Joshua 3 • July 12, 2023 • g1272
Pastor Todd Lauderdale teaches an expository message through Joshua 3 titled “Faith Has Wet Feet.”
3:1 Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. 2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before." 5 And Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." 6 Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, "Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people." So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people. 7 And the Lord said to Joshua, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, 'When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.' " 9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, "Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God." 10 And Joshua said, "By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap." 14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
We’re going to be in the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapter 3. While you’re locating that chapter, I’m going to remind you of an event that took place in the New Testament in the gospels, a story that probably is familiar to most, if not all of us that are here tonight. It’s found in Matthew 14, when Jesus had sent His disciples out onto the Sea of Galilee while He spent the evening in prayer. While they were in the middle of the sea, the wind started to kick up and they began to get tossed and got concerned about their own safety. Night had fallen, and there they are without Jesus, but suddenly they see a figure walking on top of the water towards them. Initially they thought it was a ghost, but then Jesus spoke to them telling them not to be afraid, “Be of good cheer,” that it was Him.
Remember the words of Peter. Peter said, “Jesus, if it is really You, tell me to come out to where You are.” Jesus said, “Well, come on.” Peter stepped out of the boat, probably with some hesitation as that right foot maybe hit the water but found that it was somewhat of a firm foundation so he stepped out with the other foot and began to walk to Jesus. We know the story. Then the waves got kind of big for Peter, and he got a little concerned and began to slip down. He called out to Jesus, “Jesus, save me,” and Jesus grabbed him by the hand, pulled him into the boat, and said to Peter, “Oh, you of little faith.”
Sometimes we think of that story and think that Peter just kind of blew it there. I wonder if Jesus had a smile on His face when He said that phrase to Peter, “Peter, you have a little faith.” He didn’t have zero faith—he had a struggling faith, but he had faith. That faith allowed him to do what none of the other disciples were able to do, that was to walk on water. It seems to me that all the other guys had no faith, at least at that moment. They had dry feet and they never got out of the boat and they never sank and they never had to call out to Jesus that night to save them, but neither did they have the experience of walking on water like Peter did.
God longs for us to have faith, to believe Him, to trust Him. I don’t mean just to believe in God, I mean to believe God; that is, to believe when God says something that He is going to keep His word; that when God gives a promise, He is going to fulfill that promise; not just believing that God exists, but actually believing anything that God says and trusting what it is that God says.
We don’t understand everything. God doesn’t explain everything to us. We don’t see everything, we don’t sense everything, but He calls us to trust and to obey. Why? Because faith pleases God. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith pleases God. When I’m talking about faith, I’m not talking about blind faith. Blind faith really is not biblical faith. Blind faith is believing something even though there is no evidence at all to back it up. That really is not what biblical faith is. Biblical faith is absolutely trusting God, just simply believing that what God says is true, it is right, and it is good, but it is a faith that has good reason for it.
When God tells us to believe Him, to trust Him, we should ask ourselves, “Why should I trust God?” On one hand we ought to trust God because He has been so faithful in the past. Everything that God has said He would do, He has done. Every promise that God has made, He has fulfilled that promise up until our time. There’s still other promises in Scripture that have yet to be fulfilled, but if God has been so faithful in fulfilling past promises, what reason do we have to doubt that He’s going to fulfill His future promises. That’s not a blind faith. It’s built upon the fact that God has been faithful up until now. We have no reason to doubt that He’s going to be faithful in the future.
We also have confidence in God, a faith that is not blind because God backs it up. When He makes a statement, He backs it up with something that is going to prove that that statement is in fact truth. When Jesus was doing His ministry throughout the land of Israel, there were many that called Him out on the things that He was saying, “You’re making all these boastful claims, Jesus, why should we believe You?” and He pointed to the works that He was doing, and ultimately He pointed to the fact that He would rise again from the dead. The resurrection of Christ was going to be the ultimate evidence that the things that He said were true. We’re not talking about blind faith, what we are talking about is a valid faith, a reasonable faith, a logical faith based upon the fact that God, when He says something, has always been faithful in the past, so we have to believe that He’s going to be faithful in the future. When God makes a statement, when His Son makes a statement, He backs it up with a work that proves that who He is, is who He says He is. If Jesus claims to be God, then He better be able to do what only God can do, and He did. So, we have valid reasons to have our faith in the Lord.
