Summary: Life is filled with obstacles. Israel encountered the obstacle of a flooded river. Here in Joshua, there were three directives given to Israel before the crossing of the Jordan. I believe that there is application value in these directives for us as we


Joshua 3:15-17

Obstacles. The dictionary defines obstacles as “something that stands in the way or opposes”. Something that is between where you are, and where you want to go. Life is filled with obstacles. Some of them will be small, such as maybe a road block on the way to work, or some will be large, like diseases that keep you from being who and what you want to be. Michael A. Guido of Metter, Georgia, columnist of several newspapers wrote about an artist in Mexico who lost his right hand, his primary hand, while working on a statue. This lead to a lot of frustration. But the artist did not give up his work. He learned to carve with his left hand. His beautifully finished masterpiece was called ’In Spite Of. One of the best rifle shots was a man who belonged to my church in Montana. He was an avid hunter. Years ago, cataracts formed on his right eye, which was his pre-dominant eye. This obstacle hindered his shooting and affected his hunting. However, he loved the sport so much that he learned to shot left handed and I have personally watched him put bullet after bullet in a target at over 200 yards with ease. Booker T. Washington was born in slavery. Thomas Edison was deaf. Abraham Lincoln was born of illiterate parents. Lord Byron had a club foot. Robert Louis Stevenson had tuberculosis. Alexander Pope was a hunchback. Admiral Nelson had only one eye. Julius Caesar was an epileptic. All of these men faced obstacles that stood between where they were and where they wanted to go.

There are also spiritual obstacles as well. Things that hinder us and stand in our way of receiving God’s inheritance for us. These obstacles stand between where we are in our walk with God and where we would like to and should be. Every one of us here needs to be closer to the Lord but the question remains, “why aren’t we?” Because we have allowed something to stand in our way. Maybe it is a secret sin that we are holding on to, maybe it is a bad habit that is holding us back, maybe it is a spouse that doesn’t share the same love for God that you do, or maybe it is indifference, we’ve grown cold to the things of God. We know that we need to be closer to God, we need to be doing more for God, but we find an obstacle in the way. Satan himself is a master of placing obstacles or hindrances in the way. Even the great apostle Paul was not immune to Satan’s obstacles. 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. Paul uses the Greek word evgko,ptw egkopto {eng-kop’-to} to impede one’s course by cutting off his way (by standing in the way). Much like the old cowboys who are going to cut them off at the pass, they ride quickly to get there ahead of the enemy so they will be in the way. That’s what Satan loves to do and he is good at it, he loves to place obstacles in the way.

Here in Joshua chapter three, Israel stands on the banks of the Jordan River. The land of promise is in view. They can look across the river and see all that God has promised them, their very own homeland flowing with milk and honey. Remember that they started out as slaves with nothing but now they stand on the brink of having their own homes, with their own land, to grow their own crops, and to worship their own God. Most of our old songs that we sing tend to view Canaan as heaven and we are waiting for the “Crossing of the Jordan”. However, someone once said that Canaan for the Christian did not so much represent heaven, even though it could, but represented the overcoming, spiritual life that God desires for each of His children. That what God desires for us to have, a victorious life as a believer. The children of Israel had traveled far, both in time and in distance. Canaan land is just in sight. However there is an obstacle. The Jordan River is there and now it is at flood stage. One scholar who had visited the Jordan River during the time of it’s flood stage described the river as being 14 feet above the normal level and with the water rushing quickly by, quite an obstacle for a million people with their children and their flocks. What were they going to do? Here in Joshua, there were three directives given to them before the crossing of the Jordan. I believe that there is application value in these directives for us as well. Let me share them with you this morning.


1. You Bible scholars will remember that from the time that the Israelites left Egypt, the shekiah glory of God, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, went before them and lead them in the way in which they should go.

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:

2. This cloud of God’s glory represented His presence with His people. By day the cloud would lead them and at night, it would settle over the tabernacle and over the ark of the covenant.

3. However, here in Joshua, the cloud is no longer mentioned. When it was time for Israel to move, notice what was commanded of them.

Joshua 3:3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

4. They are no longer following the cloud, they are now to follow the ark of God as it is carried by the priests of the Lord.

5. We know that placed on the inside of the ark were three things. There was the pot of manna, there was also Aaron’s rod that budded, and finally, there was the original tablets of stone, that God Himself wrote on with the 10 Commandments, what the Hebrews called the “Living Words”. The Jews believed that God’s presence accompanied the tablets, His presence was there so they were the living words.

