Welcome to Expound a verse by verse study of God's word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Let's pray. Father, we do thank you for this time that we have together as a family, poring over scripture in your word. We pray your Holy Spirit would speak to us and then work through us. Take the truths that you invest into us and pour them out from us as we go out into this world. In Jesus' name, Amen.
There is no greater combination in my view than a spirit filled leader surrounded by spirit filled people. You put that combination together, and sky is the limit. Nothing shall be impossible. We have a man, Joshua, who succeeded after Moses-- took over the leadership of Israel, but surrounded by a group of other leaders and people, who are sitting at the edge of the Jordan River ready to do whatever Joshua tells them to do. And they basically say, look, you heard from God, and we believe that, and we're ready to march wherever you want us to march. It's the new generation that's ready to go, and when I read Joshua, I think, well, how can you lose? Joshua, you've got the power and strength of God, who promised that he would be with you, but you've got the people of God, as well.
There's a great text of scripture when King Saul went back to Gibeah. It said, "valiant men went with him whose hearts the Lord had touched," and when you have a group of men and women and God has touched their hearts, you're an unstoppable force. And so it is with Joshua. Joshua is the leader, but he relies on leaders in the tribes, as well as all of the people being on the same page.
I've always loved the story of the man who had the dream, and you know how dreams can be. They can get really weird, and nothing really relates to each other, and you try to explain it to somebody, and they look at you, like, that's the weirdest-- it doesn't even make sense, but it felt so real to you. Well, this guy had a dream like that, and he dreamt that he was in a big banquet hall and sat at a huge table, and everybody was in suit and tie and formal dress along this huge table with great feasts, all sorts of wonderful foods. The only problem in his dream is that everybody seated at the table-- their arms were tied to these little boards. So they're at the table dressed up nice, but all of them have boards on their arms, which means they couldn't flex at the elbow, which means they could reach over and grab the food, but they couldn't bend their arm to put it in their mouth, so awfully frustrating to try to eat a meal when you can take the food, grab it, touch it, but you can't eat with it.
Someone had a bright idea in the dream of taking some of the food, and reaching across that table, and putting it in somebody's mouth. And so they thought, oh, that's a great idea. So they enjoyed a wonderful banquet, but they had to serve one another in order to do it. And I've always loved that analogy. I love that analogy because really that is the body of Christ. I cook a lot of meals. I have the opportunity to study and to teach God's word, but I really need all y'all's help-- helping break it down and make it applicable as you meet together in homes, smaller groups, serving one another, volunteering in a number of positions. I need help getting that food into the lives of other people. And so thank you for all your service and your heart filled servitude to the Lord and to his people.
Dwight L. Moody used to say I would rather put 1,000 men to work than to do the work of 1,000 men, and so Joshua has a lot of help, as did Moses, in getting two and and half, maybe three million people, even, but at least a couple million of them over from one side of the Jordan River to another side. So the people now are ready to go in. They're waiting at the Jordan River.
It's springtime, so it's an over flooding situation. The Jordan River can be quite wide during the spring months after the rains, and especially in old times it could be a daunting task to get across. If you look at the Jordan River today, you might think, well, in some parts, especially this is like, I can jump across, but the Jordan River of today is different than it used to be. I'll explain as we go through this.
So there they are probably wondering what's the order going to be. How are we going to manage to get from this spot all the way over to that bank? There's no bridge. I doubt we're going to be able to build rafts to go back and forth to bring us over. We'd be a sitting target if that were the case. The people in Jericho would see that, and we'd be dead meat, but they're there by faith, and they're ready to go.
Joshua, give the order, and we'll do whatever. Now, that is faith, and you will see a difference between this crossing and the crossing under Moses of the Red Sea. During that crossing, the Lord said, Moses, just put your rod out. Stick it out. Hold it up and stick it out, and as you do that, the waters will part.
So the people of Israel, the forefathers of this generation, were able to watch it open up before they walked down and cross, but not on this occasion. On this occasion, you will see that the priests have to step into the water. The soles of their feet have to touch the wet water, and they have to get their feet wet before that water is going to open. It's a step of faith. The priest will go first, followed by tribal leaders, followed by two and a half tribes from the east side of the Jordan, followed by the people of Israel, but this is true faith.
Sometimes people think, well, I believe God, and I'll do whatever the Lord wants me to do. Lord, I'm just kind of hanging out. You know my address. You know my phone number. You can get a hold of me if you need anything. That kind of passive faith won't take you very far. There's a difference between just sort of passively sitting around versus actively going ahead, and you're going to see here exercised in chapter three true faith. Faith is not believing in spite of the evidence. It's obeying in spite of the consequence.
