Joshua 3

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

THE CROSSING OF THE JORDAN

INTRODUCTION:

Forty years earlier the Israelites left Egypt in what is known as the Exodus. Because of their rebellion at Kadesh Barnea, God allowed the Israelites to wander around in the wilderness until all the adults who were 20 years and older at the time of their rebellion died in the wilderness. The only two exceptions were Joshua and Caleb.

So, now you have a new generation of Israelites who needed to know the power and working of Almighty God. It is true that they had seen the LORD's provision of Manna and water in the wilderness. They had seen that their clothing and shoes had not worn out during their wilderness wanderings for 40 years. Some had seen what happened at Mount Sinai when the LORD spoke audibly to the people and when He had given the law to Moses. The older ones would remember the crossing of the Red Sea and other miracles.

Moses, the only leader these people had ever known, was now dead. Their new leader needed to be authenticated by God in their eyes. It was time for the Israelites to cross over the Jordan River and enter the land of Canaan.

We see the -

I. PREPARATION FOR THE CROSSING THE JORDAN - 3:1-4

It should be understood that it was harvest time and that the Jordan River was at flood stage. Without God's help, 2,500,000 people crossing over the Jordan River at flood stage along with all their flocks and herds and possessions was impossible.

Joshua 3:1 And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over [i.e. before they crossed over the Jordan River].

Joshua apparently did not yet know exactly how he and the Israelites would cross the Jordan, but He trusted the Lord and led the Israelites to where they were positioned to cross the Jordan River at the proper time. He undoubtedly remembered when Israel, while encamped along the Red Sea, seemed hemmed in by the Egyptians.

Exodus 14:13-14 - 13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

Shittim was about 7 miles from the Jordan River. Joshua and the Israelites came to the Jordan River where they would camp for three days before crossing the river. These three days would enable the Israelites to see that they had no ability on their own to cross the Jordan River. They needed to see that divine intervention would be necessary for them to cross the river at this time and under these circumstances. They needed to learn that the LORD would miraculously lead them.

God had the Israelites right where He wanted them. They were in an existing situation. Likewise, God also has us right where He wants us. We are likewise in an existing situation, both as a church and as individuals, even if the difficulties we are experiencing are our own fault. As individuals we are the age we are supposed to be with the ailments we are supposed to have. It is true that we may have brought some of these ailments on ourselves, but God has allowed them.

Joshua 3:2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host [i.e. through the camp];

Joshua 3:3 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 [i.e. carrying it], then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

God was no longer leading the Israelites by the cloud during the daytime and by the pillar of fire at night. Instead, they were to follow the ark of the covenant of the Lord, which represented the presence of the Lord. Similarly, we are to follow the Lord through the instructions He has given us in the Scriptures.

Psalms 37:23 - The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Note what the Israelites were to do -

Joshua 3:4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it [i.e. between you and the ark of the covenant], about two thousand cubits by measure [i.e. a space of about 3,000 feet or six-tenths of a mile]: come not near unto it [i.e. come not near unto the ark of the covenant], that ye may know the way by which ye must go [You are to follow the ark of the covenant wherever it leads you, but don't get closer than six tenths of a mile.]: for ye have not passed this way heretofore [i.e. You have never been here before].

The reason for the distance the Israelites were to keep between the ark and themselves was undoubtedly because of the holiness of God. They were to highly respect and stand in awe of God. Likewise, believers today are not to have flippant or careless attitudes toward God; rather, we are to stand in awe of Him and submit to His leadership in our lives.

Next, we see the -

II. CONSECRATION FOR THE CROSSING - 3:5-13

Joshua 3:5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves [i.e. consecrate yourselves]: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.

They were to prepare themselves spiritually for what lay ahead for them. Likewise, we are to prepare ourselves spiritually. We are to be filled with the Spirit. This comes about by our studying the Word of God seriously and submitting our hearts and minds to the Scriptures in humble obedience and by keeping ourselves out of sin. God will use this to prepare us for whatever lies ahead of us.

Joshua 3:6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people [i.e. cross over the Jordan River before the people]. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

Joshua 3:7 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee [i.e. I will begin to exalt you, Joshua] in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

Joshua 3:8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan [i.e. to the edge of the water of the Jordan River], ye shall stand still in Jordan [i.e. in the Jordan River].

Remember that the Jordan River was at flood stage with a faster than normal current.

Joshua 3:9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither [i.e. come here], and hear [i.e. and listen to] the words of the LORD your God.

