SERIES: 06 Joshua - 2017
MESSAGE: Joshua 3-4
SPEAKER: Skip Heitzig
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 3-4

As the Israelites rallied behind Joshua, they stepped out in faith to cross the Jordan River, following the priests who carried the ark of the covenant. As we continue this study in Joshua, we learn about their faith in the living God and the specific memorials they erected to commemorate the fulfillment of His promises.

faith, leadership, belief, obedience, Jordan River, ark of the covenant, tabernacle, fellowship, propitiation, sanctify, priests, living God, memorial, monument, children, fathers


  1. Introduction
    1. There is no greater combination than a Spirit-filled leader surrounded by Spirit-filled people
      1. Joshua was surrounded by people who were willing to follow him wherever God told him to go
      2. A group of men and women whose hearts have been touched by God are unstoppable (see 1 Samuel 10:26)
      3. Joshua relied on leaders in the tribes and the people all being on the same page
    2. The people waited at the edge of the Jordan River, which was swollen by springtime rains
    3. They were there by faith and ready to go
    4. There's a difference between this crossing and the Red Sea crossing under Moses (see Exodus 14)
      1. Moses put his staff into the water and it parted
      2. The people at that time were able to watch the waters part before they crossed
      3. On this occasion, the priests had to step into the water before it parted
        1. A step of faith
        2. Passive faith won't take you very far
        3. Faith is not believing in spite of the evidence; it is obeying in spite of the consequence
        4. Abraham's faith motivated him to go into the land God told him to
        5. Faith is always accompanied by actions (see James 2:20-26)
  2. Joshua 3:1
    1. Joshua rose early
      1. He wanted to give the Lord the best part of the day
      2. Jesus rose early (see Mark 1:35)
    2. The Jordan River of today is different than that of ancient times
      1. It was deeper and wider
      2. Over the years, as population has increased and farms have siphoned water off it, it has become a shadow of its former self
    3. The Jordan River is completely below sea level
      1. It begins up north in Caesarea Philippi, where the Dan, Banias, and Hasbani rivers come together
      2. As the river descends south, it goes into the Hula Valley
        1. Waters of Merom
          1. A lake that existed in ancient times when the Jordan was much fuller (see Joshua 11:5-7)
          2. When Israel settled the land in 1948, they drained the lake because it had become a swampland
        2. In present day, it is filled with beautiful farmland
      3. The next body of water is the Sea of Galilee
      4. Next, the river empties into the Dead Sea
        1. 1,290 feet below sea level
        2. Water does not leave
        3. 30 percent salt solution
      5. The river valley was brought below sea level when two tectonic plates in the region shifted
        1. Nubian and Somalian plates
        2. The Syrian-African Rift Valley
        3. Stretches from Lebanon to Africa
  3. Joshua 3:2-6
    1. The purpose of the ark of the covenant
      1. The tabernacle was created as a place for God to have fellowship with the people based on a system of sacrifices
        1. A portable tent structure that had courts and furnishings
        2. Seventy-five feet wide and 150 feet long
        3. Altar for animal sacrifice
        4. Bronze washbasin used for cleansing
      2. Tabernacle proper
        1. Central sanctuary
        2. Fifteen feet wide by forty-five feet deep
        3. Holy Place
          1. Only priests could enter
          2. Fifteen feet wide by thirty feet deep
          3. Golden candlestick
          4. Showbread, one loaf for each tribe of Israel
          5. Altar of incense
        4. Holy of Holies
          1. Only the high priest could enter once a year on Yom Kippur
          2. Had to enter with blood
          3. Sprinkled blood on the ark of the covenant
      3. Ark of the covenant
        1. Forty-five inches long by twenty-seven inches wide by twenty-seven inches tall
        2. Made out of wood covered with gold
        3. The lid was solid gold with two cherubim with wings touching in the center
        4. The place God met with the high priest
      4. God created us for fellowship with Him
        1. He could not meet with the Israelites because of their sin (see Deuteronomy 5:29; Romans 3:23)
        2. On Yom Kippur, when the priest sprinkled the blood on the ark, it went from a judgment seat to a mercy seat
        3. God and man could fellowship over the blood of a victim that took the place of the sinner
      5. Propitiation (see Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10)
        1. Hilastérion = a sin offering, covering
          1. The word used in Hebrews 9:5 to refer to the mercy seat
          2. The place of propitiation
        2. A picture of God's presence
    2. They were to keep about 3,000 feet of space between the ark and the people following after it
      1. They were to revere the ark
      2. The Lord wants fellowship, but He is also to be revered and respected
      3. We come boldly, but respectfully