I mean, evidence says that water is not going to open up, but they're going to say I'm ready to march ahead. I'm ready to put feet onto my faith and march forward. So that will always be the principle of faith throughout the Bible. Abraham believed God-- remember that scripture. He was justified by faith. He believed God, but his believing God motivated him to leave [INAUDIBLE] and travel all the way to the land that God told him to go into.
Faith always is accompanied by action. Faith without works is dead. So verse 1 chapter 3-- "then Joshua rose early in the morning, and they set out from the acacia grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over." I don't know, but I love the fact that Joshua got up early. He was an early riser. He wanted to give the Lord the best part of his day, the time of the day when it's the quietest. Your mind is clearest. You go, oh, you don't know my mind when I wake up, but typically you are at your peak once you wake up early in the morning, at least. Even though I've always been a night person, I find that to be true.
And there's something about seeking the Lord early. The Bible even speaks of that. Jesus got up early, the Bible says, a great while before the breaking of the day. So Joshua, early to rise, giving God the best part of his day. And "they set out from the acacia grove"-- that is where the children of Israel had been encamped east of the Jordan-- "and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over."
The Jordan River of today is different than the Jordan River of yesteryear. In antiquity, it had much more water in it. It was wider. It was more daunting a task to cross it. Over the years, population has increased. Farms have siphoned water off. They've stopped it up. They've regulated it so that the Jordan River of today is a shadow of its former self, but let me explain to you a little bit about the Jordan River, because no matter where you go in Israel or Jordan, the Jordan River is completely below sea level.
The Jordan River begins far up north in a little Roman town now a little bed of ruins called Caesarea Philippi and just above that there are three streams that join together from the Mount Hermon area. One is the Dan River. The other is the Banias River, and the other is the Hasbani River. And they join together, and they form a single central river called the Jordan. As it descends down south, it goes for about 15 or 16 miles, and it goes into a valley today called the Hula Valley.
Now, you have Bible maps in the back of your Bible, and if you were to look at a Bible map, where it says Israel or Palestine-- some of the maps say at the time of Christ-- you will notice on that map just above the Sea of Galilee a little lake. It's not there today. It doesn't exist, but it did exist when the waters flowed through that river at a much greater pace and magnitude. That was called the waters of Merom-- the waters of Merom. It's mentioned in the Bible. It's mentioned, in fact, in the book of Joshua chapter 11-- the waters of Merom.
When Israel settled the land in 1948, they drained it because it was a swamp area. It had become a malaria ridden swamp, so they drained the Hula Valley, and now it's just beautiful farms. There's no water at all.
If you go from that beautiful valley, the Hula Valley, down south, the next body of water you'll hit is the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River empties into the Sea of Galilee, and 13 miles below the Sea of Galilee, which is the bottom end of the sea, it empties out again. Then it travels all the way down to the Dead Sea, where it receives water, but because it's, again, below sea level-- but now at the Dead Sea it's 1290 feet below sea level, and it's very dry-- the evaporation is such that water comes into the Dead Sea, but does not leave the Dead Sea.
And the Dead Sea is appropriately called the Dead Sea. It's where water goes to die. It's 30% salt solution saline. Nothing lives there, but 160 miles of the Jordan River is all under sea level. That's what makes it remarkable. A little bit of background of how the valley got under sea level-- so I'm taking you now into the realm of geography just a little bit. The earth is comprised of certain plates-- tectonic plates-- and at some time in history, two of those plates moved in that region-- the Nubian plate and the Somalian plate. They moved, and tore the earth's crust, and brought that valley down low below sea level. It's called the Syrio, or Syrian, African Rift Valley. It goes all the way from Lebanon down to Africa.
And it includes the Jordan Valley, and so if you were to look at a cross section, you see sea level. Then it rises up on both sides into mountains, and then it plummets deep down below sea level into a ravine. And that 160 miles-- that's the Jordan Valley.
So they're camped down south by the Dead Sea-- just a little bit north of the Dead Sea. Again, if you have a map in the back of your Bible, you can kind of guess just a little bit up from the northern end of the Dead Sea. Your map will also show you Jericho on the Western side. They're camped just across from Jericho. That's where they cross over. So it was that after three days that the officers went through the camp, and they commanded the people, saying "when you see the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the levites bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it."
Now, I'm stopping because I want to reminisce with you a little bit. Can we do that? Let me take you back a few books in the Old Testament so you understand and we understand. We get reminded of the purpose of the Ark of the Covenant. God instructed that the children of Israel should build a structure where he could meet with them, where he could have fellowship with them based on a system of sacrifices. It's called the tabernacle.
