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The Crossing of the Jordan River: Preparing for God’s Amazing Things (Joshua 3:1-5)

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Just got home from church (Victory Christian Fellowship) on the first Sunday of 2019. The pastor’s sermon was meant to kick off their new series on great faith. It was taken from Joshua 3:1-5, the crossing of the Jordan River. He encouraged the members to participate in their prayer, fasting and consecration.

As I listen to the sermon, I was reminded of several important lessons that I treasure from my seminary days to this day from this passage. So I decided to write them here.

The Context

The task of bringing the people of Israel to the Promised Land (Canaan) has been transferred to Joshua by Moses, his predecessor (Joshua 1&2). Before Moses died, he was allowed to witness the full extent of Canaan. He was also able to pass the baton of leadership to Joshua as well. (Deut. 34: 1-12) The first Canaanite city to subdue was Jericho and in order to get there they had to cross the Jordan River which was at flood stage (high tide) at the time of the crossing.

jordan

Map of Jericho (Source: Old Testament Maps, http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/old-testament-bible-maps.html)

The Message of the Passage

Let me focus on verse 5, “Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Josh. 3:5 NIV) The word consecrate (sanctify in the KJV) means “prepare”, “to be clean” or “be separate”. (Strong’s) It was a command to cleanse themselves and cease from doing secular matters or “to separate themselves from all earthly uses. They were to wash themselves and their garments, and abstain from every thing that might indispose their minds from a profitable attention to the miracle about to be wrought in their behalf.” (Clarke) This abstinence includes sexual relations. They had to do such preparation in order to focus on God and his “amazing things” (crossing of the Jordan River) which they were about to witness. This signifies that the crossing of the Jordan River was more than just a conquest of Canaan. It was a religious matter.

They were assured that God was with them through the Ark of the Covenant which was the symbol of God’s presence. I also like to mention the significance of the distance between them and the Ark based on the instructions of the officers:

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 Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 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.” (Josh. 3:2-4 NIV)

The Ark will served as their guide so they will not get lost since they have never been that way before. The distance of “about two thousand cubits” or about 900 meters, was prescribed probably for them to get a perfect view of the “amazing thing” that will be accomplished before them. It may also indicate respect for the presence of God. Further reading of the Old Testament will reveal that a certain Uzzah died for getting too close and touching the Ark (2 Samuel 6:6-70) which was perceived as irreverence (NIV).

The book further reports that the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River on “dry ground” (Josh. 3:17). Amazing indeed!

This is a great reminder for of all of us as we begin the year 2019. Today we don’t need to observe certain distance from the presence of God. He is with us by virtue of Christ coming to earth and of His death when the curtain that separates the holy place and the most holy place of the temple was torn (Mark 15:37-39). It could mean that everyone can now enter into the presence of God.

Lastly, we need to prepare not just our bodies but our spirits as well, avoiding acts that will hinder us from experiencing the amazing things that God has in store for us in 2019 and beyond.

References:

MySword Bible: MySword for Android – for Strong’s Dictionary

Bible gateway

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