fathers relayed to the children how God performed the miracle for them. In addition, Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan River, where the priests had stood, and God’s Word says, “they are there unto this day.” Though this memorial could not be seen, God and the Children of Israel knew that it was there.
At God’s command, the people moved and the waters stopped. Again, at God’s command, the priests walked out of the river and the water flowed once more. That day, God was glorified before His own people and also before the inhabitants of Canaan.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The land contested
A. The preparation for the conquest
3. The crossing of the Jordan
a. The preparations for crossing (3:1-13)
(1) The instructions for crossing (3:1-4)
(2) The prospect of crossing (3:5-6)
(3) The promise to Joshua (3:7-8)
(4) The promise to Israel (3:9-13)
b. The passage (3:14-17)
c. The memorials (4:1-9)
(1) The significance of the stones (4:1-7)
(2) The placement of the stones (4:8-9)
d. The result of the crossing
(1) The passing of the ark (4:10-18)
(2) The encampment at Gilgal (4:19-24)
A Closer Look
- How many days did the Children of Israel have to wait by the Jordan River before they could cross?
- Why did God have the priests step out first before parting the waters of Jordan?
- In what ways does God guide you today?
God is sovereign and all-powerful. He led the Children of Israel step by step through this miraculous crossing. He desires to lead us as He did the Children of Israel, even though at times we feel that the situations we face are impossible. By stepping out in faith, we, too, can have the victory.