Joshua – Lesson 4

Joshua Chapter 3: 1-17


In our study last week we saw Joshua getting the people prepared to move across Jordan and move into the promised land. We saw the two spies being sent out, and Rahab being used to help the men escape without harm from Jericho. This week, we get to see the people make the crossing of Jordan during one of the times of the year when the water flowed the greatest.

We open the chapter seeing the long season of preparation ending and the time has drawn nigh for the people to finally enter the land that was promised years before to the forefathers. The people had wandered 40 years in the desert after leaving Egypt, and in God’s time, they now are about to enter the land prepared for them. We should learn from this that our timing may not match our Heavenly Father’s timing, but He knows better for us than even we know for ourselves. Remember how the people of Canaan feared the Israelites.

Josh 2:9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

Josh 2:10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

Josh 2:11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

Just like God went before the Israelites, God goes before us today.

John 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

John 10:5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

  1. Standing at the Jordan

    Josh 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.

    Josh 3:2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;

    Josh 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, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

    Josh 3:4 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.

    Josh 3:5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.

    Josh 3:6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

    The people faced a great obstacle in the Jordan River. No obstacle is too great for our God, and the

    people were behind Joshua. We see in verse 1 that Joshua rose early in the morning, ready to get on with the task at hand. We need to be this way, not lazy in the work of the Lord, but ready to give our all to the Lord. We need to always diligently be about God’s work.

    Col 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

    Col 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

    Joshua was not afraid of the task before him. The people of Israel could have been like their forefathers and murmured and complained as they did in the wilderness, but they did not. They laid hold of the promise that within 3 days they would cross over Jordan. The went forward in faith and obedience which is very pleasing to God.

    Josh 1:11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.

    The Israelites did not know how they would cross Jordan, but they just went forward in faith believing that if God promised they would cross this river, He would provide the way. Our path of duty sometimes may ask for us to do something that we don’t know how we can accomplish it, but if it is the true calling of God, believe me, God will provide the way. When we set out to build this new church building, no one was sure where the money would come from. But since the beginning of our church 4 years ago, I’ve been the treasurer and we have never had a shortfall of money. Rather, each time we take on a new missionary at the pastor’s request, it is like the windows of heaven open up and the offerings increase even more than the new expense. If things continue to go like they have the last couple of years, we might very well have the whole church paid for in 5 years. Is God able to provide or what? Yes God promises to provide, and what God promises to do, He delivers. There were two times a year that the river Jordan reached flood stage, normally in the Fall and in the Spring. It was now overflowing its banks, as we see in verse 15.

    Josh 3:15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

    Can you imagine standing there and gazing out across that great flow of water for three days and wondering how in the world you were to cross this. When water is flowing at great speed, it is virtually impossible to cross. One time several years ago, my sons and I went with my brother in law up near the Oklahoma River to ride dirt bikes. It had rained rather hard the night before, and we weren’t sure we would be able to ride.

    The rains were extremely heavy west of us around Amarillo. Anyway, we crossed over the river and rode most of the morning on the north side of the river bed. Later, when we got hungry, we came back and found that the nearly dry river bed was flowing with water like a dam above had been opened. My brother in law was about 15 years old at the time, and he said he thought he could cross over. Before I could stop him, he drove off the edge of the bank, and within 3 feet he went under and out of sight totally. You can imagine the fear I had in my heart. But thankfully, he came back up in just a couple of seconds and was holding on to that motorcycle. We were able by hooking ourselves together in a chain to pull both Darrin and the motorcycle out of the water. Was a very good lesson in how dangerous rushing waters are. The river Jordan was not just flowing, but if you notice, it says in verse 15 that it overflowed its banks. Crossing this was going to be a mightier task than when Moses parted the Red Sea.

    I wondered why did God have these people stand there and look at that flowing river for 3 days before bringing them over. God is beyond finding out as you know, but perhaps He wanted them to realize what a deliverance this was going to be. Perhaps He was trying their faith. Perhaps He wanted them to know how helpless they were to cross without God doing it. When we see things accurately, we know we can’t do anything without God.

    John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

    John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

    John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

    John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

    When you and I are faced with difficulties, where do we turn? Do we look to family, to the banker, to the plastic monster to deliver us? Do you know what the plastic monster is? It’s credit cards, perhaps the greatest faith breaker that Satan ever brought to earth. Credit as a whole is not specifically forbidden when used in the proper way, but when we use it to substitute for waiting on God to deliver, we make a mistake.

