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Joshua 3:1-6; 14-17
GETTING PAST YOUR JORDAN
Intro: When the Lord brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt, He led them toward the Promised Land. It took them two years to make that trip. During that time, the Lord gave them His Law and taught them how to worship Him. When they arrived at Jordan, all they had to do was enter the land and lay claim to what they had been given.
Instead of going forward in faith, the people of Israel refused to claim their inheritance in Canaan. They wanted to turn around and go back to Egypt, back to the very people who had enslaved them. God punished them severely for their lack of faith. He condemned them to wander around in the wilderness between Canaan and Egypt until the whole generation of those who refused to enter the Promised Land died off. Because of their unbelief, Israel was sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
Those years of wrath and death have now expired and the children of Israel are poised to enter into Canaan. They are ready to claim their inheritance in the land of promise. Before they can enter Canaan, they must first get past one final, major obstacle: the Jordan River. Normally, this would not have presented much of a problem, since the Jordan was only about 100 feet wide at Gilgal where they crossed. God brought them to the Jordan River at the time of harvest, 4:15. Those who have been there during the harvest time relate that the Jordan River swells to an impassable width of over 1 mile! It was over 50 times wider than it normally would have been when Israel arrived. There was no way they could cross this river on their own! They needed supernatural help. It seems that God always does things in such a way that no man can boast of having done them on their own. This crossing would be no exception.
Every person here faces his or her own Jordan from time to time! We deal with obstacles that would hinder us from obtaining spiritual victory in our lives. We may feel that we will never be able to enter our Canaan of victory and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus promised His followers. While it is true that I do not know what kind of obstacles that you face in your life; I do know a God Who specializes in overcoming the overwhelming and in leading His children to victory.
Today, I would like for us to watch Israel as they move past their Jordan. As we do, I would like to offer you some hope. The strategies that worked for Israel over 3000 years ago will still work for us today. I want to speak to you from Joshua chapters 3 and 4 about Getting Past Your Jordan. There are some strategies that we must implement if we are going to move past the Jordan’s that stand between spiritual victory and us. Allow me to share those strategies with you today.
I. 3:1-13 THERE IS A MESSAGE TO CONSIDER
A. v. 3-4 The Message Involved A Challenge – When it came time for the people to move forward to cross Jordan, God has a message that they needed to hear. In the words they heard, they were challenged to do three very important things. These things were designed to help them follow the Lord better. These are the same things that we need to hear today that will help up to follow the Lord better as well.
1. Watch God – Notice that the Ark of the Covenant is mentioned some 7 times in chapter 3. The Ark, you may remember, was that special piece of Tabernacle furniture that symbolized the presence and power of God. When the Ark was in the Holy of Holies, the glory of God rested upon it and it was the dwelling place of God. To Israel, it represented God’s presence in the midst of His people. In other words, when God moved, they were to move. When God stopped they were to do the same.
(Ill. There is a valuable spiritual lesson in this passage for you and me. We would do well, when we face times of crisis, or when we need direction in life to learn to be sensitive to the movement of the Lord in and around us. It is a fact that God loves you and that He will show you what He is doing, John 5:19-20. If you will watch Him, He will teach you how to live day by day.)
2. Follow God – When they saw the Ark of the Covenant move, they were to “leave your place, and go after it” Not only were they to watch God, they were to move when He did. They were to pursue God!
(Ill. Again, the lesson for the believer is that it isn’t enough to know what God is doing, there comes a time when you must “leave you place and go after Him.” This may require us to leave our comfort zone! Israel was about to follow the Ark through a river that was over 1 mile wide! That couldn’t have been easy, but it was still necessary and right! Folk, following God may not be the easiest thing you will ever do, but it will be the best thing you ever do. If you ever expect to get past your obstacles and enter your Canaan, you must learn to follow God.)
3. Honor God – Notice that the Israelites are told to stay at least 3000 feet behind the Ark. This was so that they could easily see what was happening ahead of them. Another reason is that the Lord wanted no one but the Levites near the Ark. To get too close would have meant death.
(Ill. There is a lesson here for us as well. We must never be guilty of treating God like is one of our buddies. There must always be a holy reverence and a fear of the Lord in our hearts. God help us that we never allow a spirit of familiarity cheapen or walk with the Lord. Regardless of what we go through with holy, righteous God and we are still nothing but sinners saved by His marvelous grace.)
(Ill. Simply put, these three things are most easily accomplished by learning to walk in the Spirit. That is, learning to give control of your life to the Spirit of God and to follow God as He leads through His Word and through prayer. It may not always be easy, but I can promise you that if you will follow, He will certainly lead!)
B. v. 5 The Message Involved A Command – Next, the people were told to “sanctify yourselves.” This referred to being sure they were as clean and holy as possible. They were to put away anything that was displeasing to the Lord. They were to examine themselves and get ready for the Lord to do something great for them.
