Summary: This sermon about the Hebrew people crossing the Jordan River is a symbol of the crossing we must make from this life to the next.

Crossing Jordan

Joshua 3:14-17

[14] So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, [15] and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest),

[16] that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

[17] Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

In Christian music

the Jordan River is often mentioned in the lyrics.

The river represents the crossing we must make

from this life to the next..

Here are a couple of examples:

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Johnny Cash sang this song:

When I come to the river at the ending of day

When the last winds of sorrow have blown

There'll be somebody waiting to show me the way

I won't have to cross Jordan alone

I won't have to cross Jordan alone

Jesus died all my sins to atone

In the darkness I see he'll be waiting for me

I won't have to cross Jordan alone

The people of God, Israel, had to cross that river

to enter into the Promised Land.

Joshua chapter 3 tells the story of the Jordan River crossing.

Joshua tells the people in Chapter 1 verse 2.

"Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them--the children of Israel.

There’s a great lesson for us here in Joshua chapter 3.

God’s work must be done God’s way

in order to receive God’s blessing.

It must be done in such a way that God receives the glory.

God will bless anyone who does His work His way.

Joshua records the miracle of the crossing in 7 steps.

First) They waited 3 days.

[1] Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. [2] So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp;

Waiting is not easy to do.

I hate to stand in line waiting for something.

God makes His people wait on the bank of the Jordan.

What would have happened on Day 1 or Day 2

if Joshua had decided to go ahead on his own?

It would have been a total disaster.

Waiting time is never wasted time if you are waiting on the Lord.

Second) Joshua put the ark in front of the people.

[3] and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. [4] Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before."

The ark of the covenant was a chest

with a gold top called the Mercy Seat.

The ark contained the Ten Commandments,

Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna.

It represented the presence of God with His people.

God instructed Joshua to keep a distance of 2,000 cubits

(about a half-mile) between the people and the ark.

That emphasizes the holiness of God.

If Israel truly wanted God’s guidance,

the people must treat God with respect.

Now, why must the ark go before the people?

Look at the last part of Verse 4:

that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before."

We make plans and have some idea about the days ahead.

Only God knows which way we should go.

Like the Israelites, we have not been this way before.

We think that we know the future and where we should go.

Jesus knows where we need to be tomorrow and the next day.

Third) The people consecrated themselves.

[5] And Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

To consecrate means to set apart as holy.

In the Old Testament, it often involved external cleansing.

The Jews were to remove dirty garments

and replace them with clean ones.

God is telling the Jews they aren’t ready for the miracle yet.

Are you ready for God to do “amazing things” in your life?

Consecrate yourself by confessing your sins

and rededicating your life to the Lord.

Fourth) They crossed when the river was at flood stage.

[14] So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, [15] and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest),

During the spring, snowmelt from Mount Hermon

and other mountains raises the level of the river.

During most of the year, it’s only 100 feet wide and 5-10 feet deep.

During harvest season, the water stretched perhaps a mile across

and 40 feet deep in places.

During that time, the river had a raging current

and the water spread out for nearly a mile.

That’s the situation Joshua faced as he looked at the crossing.

How could he get the people to the western side of the river?

If they did not cross somehow,

they could not enter the Promised Land.

Joshua had no plan on how to accomplish it.

The Jews didn’t know how to handle the dangerous waters.

They knew what the Lord did at the Red Sea,

but that happened 40 years ago.

Could they trust God in this situation

as their ancestors had trusted when the Egyptian army closed in,

and the Red Sea stood between them and their deliverance?

What does faith look like when we can’t find a way forward?

Faith means trusting God when your circumstances make no sense.

We all come to crisis moments sooner or later.

What do you do when those moments in life come?

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Fifth) The priests entered the water before the miracle took place.

[8] You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, 'When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.' "

God appointed the priests to carry the ark of the covenant.

It was a high privilege and a great honor to be a priest.

So God wants them to go and stand in the river.

Remember, this is a raging overflowing river.

That seems to makes no sense.

Why stand in the river?

What if the water washes them away?

What if they can’t swim?

However, there will be no miracle

until the priests enter the water carrying the ark of the covenant.

God arranged it that way to test their faith.

Anyone can trust God on dry ground.

Will they trust Him enough to stand in the water?”

It is the same for us today.

We all have doubts.

Nothing in life is certain.

We pray and pray, but we’re not sure how things will turn out.

If we wait for 100% certainty, we will wait forever.

So how does faith work?

God responds to those who partly believe, partly doubt,

but act on the belief part.

Why go into the water?

If God wants to work a miracle,

He can do it just as well when we are standing on dry ground.

See? God often asks us to do the impossible.

so that when it is done, He alone gets the credit.

That’s what is happening here for the priests and Israelites.

Go stand in the water!

Just do it.

They don’t know what’s going to happen.

We know how it ends, but they didn’t.

To their credit, the priests did not hesitate to obey the Lord.

Sixth) The water stood in a heap.

[16] that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

The river stands between God’s people and the Promised Land.

Two million Jews prepare to cross the river,

not knowing how they will do it.

The people look at the mile-wide river.

The priests begin to march toward the river.

They carry the ark of the covenant on poles

resting on their shoulders.

They march in a straight line.

Down the bank they go, with the water flowing before them.

As their feet enter the water, the river stops flowing from the north.

The water was heaped up at a place called Adam,

approximately 17 miles north of the crossing.

Meanwhile, the water to the south

continues to flow into the Dead Sea.

This miracle happened after they obeyed, not before.

If the priests had not stepped into the raging torrent,

no one would have crossed that day.

Only after they obeyed did the water back up in a heap.

How exactly did that happen?

Well, in Joshua 3:11 Joshua calls God “the Lord of all the earth.”

It’s a statement of God’s absolute sovereignty.

When the Creator speaks,

the Jordan River obediently rolls up in a heap.

It’s as simple as that.

Seventh) The entire nation crossed on dry ground.

[17] Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

If there were over 2 million people,

it would take hours to get everyone across.

The miracle lasted until every single Jew crossed the river.

No one was left behind.

So did they make it across?

Joshua 4:17-18 says:

Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, "Come up from the Jordan." [18] And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before.

The miracle lasted as long as it was needed.

God had two specific purposes for this miracle.

First, he wanted to exalt Joshua as His appointed leader.

Just as Moses led his people across the Red Sea,

now Joshua leads their descendants across the Jordan.

Just as God had been with Moses, He would now be with Joshua.

Second, It prepared the Jews for the battles to come.

Very soon the people would begin 7 years of warfare

as they conquered people living in the Promised Land.

When Joshua explained the miracle to the people,

he gave this reason in Verse 10.

"By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites:

If God can roll up the Jordan like a heap,

the Canaanites, Hittites and all the rest could be conquered.

CLOSING:

The crossing of the Jordan often means death.

Without death we can’t move from this life to the next.

My wife Pat stood on that Jordan River bank.

She was lead across that river of death to her Promised Land.

Someday we too will be standing on that river bank of death.

Why be afraid of crossing Jordan.

Jesus has crossed it already for us?

He went into the dark waters of death

and came out victorious on the other side.

That’s why “We won’t have to cross Jordan alone.”