Joshua-Wayne Barber/Part 7
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004
|I don’t know about you, but the hardest lessons I’m having to learn are the ones I thought I already knew. You see, it’s interesting, God can do great things in our life, and then we turn right around and act as if He doesn’t even exist.
The Need to remember (Joshua 4)
I want you to turn with me to Joshua 4. We’re going to talk tonight about the need to remember; the need to remember, as we cover this whole chapter. It is so awesome to be in the Old Testament because it’s a narrative and you can get in the current and let it carry you. It’s a great flow.
The word “remember” is used 168 times in Scripture. Think it might be important? The word “remind” is used 9 times, so 177 times from Genesis to Revelation, God uses that very thought; to remember, to be reminded. I don’t know about you, but the hardest lessons I’m having to learn are the ones I thought I already knew. You see, it’s interesting, God can do great things in our life, and then we turn right around and act as if He doesn’t even exist. Well, last week we saw how the Israelites stepped into the water of God’s will. They crossed over, they finally crossed over the Jordan River; the flooded Jordan River. They were now in the land God had given to them. Now God’s unchangeable will for them to be able to get over there was that if they’re going to possess what they already have, if we’re going to possess what we already have, it’s going to have to be two things: 1) we must focus on Him—“Jesus, be the center of our life. Jesus, be the fire in my heart, Jesus be the wind in my sails.” That’s what we just saw. We focus on Him, and once we focus on Him, then 2) we must learn to consecrate ourselves to Him. I don’t believe it comes the opposite way. I’m glad that’s the way it’s taught us here, that you focus on Him first and then the consecrating of yourself to Him.
The Israelites were instructed to put the Ark 3,000 feet in front of them so that everybody could see it. But why: because it was symbolic of the presence of God. Now, did God dwell inside that Ark? No! But that Ark was very special to them and it symbolized His presence with them. As a matter of fact, it was stolen from them later on in their history and they kept thinking that something was mystical about that Ark. No, it’s God’s presence with them, but they needed to focus on that. It’s just like with us, we have got to learn to focus on Christ. He is our Ark, and we went through this last time together. We cannot look at the circumstance; we’ve got to learn to look at Him who is our provider in the midst of that circumstance.
Then Joshua told the people to consecrate themselves unto God. Once they saw the Ark, now it comes time to consecrate. In Joshua 3:5, “Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’” Once we have our focus on Him, I honestly believe that it’s only then that we begin to understand why it is that we need to consecrate ourselves to Him, to yield our lives to Him. Because once you get in His presence, everything pales to nonexistence, and you begin to realize that there’s nothing else you could turn to. That’s why you’d want to consecrate yourself unto Him. Only He can take us into His will.
But not only is His will unchangeable, His works are unexplainable. You see, when we begin to focus on Him and consecrate ourselves to Him, then we begin to experience and we partake of what He says is already ours. I honestly believe this. I had a man say this to me years ago, “If we can explain what’s going on in our lives, then obviously, it’s not Him.” Because when God moves, it’s really unexplainable. You try; you do the best you can; but you really can’t take someone to that level where you have met with God. In 3:14 it says, ‘“So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan, with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant before the people,” it goes on to say in 15-16, the priests put their feet into the water and that water backed up 17 miles, or 17 miles away it rose up in a heap and refused to flow. The bottom of the river bed dried up with the priest standing out in the middle of it so that the people could cross over it. What a day!
The thing I love about Joshua is, Joshua didn’t ask Him how they were going to cross it. Joshua just did what He told him to do. Joshua knew that He had already parted the Red Sea, so He knew that whatever God said, you just stepped out on it. That’s His word and it’ll carry you through. He just trusted God to do it.
The water stopped flowing at 17 miles away. Can you imagine the wall of water that was? Well, maybe Mel Gibson will make a movie on that one day and we can get a picture of it. What an overwhelming circumstance though, that they faced. Let me ask you this question and let’s just get into the message tonight. What is it this week—because I asked you this last week and it changes from day to day sometimes and sometimes the situation you face just gets bigger—what is the overwhelming circumstance that you’re facing right now in your life? God says, “My life is within you. I don’t want you to experience My land; I want you to experience My life. I’ve created this circumstance to teach you to trust Me. Are you willing to step into the flooded rivers of My will?”
