After 40 years of talking about it, the Israelites were finally in the Promised Land. To celebrate, they renewed their covenant with God and prepared for the new life awaiting them. No longer desert nomads, they would become farmers and shepherds in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.” Joshua 5:11 NIV
Their daily supply of manna suddenly stopped falling to the ground and the river Jordan once again raged at their backs. They couldn’t retreat to the desert. What they needed now was complete trust and obedience in God, their deliverer. Thankfully, Joshua appeared to be connected to Him just like Moses was. This thought seemed to put the people at ease.
Meanwhile, the people living in Jericho looked down with fear at the sight of 2 million Israelites covering the countryside. Would their massive city walls be enough to protect them? They had the living God on their side. Jericho’s army shut themselves tight inside the fortified city and waited. A showdown loomed…
“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”” Joshua 5:13 NLT
After the Israelites crossed the Jordan river, Joshua commanded the people to carry 12 large stones up out of the river and pile them up on the shore as a memorial. Then, when someone asks, “What do these 12 stones mean?” tell themhow the Lord cut off the flow of the Jordan and let the Israelites cross over into the promised land.
This event occurred on the 10th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar (Joshua 4:19) marking the end of the Exodus (the date 40 years earlier the people of Israel left Egypt (Exodus 12:3)). The message: God will finish the work He starts.
Followers of Jesus celebrate communion, “Do this in remembrance of me,” to remind us what God has done for us through his Son. The cross of Christ demonstrates God can accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will let Him.
And like the people of Israel we must be ready to tell those who ask us, “what is the reason for the hope that lies within you?” 1 Peter 3:15.
For people of God, the Jordan River carries heavy symbolism. If you are a churchgoer, take a quick peek in your hymnal. You will find songs revealing the Jordan as a symbol of death. Crossing the Jordan and reaching the Promised Land meant entering the gates of heaven.
Some time after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, baptism took the meaning of dying to your old self (upon immersion) and being raised to new life found in Christ (being drawn back up out of the water).
In Joshua chapter three we read the people of Israel needed to sanctify themselves before they could cross the Jordan River. For this ancient people it involved devoting themselves completely to God and worshiping him. God was about to perform a miracle and he wanted their undivided attention.
“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”” Joshua 3:5
Unlike the Red Sea crossing found in the book of Exodus, crossing the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land required an act of faith on their part–especially by the priests. God wasn’t going to stop the flow of the Jordan River at flood stage until their feet were in the water. The priests, however, didn’t go into the water alone. God was with them in the form of the ark of the covenant, which they carried.
“The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Joshua 3:17
Some thoughts for those who know God through his son Jesus:
God sometimes performs miracles at the most extreme times, often only after we step out in faith
How many miracles have we missed because we failed to take that first step of faith?
Every person passed by the ark (containing the Word of God) as they traveled through the dry riverbed. Much as every person today must encounter God to pass from death to everlasting life.
God will accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will trust Him.