    I heard Pastor Joe Stowell talking this week about when his son was 4 years old, and the family was in a financial bind. He had called the family together to pray, and his son said that he didn’t know why they were bothering to pray, because God didn’t have time to mess with their little problem. Joe said he looked at his son and asked, what do you think God is doing that he doesn’t have time to help our family. He said his son looked him straight in the eye, and said "God is sitting in heaven drinking Pepsi, and he doesn’t have time for us." Brother Stowell said he stopped and thought, how in the world does a 4 year old get this image of God sitting on His throne drinking Pepsi. Then he thought about the last 4 or 5 times he had come home after work and his son had asked him to go play with him or help him, and he said I told him "I’m too busy right now. Just let Dad rest. I’ve had a hard day." And when he said that, he was always sitting in his easy chair drinking Pepsi. Do kids understand and comprehend what God is like from the example of parents? You bet they do. What we exemplify as leaders of our families is the image these children are going to have of the Heavenly Father. What an awesome responsibility to represent our Father accurately, for us to take on the attributes of Jesus. Joe said that they had an old Volkswagen bug back then that really needed a new front tire, and normally they’d pull out the credit card and run buy a tire. He said they made a pact that night that for the son’s learning and their own faith building, they’d wait until God provided for that $35 tire. Brother Stowell said he was working as the Assistant Pastor the following Sunday at his church, and the usher brought him an envelope that had his name written on it. Never before had anyone ever given him a special offering. On the front, it said, "A special offering for Brother Stowell and his family." Guess what was inside? Two $20 bills. Did their four year old son learn a lesson? You bet he did, and I think you and

    I did too. Just like these Israelites, we need to look with faith to God when we have difficulties. Maybe the way God will deliver may not be the way we expect, but if it is God’s Will, it is the way we should do things. Tight corners should be dealt with in God’s time, not eliminated by plastic monsters.

    We do know this, that when man is pushed to his limit and cannot do it, God then has the opportunity to display His power. Then we see God for who He truly is and the omnipotent power that he has.

  2. The Ark

    Israel was commanded in verse 3 to look to the ark and take their eyes away from Jordan. The ark is a typification of Jesus Christ. We know that the priests were to take the ark down far ahead of the people,

    3000 feet, which is nearly a mile. It was to be carried by the priest who came to the edge of Jordan and stood there. Who entered in before us?

    Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

    Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

    Heb 9:13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

    Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

    Heb 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

    Like the priest entered in to the Holy of Holies once per year, Jesus has entered into the presence of God

    and offered the one sacrifice that God required to allow our sins to be forgiven. As the Israelites looked to the Ark, you and I look to Jesus to lead us. The ark was made of shittim wood and overlaid with pure gold.

    Exo 25:10 And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.

    Exo 25:11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.

    In our recent study of the Tabernacle, we had a picture of the ark on a transparency, and it did not look like

    I had envisioned it. There were horns on the ark that were smaller than I had envisioned, but the ark was made exactly as God had commanded. In the Ark, they stored the two tables of stone which were the 10 commandments.

    Exo 25:16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.

    Who remembers what was inside the Holy of Holies, beyond the second veil of the tabernacle? We know

    One of the things was the ark… What were the three things stored in the ark?

    Heb 9:3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

    Heb 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

    Heb 9:5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

    So the ark contained the 10 commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the golden pot of manna.

    Why did God give us the law? It was to show us all that we were guilty before God. It was our schoolmaster to show us how far we are from meeting the requirements of a Holy and Righteous God.

    Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

    Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    As Israel followed the Ark of the covenant, God put forth his power on their behalf. Remember when David was going to bring back the Ark and did not do it God’s way. A man lost his life over it because only the sons of Kohath were to carry the ark on their shoulders. Staves were to be put through the rings and they were to carry it. But David decided to bring it back on a cart and when it started to slip, Uzzah reached up to steady the ark and God took his life. It is very important that we do things God’s way. And the ark stayed in Obededom’s house for three months, and while it was there, he and his household were blessed.

    2 Sam 6:10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite.

    2 Sam 6:11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.

    When we are in the presence of God, we will be blessed. When we are in God’s Will for our lives, we will be blessed. When we fear God and follow Christ, we will witness for Him and God will bless us and bring his Power to bear for us. Sometimes God brings chastisement to us to make us recognize our errors and make us come back to a close walk with him.

    Psa 89:7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

    Psa 89:8 O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

    Heb 12:10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

    Heb 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

    I wondered why the ark was to proceed so far in front of the people, and the reason was so that all the

    People could see it. There were thousands of people following, and by them being so far in front, all could see the ark. When we do our job of preaching the Gospel in the church, men can see Jesus. And the Bible promises that when we lift Jesus up, He will draw all men to him.

    Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

    Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

  3. A New way for them to Pass

    We know that until this time, the people had followed the club that stood over the tabernacle.

    Exo 40:34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

    Exo 40:35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

    Exo 40:36 And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:

    Exo 40:37 But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.

    Exo 40:38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

    But beginning at this time, the cloud would not be with them.

  4. They are called on to sanctify themselves in verse 5

    Holmans Bible Dictionary defines Sanctification as:

    SANCTIFICATION The process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style for the believer. The English word sanctification comes from the Latin santificatio, meaning the act/process of making holy, consecrated. In the Greek New Testament, the root hag- is the basis of hagiasmos, "holiness," "consecration," "sanctification"; hagiosyne, "holiness"; hagiotes, "holiness"; hagiazo "to sanctify," "consecrate," "treat as holy," "purify"; and hagios, "holy," "saint." The root idea of the Greek stem is to stand in awe of something or someone. The New Testament usage is greatly dependent upon the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, for meaning. The hag- words in the Septuagint mostly translated the Hebrew qadosh, "separate, contrasting with the profane." Thus, God is separate; things and people dedicated to Him and to His use are separate. The moral implications of this word came into focus with the prophets and became a major emphasis in the New Testament.

    When we sanctify ourselves, we set ourselves apart for the work of God.

    2 Tim 2:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

    2 Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

    When God told Jacob to go to Bethel, Jacob commanded his house to cleanse themselves.

    Gen 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

    Gen 35:2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:

    Holy things should not be touched with unholy hands

    2 Cor 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

    2 Tim 2:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

  5. Joshua gives the priests instructions

    Josh 3:6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

    The priests were to pass over before the people. Sometimes those in leadership positions, particularly the pastors, have to take the lead and go where we may not feel comfortable. But if God is leading, and we are in His Will, we need to step out on faith and do what God commands. The best way to know if you are in God’s Will is to test it against the Word of God. God never commands us to do something that is in direct contradiction with the Bible. These are His commands and directions, and we are to follow them. I heard an older preacher on the radio yesterday say that no book has ever been attacked so viciously than the Bible. He said he had a book called 1,000 things wrong with the Bible. He said the only thing wrong with that book was that there was not 1 of those 1,000 things true. God’s word is true, we can believe it, and it never contradicts itself. If it appears to contradict, then we haven’t studied hard enough yet. Always remember to ask Who, What, When, Where. And particularly what time of dispensation did it happen. Lots of difference in Old Testament times and Dispensation of the Law versus New Testament time of the Dispensation of Grace.

    Many years after the Israelites crossed Jordan, our Lord was glorified in this same Jordan River.

    Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

    Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

  6. The Crossing of the Jordan

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

Josh 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, ye shall stand still in Jordan.

Josh 3:9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.

Josh 3:10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail 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.

Josh 3:11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the LORD of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.

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

Josh 3:13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

Josh 3:14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;

Josh 3:15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

Josh 3:16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.

Josh 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 on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

We see that they crossed in the spring of the year during the barley harvest. We see that at first the priest stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then in verse 17, we see that they stood in the midst of the Jordan until all were crossed over. It was probably a scary moment in their lives as this wall of water stood over them. But their faith saw them through, and they simply trusted God. That is how we must be. Not dependent on ourselves, but wholly dependent on God. While it may seem hard to do the task at hand, we can trust that God will provide us the strength to complete it.

No doubt the spring floods gave the people of Canaan a false sense of security. I’m sure they figured it would be weeks before the river slowed to let the Israelites cross. But when God is the one guiding you, no raging river will keep you from His appointed destination.

Should we then have faith to believe? Absolutely.

Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin..

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