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Sunday, January 20, 2019

posted Jan 20, 2019, 3:48 PM by Site Administrator

CROSSING THE JORDAN RIVER

 

Joshua 3:1-4:24

Key Verses 3:15,16

 

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, the water from the 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 (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

 

First, When you see the ark of the covenant,…follow it (1-6). In the previous passage, we learned about Joshua’s secret spy mission. The spies’ report about Rahab brought him great encouragement and inspiration. Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. The ark of the covenant was the sign of God’s leading and they should follow it.

 

What is the ark of the covenant? It was a chest, made of acacia wood-about 3 and 3/4 feet long and 2 and 1/4 feet wide and high, overlaid with pure gold, both inside and out, with a gold molding around it. It had four gold rings fastened to its four feet, two rings on one side and two rings on the other side, and two poles of acacia wood were inserted into these four rings, and the priests carried the ark on their shoulders with these poles. Its cover was made of pure gold, and was called, the mercy seat. The word, covenant means contract or promise. God commanded Moses to put three items in the ark – the two stone tablets of God’s Ten Commandments, manna in a gold jar, and Aaron’s budded staff. Aaron’s staff was just a dead wooden stick like modern day senior citizen’s cane. But God had it bud, blossom with flowers, and then, produce almonds – it was the sure sign of God’s promise of resurrection – thus representing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the New Testament. (Num 17:8) The two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed represent the Law – the Old Testament; manna, which came down from heaven, and which the Israel people ate in the desert for forty years, represent God’s word – manna teaches us that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut 8:3) Thus, the ark of the covenant represents the Bible – both the Old Testament and the New Testament; actually, the same word for covenant is testament - the ark of the testament, both Old and New. When you see the ark of the covenant, carried by the priests, follow it. 

 

Look at verse 4. Let's read this verse together:

 

Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.

 

Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. The promised land was a new land to them, but the ark of the covenant would be their guide and map, showing them which way to go; as long as they saw where the ark of the covenant was going and followed it, they would have no problem. This illustrates our Christian life very well. Before knowing Jesus, we have lived in the world, with worldly value system, worldly hope and desires, and worldly lifestyle; we were very familiar with things of the world. Only by the grace of God, we have been brought into this new land as believers. Now in this new land as children of God, everything is new; we have never been this way - the value system is new; lifestyle is new; life purpose is new. We are really like the Israel people in a new land. How can we know which way to go, how to live and what to do in this new life as children of God? See the ark of the covenant and the priests carrying it, and follow it. 

 

See means pay attention to. We must pay attention to what the word of God says - read the Bible, study the word of God, meditate on it day and night so that you can really grasp what God is talking about. The world tempts you to see the beautiful things it offers - smart phones, sports cars, promising careers, beautiful family; but don't look at them, but see the word of God - see where it goes, and what God says to you through it. Our flesh also appeals to us to see what it desires - boyfriend or girlfriend, or pleasures, but it is based on our sinful nature; don't follow it. Instead, see what God says in the Bible. When you see the word of God and follow it, you will surely know which way to go, what to do with your life and how to live it as children of God. The word of God is our guide and map for our spiritual life as children of God. As we have this struggle of seeing the word of God and following it, we will come to develop spiritual and heavenly value system, hope and vision, and lifestyle, and we can truly live as children of God. Many people do not know God's will for them because they simply do not study the Bible; simply, they do not see where the ark of the covenant is going. Many others, even though they see where the ark of the covenant is going, do not follow it – as a result, their life does not reflect the life of children of God at allSee the ark of the covenant, and follow it. Then, you will know which way to go, sinceyou have never been this way before.

