Joshua 3: 1, 5, 7, 15-17 (NIVUK)            Crossing the Jordan

1. Early in the morning, Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over… 5. Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”

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. 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’ ” …

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, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam … So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 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.

Joshua 4: 1-9          Memorial stones

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan…” So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell 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.” So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them.

We read in Joshua chapter 1 how the Israelites stood on the brink of a whole new chapter in their history

  • They had spent 40 years wandering about the desert
  • They had experienced success, failure, defeat, victory
  • Their relationship with God had hit the heights and plummeted to the depths


Last year had moments of great joy and some heartache… but mainly ‘plodding along’… taking each day as it came

  • Huge encouragements… and times of disappointment and despair!
  • Times when God’s presence was tangible… and times when He seemed miles away
  • Times when everything made sense and times when nothing did
  • And a few regrets, perhaps…

Is there anyone who can claim that last year that you led a life that was completely surrendered to the will and purpose of God?

BUT NOW A NEW YEAR BEGINS… and we have been given another chance to serve God with greater zeal and commitment …


Moses was dead, Joshua was in charge and a new chapter of (literally) uncharted territory lay ahead of the Israelites… What did the future hold?

Note the following points…

  1. The death of Moses was highly significant
  2. His passing must have seemed like a hammer blow
  3. The man who was the humblest person on earth (Numbers 12: 3)
  4. The man who had led the people out of Egypt for 40 years


  • But God was working His purposes out

Puzzling, bewildering situations require that we STAND STILL and HOLD FAST and trust in God for the future like never before

It’s easy to trust God when life is smooth…

  • It’s when the chilly winds blow and the way ahead is unclear that faith and trust are needed in abundance
  • And we can learn so much from such challenging situations

This coming year key people might leave or die

  • Perhaps we will find taken-for-granted aspects of church life being challenged… We may be shaken up and confronted by major changes

At such times, we have to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and ready to respond, even if it means making hard choices

  • There’s work to be done… spiritual battles to be fought… lives and communities to be transformed… a time to look forward!

As David Livingstone commented: “I will go anywhere, as long as it is forward!”

We can and must learn lessons from the past…

  • But we must never hanker for it… GOD IS ON THE MOVE!
  • Don’t get left behind!

They moved from Shittim to the Jordan banks

  • Shittim was a valley district … a relatively secure place to live
  • Now God was asking the people to leave its security and move to the edge of the Jordan… to be vulnerable…


  • Remember how Peter saw Jesus walking on the waves: If you command me, Lord, I will come to you

But some of us prefer to remain in the boat and even criticise those who step out for God and, perhaps, falter and fail…

  • But Peter stepped out of the boat and ended up in the arms of Jesus… He learnt lessons that day that he would never forget!

Perhaps we need to be more courageous for God and less concerned with our own reputation and comfort (Character is more important!)

When God said: “move”, the Israelites moved as one body… a vital lesson for the church!

  • And we must not rely on our individual feelings or preferences… but on what God tells us through the Holy Spirit

Whatever God asks of us in the coming year, He has already trodden the path … there are no surprises in store for Him

  • When circumstances change, tragedy strikes, blessings abound, people behave oddly and plans fail or succeed… none of these things catch God out!

Not even our foolishness or illogical decisions that are such a surprise to other people!

But you may ask: How can we know the way? It’s the same question that Philip asked Jesus…

  • And Jesus answered: I am the way and the truth and the life

WE HAVE TO LISTEN FOR GOD’S VOICE through prayer, reading the Bible and talking to other (wise) believers… In doing so…

Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying: this is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right or the left

And God’s glory … the glory of the only Begotten Son… is what we must seek as we follow His leading… ‘The Kingdom of God and His righteousness’

  • Not self-promotion or having a bigger church
  • Neither defending the ‘status quo’ nor rushing ahead
  • Not timid… but not reckless… Walking in step with the Spirit

What amazing things does God want to do among us during this year?

The Jordan was in flood and YET God!

They reached the flooded Jordan… messy, muddy and scary!

  • Perhaps it was raining, cold and damp
  • Noisy from the movement of so many people… and smelly from the animals
  • There were old and sick and children among the many thousand assembled there

But in verse 15 we find the key word: YET

  • Circumstances were difficult… YET GOD…
  • The task was enormous… YET GOD…
  • The people were afraid… YET GOD…
  • The future was unclear… YET GOD…


BUT we must be first be walking in the right direction… the way that He shows us… There are no “short cuts” to blessing

Even if our ‘Jordan’ is in flood… the fields saturated … the carts sinking… the situation impossible… They… and we… have the “yet” God!

But the people had to play their part

  • They had to drive the animals, push the carts, carry the children

GOD LEADS… but He expects that we shall ALL respond and work… We are co-workers in the Kingdom

Twelve men were assigned a special task…

To go back into the middle of the Jordan and pick up large stones then heave them to the shore and build a memorial

  • It was a difficult task… leaving the safety of the shore and going back into the river! But it was also a privileged one.

There will always be people in church life who are ‘selected’ ahead of us:

  • Those who have five talents compared to our one or two!
  • Brighter, more articulate, more skilful, more musical, more this or that than we are

DON’T ENVY THEM or seek to undermine their confidence …

  • To those who are given much, much will be expected!
  • If you only have one talent then use it wholeheartedly, don’t bury it!
  • Don’t compare yourself with others… Give your best and let God do the rest!

In future, when your children ask you: ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord (chap 4: 6)

WHAT MEMORIAL WILL YOUR LIFE (‘stones’) and mine leave behind?

  • When future generations look back at this year and ask: ‘What do these stones mean?’ taken from the river of our lives, what will be the answer?

Will the stones still be lying dormant in the middle of the Jordan… or will they have been built into a strong spiritual legacy that will inspire, guide and encourage others?

In other words, what do you want to achieve spiritually this year?

Finally, note that the water piled up at a place called Adam

  • The river bed was dry (well, fairly dry) but no one could see what was happening up-stream
  • The people did not know that some 17 miles away, God was holding back the water
  • They crossed the Jordan but had no idea when or if the water would return THEY SIMPLY HAD TO TRUST GOD

God so often works silently ‘up stream’, behind the scenes, unobtrusively…

Behind every tense and challenging situation in life, God is holding back the water


We need to be encouraged that the power of Satan and his demons are being held back by the Man, the second Adam, Jesus the Christ

To grant safe passage to eternal life until the Day comes when death and destruction is destroyed forever and God creates a new heaven and a new earth.

So a new year beckons… Soon it will be 12 months’ from now!

  • Are you ready to cross the Jordan? In life or in death?


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