Hebrews 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

6. We Pentecostals are especially prone to seek the supernatural, we hunger for it, and that is good. I believe that God is a supernatural God Who continues to do supernatural works. There is one thing that we Pentecostals are especially guilty of, and that is we tend to seek for signs. I have seen people travel great distances, leaving their home church, to seek some evangelist or preacher who supposedly has miracles occurring in his/her meetings. Some of the biggest frauds in religion have had their entire ministries almost exclusively funded by Pentecostals and Charismatics. I for the life of me, can’t understand how we, who are supposed to be Spirit led, and Spirit taught, are so easy to be deceived. There is nothing wrong with the supernatural. Signs are supposed to follow believers, but when we let signs override what the Word of God says, something wrong.

7. To the Israelites, the ark would come to represent the visible presence of God. That day, they were given specific commandments regarding the ark and their obstacles.

A. They were to focus (look).

1. In verse three, they were told when you see the ark of the covenant they were to remove from their place. The Hebrew word used here is the word ha’r’ ra’ah {raw-aw’}, which means to look at, inspect, or perceive. When it moved, they were to move also.

2. How many times do we miss out, because when God moves, we miss it? We’ve got our mind on something else. We come to the House of God supposedly to worship God, but we are focused on something else and when God moved, we miss it.

3. Or maybe we approach the Word of God without prayer and we miss the presence of God in His word, simply because we are not seeing. Jesus said that the scriptures testify of Himself. John called Him the logos, the Living Word.

4. Are we really sensitive to God? Are we really looking for God? Are we really searching for God’s leadership concerning our obstacles? Too often we are not, God is trying to show us the way to have victory, to be an over-comer, but we are not seeing nor looking.

5. Now remember that this Hebrew word ha’r’ ra’ah {raw-aw’} means also to inspect, or discern. This is why it is important that we should be looking for God, that we are focused on God. If we are just looking for signs of the supernatural, we can be mis-lead and deceived. There are a lot of people who will perform signs that Jesus doesn’t even know spiritually.

B. They were to forsake (leave).

1. The scripture says that when they saw the ark begin to move, they were to remove from or forsake their place. In other words, they were to leave the place where they were.

2. There is a great truth here. God is moving and God is stirring us onward but we grow so accustomed to our present circumstances, we don’t want to leave. We make excused, this obstacle is just too big, there’s no way to get around it, but if God is telling you to move, you’ve better move.

3. We make excuses because we don’t want to let go of what is holding us back. We make excuses because we either have grown to love our obstacle for it provides us a ready made excuse of why we can’t. “We don’t have the facilities so we can’t grow.” or “We don’t have enough church programs so we can’t grow.” Often what we are doing is making excuses because we don’t want to grow for we know it’s means change and humans are very resistance to change.

4. In John chapter 5, we are told about a man who had an infirmity for 38 years. Every day he was carried to the pool of Bethesda and left. At times the Bible says an angel would come and trouble the water and the first one in the pool would be healed. This man had an obstacle for he was handicapped and was too slow to make it into the water. The scripture tells us that one day Jesus came by. (Are you looking for Him?) God was moving and many missed it. He came to this man and asked him a very strange question, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (v.6)

Doesn’t that seem like a strange question? You would think that the obvious answer would be yes, but I believe Jesus hit on something here. We grow accustomed to our obstacles. This man didn’t have to work for a living, for he was handicapped, he could beg and many people would give to him. Many people no doubt felt sorrow for him so Jesus wants to know, “Are you tired of living this way?” “Do you really want to overcome your obstacle?”

5. You must be ready to forsake or remove from your place when God speaks.

C. They were to follow.

1. They were told to see or focus on the ark so they could see it move, to forsake where they were at, and go after or follow it.

2. I will assure that God will lead you if you will let Him. I have found, that most of the problems we have with this, is not on God’s part, but rather on ours. God will lead, but will we follow?

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Psalm 23:1 {A Psalm of David.} The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Proverbs 8:20 I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:

Isaiah 48:17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

3. God is saying over and over again that He will lead us. Will we follow, will we be sensitive to the presence of God and follow where He leads?

4. One of my favorite hymns says

Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom, Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom, By waters still, o’er troubled sea, Still tis His hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me! He leadeth me! By His own hand He leadeth me! His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me!


1. Notice what they were told in verse 4.

Joshua 3:4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

2. They were told to leave a space of 2000 cubits between them and the ark. A cubit came to represent the space between the elbow and the tip of the fingers, but was averaged to about 20 inches. 20 times 2000 = 3333 feet. A mile is 5280 feet so they were to follow about 3/5 of a mile behind the ark.