Joshua 3:10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know [i.e. by this you will know, where this refers to their crossing over the Jordan River on dry ground even though it was at flood stage - it will be just like the Israelites crossing over the Red Sea when fleeing from the Egyptians 40 years earlier] (i.e. you will know) that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail [i.e. and that He will certainly, and that He will assuredly] drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites [i.e. the Lord will give you victory over all your enemies. Their crossing the Jordan River on dry ground at flood stage would be a guarantee that God would also give them victory over the occupants of the land.].

Joshua 3:11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan [i.e. the ark of the covenant of the Lord is crossing over before you into the Jordan River].

The ark of the covenant of the Lord assured the Israelites of the Lord's presence with them. Likewise, Jesus has said, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20 ).

Joshua 3:12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.

Joshua 3:13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear [i.e. that carry] the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in [i.e. shall set foot in, shall step in] the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above [i.e. the waters flowing downstream]; and they [i.e. the waters of the Jordan River upstream] shall stand upon an heap.

Can you imagine what they were being told. As soon as the priests step into the edge of the river, the waters coming from upstream will stop passing the place where the priests are standing. The waters coming from upstream will still keep flowing, but rather than continuing to flow by the priests, they will pile up at that spot and get higher and higher and higher as more water flows downstream. Meanwhile, the waters downstream from you will continue to flow; and the riverbed will become instantly dry, not muddy. You can then cross the river with your herds and flocks.

I have no idea how high the water would pile up, but it could get very high in a short while. It apparently backed up and piled up for about 16 miles. It must have been quite a sight.

Finally, we see the -

III. COMPLETION OF THE CROSSING - 3:14-17

Joshua 3:14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing [i.e. carrying] the ark of the covenant before the people;

Joshua 3:15 And as they that bare [i.e. carried] the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim [i.e. were dipped in the edge, touched the edge] of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

If you were one of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant, what would you be thinking as you came closer and closer to the swollen and fast-moving river? You wouldn't dare hesitate because 2,500,000 people were following you. Might you be a little nervous? Might you be asking yourself what you will do in case the waters don't part and enable us to walk across the river on dry ground? What is Plan B?

Joshua 3:16 That the waters which came down from above [i.e. the waters from upstream] stood and rose up upon an heap [i.e. the water got higher and higher] very far from [i.e. a great distance away at] the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea [i.e. the Dead Sea], failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho [i.e. the people crossed over the Jordan River opposite Jericho].

This place called Adam is usually identified with a location about 16 miles north of Jericho.

The crossing would not necessarily take too long because the dry riverbed might have been several miles long which would have enabled a great many people to cross at the same time.

Joshua 3:17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over [i.e. crossed over the Jordan River] on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan [i.e. until all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan River].

Remember verse 10,

Joshua 3:10 - And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know [i.e. by this you will know, where this refers to their crossing over the Jordan River on dry ground even though it was at flood stage - it will be just like the Israelites crossing over the Red Sea when fleeing from the Egyptians 40 years earlier] (by this you will know) that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail [i.e. and that He will certainly, and that He will assuredly] drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.

Their crossing over the Jordan River demonstrated to all Israel that Joshua was God's chosen successor to Moses as the leader of the Israelites.

What effect do you suppose the Israelites' crossing over the Jordan River on dry ground had on the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, such as the inhabitants of Jericho? You can believe that some of them were watching. They were undoubtedly terrorized. Watching the Jordan River at flood stage dry up and the waters upstream piling up while the Israelites crossed the river without getting their feet wet was something the gods of Jericho could not do. The inhabitants of Jericho had to be scared to death.

Consider the miracles in chapter 3:

1. This happened just as it had been predicted - 3:13

Joshua 3:13 - And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear [i.e. that carry] the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in [i.e. shall set foot in, shall step in] the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above [i.e. the waters flowing downstream]; and they [i.e. the waters of the Jordan River upstream] shall stand upon an heap.

2. The timing was exact. It was at the exact time the priests carrying the ark stepped into the waters of the Jordan River.

3. It took place when the river was at flood stage.

4. The wall of water upstream was held in place for many hours without any dams or dikes holding it in place.

5. The river bottom became dry immediately. Have you ever stepped into a river and had your feet sink somewhat into the mud?

It would not have happened this day in the Jordan River.

6. The water returned immediately as soon as the people had crossed over and the priests came up out of the river.

Joshua 4:18 - And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.