The tabernacle was a portable tent structure that had courts and furnishings in it. It was 75 feet wide. That's the measurement on the east side and on the west side, and it was 150 feet long north to south. You would enter in the gate of the Tabernacle on the east side, and if you entered in, the first thing you would see in front of you would be an altar. It would be about four and a half feet tall, seven and a half by seven and a half feet wide and long. It had large protrusions on it-- horns on the altar. And there sacrifices would be made. Animals would be slaughtered on that altar.
Also, you would see on the other side of that as you're moving your way through the courtyard a laver, a big wash basin made out of bronze where the priests would cleanse themselves in the making of these sacrifices, but then as you go from east to west in that enclosure of 150 by 75 feet, you'll see a building made out of tents and hides. And that is the central sanctuary. That is the tabernacle proper, and the measurement of that tent is 15 feet wide by 45 feet deep. It's divided into two rooms.
The first room-- now, you couldn't enter and I couldn't enter because we're not priests, but let's say we're priests, and we go through that first room which is called the holy place. That holy place-- 15 feet wide by 30 feet deep-- and then that last little room there's a curtain that separates the holy place from that last little room. Now, in that holy place, do you remember on the left hand side would be the golden candlestick, the menorah? On the right hand side would be a table of showbread, one loaf of bread for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. And right in the very front would be an altar of incense where the priest would light incense speaking of the prayers of God's people, but then there was that last little room, that cube-- 15 feet, by 15 feet, by about 15 feet high. You couldn't go in there even if you were a priest.
Only one person could enter into that room, and that was the high priest, and he couldn't go in every day. He couldn't say, you know what? I'm kind of bored out here. I want to go hang out with God in the holy of holies. He would be struck dead. He could only go in once a year on a special day called Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and he had to come in with blood.
And he'd walk in with the blood of an animal, and he would sprinkle it on top of an article of furniture. It was the only article of furniture in that little space. In that holy of holies, that one piece of furniture was the Ark of the Covenant. You've seen Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, so you probably have some idea of what it looks like or Hollywood's idea of what it looks like.
The Ark of the Covenant was essentially a box, but a very special box. It was a box measuring 45 inches long, by 27 inches wide, by 27 inches tall. It was made out of wood, covered with gold, but the very top lid made of solid gold with a cherub on one side and a cherub on the other-- these two cherubim whose wings were touching in the center-- that, God said, is the place where I will meet with you. When we're going to meet, that's the only place that I will meet with you. So the priest would go in there, and he would sprinkle the blood on the lid, the mercy seat, of the Ark of the Covenant.
Now, what was all that about? God loved his people. God created us for fellowship with him, but there was a problem. God can't just pull up a chair, and sit down next to you, and go, hey dude, what's up? Let's hang out together. He can't do that. You couldn't do that with God.
We had told you about the high priest. He couldn't just go in any time. He had to go in once a year. His heart had to be right. They even put a rope, tradition tells us, on his ankle in case they heard the bells of his robe stop ringing because that meant he must have fallen over dead, and they would drag him out. So God loved his people, loved a fellowship with his people, but he couldn't meet with his people because they had broken the very law he gave.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God gave them the law, but then the Lord said, oh, that they had a heart that they were able to do all that I have commanded them. God knew they couldn't keep it. So there had to be a transformation, and the transformation happened on the day of Yom Kippur when the priest walked in, and he sprinkled blood on top of the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. At that moment, here's the transformation. It went from a judgment seat to a mercy seat. Now God could have fellowship with his people. Now they could be at one. The idea of atonement is at one-ment. God and man could fellowship together over the shed blood of a victim-- of an animal that took the place of the sinner.
There has to be some substitute that dies for the sinner to allow the sinner to be cleansed and have a relationship with God. All of that was picturing Jesus Christ, who would come and do it once and for all, but at that very moment, the judgment seat was turned to a mercy seat. Forgiveness flowed. Fellowship was restored.
I bring that up because there is a word in the New Testament. Some of you know it. If you're Bible students, you definitely know it. It's the word propitiation. Ever heard of the word propitiation? Propitiation found in the book of Romans, found in first John, is the Greek word-- listen to this hilasterion, which is the Greek word in Hebrews chapter 9. I think it's verse 25-- in describing the tabernacle, the Greek word used to say mercy seat is the word hilasterion.
The mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant is the place of propitiation. So it was a symbol of God's presence. The idea that the Ark of the Covenant now, during this time, would go first over the Jordan River was a picture that God is with us his presence is with us. He's going to go before us and open the way before us. So bring out the Ark. We're crossing over the Jordan. It's God's presence that's going to do the work, and we're going to follow his presence.
Verse 4-- "yet there shall be a space between you and it." How much of a space? It says about 2000 cubits-- 3,000 feet. Now, that's quite a distance between you, the people, and the God who's going to protect you. If you've got protection going in against the enemy, 3,000 feet-- that's a lot of space.
So God is saying I want you to go for it. Follow after me. Follow after the Ark, but give me some space. Give me space to work. I do see a principle here. They were to revere the Ark of the Covenant. Nobody could touch it. Nobody could look on it except for the high priest, as I mentioned, once a year. It was covered. So the Ark of the Covenant was covered over with skins as they were going across, and there was to be a space between the people and the Ark of the Covenant.
You see, the Lord does want fellowship. He does love us. He does invite us to come in and hang out with him. However, he's also to be revered and respected. You can't get so chummy with God that you lose the reverence for God. Some people-- I hear them talk about the big guy in the sky, and they just speak in such familiar terms rather than reverential terms, and I think it's a mistake.
Of course we have fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we come boldly, but we come respectfully. We come reverentially. We come realizing he's God. I'm not. I'm not an equal with him at all. He invites me to be his friend, Jesus said, but I still have the fear of the Lord. So there was to be a space between them and the Ark.
"Do not come near it that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before. And Joshua said to the people, sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." I love that. Sanctify yourself today and watch God work tomorrow. You want to see God work tomorrow? Sanctify yourselves today.
Now what does that mean-- sanctify yourself? Well, if we were to take our cues from Mount Sinai when the same language is used-- sanctify yourself-- what the people did is they washed themselves with water and put on a change of clothes. They went through a ritual cleansing, and then they put on a change of clothes.
This is what David did after he confessed his sin to Nathan the prophet. This is what Jacob did when he comes back to Bethel and renews the covenant with God. It's highly symbolic of starting afresh, starting anew. So sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.
"And Joshua spoke to the priest saying, take up the Ark of the Covenant and cross over before the people. So they took up the Ark of the Covenant, and they went before the people." Let's reminisce again, shall we? Because we've covered the first five books of Moses. Now we're entering into the books of history.
The tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe. You know that. Do you remember that Aaron had three sons? And they were given each different responsibilities in the tabernacle. So there was Gershon, who was the father of the Gershonites. There was Merari, who was over the family of Merari, and there was the Kohathites. Kohath was over the Kohathites. All three of them had different responsibilities in the tabernacle. I'll jog your memory.
The Gershonites-- they had to pack up and carry the cloths, the tents, the hangings, the hides-- all the soft stuff on the tabernacle. They folded it up, and they carried it through the wilderness. The family, or the sons of Merari-- their job was the infrastructure-- the poles, the sockets, the silver hooks, the silver rods, the implements for the pans, et cetera, in the tabernacle. That was their job.
The Kohathites-- that's where the high priests would come from-- the family of Kohath, and the Kohathites-- all of the holy implements-- the altars, both the altar of sacrifice and the altar of incense, the menorah, the table of showbread-- all of that was theirs-- and the Ark of the Covenant. So it is the sons of Aaron, the family of the Kohathites who are bearing the Ark into the River Jordan. This should refresh your memory.
"And the Lord said to Joshua,"-- verse 7-- "this day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel that they may know as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. You shall command the priests who bear the Ark of the Covenant saying, when you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan. You see how different this was from the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses? It's nice if you can just put a rod out, watch it open up first, and then, OK, now I'll go. But this is where the faith comes in. Get your feet wet, man. Stand in it. It's not going to open till you stand in it.
I'm sure they were tempted to say, hey, Josh, could you have him open it first? Then we'll know it's the Lord. Then we'll be happy to go. But no, they had to get their feet wet first.
I personally learned this principle when I moved from California to Albuquerque in the very beginning stages of our ministry. I had a background in radiology. I've told you that story. When I was in Huntington Beach, I sent resumes to hospitals in Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, down to Bowlin. I put all my background, all my education, all my experience. Didn't hear a single word-- not an invitation, not a job offer anywhere from this state.
So I decided a buddy of mine and I would go spy out the land-- two spies. You don't need 12. You just need two. So we came here and looked around, and he was getting involved in a local radio station. And I remember getting up that morning, and I may have been reading Joshua. And after devotion times, I got up early, and I turned to him, and I said, Kent, I'm moving here. He said, well, now wait a minute. I'm moving here. I thought you were just thinking about moving here.
