Chapter 3 is the story of the momentous crossing of Jordan by Israel. This was one of the great days in their long history; they crossed from the wilderness, where they had wandered for 40 years; into the land of Canaan. This crossing of Jordan does not illustrate the passing of a soul into eternity but rather illustrate the passing of a Christian from one level of Christian life to another. It marks the end of the self-life and the beginning of the Christ-life.
Between these two levels lies the Jordan, which we might well call the “river of impossibility.” Is this how you feel? That the odds are too great for me to attain a higher spiritual level of Christian living?
Ephesians 1—spiritual blessing.
Consider now the position of Israel in the wilderness side of Jordan. 2.5 million people standing before this river. It was harvest times which meant that the river was in flood. It had swollen to twice its size. Consider some of the questions which could have filled some of their hearts.
Joshua 3:11—“Behold the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.”
The Ark was the symbol of the presence of God. It is mentioned 10 times in chapter 3. Joshua said the Ark will go before you. Describe the priests carrying the Ark—they approached within a yard of it and nothing happened, but as their feet touched the water, it rolled back by the mighty hand of God, and the priests walked into the bed of the river on dry ground.
The priests remained in the river bed with the Ark—“They stood firm on the dry ground, until all the people of Israel were passed clean over Jordan.”
Is it possible that some of you have aspirations for a deeper or a higher spiritual life, but the river Jordan the river of impossibility, lies between your longings and their realization? As you look at that river may you hear the words, “I will be with thee. I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Joshua 1:5.
“As thou goest step by step the way will open up before thee.”
Abraham—Genesis 12—“Now the Lord said unto Abraham, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy fathers house unto a land which I will show thee.”
Gideon—Sarah and Abraham.
Bethlehem—When Christ is born.
Calvary—When we die with Christ.
Pentecost—When the Holy Spirit comes and takes control.
Joshua 3:11—“Behold the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth, passeth over before you into Jordan.”
“The Lord of all the earth”—this is the God who has promised to be with us today.
“I will be with you; I will not fail you, nor forsake you”—Joshua 1:5.
Present day application: no matter the trial or circumstances the Lord has gone before. He sweetens every bitter cup, he strengthens the feeble arm for the fight, he makes the cowardly spirit brave, he even guilds the bed of death with light.
Describe the thoughts of the 2.5 million as they stood by the flooded river, the river of impossibility.
Now their attention is being diverted and centered on the Lord. Doubts and fears have vanished and in their place is joy and confidence.
The practical lesson: Are our problems and difficulties impossible? As we contemplate the move from the self-life to the Christ-life, does it seem impossible? Turn your eyes upon Jesus, etc.
One day He went into Gethsemane, then on to the cross. He died and was put in the tomb and a huge stone was put at the entrance. But He arose the third day triumphant over all His foes. Paul wrote that in doing so “He spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them” (Galatians 2:15).
Look now at the victorious Christ—victorious over Satan, death, hell, and the grave.
The way to spiritual victory for the child of God is a deep appreciation of the Risen Christ who places His unlimited power at our disposal.
Peter walking on the sea—Matthew 14.
The disciples—Matthew 8.
As a Christian have you been wandering in the wilderness till now? Has your Christian life been a disappointment this far? You understand God’s will for you and how you long for its realization in your life, but there lies the river of impossibility, of self, pride, flesh, and defeat. Might I encourage you to advance, put your feet in the waters. They will separate for you just as they did for Israel—3:15-16.
If you do this, this experience could be described as emerging from the “self-life” into the “Christ-life.”
It means leaving a life of defeat in the wilderness for a life of victory in the Lord. The royal road to blessing is to keep your eye on the Lord.
Chapters 4-5—Israel is now in the Promise Land. Note how God kept them from immediate conflict with the enemy. There was still more preparation.
The first step to possessing the land was accomplished:
1. The crossing of the Jordan.
2. They then encamped at Gilgal.
God had great lessons to teach them at Gilgal:
1. Remembrance—from whence they came.
2. Resurrection—the memorial.
3. Renunciation—cutting away the flesh.
4. Restoration—the Passover.
5. Realization—the manna ceased, they ate the old corn of the land.
6. Revelation—the Divine Captain revealed Himself to Joshua (13:15).
Consider the fact that God did not allow them to go immediately into conflict.
There was still some preparation.
The first indispensible step to possessing the land was:
1. They must cross Jordan—death and resurrection.
2. Vs. 2-9 is the record of what took place at Gilgal. The circumcising of Israel.
The Passover had only been observed twice since they were delivered from Egypt.
1. The Passover in Egypt.
2. The Passover at Mount Sinai.
Since then there had been no Passover held. No one could partake of the Passover unless they were circumcised. Exodus 12:48.
The moment they obeyed (i.e., were circumcised) they held the feast of the Passover. They kept it in the plains of Jericho, right under the nose of Satan.