Week 3: Crossing the Jordan
Theme: What do those stones mean to you? -Joshua 4:6
Introduction: Throughout the Old Testament, we read a lot of redundant passages that seem to tell the same story over and over again. It is easy to skim over a section that we have read before because we already know what happens. We get bored with seeing the same text repeated almost word for word.
But what if what happened was so spectacular that the author believes that it needs to be written twice? Or that the author wants you to be able to know what happened so well that you can remember and retell it to others?
We find an example of that here in this section of Joshua. Chapters 3-5 tell of the time just after the spies return from Jericho, yet before they cross over the Jordan. In fact, it takes about two chapters alone to tell us how the Israelites crossed over the Jordan. The first time is more of an instruction that Joshua gives for how they will cross, while the second focuses more on the memorial that they set up as a way to remember the wonders that God has done for them as He leads them into the Promised Land.
Memorials are very important in Jewish history. Just about everything is remembered, retold, and celebrated when it comes to God's providence with His chosen people. Whether the memorials are stone monuments, symbolic names for geographical places, or holidays, they are created so that people remember God.
You may be noticing the phrase “there to this day” repeated throughout Joshua. In fact, of 83 times that it is repeated in the OT, 15 of them occur in Joshua. This phrase is important because it draws the reader to connect God’s miraculous interaction with man to a specific, familiar, physical place. If you grew up in the land where these events took place, you might have seen these stone monuments for yourself. If not, you definitely have heard about them and know their importance. Look closely in our key passage below, this phrase is found in verse 9.
This week, we will be discussing chapters 3-5 of Joshua, the crossing over the Jordan, and will learn about our own need to remember God’s faithfulness as he continues to deliver us today.
Key Passage: Joshua 4:1-10; 15-18
1 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” 4 Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. 5 And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
8 And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. 9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. The people passed over in haste.
15 And the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” 18 And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before. (ESV)
- What stood out to you in Chapters 3-5 of Joshua?
- What are the key words and phrases that stand out to you in this passage, and why?
- Where else in the Israelites journey (prior to now) were stones used to signify something important?
- In your own words, describe what the stone memorial in the Jordan means.
- What have been the barriers that you have crossed over in your faith journey so far? How have you remembered God’s faithfulness to deliver you across them?
- What rivers in your life might you need to cross today?