I said, I was, and I am. And not only am I thinking about moving here, I am moving here. He said, well, that's nice. The only problem is you don't have a job. It's a great idea, but you've sent resumes out. You've gotten no offers. I said, I know, but I just feel the Lord's called me. I'm moving here. And I said, look, I'm young. I'm able to work anywhere. I can work in McDonald's. I can flip hamburgers. I'll find work, but I'm moving here.
I decided in the morning after quiet time after breakfast. We stayed at some little hotel on Central. If I showed you where, you'd think, oh my goodness. It's a miracle you survived.
And if I were to describe the room to you, it is a miracle that I survived. I counted the cockroaches the next morning. But I decided to go to some of the offices and hospitals that I had sent my resume into that no offer or thank you, not interested. I decided I'm going to go there anyway. By 12:00 noon, I had not one, not two, but I had three job offers from local hospitals that I could choose from.
So I called my buddy, Kent, and I said, I told you I was moving here. I got three job offers. Now I'm just going to pick the best one. But what made the difference to me was the commitment of faith. I said I feel the Lord is calling me. I'm going to put my feet in the, water and I'm going to walk forward. And it's not like I'm waiting around-- God knows my number, man. He can call me any time he wants to. I'm just hanging out over here on Central in the twilight zone, but I just made the commitment based upon what I read. And I decided I'm going for it, and then the waters parted. And I've always held dear to this principle as a personal principle of how God works. God just wanted to see how deep my commitment ran.
Verse 9-- "so Josh was said to the children of Israel, come here and hear the words of the Lord your God. And Joshua said, by this you shall know that the living God is among you and that he without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanite, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Parazites, the Gergazites, the Amorites, and the Jebuzites." You could throw in termites and everything else. There are seven nations that are mentioned that he would drive out. "Behold the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into Jordan."
Please notice Joshua's reference to God. What does he call God? The living God. Why is that important? Because all of the nations listed here had their own worship systems. They were going into their territory, but all of those worship systems were dead. All of the gods that they worshiped didn't exist. They were made up. They were a fabrication-- a religious fabrication of their own imagination. There's only one true God, only one living God, and so Joshua makes reference to the living God.
I'm going to read it to you-- Psalm 115, the Psalm that says this. "But our God is in heaven. He does whatever he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold-- the work of men's hands." Now listen to how he describes them. "They have mouths, but they do not speak." How frustrating to pray to a God who can't talk to you. You can talk to it, you hope. You're looking at a statue or a picture, and you're talking to it, which is foolish because that little statue can't talk back to you. So you're praying to a god that cannot communicate the will of that god to you in any fashion in any form.
You're talking. You're praying to it, but all you get is, I'm sorry, the number has been disconnected or is no longer in use. How frustrating? They have mouths, but they can't speak.
He continues, "eyes, they have, but they do not see." There is a god that cannot watch over you. You have to watch over it. You have to make sure nobody takes your little God. OK, we're going to sleep tonight. Pack the gods away. Don't want to get them stolen.
You laugh, but when Jacob married Rachel and was fleeing from Laban to go back home, Rachel had taken his little idols-- her father-in-law's little idols, Laban's idols-- with her on the journey. By the time Laban caught up and had a come to Laban meeting with him-- had it out-- finally he burst out in anger and said, why did you steal my gods? Which is a stupid question. If you have to ask that, you're worshipping the wrong god. You stole my gods. What's wrong? Your God can't keep itself from being stolen? I'm the protector of your gods?
Now, that sounds ludicrous, but that is the idea in Psalm 115. "They have eyes, but they do not see." He continues, "they have ears, but they do not hear." So you're talking to the statue. You're pouring out your heart. Look at the ears. It just stops. It just stops right-- there's no hole that goes into the head. It's covered up. There's no membrane. There's no capacity for that deity to hear you at all.
I love Elijah the prophet on Mount Carmel with the contest with the prophets of Baal, and it says he challenges them to that contest. And the prophets of Baal dance, and cut themselves, and they pray loud, and they cry loud. And Elijah the prophet around noon starts mocking them. He says, cry louder. Yell louder, for he is a god, and he might be traveling, or he might be busy. He might be sleeping, and you need to wake up your god.
He's showing them how stupid it is to follow their system of worship. You're praying to gods that don't exist. They might have ears that you put on them, but they can't hear.