 

Look at verse 5. Joshua told the people, Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you. The word, consecrate means make clean or set apart. Its meaning was to set themselves apart for God’s purpose. Once they were set apart for God’s purpose, they no longer belonged to themselves or to the world, but to God; they would no longer live as ordinary private citizens of the world, but live as God’s instruments, God’s servants – their life would be offered to God for his purpose fully. The word, consecrate is the exactly same word with holy. In KJV, it is translated as sanctify. They were the second generation of the Israelites. When Israel had crossed the Red Sea 40 years ago, they were children, under 20 years old, and a lot of them were born in the desert during forty years' training. So, they grew up in a believing environment, seeing the pillar of cloud and fire all the time and following its guidance; they had worship service; simply, they were familiar with all God-worship culture. But, growing up in a believing environment or being familiar with God-worship culture did not mean that they were really consecrated to God. Jesus' 11 apostles followed Jesus for three and a half years, but at the last supper, Jesus prayed for them, saying, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (Jn 17:17) Consecration is a personal matter. Such dedication is personal, and each and every person must make his or her own sincere and consciousdecision to consecrate themselves to God. Right before engaging into the conquest, Joshua ordered the people to consecrate themselves, to set themselves apart to GodHe encouraged them to make their hearts’ personal determination very clear to offer their lives for God’s purpose. 

 

Joshua gave them a clear reason why they had to consecrate themselves to God, saying, For tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you. God was going to do amazing things among them; God was going to launch his mighty power among them; they would experience great miracles. When they experienced God doing amazing things among them, they would shout for joy, completely happy, excited and fascinated; experiencing God's mighty miracles would be really glorious and fantastic. They would see that living as children of God was really fun, action-packed and venturous. But such an exciting life of children of God, such a privilege of experiencing God's mighty miracles was only available for those dedicated people, who had consecrated themselves to God.

 

Many Christians feel bored; they think that Christian life is boring, but they somehow still live as Christians so that they can go to heaven, not hell. They are greatly mistaken.Christian life is not boring, but it is really fantastic, action-packed and dynamic; it is an abundant life; you come to truly enjoy your life to the full. The thing is that such a powerful and glorious Christian life is available only for those who are dedicated to God, those who have consecrated themselves to God. Also, many Christians are fascinated when other Christians share their amazing experiences with God; they too want to experience God that way, but nothing amazing happens in their Christian life; it is because they have not consecrated themselves to God yet. We are Christians, so wemust live as children of God, pursuing His kingdom and dedicating ourselves to God's mission. Then, God's miracles become common in our day to day life, and we come to have so many amazing stories, which God and we together have developed, which will be used for our children's bedtime stories. Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.

 

Second, The water from upstream stopped flowing(7-17). Joshua gave the order to the priests, Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people. Look at verse 15. It reads: Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest… God gave them the order to cross the Jordan River when it was at flood stage! Our God is really cool! God could have chosen a better time when the Jordan River was not at flood stage. But God chose specifically that time and commanded the Israel people to march into the promised land through the water that was flowing at flood stage! This is our God’s style! When our hands are full, when we have so many responsibilities to take care of, God commands us, Charge!When it seems that we are so limited in time and money, God commands us, Charge! Our God is really cool! He wants us to be really brave by faith in Him. When you obey God absolutely, you become really cool, doing so many amazing things beyond your understanding, and your life will be full of ventures and excitement. 

 

So, in obedience to God’s command given through Joshua, the priests took up the ark, and went ahead of people. Then, behold! A great miracle happened! As soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowingHow? The water piled up in a heap all by itself as if there was an invisible dam or wall. At God’s command, the water stood up in a heap! As the water piled up in a heap, there was great sound like waterfalls, a lot of mist coming up from it – it was an awesome event! As the Israel people watched it, the heap of water grew bigger and bigger – 20 feet tall, 30 feet tall, then, soon, 40 feet tall,… It must have taken a lot of time for about more than 2 million Israel people with many children and animals to cross the Jordan River on foot, and during this period of time, the heap of water grew bigger and bigger continually with great sound effect. The entire Israel people crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. 