Simon Peter was out in the boat—you know I love Simon Peter—the only time he ever opened his mouth was to change feet! He’s one of my favorite people in the New Testament. I mean, impetuous is not even the word for it. And when they were in the storm crossing the Sea of Galilee that time, the Lord Jesus came walking out across the water and He was intending to go right on by them. The interesting thing was that Peter yelled out, “Lord, is that you?” And Jesus said—my way of saying it—“Yes, it’s Me!” “Well, if it’s You, bid me come to You.” “Well, come on, son.” And Peter got out of the boat. Have you ever thought about the fact that he didn’t step on the water? “Oh, he did too, Wayne.” Now wait a minute! Think about it for a second. He didn’t step on the water, he stepped on the Word. Jesus said, “Come,” and he stepped out. And everything that was over his head was under his feet. There’s an incredible picture. The only time he sunk was when he got his eyes off the One that he had stepped out upon His word and His will. Then he sunk. But thank God he got out of the boat. That’s what I love about him. At least he got out of it.
Well, there’s no fear when we trust God; no fear whatsoever. Joshua had no fear; the people might have, but he did not and the priests that went out did not. When we trust God, as John said in one of his epistles, “perfect love casts out all fear.”
Well, not only was God’s will unchangeable—focus on Him, consecrate yourself to Him; and God’s works are unexplainable—you can’t explain a river stopping flowing 17 miles away, there’s no way to explain that to anybody; but His wisdom was unsearchable. I guarantee it says in one verse, and we’ll read through it tonight, we won’t really stop to comment on it, said they “hurried” to get across.
Would you hurry to get across? The water is 17 miles back, the priests are out in the middle and it’s a mile across. At flood time it was a mile across. In normal days it was 100 feet, but it’s a mile flooded out. Well, in verse 17 He had the priests to stand in the middle of the river Jordan. That was such wisdom! He had them stand in the middle; they couldn’t cross over, they couldn’t complete their journey until everybody else had crossed. They held the Ark for the rest of them to go over. And that Ark, again, being the Ark of God’s presence; it was God holding that river back. And as long as they could see that Ark, and as long as they could see those priests, the fear diminished, and buddy, they got across that river.
Such wisdom that God has. I shared with you last week, I really believe this is the way He works in body of Christ. People that have gone on in the journey and you see them in the midst of their terrible circumstances standing on the Word and the Will of God and God holding them up gives us courage to go on and cross the waters that God puts before us.
Well, with them was the Ark. This is where we pick up our story. The priests are still standing in the middle of that river bed holding the Ark and the people now have crossed over, they’re on the other side. Now, why would God do this? The only thing separating them from what God said was theirs was that flooded river, and yet He made them go through it, and He did it in such a miraculous way. Why would God do that? What is it about that experience He wanted them to remember years later in their life as they faced a different test in the land? Well, there are three things that I want to talk to you about tonight that came out of chapter 4.
You know, when I study these chapters I just meditate on them for days and just read it over and over and over again, and just let it soak. And finally, I just love it when you sit down and don’t know really where you’re going and then it just starts coming together. And this is what God put on my heart: three things.
- A lesson that was to direct their life
First of all, that miraculous crossing of the Jordan River was a lesson that was to direct their life. He gave them a lesson; He taught them what faith was right there. And this lesson was to direct their life, I could have put forever. This was to be how they were to live forever, even though they wouldn’t cross any more rivers, they would have to face other battles: He wanted them to know what faith was. He wanted them to have a memorial of what He wanted to do in their life.
Joshua 4:1, “Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua saying, “Take for yourself twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe 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 [that’s significant but won’t come up for a little bit] where you will lodge tonight.’”
