Summary: Facing the possibility of entering into Cannan God’s people face a test of their faith.
Studies in Joshua
Study 5 – Chapter 3
Last week in our study of the book of Joshua our attention was drawn to and we considered in some detail the faith of an individual, that individual being Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho. This evening as we come to consider chapter 3 we are going to be thinking about the faith of a great company of people and how the exercise of such faith was required, encouraged, demonstrated and rewarded.
God had brought Israel out of Egypt in order to bring them into Canaan. His plan and purpose for them was not that they, having been redeemed from their bondage in Egypt, would then spend the rest of their life as a nation wandering in the no-man’s land of the wilderness, but rather that they would enter into and enjoy the wonderful blessings of that inheritance he had promised to them – the land of Canaan.
Those blessings were now before them. They were there for the taking. The spies had returned from their reconnaissance mission with good news. The people of Canaan were terrified of them and were certain that their cities and towns would fall whenever the Children of Israel attacked. There was much then to encourage the Children of Israel to go in and take the land.
However when we come to chapter three we learn that there is a bit of a problem, indeed a problem of major proportions, a problem which would be the first major test of the people’s faith in God at this crucial point in their life. And it is with a view to identifying this problem and seeing how they dealt with it that we turn our thoughts this evening to this chapter.
Notice with me in the first place this evening
1) How Their faith Was Tested:
After the spies had returned with their encouraging report, informing the people that the inhabitants of Jericho and the people’s of the surrounding nations were terrified of them, Joshua early the next morning told the people to break camp and to head for the banks of the Jordan. The journey from Shittim, which is where they had been camped, to the Jordan would have taken them most of the day, but I am sure that the day passed quickly for the people who would have been in good heart and in a somewhat upbeat mood. That upbeat mood in all likelihood changed considerably when they arrived at the edge of the Jordan for they found themselves facing what must have seemed an insurmountable obstacle to them even entering, never mind conquering the land, and that obstacle was the Jordan river itself. According to verse 15 (and this is an important piece of information) they had arrived at the edge of the Jordan at the time of the harvest, that is at that time of the year when the Jordan river always overflows its banks and engulfs the surrounding floodplain. This floodplain was packed with tangled bushes and thick undergrowth. When the river was in full flood, as it was what this time, it stretched over a mile wide and could be anything up to twelve feet deep in places. As well as that the river current was very strong due to the drop in elevation, in some places 40 feet per mile and on average 9feet per mile. Now what this means is that the river that ran between the eastern plains where the children of Israel were now camped, and the western plains which comprised the land of Canaan, the promised land, that dividing river was no placid, shallow, easy to cross little stream such as one would find for example along certain stretches of the River Roe. It was in fact a raging torrent about a mile wide, full of dense undergrowth and perilous currents. It was too wide, too deep and far too dangerous to swim across, there were no bridges that they could walk across, and there was no local ferry service that they could use to sail across. How on earth were they going to overcome this seemingly insurmountable obstacle? How were 1 million people (approx), many of them old, many fo them very young, together with their animals and all their belongings going to get across this river? From being initially encouraged by the spies reports and enthusiastic about the prospect of taking possession of Canaan, the children of Israel’s enthusiasm must have been greatly deflated when they saw this obstacle that lay before them. And they had plenty of time to take in the seemingly impossible situation, for they were camped along the river for three days. God had brought them into a situation that on the human level seemed impossible to overcome. A situation in which the people must have felt totally helpless.