The Word Made Fresh
1Early the next morning Joshua led all the Israelites from Shittim to gather at the Jordan River, and they camped there before crossing over. 2On the third day the leaders went through the camp and told all the people, 3“When you see the priests carrying the chest that contains the LORD’s commandments, get up and follow it. 4They will lead you since you’re not familiar with the route. But keep a thousand yards distance behind them.”
5Then Joshua said to the people, “Make sure you are right with God, because tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things for you.” 6Then he said to the priests, “Take up the chest with the commandments and go out in front of the people.” So, they lifted it up and started out.
7The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to honor you in full view of the Israelites so they will know that I am with you just as I was with Moses. 8Tell the priests who carry the chest that when they arrive at the river, they are to wade out into the water and stand there.”
9Then Joshua gathered all the Israelites and said, “Hear the word of the LORD your God, 10and know that the LORD will go ahead of you and drive away the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites. 11The chest containing the commandments of the LORD of the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12Each of you should choose someone to serve as your leader, one man from each of the twelve tribes. 13Then watch the priests who are carrying the LORD’s chest; when their feet stand in the water of the Jordan, the river’s flow will be stopped upstream, and the water at your crossing will flow away.”
14And so it was. When the people packed up their tents and headed toward the river, the priests carrying the LORD’s chest went in front of them. 15The Jordan was overflowing because it was harvest time, but when the priests carrying the chest stepped into the water, 16the river was stopped far upstream at Adam, the city beside Zarathan, and the water where they were crossing flowed on down the stream to the Dead Sea. Then the people crossed over the river opposite Jericho. 17While they were crossing the priests carrying the chest with the LORD’s commandments stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed until all the people had crossed.
1-6: Once again we read of the passing of three days. Then Joshua announces that the chest (ark) of the covenant will go first to the Jordan. They are to stay about 2/3 of a mile behind, giving a great deal of respect to the chest, which they believe represents the presence of God.
7-13: God instructs Joshua, who instructs the people — the same process we saw with Moses. Joshua tells the people more, however, than God told him — just as we saw with Moses. He tells them that when the priests carrying the chest step into the river, it will stop flowing. He won’t be outdone by Moses!
Some have explained the situation by speculating a landslide upstream that blocks the flow of the river, but such speculation misses the point of the story. They crossed a body of water to begin their trek, and now they cross a body of water to end it.
“When through the deep waters your pathway shall lie, my grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.” — from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”
The hard times in life are a lot easier when we trust that God has already gone ahead of us.