Now, He mentioned this back in chapter 3 and last time I was with you I told you that we’re not going to talk about it until we get here, and here we are. After crossing over the river they were to go back to where the priests were still standing. He hadn’t let them come over, come out of the river bed, because the moment they move with that Ark the river would come crashing back down and flood its banks. They were to pick up one, and evidently heavy, stone. Now each one of them from the 12 different tribes, each one of them was to pick up a stone at the feet of those priests standing in the middle of the Jordan River. Again, the stones were so heavy they had to carry them on their shoulders.
Verse 4, “So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had already appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe, and Joshua said to them, ‘Cross again to the Ark of the Lord your God and into the middle of the Jordan and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder [now you don’t pick up a light stone and carry it on your shoulder, so it’s probably heavy], according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.’” Now these 12 stones that these representatives from each tribe would pick up were going to end up being a reminder to the nation.
Now, two things: first of all, of what God had done. But that’s not it, that’s not all of it. Secondly was how He went about doing it. It other words, anybody can believe that God can do anything at any time, but faith is not based on what He can do; faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. And so it was two things it would remind them of: not just that God could, but the fact of how He goes about doing what He does. In verse 6: “Let this be a sign among you.” The word “sign” means a memorial or a reminder. These 12 stones would remind Israel and their future generations that when they believed God, when they trusted God, they could enter into what God said was theirs.
Verse 6 continues, “so that when your children ask later saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you,’ 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.” Now, you’ve got to get into the story, and it’s hard for me to do this because I don’t have any other way to do this but what I say. Israel, because of disobedience, had for 40 years wandered confused and not knowing what was happening. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness. And only for one reason: this land was also theirs at that time, but they refused to believe God. Spies had come over years before, 40 years before, Joshua and Caleb were two of the spies that came back and said, “Let’s go, man, we can eat these guys for lunch.” And the people said, “No, they’re as big as grasshoppers,” and the people listened to the majority and so congregational rule won out and they walked around Mt. Sinai for 40 years until that whole generation died in the wilderness.
Now, here we have a fresh, brand new generation led by Joshua. And Caleb is also in this mix, he’ll come up later on. And Joshua is going to take them across, but they have made a different choice: to focus on God and to consecrate themselves to Him and to believe Him. And as a result of that, they finally, finally, crossed over into that which God had already given to them. And how had they crossed? God had miraculously parted the waters. And why did He do it that way? To teach them straight out what faith is all about. If I’m not in a crisis, if I’m not desperate for Him, then faith is not even needed. If everything is going well, there’s money in the bank, the skies are blue and everybody is happy, what’s the deal? But God has a way of putting us in situations and circumstances that drive us to the end of ourselves. And when we get there we find what we’ve been looking for. And He says, “That’s it, right there! That’s it, right there! Remember this; remember this, because there’s another storm coming.”
These 12 stones were to stand as a reminder forever to the nation of Israel for generations to come of how to possess what was theirs that God had already given to them. And I want to make sure that we don’t be too redundant, but I want to make sure you hear me: God had already laid it out to Joshua in chapter 1, way back when we started the book. In verse 3 there He said, “Every place which the sole of your foot treads upon, Joshua. I’m not fooling with you, son, I’m not fooling with you. You’re a different man, you’re a different generation. I’m not going to mess with you, I’m telling you one thing: I’m going to let you go over, but when you go over, yes, I’ve given you the land, but just don’t run over there and think you’re going to get it overnight. Every place that you treat as holy, every step that you take as holy; I’m going to give that land to you. But, Joshua, when you choose not to obey me, remember this, you’re not going to get what you already have in Me. You’re not going to experience it. There’s only one way to appropriate it and that’s by faith.”
Walking in obedience required being in His Word, that what He said in 1:7, “Be careful to do all according to the law which Moses my servant commanded you.” And then in verse 8 He says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth”—remember our message on that?—“but you shall meditate in it day and night.” I don’t know how difficult it is and I don’t want to sound legalistic, because you can get into the Word anytime you want to get into the Word. If it’s four o’clock in the morning, if it’s at night, but the Word of God has got to start getting into our lives. Jesus said, “I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” “But Wayne, you’re not going to experience it except to the degree that you focus on Me and consecrate yourself to Me and get into My Word and let My Word get into you. Then, as you take every step as holy you will then experience what is already yours.”
