Crossing the Jordan, Preparation for Blessings
INTRODUCTION: At the very end of Joshua 3:4 we read, "For ye have not passed this way heretofore." It was now God's time for Israel to cross the Jordan and begin to possess the PROMISE LAND.
Moses is now history, Joshua is now on the scene. This generation had not seen the parting of the RED SEA. Only Joshua and Caleb had. All those 20 years and older, because of a lack of faith and disobedience, had died in the wilderness. This generation now faced the prospects of the Jordan, Jericho and the taking of the land.
Literally, they had not passed this way before. They needed to be PREPARED FOR THE BLESSING THAT LAY BEFORE THEM.
What a day this is in which you and I live:
With all its’ UNCERTAINTIES, HUMAN PERPLEXITIES, and IMPOSSIBILITIES,
With all its BLESSINGS and JOYS for some, and
With all its SORROWS and DESPAIRS for others.
We have not passed this way before, and need PREPARATION for the WALK of FAITH.
From chapter 1 we have studied the CALL and the ENCOURAGEMENT of Joshua by God. We have examined the FAITH of Rahab, an individual in chapter 2. Now our focus moves to the FAITH of an entire nation in Joshua chapter 3.
Israel comes face to face with the final barrier between them and the PROMISE LAND. Before them lay the Jordan River fed by the springs on Mt. Hermon with its melting snow from the region of Lebanon. The Jordan River, according to verse 15, was at FLOOD STAGE. “(for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)” This would make the Jordan Valley at Jericho about 14 miles wide.
Humanly speaking, there was no possible way for several million people to cross. And here they sat for three days, pondering the immensity of this obstacle.
What was the reason for this obstacle? Why were they there for three days? The Jordan speaks to us of the obstacles that hinder our moments in this life.
They may be social or family problems.
They may be habits that grieve the Holy Spirit.
They may be sins that are lurking within.
Whatever they may be, they are as formidable to us as the swirling waters of the Jordan to the Israelites.
Could it be that God has not removed the obstacle you face because He wants you to see the IMMENSITY of it? If the obstacle before you FELL EASILY and QUICKLY, you might suppose that they are not obstacles at all.
Could it be that God wants to bring us to the end of our resources, to make us CONSCIOUS of our INSUFFICIENCY?
Could it be that God wants to bring us to this obstacle which in our human mind, knowledge and might is INSURMOUNTABLE?
Could it be that the Lord seeks to HUMBLE US, as Israel was humbled before the Jordan?
Someone said it very well, "Man's extremity furnishes the most suitable opportunity for God to display His power. And it is not until man is made painfully aware of his extremity that he turns unto the Lord and seeks His intervention."
The Psalmist in Psalms 107:4-8 indicates how God moves when we cry unto Him in our troubles.
“They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. (5) Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. (6) Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. (7) And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. (8) Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
DO NOT close your eyes to the Jordan you are facing; the PROBLEM, DIFFICULTY, and OBSTACLE that confronts you. STAND THERE and FACE IT!
DO NOT minimize your HELPLESSNESS as something to cope with until you by FAITH turn to Him who is capable of dealing with it.
There stands the FLOODED, SWOLLEN JORDAN. Look at it for a while and see your HELPLESSNESS and the need for a mighty work of God. Now return to Joshua 3.
FIRST: We have the PREPARATION for the CROSSING verses 1-13.
“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. (2) And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; (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. (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. (5) And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you. (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. (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. (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. (9) And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God. (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. (11) Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. (12) Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. (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.”
Out of this section of verses, there are TWO LESSONS in the PREPARATION for the CROSSING to which I want to call your attention. On the human side, Joshua was facing the greatest test of His life.
Like Moses before him, Joshua received his orders from the Lord, and he obeyed them by FAITH. It has been well said, "…faith is not believing IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE, but obeying IN SPITE of CONSEQUENCES." "Living by faith always leads to action." Why? Because HIS PROMISES NEVER FAIL.
Lesson # 1: Keep your eyes on the ARK, verse 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.”
How important was the ARK? Well, for starters it was mentioned 16 times in chapters 3 and 4.
Again notice verse 11, “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.” You will observe, as the people crossed the Jordan, the ARK had to go in front of them.
As the ARK moved, so they were to move.
As the ARK was taken into the flooding current of the Jordan, so they were to advance fearlessly into the formidable future.
What was the ARK? In this chapter it is called "the Ark", "the Ark of the covenant" and "the Ark of the Lord."
The Ark was a sacred chest overlaid with gold with its lid called the MERCY SEAT surmounted by Cherubim’s.
The Ark was sheltered within the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle.
Here the Ark was lifted up to full view.
The ARK was the symbol of GOD’S PRESENCE. This was God's way of saying, "when an obstacle confronts you, do not look at the obstacle KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME!"
This is what Solomon had in mind in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (6) In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” The ARK was a guarantee of the presence of the Lord.
That is why we need a clear view of our TRIUMPHANT LORD who can deal with the impossibilities of our lives. He bids us to face the IMPOSSIBILITIES and look into HIS FACE and say, "Lord Jesus, I believe that although I CANNOT– YOU CAN."
Folks, the blessing is not in the VICTORY of overcoming the obstacle of impossibilities. It's keeping a clear view of the VICTOR. Thank God for the VICTORY, but a greater thanks to God for the VICTOR, the Lord Jesus Christ, who opens the way and leads us on through the impossibilities.
Lesson # 2: Sanctify yourselves Please notice again verse 5, “And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Now, the word SANCTIFY means “to set apart.”
In the Bible you find the word SANCTIFY and the word ANOINT often used together. People would anoint something for the purpose of setting it apart for the Lord.
Sanctification is a time of PREPARATION. It is a time of separating ourselves from sin. It is a time of purifying our hearts before God. God is going to work a MIRACLE tomorrow. Will you be spiritually prepared to enjoy the benefits of it?
It may be that God is working miracle after miracle before our eyes, but we are too spiritually insensitive to see them.
It may be that we do not have the spiritual perception we need to see God at work.
Let me bring this need for preparation into focus.
How often do you come to the house of God, Sunday after Sunday, looking for a blessing but receiving none?
Is it perhaps you have not prepared your heart the night before, or even the day before to worship and serve the Lord?
Are you so busily engaged in your own business and pursuits of pleasure, that come time for worship, you just drop in and say, "Come on God, bless me?" Do you then walk away saying, "Where was God, where was the blessing?"
You come to a problem and you say, "Ok, Lord here am I, answer this for me now." Maybe God will, but I doubt you'll see it. Why? Because you have not prepared yourself. You have not taken the time to get with the Holy Spirit and have Him anoint your mind and heart.
Before every undertaking, God would have us to SANCTIFY ourselves. He would have us take the time to prepare ourselves through
PRAYER, MEDITATION, and PERSONAL CLEANSING by confessing our sins.
Every time we take on a new task for God, we ought to get before Him and ask the Holy Spirit to give us the MIND of God and the HEART of God for that task or responsibility. Before every service, we ought to ask the Holy Spirit to give us LISTENING EARS, “To hear what the Spirit has to say to us.”
Before we leave this first point please notice again verse 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.” Here is a faith that plunges into the difficultly before it sees even the possibility of the problem removed.
I do not know what your Jordan might be today. Perhaps you have stood back and prayed, "God remove the barriers." and God has replied, "I will remove the barriers," but the Jordan still rolls on. Could it be that God wants your FAITH to come first? You need to take that step of faith before He will remove that barrier.
SECOND: We have the CROSSING of the JORDAN in verses 14-17,
“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; (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,) (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. (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.”
The priests stepped into the water of the Jordan and suddenly the rushing torrent backed up the Jordan some 20 miles to the city of Adam. What a fantastic sight this must have been.
Have you ever wondered why God backed the waters up so far?
What do you suppose the Canaanites were thinking when this unbelievable phenomenon was taking place?
What do you think happened to their spirits when thousands of Israelites began to march across the Jordan on DRY GROUND?
With this miracle God not only exalted Joshua in the eyes of the children of Israel. He also demonstrated once again HIS POWER AND MAJESTY to the lost pagan world He loved and whom He wanted to turn to Him in Faith.
God had been issuing warning after warning to the Canaanites that DOOM was coming. From the RED SEA onward, with the MIRACLES in the WILDERNESS, and now the parting of the Jordan, God is saying: "Doom is coming! Repent! Turn from your wicked ways and false gods and worship me!" Remember our God is patient for in II Peter 3:9 we read,
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
My friends, there is a JUDGMENT COMING. HELL IS REAL. Perhaps you have received warning after warning from message after message. How on the cross Jesus’ blood was shed to pay for your sins. Now you are encouraged and urged to believe and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
Parenthetically, the last part of verse 15 mentions the river was at FLOOD STAGE, “… (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)” and yet mention of this simple fact adds great meaning to the story.
From the human viewpoint it was a BLUNDER for God to bring the people to the river at this time of the year.
Why did He not wait until the dry season when the river was down?
