2 April 2014 by Jason Law CM –
The crossing of the River Jordan in Joshua 3:1-17 was one of the most significant events in the Bible, and by extension, the whole of history, so much so that it has given rise to a common idiom in the English Language. For 40 years, the fathers and mothers of this new generation of Israelites had wandered in the wilderness, but now, God had finally called them to take hold of the Promised Land. The significance of the crossing was equally as great – perhaps even more so – than that of the Red Sea their elders had witnessed, and its manner, once they set about it, were equally as dramatic. Furthermore, once they set foot on the opposite bank, they would be coming into that Promised Land for the first time in their lives. But first, they would have to shore up their faith and overcome some challenges. Last Sunday, Pr Kalarani Subramaniam of KAOG shared about the principles of claiming hold of God’s promises during challenging times.
Firstly, to set the context, by this point, the Israelites were only steps away from entering the Promised Land. Barring their ways, however, was a river and Joshua 3:15 tells us that it was at flood stage. While the River Jordan was nowhere near as vast as the Red Sea, it was a huge obstacle. Any sizeable river at flooding seasons, such as the one the Israelites had to cross, is dangerous. Their channels rage furiously and violently, carrying huge volumes of water at high speed, and any slip of the foot could easily spell doom.
The new generation of Israelites must have been filled with anticipation, hopeful and excited, but along with the anticipation also came obstacles, and there must have been doubts. Many times, we’re also at the same position as the Israelites. We have hopes for certain dreams, and then the insurmountable obstacles hits, and sometimes, we cave in. Pr Kala shared that these are often moments where God wants to take us to a higher place He wants us to be; and this can only be done with the help of God. Certain principles have to be understood.
Principle 1: Our dreams must follow God’s plans
Our dreams must follow God’s plans, not the other way round. We find that throughout the whole passage of Joshua 3, particularly v2-4, God gave the Israelites very specific instructions. The priests carrying the Ark were to stand in the middle of the river, one member of each tribe were to go after them at a certain distance, followed by the whole mass of Israelites. The priests were to stand in the middle of the river until the whole group of Israelites had crossed over. The noteworthy thing is that the Israelites obeyed without any questions, particularly the priests who seemed to be most at risk. The Bible tells us that the moment the priests stepped into the river, the waters parted and everyone crossed over on dry ground (v14-17).
Pr Kala shared another passage from the Bible also illustrating this. In 2 Kings 5, Naaman, the general of the king of Aram, was seeking for healing from Elisha for a skin disease. Rather than personally meeting Naaman, however, Elisha sent a messenger who tells Naaman to dip himself in the River Jordan 7 times. This must have been a humiliation for Naaman, and at first, he refused angrily. However, once his servants had persuaded him, and Naaman had obeyed the instructions given by God through Elisha, his flesh was restored. 2 Kings 5:14 tells us that Naaman’s skin became clean like that of a young boy.
These two examples from the Bible share a striking character. They were instances where the individuals’ self-will or pride had to die. When we are at the foot of overwhelming obstacles, we have come to a place where self-effort must die. Jesus Himself had to go and overcome His will in place of that of the Father’s (Luke 22:42-45). Because Jesus did this for us, we have hope of restoration through His sacrifice on Calvary. God must be glorified through our challenges.
Principle 2: We are required to be prepared
When we are at our times of challenge, God is preparing us for something greater. On the other side of the river lies the Promised Land. In such times, God always have a bigger plan than what we can possibly think of, and we need to come to an attitude of surrendering our righteousness and will to God’s perfect Will. Numerous passages and verses from the Bible illustrates this (Exodus 30; 2 Samuel 22:31; Proverbs 3:6; Isaiah 30:21 and 55:8). If God were to require us to go through a time of trials in order for God’s bigger plan to be fulfilled, would we be prepared to do so?
Looking back, many of our previous experiences and challenges play a role in shaping us to be who we are today. The current challenges will shape us for our future roles, and much like the way the Israelites followed the Ark, we must move out from our comfort zones and move with the season. This is the purpose of intercession and prayer meetings; to seek God and so that we know His times and seasons. Joshua 3:5 also stresses on consecration. We must dedicate ourselves to God, learning to wait upon Him and listen for His voice and that of the Holy Spirit’s. Sin cannot exist in the Church. Like the way the Israelites move as one, we must be in unity with God’s plan and the Church.
Principle 3: Lean on God’s Promises
The crossing of the River Jordan wasn’t just a time of challenge; it was a time of promise. Most of us have been blessed by God so many times in the past. Lean on the identity of God as the Compassionate Father, and acknowledge Him for the good things He has blessed us, and will continue to bless us with. The Israelites were looking forward to the Promised Land when they stepped into the river. Are we expecting God for amazing things? We must not be content with a shallow faith that has no place for God. Jesus is all-powerful and all-knowing; He knows everything about us and is larger than anything we might struggle with.
The crossing of the River Jordan has many profound lessons for us all; not just from a standpoint as a time of challenge, but also one of a time of great prospective blessings. In order for that to come, however, God must be central to the picture. Acknowledge God in all that you do, and He will deliver us from our challenges and bring us to higher altitudes of our Christian lives.
New International Version (NIV)
Crossing the Jordan
3 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”
9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 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.
References for pictures