Do you understand how much counseling that would eliminate? Of how many people come thinking they needed counseling, but what they really need is discipleship? Prescriptive discipleship? They need desperately for somebody to set them down and walk them through this very thing. Well, we saw in our review of chapter 3, says basically the same thing. And when they did this, God did the miracle. He removed the barrier between them and what was theirs, but only when they were willing to consecrate themselves and focus on Him. They were never to forget this. They were never to forget this. To walk in God’s will, yielded to Him, surrendered to His will; it is only then when we possess what we already have.
I was doing a conference which had about 5,000 pastors, actually youth pastors, from every denomination. They asked me what I wanted to do a seminar on, and I told them I wanted to do a seminar on: Is ministry something you achieve for God or is ministry something you receive from God? Well, I thought nobody would show up, but they showed up, standing room only, 350 at least in this big area they gave me to meet with them. I taught out of the Scriptures and showed them that the gifts and the ministry and the affect doesn’t come from man and man cannot manipulate it, manufacture it or produce it. God has to do it. When I finished they just sat there and looked at me, and I’m kind of like, “Okay, thank you for coming, see you later.” They didn’t move. They just sat there. They kept sitting there. I’m thinking, “Okay, what do I do now?”
Finally one of them raised his hand and said, “Can I say something?” And I said sure. He said, “As I listened to you today and it began to break, that is exactly as I came, I was reminded of how, when I got into ministry, when I first started, that I could not do it. That if I didn’t get my life surrendered to Christ and let Jesus be Jesus in me, I would never understand what ministry is all about.” And, man, he began to break, you could see it all over. But this guy was standing there and he broke, and he said, “I’ve gotten under the pressure of people trying to put numbers over me and over the last several years I’ve lost my joy, I’ve lost my focus. You have brought back to my mind what I had forgotten about what it’s all about.” And he sat down and another one said, “Can I say something?”
One hour and forty-five minutes almost or maybe a little longer than that, we held up another group because I didn’t know what to do. People standing up and saying, “Oh, dear God, what’s wrong with us? We’re going about ministry the way the world goes about business. We have forgotten. We have forgotten.”
And God said to the nation of Israel, “You build this memorial because I don’t want you to forget how it works.” It’s never any different, it’s simple, but oh, is it ever profound. These 12 stones show how intensely personal this is, because there were 12 tribes. Each tribe had to get a stone to remember. You see, as a nation, they took the land, yes as a nation, but each tribe had to take their allotment. They had to go in and take their group: Dan, the tribe of Dan did not do it, and the tribe of Dan is completely erased in the book of Revelation as even being a part of Israel because they disobeyed God. So each one had to take on their own responsibility. Boy, that hit me: as a church, corporately, we can enter what God has for us all only to the degree that individually we’re willing to walk in the light God has given to us. Like my son said, “The strength of the wolf is in the pack.” And when everyone starts walking that way, then collectively the strength of the whole is manifested and we can walk into that which God has given us. And this truth must govern our life.
Now, I want you to do something for me tonight, a little different from what we normally do. I want you just to close your eyes. I’m not going to do anything strange, just relax! If you’re visiting tonight this is not going to be strange! I want you to close your eyes, draw a circle around yourself as if nobody else is here, and I’m not through with the message so when I finish this, don’t get up and leave. I want you with your eyes closed to think back over your life as a believer. And I want you to think of the times that you cried out to God. God wanted you to experience something about Himself, and He put a flooded river in front of you in some circumstance. And in the desperation of the moment He spoke to your heart and you said yes to Him and to His will and you stepped out into the waters of His will and God parted the waters. Now, whatever that means to you—I’m not trying to put words in your mouth or thoughts in your mind—but I want you to think back, certainly when you got saved, you know for a fact that you can start there, but come on down the road a piece, when you were going through that valley and you cried out and God met you in a way, you knew this about Him mentally, but you’d never experienced it before. And God manifested Himself to your life.
