Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 29 2019 - Joshua 3:1-17 – Crossing the Jordan

The majority of the Israelites who had been rescued from Egypt had died in the desert over the last forty years. The Israelites now camped beside the Jordan opposite Jericho had heard what God had done for their parents and grandparents in bringing them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea – as also had the inhabitants of Jericho, as we saw yesterday. God will now demonstrate that he is the same God. What he did for their parents and grandparents he can do also for them. He will lead them into the land he has promised to give them.

The Ark of the Covenant is more than a box for the tablets of the law, it is the symbol of the presence and power of the living God among his people – he sits enthroned between the cherubim. The Ark, carried by the priests, will go before the people; God himself will lead them. The moment the priest’s feet get wet in the shallows of the Jordan, the water will cease to flow. It was as if the water had been dammed up at some point upstream and downstream the waters simply drained away. The priests carrying the Ark stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed while all of the Israelites marched safely over on dry ground.

Some forty years before, when the Israelites had seemed to be trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, Moses had told them, "Stand firm and you will see the deliverance that the Lord will bring you today" (Exodus 14:13). The waters of the Red Sea had parted to allow the Israelites to cross on dry ground. Now the Lord does another amazing thing for his people, repeating the miracle at the Red Sea. No longer are these Israelites a people who have merely heard of the saving power of their God, they have experienced it for themselves. Now they know that God is with them just as he was with their parents in the days of Moses, and they know that the Lord is with Joshua just as he was with Moses.

The same is true for us, it is not enough to be told what God has done for former generations – though such stories can provide us with great encouragement. We want to experience and know God acting for us in our day and generation. We want to know that God is with us and that he plans to lead us into the blessings he has promised to give us.

But did you notice that the priests who were leading the people needed to go down not just to the water's edge but to put their feet into the river before the water stopped flowing and the river dried up. They had to trust God that he would do what he promised and that they would not be carried away by the harvest floods of the Jordan. To mix the metaphor by making reference to the New Testament, in the words of John Ortberg, "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat." God performs miracles for his people but he also calls for us to exercise faith in him. And every act of God's salvation, witnessed in response to our faith, will add to our confidence that God will not abandon us but continue to work in us and through us to establish his kingdom (see v. 10).

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the same yesterday and today and forever. You did great things for your people in generations past; we thank you that you will do great things for us today – and for our children tomorrow. May our knowledge of all that you have done for us in the past – especially in saving us through your atoning death and glorious resurrection – fill us with unfailing faith in you.

Peter Misselbrook