Summary: Before God took the children of Israel into the Promised Land they needed to commit to Him, with no turning back. God, in turn, provided a way to do the impossible. When God calls us and we step out for Him, he comes through for us too.
After the preparation of Joshua as a leader, the encouragement to do what God had commanded - to take the land, and the spying out of that land to find out that the enemy seemed powerful but was frightened of God. After that is where the rubber meets the road, or in this case, the feet meet the water! No more talk and saber rattling, now the people must actually trust God and literally step out on the water to see if He will move.
They cannot cross the Jordan on their own. The Jordan is about 100 feet wide at its narrowest. At this time of year (April) it is impossible to ford (though it could be swum by the spies). "Full up to the brim" is a better way to put it.
And when they do cross by God’s miracle, they are in danger every second, wondering if God will let loose the water and drown them. It is literally putting themselves into the hands of God.
Jesus was baptized in the Jordan to begin his public ministry. And so too the Children of Israel are "baptized" as they cross over. For us, baptism is the first step of a public commitment to God, giving our lives to him, dieing and having him bring us back to life. It’s part of stepping out and putting our trust in God to lead us to victory.
Shittim to the Jordan is about 10 miles. They were to walk about Â½ mile away from the Ark. Not sure if that was just until the priests entered the water or what.
To consecrate meant to bathe, wash your clothes, and abstain from sexual intimacy. It meant to set yourself aside and prepare to do something special. As we prepare our lives for the victory wrought on our behalf by God there is a setting aside of things that really don’t matter. I found that in myself traveling to Africa recently. Suddenly all the mundane things around me just didn’t hold that importance anymore.
The priests were told to cross but not told how to do it. Often God gives us a task but we must trust in Him in how to accomplish it after we step out.
Verses 7 - 13
God repeats his promises and says "without fail." We cannot fail when on God’s mission and it is good to hear God’s promises and His past actions over and over.
Verses 14 - 17
God would have actually had to stop the waters flowing quite some time before the priests set their feet in the river for the water to be away. He was working behind the scenes well before the actions took place. God knows you will step out and when so don’t fret about it.
How did God stop the flow? It is possible that He used a landslide. This area has faults running through it and in two times in history the Jordan was actually dammed up by landslides - in 1267 and 1927 (stopped for 21 hours).
Adam and Zarthan are lost - but the city of Kuru Sartabeh is some 17 miles upstream from Jericho.
Verses 1 - 10
So there are really two piles of stones - one from the midst of the Jordan set up on the side, and one piled up in the middle where the priests stood.
What is the significance of these piles? One pile sits at the place where the priests stood in the middle of the Jordan. The other all the way out of the Jordan where they spent the night. In a spiritual sense we could say that one set represents the place at which God intervened and began a miracle. The other represents the completion of that work of God.
I was a TV reporter back in the 1990’s and remember covering a major flood in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There was one point during a day which I worked about 24 hours straight - at which the highest crest of the flood would occur at a bridge in downtown Salem. Where that crest occurred, they put a mark. This is kind of like that - for when the priests set their feet down the Jordan was a flood stage. So in future generations they could point to the place on the eastern shore and say "when the water was that high the Lord dried up the Jordan for us to cross."
For our study of the victorious Christian life in Joshua - the first set of stones marks the place where we said "God I will obey you and set forth on this journey, committing myself to your care and asking you to make a way for me." The second set represents a marker of God accomplishing what he said. With each step in God bringing victory in our lives, we should look back and remember the good things He has done - especially for the days when we are frightened by an enemy that seems overwhelming.