Read Joshua 3
Crossing the Jordan
1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”
9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
This chapter ends with a familiar scene: the Israelites walking across dry ground through a parted sea. It is reminiscent of Exodus 14 when God parts the Red Sea, only this time the Israelites aren’t being chased. They’re moving on towards the land that God had promised them so long ago. This has to be one of those “exhale” moments for the Israelites as they look back on all that they have lived through.
We would be missing something really important if we were only focused on the end of this chapter, though. Joshua gives the Israelites an interesting command in verse 5 when he says, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Consecrate isn’t a word we use often. The best explanation of it is to wholly dedicate yourself to a purpose (in this case, to God). Joshua knew that everything that was about to happen was a spiritual issue. They couldn’t flippantly walk into the Promised Land. That would be missing the point. They had to first ensure that they were wholly and completely surrendered to God.
God works in and through people all the time. It is what He has done all throughout scripture. But we can’t be off on our own, wandering through life in unrepentant sin, living self-indulgent lives and expecting God to use us to further the Kingdom in the midst of that. We have to daily put sin to death. Put our desires to death. Put our selfishness to death. We have to daily consecrate ourselves to the Lord with the hope and expectation He will do amazing things among us. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 tells us that we’re like vessels or jars, ready to be used by the Master as long as we’re willing to purify and cleanse ourselves from all that is dishonorable.
Today, let’s consecrate ourselves to God.
- What parallels do you see between this story and what happens in Exodus 14?
- What does it look like to practically consecrate yourself to God today? What needs to change from yesterday to today?
- What amazing things do you see God doing around you right now? Spend time thanking God for being on the move.
Did You Know?
The Israelites were instructed to keep about 1,000 yards of distance between them and the Ark. This was so that they could a) respect the holiness of the Ark of the Covenant but also b) ensure that everyone had a clear view of it.