But God wants us to trust Him. God wants us to believe Him when He says something, and so He will put us in situations where our faith has an opportunity to grow, where we have the option of trusting Him or not trusting Him, so we know our faith is going to be tested. James tells us in James 1 that our faith is tested for this reason, so that we would gain endurance so that we can mature in our faith. In 1 Peter, Peter tells us that our faith is tested like gold is refined in the fire.
There might be some of you here tonight that feel like your life right now is in the fire, that you’re being severely tested. Well, I’m glad you came tonight because what we’re going to be looking at here in Joshua is an example of faith being tested. God will test our faith, and their faith is going to be tested. We’re going to see so many things that we can relate to in our own lives based upon how God is working in the nation of Israel here as they are about to go into the Promised Land. It would take a lot of faith for them to move across the Jordan River and enter into the land that had been promised to them, a land flowing with milk and honey.
So, follow along with me in verse 1 where it says, “Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. 2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying, ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.’ 5 And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.’ 6 Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people.’ So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.”
Verse 7, “And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’” 9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, ‘Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God.’ 10 And Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.’”
Let me pause right there and kind of reflect upon what is taking place here because Israel, the Hebrews, had been wandering in the wilderness at this point for forty years. During those forty years, it was a forty-year period of testing. God, over and over and over again during that timespan as they wandered, would put them in situations where they had an option of either trusting the Lord or not. They went through a lot of tests, and they failed a lot of tests. A journey that should have taken them about two weeks at the most going from Egypt to the Promised Land would then take them forty years. Why? Because they kept failing the faith tests that God had been giving them. They didn’t trust the Lord. He was trying to build up their faith, but they weren’t believing in God, they weren’t believing His promises, they weren’t trusting in the things that He was asking them to do, so time and time again they failed until finally God said, “That’s it. You’re going to do forty laps in the wilderness while your generation dies out, and your kids will get to inherit the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.”
So, here we are at the end of that forty years. That forty years in the wilderness began with them crossing through the midst of the Red Sea, you remember as God parted the Red Sea before them as the Egyptian army was in hot pursuit allowing His people to cross through the middle of the water with the water standing on either side as a wall between them, and they got across safely. Now, we come to a new body of water, the end of the forty years, and they’re going to need to cross again. It’s a different body of water. The first time it was the Red Sea, this time it will be the Jordan River. But that time of testing started with the Red Sea, and now it will end with the Jordan River.
Every step that they have taken so far required an element of faith as God took them through a lot of different trials, but that testing is not going to end here. It’s going to continue. And, not just here in this chapter but even after they have crossed the Jordan River, we find that testing and testing and testing would continue on in their lives. That tells us something. You are never going to reach a point in your relationship with the Lord, this side of heaven, where your faith will not be put in positions of testing, where there will not be a situation where God is going to try and cause your faith to be refined in the fire or grow more mature and deeper through the trials, the tribulations, the temptations, the tests that you and I will face because even though in this chapter we will see them get across the Jordan River, there were more tests to come. Let’s keep that in mind because we need to learn how to handle the tests. If God’s going to send us tests, and if He’s sending us tests with a purpose, and they do serve a purpose, they cause us to grow, then we need to know how do we handle these tests that we’re going to face.
I want you to look at verse 1 as we get kind of introduced to the story here where it says, “Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan,” so Joshua is bringing the nation right to the shores of the Jordan River, and now they are in a place where literally they can see the Promised Land on the other bank of the Jordan. The Jordan River averages about 100 feet across, so literally a hundred feet or so (maybe a little further at that time of the year and I’ll explain that here in a moment) and they can see the Promised Land.