 

In escaping from Egypt, the Israel people crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, because God made a way through the Red Sea; with God’s power, they walked on dry ground and crossed the Red Sea; but when the Egyptians tried to walk on the same path without God’s power, they drowned in the water. Now, in invasion, again, the Israel people crossed the Jordan River on dry ground with God’s power. Often, as we try to invade into God’s promised land, we face a great barrier. Our difficult financial situation looks like the Jordan River, running at its flood stage; our heavy school load looks like the Jordan River, flowing at its flood stage. The promised land flowing with milk and honey, is right in front of us, but right before that, there is the Jordan River, running at its flood stage; it looks so scary and dangerous. It seems that if we try to cross the River by swimming, we will surely drown. To some people, their passive character or their fear of humans or rejection, is like the Jordan River that keeps them from invading into the promised land. To some people, persecution from their family members is the Jordan River - their family members threaten them so seriously that it seems the water is running at its flood stage. How can we cross the Jordan River and invade into the Promised Land? The book of Joshua is God’s audio-visual presentation through the example of the Israel people, of how we can cross the Jordan River and invade into the Promised Land. What is the secret of crossing the Jordan River? The secret is the ark of the covenant. Even though it was at its flood stage, so scary and dangerous, as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing! 

 

The ark of the covenant is a metaphor for the Bible, the word of God. When we have the words of God, when we march into the Jordan River with the words of God, suddenly, the water that looked so threatening, stops flowing – the water that looked so scary, yields its way to us; when we have the words of God, even the nature stops running its natural way; all things begin to work together to prepare a way for us so that we can do the conquest in the promised land. This is what today's passage is talking about.

 

The Jordan River flowing at its flood stage represents a great barrier or obstacle, or simply, impossibility, so threatening and intimidating. For me, fishing was impossibility; despite my effort in fishing, I could not find any sheep – all students used the same word, “No thanks.” When things went this way for several monthsI was really frustrated; I felt really miserable. When fishing was impossibility, of course establishing a disciple was impossibility too. Then, one day, God’s word touched my heart – God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, based on Mark 12:27. When this word of God was given to me, I was angry at myself who was nothing but a pathetic loser. I said to myself, “How long will you be like this, so miserable? No more!” I slammed my car door and decisively went up to the campus and fished students. That day, I found 5 sheep in about 2 hours – before, in several months, I found no sheep, but then, in 2 hours, I found 5 sheep - and one of them grew as a disciple, now as a great man of God. How did it happen? It happened just naturally – not that I used all my brain to figure out and understand how to say and how to guide, but by God’s grace, he grew, and at the same time, several other disciples grew together – God did it; by God’s power, they grew as disciples. Meanwhile, what did I do? I just studied the Bible, prepared Bible study notes and taught them the word of God diligently. Indeed, what Jesus says is true: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mar 4:26-27) Often, disciple making seems impossibility – despite our struggles, we fail, and we don’t know how we can do it. But as we struggle to do God’s work, as we teach students the Bible diligently, out of nowhere, disciples begin to grow. So, we have nothing to worry about. Instead, we just dedicate ourselves to God’s work in fishing and Bible studies, and teach them the Bible diligently.

 

Again, here the most important thing is that we carry the words of God. When we have the words of God, suddenly, oppressive people become so kind and gentle, and are willing to help and work for us – they voluntarily offer help and support, in the matter of finding a job or in the matter of school work. When we have the words of God in us, suddenly, many students begin to show positive response to our Bible study invitation. Those who have the words of God can cross the Jordan River on dry ground and invade into the Promised Land. Struggle to have the words of God in you.

 

Look at chater 4, verse 14It reads: That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses. That was the result of this event. This was what God originally had intended – exalting Joshua as his servant, showing that God was with him. (Jos 3:7) This is God’s desire for those who serve him wholeheartedly. Jesus lived for God and even died for God. When his obedience and submission to God’s will was like that, God was so pleased with him that his one single desire was that Jesus might be honored as He Himself was honored. So, God assigned him as the Judge of all. Jesus says, Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (Jn 5:22-23). Many people struggle hard to occupy high positions or great titles in the church, or great degrees in theology, thinking that when they have such things, people will honor and respect them. They are greatly mistaken. True honor comes from God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and serve Him only, and God will exalt you highly and honor follows. Let God prove that you are his servants, and people will honor you.