Now, let me ask you one more thing. Have you forgotten what caused that to happen then, and are you living in that way now? Has there ever been a time in your life that you loved Jesus more than you love Him tonight? And you can look back and reclaim Him, but for some odd reason it’s not there now. Now do you see why He wants to put this memorial? We tend to forget. If you’re like me, we tend to forget. Okay, you can look up, and see: nothing strange happened. I just wanted you to think with me. So often you hear a message like this and you hear it about Israel and you think, “Man, that’s nice, that’s a really nice message.” And you walk out and you don’t somehow make the connection: connect the dots. God’s speaking to all of us. God’s moved in our life, and when He did, we experienced Him, the life He has given us, like we’ve never known it before.
Well, each time God has taken you through the flooded river of circumstance in your life, somehow ask Him to make this a reminder, because you’re going to go through more. You’re either in a storm, you’ve just come out of a storm, or you’re going into a storm. So don’t get real excited if you’re not in one right now. And life is orchestrated this way. But let’s don’t forget the lessons we’ve already learned and they’re always the same thing: trust Me, focus on Me, consecrate yourself to Me. Let this be a memorial to you.
I was thinking back when I first learned the lesson that God was my provider. Not the church, not a ministry, but God was my provider. It was difficult at the time because I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of provision. And I got hold of Luke 6:38 and a friend of mine gave me a tape, and I took it home and listened to it and I listened to it. And I began to learn what God said about giving in my life. And I thought, “Wait a minute, I’m not anxious about giving, I’m anxious about getting!” But I saw that you give to get so that you can give again. You never give to get so that you can can all you get and sit on a can and poison the rest. You always want to keep it in the flow, and I had never really understood God being my provider. That’s why I always argued and griped about my salary and everything else. That’s why I was always looking for a better church with a bigger salary, because I didn’t trust God to be my provider. And yet, this is my birthright, this is who He made Himself to me. I didn’t have enough money, I mean, it was really tight. And God said, “I want you to learn it now!”
My Mama sent me $50 in the mail. That was a lot of money: it was a $50 bill. I hadn’t seen a $50 bill. And I couldn’t wait to find where I wanted to spend that and God said, “That’s not yours! Put it in your pocket and keep it and I’ll let you know.” About three weeks went by and a friend of mine was with Campus Crusade and he came by and I hadn’t seen him in a long time. He said, “Wayne, can you support our ministry on a monthly basis?” I said, “Oh, man! There’s no way! But I tell you what I can do. I can give you a one-time gift.” I pulled out that $50 bill and I gave it to him. I remember the joy that was in my heart. I’m thinking, “God, You’re my provider. You told me to do that! I didn’t do that on my own. You told me to do that.” And whenever you act in obedience, you’ll never out give God!
Funny thing happened. Some people came by, and I had a ‘73 Buick that I used to leave the keys in hoping somebody would steal. I drove it down to the church because some people said they were going to take us to Jackson, Mississippi, and they were going to take us out to eat! Only place we could ever go out to eat was 17 miles at a truck stop or some kind of chicken place that you later wished you’d never eaten there! So they took us to Jackson and got us a nice meal and we came back and then they took my wife, Diana, they took her into a department store and bought her a purse. And Diana came back and she whispered in my ear, “Wayne, that purse cost $25!” And I said out loud, I didn’t mean to say it out loud, I said, “I wonder where the other $25 is?”
I got back, went to get in my old car, nobody had stolen it, and I opened up the door and when I went to get inside the car, the visor was down and it hit me in the head. Boom! And I thought, “Good grief, I never put the visor down.” And I looked and two $10 bills and a $5 bill had been clipped to the visor with a little note that said, “Wayne, I was riding by and saw your car and God impressed me to give you this $25. I hope it doesn’t offend you.” Oh, no! It didn’t offend me! I just discovered something. I just discovered—and I don’t know if it makes any sense to you or not, maybe that’s not the swollen river you’ve crossed—but that was a swollen river in my life and God said, “Son, you focus on Me, you consecrate on Me and do what My Word tells you to do and I’m your Provider, Jehovah Jirah. I take care of you! Let that be a faith builder.”