    3. "Sanctify yourselves" (v. 5)
      1. They were to wash themselves and put on clean clothes (see Exodus 19:10)
      2. Ritual cleansing (see Genesis 35:2; 2 Samuel 12:20)
    4. The priests were from the tribe of Levi
      1. The families of the Levites had different responsibilities in the tabernacle
      2. The Gershonites had to pack and carry the cloths of the tabernacle
      3. The sons of Merari had to pack and carry the infrastructure
      4. The Kohathites
        1. High priests came from this family
        2. In charge of all the holy implements, including the ark of the covenant
  4. Joshua 3:7-17
    1. The priests carrying the ark had to stand in the Jordan River
      1. Unlike at the Red Sea, they had to get their feet wet
      2. Sometimes God wants to see how deep your commitment runs
    2. Joshua referred to the Lord as the living God
      1. All the surrounding kingdoms had their own worship systems
      2. None of the gods they worshiped existed (see Psalm 115:3-7)
        1. A god who can be stolen is not a god worth worshiping (see Genesis 31:19-30)
        2. Elijah the prophet mocked the Baal worshipers (see 1 Kings 18:20-39)
      3. How different these are from God (see Joshua 1:5; Matthew 28:20)
    3. People try to explain the parting of the Jordan River as a natural occurrence
      1. Some say there was an earthquake that dammed up the river so they could cross
        1. This actually happened two separate times at this exact spot
          1. During the AD 1200s
          2. In 1927
        2. An earthquake caused the embankment to slide down and stop the river
        3. There are problems with this theory
          1. Neither of the other instances happened in the springtime during the flood season
          2. If there was an earthquake, their feet going in the water must have set it off
          3. You have to explain the waters being in a heap
          4. The riverbed would still be muddy
          5. As soon as they crossed, the waters resumed
      2. Once you get past Genesis 1:1, you can believe anything the Bible says
    4. 1,500 years later, John the Baptist came to this very spot and baptized people (see John 1:28)
      1. Bethabara means the house of passage or the place of crossing
      2. He baptized people for the remission of sin
  5. Joshua 4:1-10
    1. They set up a memorial of twelve stones before the Lord
      1. They camped at Gilgal
        1. It became a very important place to the children of Israel
        2. King Saul was crowned there (see 1 Samuel 11:15)
        3. King David was received back into his kingdom there (see 2 Samuel 19:41)
        4. Samuel the prophet included Gilgal in his teaching circuit
      2. God's monuments compared to men's monuments
        1. Men's monuments are grand and over the top
        2. God's monuments are simple because the story is more important than the monument
    2. Joshua set up a second memorial of stones in the midst of the Jordan River
      1. No one would see it once the waters flowed again
      2. God would see it, and Joshua would know it was there
      3. A place where they buried the past (see Romans 6:4)
    3. The memorial at Gilgal would be used as a teaching tool to the next generations about God's faithfulness
      1. God is all about passing down truth to the next generation (see Deuteronomy 6:7-9)
      2. The stones were to instruct them
  6. Joshua 4:11-24
    1. 40,000 men who were prepared for war crossed over to the plains of Jericho
      1. One-third of the standing army for the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh (see Numbers 26)
      2. Two-thirds stayed behind to protect the women and children
    2. It was springtime
      1. Tenth day of the first month, Nisan (see v. 19)
      2. The tenth of Nisan was the day the lambs were selected to be sacrificed for the Passover
      3. The fourteenth of Nisan was Passover, during which the lambs were sacrificed for the sins of the people
      4. Years later, Jesus stood at this very spot and presented Himself to the Jews as their Lamb
    3. Instruction to fathers
      1. Fathers were to impress and teach spiritual matters to their children (see Proverbs 22:6)
      2. So much of a child's wellbeing comes from the father's example and training
  7. Closing
    1. Sanctify yourself; watch God work tomorrow
    2. Take what you have and pass it down to your children
      1. Christianity is only one generation away from extinction
      2. Don't only train them; be an example to them
      3. Chanak = to train up, dedicate
Figures referenced: Dwight L. Moody

Greek/Hebrew words: chanak, hilastérion

Cross references: Genesis 1:1; 31:19-30; 35:2; Exodus 14; 19:10; Numbers 26; Deuteronomy 5:29; 6:7-9; Joshua 1:5; 11:5-7; 1 Samuel 10:26; 11:15; 2 Samuel 12:20; 19:41; 1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 115:3-7; Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 28:20; Mark 1:35; John 1:28; Romans 3:23, 25; 6:4; Hebrews 9:5; James 2:20-26; 1 John 2:2; 4:10

Topic: Faith

Keywords: faith, leadership, belief, obedience, Jordan River, ark of the covenant, tabernacle, fellowship, propitiation, sanctify, priests, living God, memorial, monument, children, fathers

Joshua 3-4 - Joshua 3-4 |
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