Read: Joshua 3:1-17
Consider: Joshua had taken over responsibility for leading the people of Israel from Moses and the time had come for them to enter the promised land. However, one obstacle remained – the river Jordan. Why was this an obstacle? In today’s passage we read: Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest (Joshua 3:15a). Not only did they have to cross the river Jordan, but it would be in flood and the waters would be much deeper and wider than usual.
Facing this obstacle to their progress into the promised land, the people could have refused to proceed, but we see Joshua encouraging the people: Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you (3:5). We need to remember that this generation of Israelites were not the ones who had escaped from Egypt and had witnessed God doing great things during their wanderings in the desert. This generation would have been the children and possibly grandchildren of those who escaped Egypt; as such, they had to rely on what they had heard recounted orally about God’s dealings with his people. Facing the waters of the Jordan has similarities to the incident recorded in Exodus 14, where the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land. In the case of the Red Sea and the river Jordan, the people were facing an insurmountable obstacle and what was needed was a miracle to happen.
Can you imagine how the Israelites must have felt in this case? Would they have been confident, or doubting? Would they have had their confidence boosted by Joshua when he said: 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 flying downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap (3:13). Can you see what is happening here? The priests would set a very powerful example to the Israelites when they are the first to set foot in the river and also they are the last to leave (Joshua 4:10-11).
Notice what God said to Joshua in Joshua 3:7 – And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so that they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses’. Also in Joshua 4:14 we read: That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses.
What are we to learn from this passage? Firstly, there is no obstacle too great that God cannot handle when you serve him faithfully. Secondly, we should keep in mind how God has solved difficulties for us in the past and take encouragement from this when facing future obstacles. Thirdly, we should not seek to exalt ourselves to win the admiration of people, but leave it to God, who is able to exalt us in the right way and at the right time. Lastly, we should lead others by example, just as the priests did when crossing the river Jordan.
Pray: Father, forgive us when we see obstacles as insurmountable. Help us to place our trust and confidence in you. Keep us from seeking the praise of people, but allow you to exalt us at the time and in the way you choose. Amen