Scripture: “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” Joshua 4:24 ESV
Observation: With Yahweh removing the last barrier to the Promised Land by supernaturally damning the flooded Jordan, thus providing Israel’s safe passage, the Lord instructs Joshua to command each of the twelve tribal leaders to take a stone from the bed of the river where the priests stood firmly holding the ark (vv.1-3). Joshua follows orders, directing them to rest the stone on their shoulders while transporting it to a designated area to construct a memorial—implying these rocks were of the substantial weight of a small bolder (vv.4-6a). Joshua then explains their purpose to the twelve leaders: to build a monument for future generations as a “memorial forever” (vv.6b-7). Following orders, the tribal leaders retrieve the stones. Joshua then constructs the monument at Gilgal and explains to all the people its purpose as a memorial with the additional intent of revealing to all the peoples of the earth that Israel’s God is eternal and all-powerful and warrants their reverent fear (vv.19-24).
Three other observations from the text:
- First, the author notes that 40,000 armed men readied for battle led the way for the people—likely to protect them from would-be assailants (v.13).
- Second, the author adds that Yahweh exalted Joshua before the people, “and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life” (v.14).
- Third, the author also tells his readers that once the priests holding the ark ascended the river’s embankment, its waters flowed again to their previous flood level (vv.15-18).
Reasonably, we can assume the tribal leaders retrieved the stones near where the priests stood and that the priests were the last to leave the dried river bottom.
Takeaway: The Hebrew word, yadaʿ, translated as “tell” in verse 7, is best rephrased as “inform” to improve knowledge of the Jordan passing as well as its parallel miracle at the Red Sea forty years earlier (v.23). So what are the parents to teach their children? The Lord cut off the waters (vv.4-6), and Israel crossed on dry ground (v.22). The latter point would prove the most intimidating element of psychological warfare. How so? First, in chapter 2, we read that Rahab told the spies that all of Jericho heard the news that Yahweh dried up the Red Sea to provide safe passage and that their hearts melted (2:10-11). And in chapter 5, we will read a report circulated among the kings of Canaan about how God dried up the Jordan for Israel, and their hearts melted, too (5:1-1). Why is this significant? Parted waters alone do not guarantee safe passage. Pharoah and his army followed Israel onto the seabed only to encounter saturated soil that clogged their chariot wheels, leading to their demise. Thus, the added element of dry ground signaled certain victory.
So what’s the point of the memorial to us? Fear God. Fear the Son of God who dikes the seemingly unstoppable forces of nature by his word, whether a raging storm or even death. Fear the One who leads obstinate, fearful disciples who appear to be losers to victory on the sure foundation of their Rock (Matthew 7:24-25). For that’s the whole point of our upsidedown Gospel. Those who think they have their act together do not need our Savior. Those who solely rely on their intellect and strength do not need our Lord. They march on in life, supposing this is as good as it gets, grabbing all they can while giving little back. But those who have struggled through the torrents of life with enemies in hot pursuit welcome the Triune God’s leading across the firm, dry ground of the Gospel of peace, where they regain their footing and carry on. And it begins and ends by fearing the Lord your God forever (4:24b).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you and your Son for reaching out and rescuing us from the quagmires of sin that bog us down. Would you please help us reverently fear you in a manner that demonstrates a deeper understanding of your power and might and your holiness and grace that we might carry onward and upward to our eternal Promised Land? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling