Scripture: Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan. Joshua 3:17 ESV
Observation: Having received the scouting report on Jericho, Joshua leads the nation about ten miles from Shittim to the Jordan River, where Israel settles in camp formation and prepares to cross the Jordan on the third day. But first, the officers must go through the camp and relay entry instructions:
- Set out when you see the Levitical priests carrying the ark of the Lord to the Jordan (v.3).
- Keep your distance of 2,000 cubits (just over half a mile) to have a clear forward view (v.4).
- Consecrate yourself on the eve of entry (v.5).
And Yahweh instructs Joshua regarding the priests’ soon procession of the ark: have the priests carry the ark to the river’s brink and stand still (v.8), for the water will cease to flow when the priests’ soles touch the elements (vv.13-14). The author then explains to his audience that at this time of year (fall harvest), the Jordan overflows its banks (v.15). Thus, this dramatic supernatural event would signify to Israel that their living God is among them and will drive out their enemies before them (v10). Lastly, as the chapter concludes, we learn that the people crossed over the Jordan on dry ground (opposite Jericho). Concurrently, the priests stood at attention at the river’s center, holding the ark until all had made it safely to the other side (above verse).
Takeaway: Forty years have passed since crossing the Red Sea, and now comes the climactic moment where Yahweh fulfills his promise: under his might and favor, Israel will take possession of the Promised Land. Indeed, King David would extol Israel’s miraculous crossings of the Red Sea and Jordan River and call for all creation to tremble at the presence of their Lord, who is with his people (Psalm 114). Yet, while enemies trembled at the sight of Israel, God’s people would repeatedly fail to observe a reverent fear for Yahweh. And the root of the problem points to our Creation Story and original sin. In the beginning, the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the unsettled waters of early creation and brought order to the expanses. But Adam (whose namesake is the town where the Jordan River is damned) and Eve rebelled and brought disorder, provoking God to expel them from paradise (their Promised Land).
As history would prove, the Adamic DNA of sin would spread through successive generations, thus provoking God to spur a second exodus and, finally, a radical and costly solution. For the incarnate God who is Living Water, who calmed the seas and restored order to those who thirsted for righteousness, submitted to evil men who feared not their Creator and consequently pierced his side, from which blood and water flowed. And it’s here at Calvary that our Savior redeemed and restored us so that, “When [we] pass through the waters, [he] will be with [us]” (Isaiah 43:2a ESV). So when we wade through turbulent times where we feel like we are drowning, we will do well to remember our Lord and Savior is with us and that high and dry ground awaits us on the other side.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of your Son, who poured out his blood and water for us, that we might find rest and renewal for our weary souls. So would you please help us wade through seasons of turbulence, trusting in the finished work of your Son that signals that high and dry ground awaits us on the other side? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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