GOD give the people of Israel a grand promise - the Promised land, flowing with milk and honey. Yet the journey to it wasn’t easy - there were testings through the wilderness (desert). They faced natural obstacles - Red Sea, desert (no water, food), Jordan River... Then there were other physical obstacles - enemies, giants were living in Canaan. They need to fight them.
We face all kinds of obstacles in life - looking at it negatively, we get discouraged and may decided to turn around. With God, we take life obstacles as challenges and overcome them in His strength. They become stepping stones for us, opportunities where we experience God’s power and develop strong faith in God.
The people of Israel had a very long and difficult journey. They have now come the place very near to the Promised Land. Just one step away. God’s leading has been great. He provided all that they needed in the wilderness. This new generation was about to enter the Land. Yet there is just one more barrier - the River Jordan. They need to cross the river.
Their previous generation - the fathers and grandfathers - had the experience of crossing the Red Sea. Now this new generation is about to experience God’s power in their own way. He is going to lead them across River Jordan.
Notice that in the OT, we read of the people of Israel recalling their history very often, particularly the journey out of Egypt (even in the Psalms). It was through this journey that they experienced God’s power and faithfulness. This historical experience was important. They were able to trust Him today because they have seen God’s power and faithfulness in the past.
Today, our barrier may not be a river. Maybe a bad habit, an addiction, an attitude... maybe it’s a difficulty at work, or in your family. Some kind of barrier that stops you from being at the place God wants you to be, or being the person God meant you to be. But we can overcome!
In this account of Israel crossing the Jordan, we learn that God will enable His people to cross the barriers before us:
I. God Prepares His People (1:1-18)
1:2 "get ready to cross the Jordan River." God prepares Joshua. He was fearful, being a new leader and given such a difficult FIRST task. (v.9 "Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged...")
See how God assures him:
v.3 "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses."
v.5 "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."
v.6 "Be strong and courageous..." (3 times - v.6, 7, 9.)
v.9 "the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Why did God make such an effort to assure him? He knows Joshua’s struggles.
These are words we want to hear when we’re facing a big obstacle. God understands. He knows you very well. He knows what you’re struggling today. He is there to help you - He will not leave you nor forsake you.
BUT God stressed something we need to take note of. The underlining principle for success is this - we must listen to Him and walk by His ways.
vv.7-8 "Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
THEN Joshua prepares the people to cross the Jordan (vv.10-18)
Now Joshua turns to the officials and ask them to get the people ready - v.11 "get your supplies ready, 3 days from now we will cross Jordan... to take possession of the land God is giving you for your own."
God will prepare His part, man will prepare their part. God has His promise, but man must do his part - obey the Word of the Lord. This time, they did not murmur or hesitate.
Trust God. If it is God’s will, He will grant us the resources to overcome our obstacles and reach our destination. In our ministries as well. The devil will lay down obstacles & barriers to stop us, but we can overcome. God will prepare us - emotionally and physically - strong and courageous.
Crossing over may not be easy. It requires faith. It’s so much easier not to do anything - stay in the wilderness, but then we’re not enjoying all that God has blessed with. Our life can be more blessed, our ministry can grow stronger, our work more rewarding... if we take the step of faith and do greater things for God.
II. God Challenges our Faith (3:1-17)
Finally they are about to cross - chapter 3. Now, they’ve heard what God has promised. They have prepared all that they needed. Now it takes faith - how are they going to cross? No ship, no boats, no bridge!
Josh 3:5 Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."
To walk with God, they need to put aside all their fear and doubt of the previous generation. To see the work of God in our midst, we need to put aside sins, habits or attitudes that keeps us from serving Him.
The people were to sanctify themselves because "tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you!" That’s faith - faith in what God has promised without seeing it happen yet.
According to God’s plan, Joshua instructed the priests to "take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people" (v.6). They were to take the ark down to the river. v.8 says, "When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan you shall stand in the Jordan."
Note v.10-13. When the priests put their feet in the water, they had to exercise faith. According to v.15 - Jordan "overflows all its bank during the whole time of harvest." The river was in flood stage! The rapid flow of current made it more dangerous. As soon as their feet "dipped into the edge of the water... the waters which came down from upstream stood still and rose up in a heap very far away."
v.17 says that the priests with the ark "stood firm on dry ground (not sinking mud) in the midst of the Jordan. Meanwhile, all the people, some 2 million "crossed completely over the Jordan." The new, younger generation now experienced God’s power personally. They have heard God, and now seen God in action.
The Lord challenges our faith today. When we, like Israel, respond in faithful obedience, the world sees God at work!
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you..." 1 Peter 4:12
Sometimes we feel like we’re being put through fire. Yet God has in His hand the thermostat. He knows the heat required to burn away the impurities that would hinder His purposes in your life. His hand fans the flames needed to teach you patience, forgiveness, faith and many other lessons. We need His moulding - we don’t enjoy it, but we need it.
III. God Keeps His Promises (4:1-7)
God gave specific instruction to Joshua (vv.1-3). When everyone had "completely crossed over the Jordan," the Lord told Joshua to take a man from each of the 12 tribes and to go back out into the center of the river at the "place where the priests feet stood firm." They were to take "twelve stones" from this spot in the middle of the river. Each one took up "a stone upon his shoulder," one for each of the tribes of Israel.
Joshua said that these stones would be a "sign" (v.6). Later on when the generations passed and their children would ask what the large stones meant, they were to tell how "the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord..." He went on to say that "these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever."
From that time on the stones would remind the nation that God always keeps His promises. We all have stones in our lives. As I look back in my life, I can see many stones... you might call them milestones. These are memorial stones of experiences where God has proven Himself faithful. When the going is tough, look back at these memorial stones, and remember that God is faithful.
Lam.3:22-23 "Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."
The history of our church is rich in memorial stones too. We began at Kim Tian Road over 38 years ago. This building was built with love and care by the early members, and well-wishers... many still around today. Through thick and thin God has always provided our needs.
Don’t fear for the future! Don’t fear the current of the river. Don’t shrink back from the obstacles! On the other side is the promise that God has GIVEN us! God is faithful to keep his promises! The obstacles are nothing if we cross in His strength!
Verse 24 is a key verse. It tells us why God brought this generation into the land in such a spectacular fashion, "that all the people of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty and that you may fear the Lord your God forever."
God’s whole purpose for His people, is that through them the world might know Him. His mighty acts through them were for a testimony to the world of His glory.
He is doing the same today, through each of us... and through this church.
Because God is for us, we go through trials in life differently. You can either be a chicken or duck, thrown into a pond...
We may behave like the chicken - struggling, making lots of noise, with their heads down and legs stuck up. Or the duck, happily going around when thrown into the pond, quack, quack! - with head held high and legs down.
My daughter brought a caterpillar from school one day. We promptly found a shoe box and put some leaves and grass into the box. My daughter gently placed the little insect into its new home. We punched holes in clear wrap and placed it over the top of the box, so that we could watch our little friend in action.
The next morning my daughter ran into the room in tears. "Daddy, Daddy, there is a spider in the box with my caterpillar and he’s wrapped it up!" I calmed her down and proceeded to unwrap the insect. We killed the dreaded spider, and cleaned out the box. I went to the back yard and began pulling up fresh grass and leaves , making sure there were no spiders in the caterpillar’s new home.
The next morning was a repeat of the previous day. I searched for the dreaded spider in the box , but there was none. Then it dawned on me, the caterpillar was making a cocoon.
Sometimes things can seem pretty bad. Its as if a spider has invaded our little box and wants to bind us in his web. However, if you’ll take the time and look a little closer you’ll find that God is at work transforming you into something beautiful.