How often has God moved in our lives when we thought the TIME was not right or FAILED to move when we thought the TIME was right?
We do not say it out loud, but often we have supposed that God’s timing was off.
When will we realize God is not a slave to CHRONOLOGY or CIRCUMSTANCES. TIME and TIDE do not dictate when God will move and when He will do what He promises. So we arrive at Jordan at FLOOD STAGE –SO WHAT? If we are here in God's time, that's all that matters.
Over the years having seen some very impossible and perplexing situations I am now both amused and perplexed by our prayers in moments like this. We feel we need to explain to God the Jordan is at FLOOD STAGE and He had better take this into consideration.
God’s TIME is ALWAYS the RIGHT TIME, no matter how impossible the CIRCUMSTANCES may seem.
There is a final note found in verse 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.” When God removes a barrier, He really removes it.
Even under the most ideal crossing conditions, the people would have had to wade through the stream. But crossing in God's time, the people did not even GET THEIR FEET WET!
As we face the prospect of life before us, let's put some handles to this message of Joshua 3, where I see SIX lessons immerging.
Number 1: What a glorious GOD we serve. He is possessed with ALMIGHTY POWER and INFINITE WISDOM. The very elements of NATURE are subject unto Him and make way for His presence. If there is such a God who is for us, who can be against us, for “Nothing is too hard for the Lord.”
Number 2: Man's extremities are God's opportunities. Israel is ready to enter Canaan and there was the Jordan "overflowing its banks.” But it furnished for God a most fitting occasion to display His sufficiency and power. For the Lord to receive the Glory, He often suffers our circumstances to become CRITICAL even very DESPERATE before He appears on our behalf.
Your troubles may have already reached the HIGH WATER mark, but when they "overflow" and all appear to be lost, then you may expect the Lord to show Himself strong on your behalf. There have been times, even in my life when like Jacob in Genesis 42:36 I have had to cry "all these things are against me." Yet out of it God in His perfect WAY and perfect TIME has worked on my behalf.
Number 3: In the lesson of the ARK we again need to keep our EYES upon the Lord. We are to keep the eye of FAITH steadfastly fixed on the LORD JESUS CHRIST as we firmly grasp this promise found in
Isaiah 43:2, "When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee
There Christ stands on our behalf holding back the "flood waters that could overwhelm me."
Number 4: We must stop and SANCTIFY ourselves. Remember the word SANCTIFY means "to be set apart" for a special purpose for God. What a challenge for us to drop to our knees and ask God the Holy Spirit to set us apart for the ministry in which He has placed us.
Have you a new responsibility? Begin this responsibility by finding a quiet place and having a little private ordination service between you and God. Ask God to lay His hands upon you and to set you apart for the task ahead.
Tell Him the task is bigger than you and the responsibility is too great for the flesh. Ask Him to anoint you, to sanctify you, to equip you, to inaugurate you for the job ahead. Ask Him for His mind as you serve, and to appropriate to you what you need.
Then day after day beg for His power and His fullness as you walk by FAITH.
Number 5: God honors Faith. Again notice verse 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…”
The barriers were still there, yet by FAITH in verse 15 the Priests stepped into the water and God performed the miracle.
We walk by FAITH in the WORD OF GOD and in the evidence that a miracle-working God in the PAST is the same miracle working God in the PRESENT. Hebrews 11:6 again reminds us,
"But without FAITH, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
Number 6: God is still reaching out to lost humanity. Yes, God was about to begin executing judgment upon the SEVEN Canaanite Nations listed for us in verse 10. However, as we have said the parting of the Jordan was not only God showing His mighty power to be glorified by Israel, but He was also once more giving these nations a chance to repent.
Maybe God is giving you that chance again, the opportunity to come to the cross where He in the person of Christ judged the sins of the whole world which included me and which included you. There, with His blood, He covered our sins and now extends the invitation to trust Him. Again you are being exhorted to come to Christ and receive Him as your Saviour before it is everlastingly too late.
Do I speak to someone who today is standing on the BRINK OF A JORDAN? If you are not today, you will tomorrow, or someday soon, be facing an obstacle standing in your way. Will you take courage from the divine history of Joshua 3?
1. Put your eyes on God, not the obstacle.
2. Prepare yourself for God's miracle by purifying your heart.
3. Claim God's promise by going ahead as through the obstacle is not there.
4. Rely implicitly on God's sense of timing. Move when He tells you to move through the circumstances, humanly speaking, even though it may seem impossible.
If God has spoken to your heart, after reading the sermon “Crossing the Jordan, Preparation for Blessings” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, let me know. Please send an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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