If you and I ever expect to get past the Jordan’s that arise in our lives, we are going to have to learn that one of the first things we must do is examine our lives to make sure they are as clean as possible. May the Lord help us to realize that many of the things that happen in our lives that prevent us from walking in Christian victory are the results of our sin and the Lord’s chastisement, Gal. 6:9; Heb. 12:6-11. Christian, is everything in your life just as the Lord would have it to be? Remember, there is forgiveness in confessing our sins to the Lord - I John 1:9.
C. v. 9-13 The Message Involved A Commitment – This message to the Israelites reminded them that getting across the Jordan did not rest on their shoulders, but on the Lord’s. It was His plan to get them over and it was His problem. In these verses, He makes them a promise and tells them that He will bring them through in a powerful fashion. God, here, commits Himself to bringing his people across their Jordan! All that was required of Israel was that they trust God!
(Ill. May I remind you that God has not changed one bit? If God could be trusted in those days to keep His promises, then He can still be trusted today! Often, we are unable to get past the obstacles in our lives because we live a life that exhibits a deep lack of faith in the promises of God! How do I know? Because of the worry and doubt that marks the lives of the people of God.
1. We worry over tomorrow, yet the Lord has said – Matt. 6:34.
2. We worry over material things, yet the Lord has promised – Matt. 6:25-33; Phil. 4:19.
3. We worry about facing various things in life, yet the Lord has promised – Heb. 13:5.
4. We worry over so many things, yet the Lord tells us that all of our worry is sin and that our duty is to trust Him – Phil. 4:6-7.
5. The bottom line is this: Jesus is all-powerful, He is all-knowing and He is all-present. He knows what you are going through. He knows everything there is to know about it. He even knows more about it than you do! Here is what He says to you: “The just shall life by faith,” Rom. 1:17; “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Rom 14:23; “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith,” Matt. 8:26.
All this reminds us that He is the Lord and that He is greater than any problem we have ever or will ever face in life. His desire is that we simply learn to take Him at His Word and trust Him. We need to remember that what the Lord has promised to do, He will do, Rom. 4:21.
That is the message; let us take it to heart!
I. There Is A Message To Consider
II. 3:14-17 THERE IS A MIRACLE TO CONSIDER
A. v. 15b There Was A Problem – As I mentioned in the introduction, the children of Israel were facing a big problem. The river was over 1 mile wide and there were 2 million people who had to cross, and yet the Lord wanted them to go over. They couldn’t build a bridge; there wasn’t enough time or materials. They couldn’t transport everyone over in boats, there were no boats and they would have ben sitting ducks for their enemies. There was only one way around their problem and that was through it!
Have you ever sized up your Jordan and thought about how big it was? Maybe you looked at it and concluded, “There is no way around, through, over or past this problem.” I suppose we have all been like the 10 spies that returned from spying out the land of Canaan with Caleb and Joshua. We have sized up our problem and think that it is more than we can ever face, Num. 13:31-33. Our problem was the same one we always have when we face a difficult situation: we forget about God! Where we see only problems, God sees only solutions. Where we look at things and say, “There’s no way!” God looks at the problem and says, “Follow me, I have a plan!”
B. v. 15 There Was A Plan – The plan was this, God said, “When the feet of the priests enter Jordan, I am going to part the waters and lead you through on the dry ground!” There was a catch in this plan and it was that the waters would not part until the priests who were carrying the Ark stepped into the water. In other words, it took a step of faith, whereby the people obediently followed the Lord for them to see the miracle come to pass.
What a lesson for you and me. Too often, we want the Lord just to fix everything in our lives for us. We don’t want to have to make any decisions nor do we want to have to exercise our faith in Him. We just want Him to do it and that will be the end of it. However, most of the time, God will require us to take steps of faith in order that we might see our Jordan parted. God had a plan, but for this plan to work, it required faith on the part of His people! The same is true for you and me! As long as we are trying to solve our own problems we are not walking in faith. It is when we turn loose of the reigns of the problem, step away from it and let the Lord have it that we will see it taken care of for His glory. It never is about what we can do, it is always about what the Lord is able to do, Eph. 3:20!
C. v. 16-17 There Was A Performance – When the priests stepped into that raging river, it parted and God opened a path of dry ground through the waters for His people. By the way, verse 16 says that the waters backed up to the City of Adam. This is some 20 miles north of where the children of Israel were crossing. God made them a path through the water that was more than adequate for His people to get through.
We need to remember that faith honors God and God honors faith! When He moves in power and takes care of the problem, it won’t just be patched up and ready to fall apart again; it will be done right and it will be done forever. I want to encourage you today by reminding you that this God Who did this great thing for Israel is still the same God we are serving today! What He did them; He can do now.
