Summary: Calling people to "cross over" whatever river they may be facing into the promises God has for them

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Who Goes First? – Joshua 3

June 2/3, 2002


At times in our lives, each of us reach points of critical decision – places where the decision we make will have huge effects on the rest of our lives. We come to a T intersection, and have to make a choice about whether we head left or whether we head right. I came to one of those points of decision in my life in 1992. I had been dating this wonderful, beautiful, brilliant young woman, and I decided to ask her if she would be my wife. I cooked a nice dinner (at her place… I lived with a bunch of messy bachelors and who wants to propose in that kind of atmosphere??), and then offered her a ring and the chance to spend the rest of her life with a great person like me… She faced a critical decision point then also. What to say to this guy who is somewhat strange, often stubborn, lazier and messier than she might have liked…

You can relate. You can look back and see those points of critical decision in your life as well. For many of us, the biggest decision we look back towards was a spiritual decision – the choice to accept God’s offer of salvation and invite Jesus to become our Savior and Lord. Career choices, decisions about how to respond to illness, if and when to start a family, all of these are critical points of decision.

Our friends the Israelites face just such a junction in chapter 3 of Joshua. As you are looking it up, I want to ask you to try to imagine spending your entire life dreaming of one thing. Your parents and grandparents dreamt of it before you, and would tell you stories from the time of your earliest memories about how wonderful it would be when this one thing finally came to pass. Now imagine that every other person you had ever known was also looking forward to this one thing – it was not a personal dream but rather a national dream, shared by everyone around you. All of your activities were supposed to be moving you in that direction, it was the one goal towards which everyone was striving. Can you imagine it? Can you feel the longing for it?

Try to imagine you are one of the Israelites as I read this story. (NLT).


Let’s put the story in context. First God chose Joshua to follow Moses as the leader of His people, and gives Joshua both the command, “Be strong and courageous and take the land,” and the promise, “I will be with you always.” Then Joshua sent two spies across the river to get a handle on what was waiting for the Israelites on the opposite side – they have returned with a favorable report. And now, finally, after forty years, the time has come.

We hear that 40 years figure all the time, and I wonder if we really appreciate how long of a wait that actually was for the people of God. I’ve never waited that long for anything – I’m not even that old! An entire generation has passed, the nation that stands here on the banks of the river was completely different than the nation that walked out of slavery in Egypt. So this national dream of a homeland has been the central focus of two complete generations of Israelites. And now the time has come. Now the command comes. It’s time to cross the river.

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