 

Look at verse 17. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

 

How important the job of the priests who carried the ark of the covenantwas! As shepherds and shepherdesses, when we carry the word of God, so many people under our leadership will enjoy the benefit of our struggle, and they too will cross the Jordan River very easily. In the year 2019, in serving the conquest, as a royal priesthood, let’s carry the ark of the covenant on our shoulders. Let’s carry the words of God in our hearts.

 

Third, These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever (4:1-24). Look at verses 1 through 3. When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, God commanded Joshua to choose twelve men among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood. So Joshua called together the twelve men, and commanded them to go and take up twelve stones. What was the purpose of these stones? Look at verses 6 and 7. Let’s read these verses together:

 

6to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' 7tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

 

The stones were to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever, showing what God did for them when they carried the ark of the covenant, how God launched his power for the Israel people and how they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. It was one time event which only these Israel people in Joshua’s time experienced, but God wanted this event known to everyone so that all people who have the desire for God, may learn a lesson, the secret of experiencing God’s power in their life, the secret of overcoming obstacles in serving God’s mission. The secret is carrying the ark of the covenant on the shoulders, that is, carrying the word of God in our hearts.

 

Look at verses 17 and 18. Let’s read these verses together:

 

17So Joshua commanded the priests, Come up out of the Jordan. 18And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.

 

After the entire nation finished crossing the Jordan River, Joshua commanded the priests to come out of the river. When they did so carrying the ark, immediately, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before. Think about a huge heap of water, about 100 yardstall, falling to the ground with big splash! It was amazing, more fantastic than all the blockbuster movies. Now they crossed the Jordan River, and there was no turning back – there was no way back to their old way of life; if anyone tried, he would drown in the River. Now, they had only one choice, that is, go forward, fight, capture the land and take possession of it. Believing in Jesus is like crossing the Jordan River; once you crossed it, God let the water flow again – it flows at its flood stage, and thereby, you have no way to go back. The only way is to go forward, fight, and capture the land.Remember Lot’s wife! By God’s grace, she escaped from God’s judgment. Yet, she yearned for the things she had left in Sodom; she looked back and was destroyed. Remember also the Israelites: They experienced God’s salvation through the blood of the Passover lambs; but all of them collapsed in the desert, except two – Joshua and Caleb, because they looked back, yearning for the life in Egypt. Christian life is like crossing the bridge, and once you crossed it, God burns it behind you, and thereby, there is no turning back! Hebrews 10:39 and 40 reads: “But my righteous will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.””

 

Look at verses 23 and 24. Let’s read these verses together:

 

23For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.

 

Verse 24 describes God’s purpose in performing this miracle in the sight of the Israel people. It was to show that He is powerful and thereby, people might always fear Him. God is powerful! Do you believe this? Then, why does God reveal this to you? So that you may always fear Him! Why is fearing God so important that God did this much, even against the natural law? It is because, when you fear the Lord, you do what He wants you to do absolutely; instead of doing whatever you feel like doing, you carefully obey God’s laws and God’s commands. The fear of God keeps you from sinning. As a result, your life goes in the way God designed, and you avoid all harmful things in this life. When you live that way, good health follows you, long life follows you, and even wealth follows you – I don’t know about this yet, but that’s what the Bible says. (Pro 3:16) Proverb 22:4 reads: Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. The fear of God is wisdom. 

 

Many people say, “God is almighty. He created the universe in six days!” They even use a difficult term, saying, “I believe that God is Omnipotent!” They enjoy sharp argument with their professors in the classroom in regard to creation and evolution. But they do not live in the fear of God, they do not obey God’s will – there do not have the struggle of denying themselves, they do not know what it means to submit themselves to God. So, even unbelievers despise them. Again, the whole purpose of God in performing this great miracle of crossing the Jordan River on dry ground was that they might fear God, and thereby, obey his commands. God wants us to fear Him so that we can live in obedience to his will and purpose. Fear God, and you will be prosperous.

 

One Word:When You See The Ark Of The Covenant, Follow It.

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