Imagine! Something new and exciting was about to happen for the Lord’s people. They were at the cusp of their conquest of Canaan—their promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey. But the officers of the Israel’s camp brought a surprising command to the people. Once the Levitical priests bearing the arc of the covenant of the Lord their God began to move, they were to follow, though at a safe distance of 2,000 cubits. Joshua told the people to consecrate themselves for the Lord would do wonders among them!
Their great numbers, camped next to the Jordan’s swollen banks, were to cross those rushing waters. Can you put yourself in their shoes? Can you hear the rushing waters, see the overflow of the banks, and realize this is an impossible task for anyone wishing to cross in their own strength?
That next day, as soon as the priests put their obedient feet in the water, the Lord of all the earth rested in the water. Jordan river backed up in a heap all the way back to the city called Adam. Israel crossed over on dry ground, much like when Israel crossed the Red Sea. God’s miraculous timing showed that at the obedience of the priests, this powerful, living God parted the rushing harvest-time waters so wide that the people could cross with their great numbers and possessions. Joshua declared the words of the Lord their God. “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and He will assuredly dispossess from before you. . .” God had a plan and he wanted Israel in the promised land He’d chosen for them.
Twelve men chosen from the twelve tribes of Israel took up twelve stones from where the priests stood firm in the midst of the Jordan. They obediently followed Joshua’s order to carry the stones on their shoulders to the place where they lodged. When everything was finished that the Lord commanded then Joshua told the priests to come up out of the Jordan. As soon as the priests stepped on dry ground the waters fell into place and overflowed the banks as before.
Joshua set up these stones in Gilgal as a memorial to the children of Israel forever. Forever for all the people of the earth to know that He had dried up the waters of the Jordan for Israel to cross, because the hand of the Lord is mighty and for us to fear (revere, respect, hold in esteem) the Lord God Forever!
I taught this lesson for Sunday school and this powerful message gripped me and wouldn’t let go. When I think of the details in chapters three and four of the book of Joshua, I imagine the feelings that I'd experience in that situation. So encumbered by human weakness, I'd see the impossible move out of the way, so that I could move forward into His blessings and promises!
I went to Bible study with friends the next day and found these stones stacked one upon another in a gift and sandwich shop. I felt this could be my memorial to my mighty, loving, and all powerful Father. I’m sure that Joshua placed the twelve tribe’s stones in a much different construction, but no matter—when I look at my stack of river rocks, I remember my Jordans and smile!