Last week we learned about the sure sign of the scarlet cord.
- The spies swore an oath of protection with Rahab and the oath was sealed with a scarlet cord.
- We saw a clear parallel between the scarlet cord, Passover and the N.T. Gospel.
And importantly, we also saw how significant Rahab’s faith was to the entire chapter.
- Her declaration of faith was even spoken of in Hebrews.
- And like Abraham, her faith was a trust in both what God had done and what He was going to do.
Today we see the action that results from the spies report to Joshua that the enemie’s hearts were melted.
Prepare to Cross the Jordan:
Joshua 3:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
Given God’s words to Joshua in verse 8, it is apparent that Joshua was following the instructions of God.
- The Israelites were to cross the Jordan and the Ark of the Covenant would lead the way.
- The author of Joshua mentions the Ark of the Covenant 17 times in chapters 3 and 4 – Dale Ralph Davis.
- We will see in our next section the significance of the Ark in the Jordan crossing.
- Contained the 10 Commandments; Aaron’s rod; jar of manna
But before they cross the Jordan, Joshua asked the people to “consecrate yourselves”.
- What does this mean?
- Often the word means to set apart something for the service of God – Holman IBD.
- It also carries with it the idea of “separation from things that are unclean or common” – D.M. Howard.
- But how does this apply to people?
It would appear that, as with other contexts where it refers to people, that it means “the special preparation [required] whenever Yahweh was to reveal himself in a special way” – Dale Ralph Davis.
- In other words – (1) people are to prepare for (2) a mighty work of God.
- Exodus 19:10–11 (ESV) — 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
- Here before God’s miraculous appearance, consecration involved the washing of their garments.
- And we know from elsewhere that it can also involve abstaining from sex, confession or dietary restrictions – Dale Ralph Davis, D.M. Howard.
What is interesting about this is twofold:
(1) Apprehension of the work of God can require preparation.
- The Israelites were to –
- (a) Stay back so all could see/acknowledge the holiness of God
- (b) Consecrate themselves that they might be in the “best context” to experience the work of God.
- In other words, as they “…kept a proper, reverent distance from the ark of the covenant, would be shown in which way they should walk, both physically and spiritually” – D.M. Howard.
- Walking well “physically and spiritually” provides the optimal vantage point to glorify God and participate in His work.
(2) This “prep work” seems to be a parallel to John the Baptist’s call to repent and be baptized.
- These were themselves preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ.
- And as we learned in John, how one perceived or experienced the work of Christ was dependent on “context”.
- Jesus was experienced either as light and revelation OR darkness and condemnation (John 3).
Prepare to Know Because of the Jordan:
Joshua 3:7–13 (ESV) — 7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ” 9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
We mentioned earlier that we would see the significance of the ark in crossing the Jordan River.
- Here it is – the Ark “powers” the “knowing” that is central to our text.
The following statements are made in our text:
- God tells Joshua I will “exalt you…that they may know” I am with you like I was with Moses – verse 7.
- Joshua tells Israel, “Here is how you shall know” that the living God is with you – verse 10.
- And “Here is how you shall know” God “will drive out” the Pagan tribes – verse 10.
- And in verse 4, Joshua also said follow the Ark “that you may know the way you shall go” – verse 4.
All of these statements point to the work/action of God that:
- (1) Israel was to consecrate itself to receive (as we just saw)
- (2) And that will bring the “knowing” we just spoke of.
- The work/action of God is, of course, that “the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing” – verse 13.
Powers the Knowing – This is why the Ark is central to this story.
- The Ark represented the presence of God.
- It is a “sign of Yahweh’s presence among his people” – Dale Ralph Davis.
- “…to speak of the Ark is tantamount to speaking of the Lord…” – Woudstra.
- And because the Ark “cut off” the Jordan –
- It meant that God and His presence “cut off” the Jordan.
Therefore the Ark testifies to Israel that they may know that:
- (1) Joshua is exalted/approved/appointed by God
- (2) God is present
- (3) God will defeat the Pagan’s/deliver promise land
- (4) God will give direction (spiritual and physical)
It has to be emphasized again that these things our known by God’s action in history – His done work.
- These things are not known by some giddy feeling.
- God is real and His action in history is real.
- As we have said before, faith is not blind.
- Its object is the done work of God!
In the testimony of the Ark, we have yet another parallel to the Gospel of John.
- John 20:31 (ESV) — 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
- In John, the signs and wonders of Jesus testified to His identity.
- By them, John says, we can “believe” or know who Christ is.
- These done works of God in history demonstrated clearly that God was present, His kingdom was being inaugurated, and life in the age to come comes through Christ.
- Signs and Wonders of Jesus were so that we might know.
- The stopping of the Jordan via the Ark of the Covenant were so that we might know.
How do we know now that the living God is among us?
- Because you were healed?
- Found a parking spot?
- Found a job?
- Made it home safely?
- What about the one who was not healed?
- Who didn’t find a parking spot?
- Who hasn’t found a job?
- Didn’t make it home?
Its Go Time:
Joshua 3:14–17 (ESV) — 14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.
The Jordan River was about 100 feet in width and as deep as 10 feet – AYBD.
- The current was fairly strong because of an average drop of 9 feet in elevation per mile – D.R. Davis.
- And our text tells us that the crossing was made during its flood stage – spring runoff and rains (verse 15).
- The floodplain of the Jordan River was 200 yards to 1 mile wide – D.R. Davis.
- And given the fact that along with the water there would have been a large amount of underwater debris, we can begin to appreciate the severity of the crossing.
- No dams were in place, obviously.
Dale Davis makes this observation:
“When was it that God led Israel through the Jordan? Precisely at the time of year when such a feat looked and was impossible. Why does the God of the Bible insist on fording the river at the most unpropitious time? I am not sure. But this is a marked tendency in his ways. Yahweh delights to show his might in the face of our utter helplessness, apparently so that we cannot help seeing that we contribute nothing to our deliverance”.
BTW – the modern Jordan River flow is much less than it was in the past.
- So much so that the Dead Sea is beginning to drastically dry up and shrink.
So this is the context in which the priests began to enter the river.
- We are told that “as soon as those bearing the ark” hit the water, the Jordan River stopped flowing.
- The priests took the Ark to the middle and Israel began to pass through the Jordan.
- And, significantly, they all had to pass by the Ark.
- They were walking; they would have to fight; God’s presence would enable!
This was a monumental moment that was hundreds of years in the making.
- Its significance can’t be overstated.
- It had been over 400 years since any Israelites were in Canaan.
- And now we have a long awaited display of God’s covenant faithfulness with respect to the land.
- As God promised Joshua, He would be present to deliver it to him and the Israelites.
- And before every ones’ eyes, God stopped the flow of the Jordan so they could cross.