Summary: This message is a part of our 3:16 series and looks at the faith of the lead man carrying the ark into the Jordan River as they crossed into the promised land
He was the first of the twelve. Slowly he walked along; his pace governed by the other eleven. The load on his shoulder was a burden but wasn’t nearly as heavy as his thoughts. His feet moved as if they were on auto pilot and his eyes remained fixed on the river in the distance. The dark brown waters swirled angrily as they raced toward the waiting sea. The harvest floods had caused the river to overflow it’s banks and the water had a cold and dangerous look about it.
And still he walked. His eyes never leaving the raging torrents ahead. He would never question his commander verbally but his mind was filled with whys and how’s.
He wished that he could just stop and think it over but it was apparent that was no longer an option. And besides if he did stop what would the other eleven think? What would his family think after all everybody knew what an honour it had been to be chosen as one of the twelve. Actually it seemed like a pretty dubious honour to him.
And still he walked. Maybe it was all a joke, after all the boss couldn’t seriously expect the twelve of them to just walk into the river, he didn’t even know how to swim. That was it, at any time his commander would holler “hey guys come back it was just a test” but the only sound to break the still air was the tramp of the twenty-four feet closing in on the river. All he could think was “nobody even told us where the rocks are.”
And still he walked, and then they were on the edge of the racing maelstrom, the dark cold water just inches from their feet. The time was gone to hesitate even if he wanted to. The choice was no longer his because as the eleven others plunged ahead his foot began its descent into the racing River Jordan and his mind went back to the events that had led them here.
Here we are in week four of our 3:16 series, though the summer we are looking at some of the various Chapter 3 verse 16s that are found in the bible. So far we’ve been in the book of John, Acts and the 2nd letter that Paul wrote to Timothy. This week we are moving back to the Old Testament to a story told as the people of Israel prepare to claim the promise given to them by God over forty years before. They are preparing to enter the promised Land.
I would suspect that most of us know the broad strokes of the story, if only from Hollywood. Most recently of course was “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, before that Disney gave us “The Prince of Egypt”, In 1995 Ben Kingsley starred in the made for TV movie “Moses” and the most famous one of all would be “The Ten Commandments.”
And well none of them really get it right they do lay the foundation for the story of the Exodus. 400 years after Joseph and his extended family settle in Egypt at the invitation of the Pharaoh the tide of popular opinion has turned against their descendants and the people of Israel are now slaves.
God calls a man named Moses, who confronts the Pharaoh and says “Let my people go”. You’ve seen the movie so you know the story, plagues, release, Red Sea, Pillar of Fire by Night, Column of Smoke by Day, Mount Sanai, Golden Calf, Ten Commandments Mana and quail to eat, water from rocks and lots of grumbling.
And after they arrive at the Promised Land the naysayers have their way and the people spend another 40 years wandering in the desert before they finally prepare to enter into the land that was promised them.
And now a new leader, a man named Joshua, is about to lead them across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. And the only barrier that now stands in their way is the river and we read in Joshua 3:16 the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.
But like all the 3:16s Joshua 3:16 doesn’t and can’t stand by itself, it’s only a part of the story.
In this case the story had begun forty years before, but realistically we only need to go back to the previous day where we read.
Joshua 3:5 Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”
This must have been the highlight of Joshua’s career. When he and Caleb had brought back the report of Canaan forty years before he had felt the surge of victory, had felt the excitement course though his veins only to have it shattered by the disbelief of his people.