He continues, "noses they have, but they don't smell." You can burn incense to it, but can't appreciate your devotion. "They have hands, but they do not handle. Feet they have, but they do not walk, nor do they mutter through their throat." That god cannot come to you when you have a need. You have to go to it. They have feet, but they can't walk.
How different this is from Jesus, who said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age-- Jesus called Emmanuel, God with us. So Joshua wants them to underscore the reality that they're going over into these seven nations. They have a pantheon of gods and goddesses they worship, a religious system that is false, and there is only one true living God who reveals himself to mankind, and that's the one they're trusting. So they're good to go.
By this, you shall know that the living God is among you and that He without fail will drive them out. Verse 11-- "behold the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. Now, therefore, take for yourselves 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe, and it shall come to pass as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off. The waters that come down from upstream-- they shall stand as a heap, and so it was when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan with the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant before the people. And as those who bore the Ark came to the Jordan and the feet of the priests who bore the Ark dipped in the edge of the water, for the Jordan overflows its banks during the whole time of the harvest, that the waters, which came down from upstream stood still and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan."
"So the waters that went down into the sea of the Arabah, the salt sea,"-- that's the Dead Sea we've been talking about-- "failed and were cut off. And the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel crossed over on dry ground until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan."
Now, that would have taken a long time to stand there, because to get two and a half million people across the water, even though it's a wide swath that was cut, would take some time. It is interesting how people try to explain this by natural occurrences, and I understand the need that people have to try to understand something supernatural, but there comes a point where your explanations fall so far short of a plausible reality in your trying to make it a plausible reality that it's laughable. And it's just easier to believe the biblical narrative than the thing you're trying to come up with.
So people have tried to say, well, probably what happened was an earthquake that caused the banks of the Jordan to fall in and dam it up so they could go across. And in that explanation, they will point to two occurrences where this actually happened at this spot in the Jordan River. One happened during the 1200s. It's in the history books, or history parchments, but it's recorded in the 1200s. Around the same area, an earthquake took place, and the banks of the Jordan River slid down and for 10 hours blocked the Jordan River up. It happened again a second time in 1927. An earthquake caused the embankment to stop the Jordan River for 21 hours.
The problem is this. Both of those instances did not happen in the springtime, the flood season, when you have waters up to a mile-- making the Jordan River a mile wide. This happened at flood season. Number two, if it is an earthquake, it's pretty cool because as soon as they touch the water with their feet the earthquake set off the embankment, and it collided. That would be a miracle. Number three, it tells us that the water stood up in a heap. The waters were in a heap. You have to explain that somehow. You have to get around that.
Number four-- I think I'm on number four. The bottom part of the river that had been wet from-- it would still be wet. Even if there was an earthquake, the riverbed would still be muddy, but it became dry ground instantly. And then as soon as they were over, the waters resumed. So you have a lot of things to overcome in a natural explanation.
I find-- I've told you before. Once I get past Genesis 1:1, it's downhill from there. Let's see. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Well, if that happened, I'm good with this. I think you can just go, eh, stop. Dry. Go ahead. Back. I prefer the supernatural explanation over any natural explanation. In fact, I think it takes more faith to believe the natural explanation because there are just too many obstacles to get around, too many coincidences to get around.
Before we jump into the next chapter, fast forward from this time 1500 years. 1500 years in the future, a man will come down from Jerusalem to this very area and baptize people here-- John the Baptist. John the Baptist baptized in this exact area. John chapter 1 verse 28 tells us it was the area of Bethabara-- you remember in your New Testament. Bethabara means the house of passage or the place of crossing. So he went down there to baptize people for the remission of sins in the Jordan River.
"And it came to pass," verse 1, "when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan that the Lord spoke to Joshua saying, take for yourselves 12 men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them saying take for yourself 12 stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan from the place where the priests feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight. Then Joshua called the 12 men whom he appointed from the children of Israel-- one man out of every tribe-- and Joshua said to them, cross over before the Ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel."
So they put a stone on their shoulder. I don't know how big it was, but they had to travel eight miles to where they're going to camp at a place called Gilgal, and they're going to set that up as a memorial, as we will see, before the Lord. Just remember Gilgal in your study of the Old Testament. It becomes a very important place to the children of Israel. It's the place where King Saul will be crowned first King of Israel. It is the place where King David will be received back into his kingdom after the revolt of his son Absalom. He will come to Gilgal, and that will sort of be the gateway for him to go back up into Jerusalem and resume the throne of the kingdom of Judah.
Gilgal was so important that Samuel the prophet included Gilgal as part of his preaching circuit when he would go around the southern parts and give his prophecies to the children of Israel. So it becomes very important in their history-- a very sacred place, a very solemn place, a place of memorial before the Lord. And so they took up stones.
