Joshua 4:1-24 Going beyond fixation on grace to the Lordship of Christ
After all of Israel had crossed over Jordan River to the west part of Canaan, God commanded them to make a memorial at the campsite and at the middle of Jordan. The purpose of the memorial was to educate future generations, to instill in them the fear of God, which is the recognition of God’s glory and majesty along with trust. In today’s passage, we learn that in order to increase our capacity to work miracles, we must go beyond the fixation on grace to the Lordship of Christ. It is through discipline and obedience on a daily basis, that we increase our capacity to work miracles as Christ did.
Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight. ’” 4 So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; 5 and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 6 Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.
God was not about to let this great miraculous moment pass; God’s acts of salvation on behalf of Israel must be epitomized and perpetuated in the memory of future generations. This would be accomplished by way of a memorial built through the participation of all Israel. Twelve men… one man from each tribe are to take up from here out of the middle of the Jordan, twelve stones to be carried to the lodging place where you will lodge. The memorial situated at the campsite made by stones taken from the middle of Jordan was to be a reminder of what God had done for His people: Israel had indeed crossed over on dry ground into Canaan west of Jordan!
8 Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the Lord spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there. 9 Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed 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; 11 and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed before the people.
Not only was a memorial built at the campsite, but the very spot where the priests’ feet rested in the middle of Jordan should also receive a memorial. God’s miracles cannot be divorced from His covenantal presence, which was the ark of the covenant. The purpose of this second memorial was to point to the role of the ark of the covenant which went ahead to part the Jordan River while remaining in the middle until all Israel crossed over. In order for God’s people to be successful, they must constantly dwell the covenantal presence of God in love and obedience.
12 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half- tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; 13 about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the Lord to the desert plains of Jericho. 14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life.
15 Now the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” 18 It came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before.
19 Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20 Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones? ’ 22 then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground. ’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.
The miracle of the crossing was conducted under the leadership of Joshua. For Joshua, the parallel with Moses was striking as the people revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life. The comparable scale of the miracle crossing at Jordan (with the Red Sea crossing) had elevated Joshua to God’s accredited spokesman. As a result, the fear and respect that Israel had for Moses was transferred to Joshua.
Once again, the purpose of the memorial was to educate future generations. Parents must tell their children in connection with these memorial stones: Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground. The thrust of the message was God’s faithful and eternal presence with His people under all circumstances, from Moses to Joshua, and from the Red Sea to the Jordan River. The intended effect was to instill the fear of God, which is the recognition of God’s glory and majesty along with trust.
To increase our capacity to work miracles, we must go beyond the fixation on grace to the Lordship of Christ. Miracles are divine interventions, an injection of God’s grace and power into the human world. By reiterating God’s willingness to bless and by dwelling on teachings that concerns Christ’s finished work on the cross is not sufficient in bringing on more miracles. What can increase our capacity to work miracles and overcome life’s challenges concerns the degree we surrender our lives to Christ. If God’s people will obey His instructions in the mundane endeavors of life and walk in righteousness, they will possess implicitly the authority to work miracles. The gift of miracles is not derived from a technique or an optimistic mindset but a lifestyle based on trust and the fear of God. God commanded Israel to build the memorial at the Jordan crossing so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever. It is God’s intention that His mighty works may bring greater trust and obedience in His people. It is through a lifestyle of obedience that we increase our capacity to work miracles as Christ did.
Whenever we face difficulties, we remember our “Jordan crossing” and wait for His instructions. As believers, we have in time past experienced miracles that testified of God’s provisions and protection over our lives. These are likened to “Jordan crossings” which must be epitomized and remembered for our benefit and our children’s benefit. Past miracles function as seeds that can produce faith for future miracles. As God was faithful in time past, He will remain faithful in the future. The reason God required the Israelites to build the memorial was so that the miracle may remain active, not remote or inoperative in the minds of future generations. In doing so, they would have adequate foundation to exercise their own faith in God when the storm arose. Many believers are immediately gripped by fear when they encounter danger. Their prayers appear like desperate cries devoid of faith and understanding. The concept of remembering in the Hebrew culture is more than calling to mind. It involves remembering with intimate concern; it also implies a reflection, an immersion into one’s past. The result is a deeper conviction, hope and a call to take the problem by its horns.
We must not focus on miracles but on God’s covenantal presence. Miracles, although visible, are but a result of something that is invisible to the eye, which is God’s covenantal presence. The ark of the covenant was not the presence of God per se, but only a symbol of it. Most people in their attempt to bring on a miracle focus on keeping their minds free of doubts or by invoking the name of Jesus in moments of desperation. The fact is: miracles only follow after God’s covenantal presence. In the Jordan crossing, the people only need to follow behind the footsteps of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant and all Israel crossed over on dry ground. As long as we follow after God’s covenantal presence, there is no lack of miracles. God’s covenantal presence is the source of all power to overcome insurmountable challenges. How do we follow after God’s covenantal presence? Joshua would not move or make decisions without God’s expressed instructions. Many churchgoers create their own directives and insist that God go before them. They follow after their hearts’ desires and pray, “In Jesus’ name, I declare that God’s favor is with me!” God will surely not answer such soulish prayers! But rather, we should ask: where is God going and how we should follow? Man must follow God. And not the other way around!
- When you encounter problems, do you immediately look for solutions and cry to God for help? Or do you bring to mind your “Jordan crossings” and wait for His instructions? Before you pray, you must acquire peace and understanding by bringing to mind your “Jordan crossings.” This will enable you to draw divine strength and wisdom to handle the problems at hand.
- Are you addicted to romantic and emotional preoccupations of God’s love thinking that would secure His blessings and miracles? Love towards God is not an emotion but a commitment to His Lordship being obedient to all His instructions. When God’s people focus on discipline and obedience to His word, to work miracles becomes their second nature.
Dear Lord, I thank you for my “Jordan crossings” through which I draw faith and confidence to overcome my challenges at hand. As I acknowledge you as my Lord, grant me greater discipline to put off the weaknesses of my flesh. When I stray in my own folly, cause me to quickly turn back to your pathways. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.