Our God was ABLE all the way through the Bible, and He is still ABLE today! Regardless of the circumstances, He is still God and He still can! Notice the question that plagued the Jews in, Psa. 78:19-20. They asked, “Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?” God can! Just ask, Noah, Moses, Daniel, the 3 Hebrews, a widow down in Zarephath, the Disciples on a little ship, and Saul of Tarsus. Just look back over your own life. How many times has the Lord opened your Jordan already? He is all we need! He is still the same miracle working God that He always had been. Learn to expect miracles when you are dealing with God!
Our God specializes in cutting problems down to size. When little David walked out into that valley to face Goliath, he faced an opponent that he could never have defeated on his own. That giant was about 10 feet tall. He went into that valley with a sling, five smooth stones, and faith in a powerful God. When David cast his stone at Goliath, the giant fell to the earth. David ran to Goliath. He drew Goliath’s own sword and took off the giant’s head. Now, the question that arises is this: When David took off the giant’s head, was the giant still there? Of course he was! But, he is no longer 10 feet tall; he is now about 9 feet long! God had a way of taking the things we cannot get past and fixing it where we can get over them.
I. There Is A Message To Consider
II. There Is A Miracle To Consider
III. 4:1-24 THERE IS A MEMORIAL TO CONSIDER
When all the people had passed over Jordan, Joshua commanded one man from each of the 12 tribes to get a rock from the midst of Jordan and build a memorial on the Canaan side. That memorial is worth taking a look at today!
A. v. 6-7; 21-24 The Purpose Of The Memorial – These verses tell us that the purpose of the memorial was to remind successive generations of the power and faithfulness of God on behalf of His people. That memorial would be an important landmark to those who would come after.
We need to erect some memorials in our lives as well. We must use caution, because we do no want to embalm the past and by doing so cripple the future. Many churches have done that and are suffering as a result. What we do want to do is remember the things the Lord has done for us so that we can tell others about them. We want to remember the great works of our God so that when we pass that way again, we will remember that the Lord was faithful in that day and that He will be faithful in this day as well. Never forget what the Lord has done for you in your yesterdays. It is those yesterday experiences that will tide you over when the trials of today and tomorrow arise in your life! Ill. Psa. 84:5-6, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”
As believers, we need to erect some visible memorials to the glory of God. When the Lord works in our lives, we should memorialize that event. We should talk about it, share it with others, write about, and spread the word about what God did. We should honor Him for His faithful work in our lives. Listen; there will be some others coming along behind us. There are children, young people and new believers who are following the paths we have already walked. As they journey and seek to grow in the Lord, they need to be able to see the memorials left by those who have gone before them!
We have many of those monuments around this place. Some are human, some are less tangible, but they are all very real reminders of the power of God. We are reminded every time we gather here that God has worked among His people to carry them over their Jordan’s in the past. Those reminders tell all those who pass by them that God is faithful, powerful and able. We need to remember!
B. v. 9, 20 The Picture In The Memorial – Ill. It is interesting to notice that Joshua constructed two monuments. They built ne on the bank and one in middle of the river. These two memorials served two distinct purposes. Notice what they were.
1. v. 20 A Picture Of The Faithfulness Of God - The one on the bank of Jordan stood as a testimony to the faithfulness of God as I have just mentioned. It was there to remind others of what the Lord had done and of what He could do. Again, we need to remember the faithfulness of God in the past. It will help us cross the Jordan we face today.
2. v. 9 A Picture Of The Faith Of The People – Now, what about the rock pile in the river? No one could see it but God! It stood as a monument to the faith of the people! You see, when you face a time of trial, others are often guilty of misjudging your motives and actions, but only God knows the truth about your heart. Even though Israel couldn’t see it, they knew the monument was there! They remembered that they had believed God then and it had worked. This was a monument in their hearts.
We need those same kinds of monuments as well. As I said, too often others misjudge us in our times of trial, but God alone knows you heart. When you have trusted Him and He has brought you through, never forget it! Build that monument in your heart, where only God can see it, and where you will never forget it. Then, when the tough times come again, and they will, look at that monument of His faithfulness and of your faith and know that what worked before will work again. God will bring you through your Jordan!
Remember when David killed Goliath? Before he went into that battle, King Saul tried to cloth David in his armor. David refused it because he had never fought in armor before, and because it was armor designed for a much larger man. Yet, when David killed the giant, he took the giant’s armor into his tent, 1 Sam. 17:54. Why did he do this? It was a memorial. It was a reminder that no matter how great the obstacle, it is nothing when it is placed alongside the God of Heaven!
Conc: Some of you are facing troubled waters today. I want you to know you can cross over. I invite you to come before the Lord today. Tell Him about the Jordan you are facing and allow Him to get you past it today. There is a place of victory where you can shout in spite of your troubles. The first step in getting there is dealing with what is keeping you out: your Jordan. It may sin, it may be some person, it may be some trial, but whatever it is, God is greater than it is. Come and let Him take care of it for you.