I love God's monuments. If you compare God's monuments to men's monuments-- when you commission an artist to build a monument, they go all out. It's a high budget. It's going to be very ornate, whether it's the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or the Arch of Titus in Rome. It's grand. It's awesome. It's jaw dropping. What I like about God-- he goes, just get some stones. Let's keep this simple, shall we? Just get 12 rocks and just stick them on the ground, and when people say, what are those rocks doing there? You can tell them the story, because the story is more important than the monument.
So when we go to Israel-- and one of the reasons I love going and taking tours to Israel-- even though I've been 38 times, I love going for this reason. There's something about sitting on the stones. Sometimes I'll find a stone, or I'll just sit on the dirt for a time of worship and Bible study, and to be in that land, and to look around where those things happened, there are many buildings. There are many churches in the area, but as a tour group, we rarely go into churches unless we have to, because I sort of feel like they've spoiled it.
They say this is the place where Jesus was crucified, or this is the place where the tomb is, but you go in, and you just see another ornate church that you could find in New York City. It looks just like it. So you're going, boy, it's sort of hard for me to picture that somebody was killed here or somebody rose from a tomb. Where is the tomb again? You just have to take their word that that's where it was, because it's covered up by their church.
So I love going out and just being a part of the land and seeing God's monuments. It's much better than those churches. And in fact, we've gotten kicked out of some of the churches, because if you're a little too loud and obnoxious or your sing-- if you're happy-- well, we've had a tour group kicked out of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. This is where Jesus was born, so we started singing. Oh, you can't sing. This is a church. Did you just hear yourself? Was that weird?
One guy had shorts on, and oh no, you can't wear shorts in a church. God doesn't like to look at knees. Got to cover up. So let's just go out to the dirt out here, and sit out here, and picture where the shepherds were, and where this happened, and forget this. So I love God's monuments. Just bring these stones. Set them up, man. Keep it simple.
Verse 6-- "that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come saying, what do these stones mean to you? Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord when it crossed over the Jordan. The waters of the Jordan were cut off, and these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever. And the children of Israel did so just as Joshua commanded. They took up 12 stones as the Lord had spoken to Joshua according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up 12 stones in the midst of the Jordan"-- this is a second monument-- "in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant stood." And there they are to this day.
"So the priests who bore the Ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua, and the people hurried and crossed over. Interesting that Moses decided-- it seems on his own-- to place that second set of stones in the midst of the Jordan. God commanded him to set up a memorial with the first set of stones, but he didn't command him-- at least the text doesn't tell us he did. It seemed that Joshua just decided he wanted to do that.
Now, I say it's interesting, because once the water covers it over, who's going to see it? Nobody except God, and maybe sort of that was the idea-- is that this is sort of a monument, a statement I am making for me to remember this is the place where we buried the past. Remember, Joshua was there years before when they should have gone into the land, and everybody said, no, we're not going because of the giants. Joshua and Caleb were still alive now, and they remember we should have gone 40 years ago, but we didn't, but we're going now.
And so he placed those stones in there perhaps to say the past is gone. It's buried. It's covered over, and God sees that sort of like what it says in Romans chapter 6. "We were buried with him through baptism unto death that just as Christ was raised by the glory of God the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life." That's the past. It's buried. It's covered. God sees it. Nobody else has to. We're moving on. But the first set of stones, the 12 set up at Gilgal-- one day the kids would see this odd little configuration and say, daddy, what's up with those rocks over there? They look like they were put there by somebody. Well, son, I'm glad you asked, and they would use that as a teaching point, a teaching moment to transmit God's truth to the next generation, which is high on God's list.
Deuteronomy chapter 6-- "you shall impress these truths upon your children. You shall talk with them as you go on the road. You shall speak with them as you sit down, as you rise up. You shall place the scripture on the doorpost of your house. You put it on your forehead and on your hand so you're always reminded. You take what you know, and you pass it to the next generation. And so this set of stones were too instruct them.
"Then it came to pass," verse 11, "that all the people had completely crossed over, that the Ark of the Lord and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people." Probably panting. Been there all day. "And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel as Moses had spoken to them. About 40,000 prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle to the plains of Jericho." 40,000-- according to Numbers chapter 26, there was like 139,900 and some fighting men aged 20 and above that became the standing army for the two and a half tribes east of the Jordan. This represents 29% of the total going over to fight the battle.