- A lesson that was to exalt their leader
But the second thing: not only was this lesson to direct their life, secondly it was a lesson to determine their leader. God was going to do something to exalt their leader right in front of them. Do you realize that God is the only one that can give a leader authority? A leader can never demand authority, he has to earn it. And God raises him up as a leader. A leader is somebody who is a good follower, not a person who is a leader. The books written on leadership today folks, fall far short of what God says a leader is. Leadership is followship. It was Joshua who led the people to trust God. But not any further beyond where he was willing to trust God. And as he trusted God, they were willing to follow him. His leadership was earned through followship.
Verse 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. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan and the place where the feet of the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing.” And they are there, the Scripture says, “to this day.” When it was written, they were still there.
We have no command that told Joshua to put the altar in the middle of the river. Some people say that shows the Bible is not truly the Word of God. That’s ridiculous! Maybe Joshua built it for himself, who knows, but just because it’s not in there doesn’t mean God didn’t tell him, but he put the memorial in the middle, but then they took the other stones to the first place of lodging.
Well, the assignment to the priests was to stand in the river until the people crossed over. Verse 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. All the people standing on the banks watching as the priests now came out of the river.” Of course when they did, the water came crashing down.
It mentions the two and a half tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh; yes, they went across in battle array, but only 40,000 of the men came across, but they had to go across before the priests came out. Verse 12: “The sons of Reuben, 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, about 40,000 equipped for war before the Lord to the desert plains of Jericho.”
Verse 14: “On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel so that they revered him, just as they revered Moses all the days of his life.” When it was all said and done, the miracle had taken place, the people and the priests with the Ark were now on the other side, and God exalted Joshua. Now, see, Joshua had been faithful to do all that God had told him to do, and now the people looked at him and saw that he truly was their leader. He didn’t take a course in leadership, he didn’t get a certificate, he didn’t read a book; no, he was simply a follower. He did what God told him to do and God told him back in chapter 1, “If you’ll follow Me, they’ll follow you.”
Now I say that because maybe you’re a father in a home, husband, whatever, and you want to be the spiritual leader in your home. I want to tell you, hold these things in your mind because it’s never going to change. God says, “Now listen, I’m not worried about your sons and your daughters and your wife right now: I’m worried about you. And here’s the simple truth: you obey Me.” “Well, what about…” “You obey Me. You follow Me and your family will follow you because leadership is followship.” We live in a day that stresses a leadership that is man-centered instead of God-centered. Leadership is followship.
It’s amazing to me that my wife still lives with me. There is a reward in heaven for her. But years ago, God broke me. God broke me. In fact, I don’t have the time to tell you the story, but He broke me to the point where I wept for two hours one night until my nose bled. I mean, He totally change my life when He got hold of me and saved me. I’d been in the ministry for eight years. It’s great to have saved pastors. And my wife began to see a difference in my life. She began to see a submission to God’s will and to God’s Word and a willingness to do it.
Now, I haven’t been perfect all along, but here’s what she told me one day, she said, “I couldn’t submit to you before, because I didn’t see anything in you that was worth submitting to!” If you know my wife, she’s real sweet. She didn’t say it that way, that’s my interpretation. But she said, “Now that I see you willing to follow God, Wayne, it’s freed me, because I’m willing to follow you.” It’s incredible how that works. I didn’t know that. Nobody had told me that principle, God had just chosen to put me in a place in my life and break me.
But this is the bottom line. The word “revered” in verse 14 is the word meaning to respect. You want people to respect you as a leader? You want people to follow you as a leader, then you then be a follower of Him. You be about the things God has put in your life and watch how others will line up behind you. A leader is a follower. The miraculous crossing of the Jordan River is not only to direct their lives, but it was to determine their leader, the one out front, the one hearing from God, telling them, and obeying himself.
- A lesson that was to disciple their children
But then, finally, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River was also to disciple their little ones. That was part of it. He wanted this to carry from generation to generation to generation. The text now jumps back to those priests when they came out of the river bed.