3. Why were they to follow so far behind the ark? Simply for this, for God was/is holy. We can not take holy things for granted. One of the things that bothers me is the lack of respect we have for God and the things of God. Folks, this is not the snack bar, this is not the playground, nor is this the utility room. This is the sanctuary of the living God.

4. Remember that this was the same ark that only the high priest could approach once it was set up in the tabernacle and only one day a year. This was the same ark that could only be carried by the Levites and not touched with their hands but was to carried on poles that ran through loops fastened on the outside of the ark. This was the same ark that Uzzah reached out with his hand to steady and God struck him dead (2 Sam 6). We had better learn in Pentecostals circles that God is holy and we can not treat Him the way we treat everything else. We had better be serious regarding the purity of God.

5. Moses took the shoes/sandals off his feet for the presence of God made the ground holy. The main lesson of the book of Leviticus is that God is holy. Five times in Leviticus God declares that He is holy and as Holy God, you can not treat Him just any old way. Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, were killed in the act of worship because they failed to remember the holiness of God. God is holy.

6. You will not be able to over come the obstacles in your path for you will not be able to follow God if you don’t respect His holiness. We can’t not treat God as that which is common and profane.

Leviticus 10:8 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;

7. They were to follow the ark, but at a distance of close to 3/5’s of a mile.

If they got too close, they could not see the ark clearly for the multitude. There is a lesson in this for us. Not that we can get too close to God for God desires that we draw nigh (close) to Him, but rather the distance mentioned here was a sign of respect for the presence of God. If one got too close and got too use to being by the ark (presence) of God, it would loose some of it’s luster and glory. God’s holiness and righteousness will guide us if we don’t overlook it.

Proverbs 11:5 The righteousness (holiness) of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

Proverbs 13:6 Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.

Your own holiness, or righteousness will guide you. You won’t fall into the traps that others fall into.

8. There is also another truth see here. Note that in verse 5 that Joshua commanded the Israelites to “sanctify yourselves”. Let me share with you a great truth, when you view God as holy, you become all the more aware of how much you need to be holy as well. If you don’t view God as holy and you don’t treat God as holy, you will fail to see the need of holiness in your own life as well.

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy:

Leviticus 11:45 For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Leviticus 19:2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.

9. 77 times the word “holy” or qodesh is mentioned in Leviticus. The major lesson, as I have already mentioned of Leviticus is that God is holy and you can not approach God on your own terms and conditions, but only on His.

10. Joshua told them that they were to separate themselves. The Hebrew is vd;q’ qadash {kaw-dash’} related to qodesh (holy) to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate. Joshua then told them that tomorrow the Lord would do wonders among them. We must be clean if we are expecting God to do great things in and through and around us. If you and I ever expect to get past the Jordan’s that arise in our lives, we are going to have to learn that one of the first things we must do is examine our lives to make sure they are as clean as possible. Not only must we be serious regarding the Lord’s purity, but also our own as well.


1. Just imagine if you will, the ark of God begin to move, and over a million people begin to follow it. The priests carrying the ark marched into the Jordan River. Just imagine what they must have felt. This river was at flood stage, with a much swifter and stronger current.

2. God called them to step out in faith. Now remember that God is God. God could have just spoken the word and the Jordan would have dried up. At the Red Sea, God spoke to Moses and told him to lift his rod and God caused the winds to blow back the waters, but here God is operating differently.

3. Let me ask, what was the sin that kept Israel out of the land of Canaan 40 years before?

Hebrews 3:15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

4. Unbelief had kept out a whole nation 40 years ago. Is this generation going to believe God? They were known as the people of God, that was their testimony and every testimony begins with a “test”. Your testimony will be tested. Are they going to believe God this time or not?

5. This is a new generation, and this one believes God. They did not falter, they didn’t have to debate it, when God moved, they moved. They were secure in the power of God. They knew that God would take care of His part if they took care of their part. The Bible says that the priests stood firm, there was no wavering, nor doubting. Remember they are standing in the river, with the water billowing up on the side. It had to be an awesome sight to behold. They stood firm and the people passed by them and crossed the Jordan on dry ground.

6. I want you to note one more thing before I close. Look at verse 11.

Joshua 3:11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.

The ark of the covenant of the LORD of the whole earth will precede you into the Jordan. (New American Bible)

7. What did I say that the ark of the covenant represented to the nation of Israel? It represented the very presence of God. God’s presence is already going before you, into the midst of your obstacle to do a work.