Why did the rest stay behind, the two thirds? It's simple. There's wives and children on that side of the Jordan. They still need to be protected. So a fighting force of 40,000 foot soldiers from those two and a half tribes will go over because they made a promise to Moses-- will settle the land, then will go back. And so a third of the standing army goes. Two thirds stay at home to protect the wife, the kids, sheep, oxen, cats, dogs, grandmas, and grandpas, whatever.
"On that day, the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they feared him as they had feared Moses all the days of his life. Then the Lord spoke to Joshua saying, command the priests who bear the Ark of the testimony to come up from the Jordan. Joshua, therefore, commanded the priests saying, come up from the Jordan, and it came to pass when the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet touched the dry land. The waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all of its banks as before. Now the people came up from the Jordan on the 10th day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those 12 stones which they took out of the Jordan Joshua set up in Gilgal."
We know it was the springtime, because it says in that verse it was the 10th day of the first month. Remember, the Lord had said in the Torah concerning the month of Nisan said this shall be the beginning of months for you. On the 10th day of the month-- do you recall what happened on the 10th day of the month of Nisan? That's when the lambs would be selected by the household for the Passover. Four days later, on the 14th day of Nisan, that's when the lamb would be slaughtered for the family.
Why is that significant? Because 15 years later Jesus will stand on the Mount of Olives just a few miles from this ready to go into Jerusalem on the 10th day of the first month, presenting himself as the lamb to the nation, but let's finish this out.
"Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying, when your children ask their fathers in time to come saying, what are these stones? Then you shall let your children know, saying, Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land, for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you crossed over as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up before us until we had crossed over."
Now, I want you to notice something. It is time to go, and we're going to pray in 30, 45 seconds, a minute and a half, two minutes. This is an instruction to fathers. You didn't say, dad, go out and do the work and leave the raising of the kids, especially spiritual training, to the womenfolk. Fathers did this. The instruction never was take your kids to Sunday school, or Sabbath school, or Levite school, or whatever it was, but you impress upon them. You teach them.
The book of Proverbs is essentially the instruction of a father to his children, teaching them what's important and what's not important, a foolish way to live versus a wise way to live. Put God first, not your own interest first-- the fear of the Lord versus the fear of man. And in that book, in the 22nd chapter, it says train up a child. It's instruction to his son, who would have his own kids. Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
So much of a child's well-being, so much of a child's foundational confidence comes from a father's example and training in a home. Fathers were to do this, and God's command as a heavenly Father was to earthly fathers "that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord-- that it his mighty and that you may fear the Lord your God forever."
So sanctify yourself today. Watch God work tomorrow. . Take what you have and be determined to pass it on to kids and grandkids. Pass it on to the next generation. If you don't, remember that Christianity is only one generation away from extinction-- one generation away.
One of the saddest sights I ever saw was going to England and looking at some of the great churches of that country that have been turned into mosques, turned into cafes, coffee shops, homes. Churches abandoned-- they become irrelevant. The great structures of faith that at one time overflowed with people sell for cheap. One generation away from extinction.
Not only train your children, fathers. Live the life before them. They're watching. They're watching your tone with your wife. They're watching how you resolve conflict. They're watching how you talk about her parents and your parents. They're registering that. That's how they'll talk about you in the future.
They soak in so much. When it says train up a child in the way that he should go, the Hebrew word for train up is [HEBREW], which means stimulate the taste buds of a child. And a word the Hebrews use-- there's a similar word in Arabic. They would take with their little finger when a child was learning to go to its mother's breast-- they would take some date honey in the finger, and they would take a little daub of date honey, and they would take it on the pursed lips of the infant and touch. And that would stimulate the sucking reflex.
The little child would go-- it's sweet. It's like, give me more of that stuff wherever that's coming from. That's like crack cocaine. Give me more of that. Sorry for the analogy, but you get it. It's like, whoa, sugar, man. And so in stimulating the sucking reflex, then they would teach that child to drink from its mother because that reflex is now working. So train up a child. Stimulate the taste of a child by the way you live as well as what you say, because that's passing it on to the next generation, because one day we'll be gone, and they take the reins.
So Father, we thank you for this generation. We thank you for the wonders and works you have done in our midst, but Lord, we know that there's more to come. The best is yet to come. We look forward to what you are going to do in our midst, and we just give ourselves to you, Lord, as living sacrifices and ask that you would do your work through us to people we meet tomorrow, to our family members we're going to see tonight, to our children we're going to pick up from the Sunday school in just a little bit. Lord, help us to be just the kind of men and women that stimulate the taste of these younguns to follow after you in Jesus' name. Amen.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.