Verse 15: “Now the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Command the priests who carried the Ark of the Testimony that they come up from the Jordan.’ So Joshua commanded the priests saying, ‘Come up from the Jordan.’ 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 [look at this], that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and when over its bank just like before.” They just came right back where it was. God had stopped it and now the water came back. Both the water and the people had obeyed God and that’s the bottom line. Everything had worked out just as God had planned, it was a day that glorified God and exalted Joshua.
Now, as long as the priests had stood in the midst of the river the water had been back. But they came crashing down when those priests left the river. Verse 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.” Now back in verse 5 He’s told them, “You don’t put that memorial up on the banks over there until you get to the first place that you’re going to camp,” and this was it.
Verse 20: “Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan Joshua set up at Gilgal.” If you studied the Old Testament, you know a little about Gilgal. The first king was crowned at Gilgal, 1 Samuel 11; David was welcomed back after Absalom’s rebellion and in 2 Samuel 19. Samuel thought Gilgal was important enough to put it on his ministry circuit, in 1 Samuel 7:16. There was a school of prophets in Gilgal in 2 Kings 1, 2 and 4:38. Gilgal became so important to Joshua; it became the center of operations as you’re going to see in 9:6, 10:6, 15, 43 and 14:6. Gilgal was a very special place. Gilgal was eight miles from the Jordan River. They carried those stones eight miles, but it was two miles from Jericho: this is key. It was very, very close to Jericho. The reminder of God’s power, of what’s going to be needed, of when is it that I’ll experience what God has said to me, “Only when I focus and I consecrate,” was placed at Gilgal, because Jericho was going to be the biggest battle they had ever thought about having in their entire lives.
It was at this place, at this place that they camped, at Gilgal that they were to begin and carry on for the rest of their life, teaching their children this truth. Not just that they crossed the Jordan, but they had to teach them what they did in order to experience what God had for them. And that was to start right here. God said, “I want you to tell the generations after generations after generations.
Verse 21: “He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, “What are these stones?” Then you are to inform your children saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground, 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, that all the peoples of the earth [not just Jews] may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.’”
Isn’t that incredible? God had put on Israel the responsibility to tell their children and to pass it on, not just to their people, but to all generations, that God is the One who brought them across: to fear God, to trust God. The God who can open the river is the God everybody ought to be able to know. Israel needed to tell the other nations about it and to invite them to trust Him too. Well, they were going to do this, not just themselves, but to teach their children who would one day have to fight their own battles.
You know what’s unfortunate? When I was in youth work, the biggest battle I had in churches were not the youth; everybody thinks it’s the youth. No, it’s not the youth. It’s the parents of the youth that were not willing to live the convictions of their children. I saw it over and over and over again. What He says here is, “Folks, not only are you to walk that way, parent, but you’re to tell your children because we’ve got to get this message out that our God is worth trusting and our God is faithful to do what He says to do.”
So the memorial was to direct their lives forever; it was to determine their leader, when God did that He exalted the ones that were in leadership; but thirdly, it was to disciple their little ones. Last night I was by myself. My phone rang and it was my granddaughter, Holland. And she said, “Poppie, I have the best news to tell you!” I said, “What is that, Holland?” And she said, “Wednesday night I got saved, I asked Jesus in my heart Wednesday night.”
You know, when I was studying this, I thought I am so blessed to know that I know her parents are going to be telling her. Her grandparents are going to be telling her about what it means to walk, how to experience the life. Oh, folks, listen. If you’re still thinking Christianity is a religion and you’ve had that in your past, somehow ask God to erase every thought in your brain. It has nothing to do with a religion; it’s a relationship with the Father through His Son and the way you receive Him is by faith and the way you walk in Him is by faith. The way you experience the life that He puts within you is the way you received it to start with: focus on Him, consecrate yourself to Him, and when He moves, chalk it up as a reminder. The next time, don’t make it complex: it’s very simple. Come back to Him, to His will and to His Word and say yes and possess what’s already yours in Christ Jesus.