Remember, this is the second generation. Many of these that are now adults here were children when they came out of Egypt and the slavery there—now they are grown up—so their entire lives they have heard that God is leading them to this place, a place of promise, the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. Now, they are setting eyes on it. The only problem is there’s a big fat river in between the two of them. Here they are, still in the wilderness, and they can see the promise of God on the other side of the river. No doubt, they were wondering at that point in time, Okay, how are we going to get across this thing.
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way before in the trials that you have gone through. Maybe you feel like you are in the wilderness right now, and you know the promises of God, and it’s almost as if you can see the promises of God because you know what Scripture says but it’s on the other bank of the river, and you’re wondering how you’re going to get from where you are in the wilderness to Romans 8:28 that’s telling you, “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” “Lord, I know You promised that. I just can’t see how, where I am, I can get to where that promise will become a reality in my life.” This story is going to unfold several battles for us that these Hebrews are going to have to face, on this particular occasion, as they look to seeing God fulfill His promise to them that was forty years in coming.
One of the things I want us to notice here is how they were put in a situation of trying to figure it out themselves. In verse 2 it tells us that Joshua kept them in that place, on the wilderness side of the Jordan, for how many days? It says for three days. If you’re in the wilderness, you see the promises of God on the other side of the river, and you know that the intent is to get across the river, and you’re waiting there for three days, I don’t know if you would do what I would do, but I would be going up and down that river trying to figure out, “Okay, where’s this going to happen?” I would be going back and forth along the bank looking for, “Okay, where is the shallowest place of this river? Where is the calmest place of this river,” so that I can surmise that maybe that is what God’s plan is.
Have you ever found yourself doing that with the problems that you are in the midst of? You know that you’re in a situation you need to get out of. You know God has promised that He will get you out of it. You just want to know how He’s going to do it, so what you do is you begin to try and figure it out yourself. You’re trying to figure it out, “Okay, how is God going to do this?” In fact, a lot of us, we instruct God how to do it in our prayer life. “Lord, You know I’m in this situation. I don’t want to be in this situation. I want to be in Your place of blessing where I’m prospering and I’m happy and I’m peaceful, so let me tell you, Lord, how to get me to that place.” In our prayers we begin praying, “Lord, if You did this, if You did that, if You change this, if You move that person to another country,” you know, we begin thinking of the ways that we can instruct God that we are convinced would be a solution to our problem. I have to imagine that that’s exactly what these Israelites began to do. They began to go up and down the bank of the river thinking, Okay, where are we going to cross? Where’s going to be the easiest spot? Where is it that God’s going to allow this to happen? I would imagine that all they saw was obstacles.
Later on in the chapter, we didn’t actually read that far, it tells us the time of year that this was actually happening. It was in the harvest time, which is the time of the year that the Jordan River overflows its banks. Like I said before, the Jordan River on average typically is about a hundred feet across and from three to ten feet deep, but during the flood season, it was far wider and would get far deeper than that. Wouldn’t you know, that’s the time of the year that God is going to have them cross. God just ups the ante for them. He’s going to make sure that they know that when this happens, it’s going to be the hand of God doing it. It’s not going to be them figuring it out, “Hey look! If we throw these logs over the river…,” you’re not going to find a log that’s going to go more than a hundred feet that everybody can walk across. So, there they are, trying to figure it out, and probably coming to the conclusion that this can’t happen.
Now, if they were standing on their faith, they would in that moment begin to reflect upon how faithful God had been to them in the past, “Wait a minute! We’ve been against water before. You guys remember when we were kids the Egyptian army was after us and our parents were freaking out, but they turned to Moses for an answer and Moses held up his hands and all of the sudden God did something amazing! Remember that? That was a big deal! God was faithful then, so we don’t really need to figure this out. I’m sure God already has it figured out. I mean, when we were hungry in the wilderness, we didn’t know how we were going to get fed, but God figured it out. When we were thirsty, we didn’t know where the water was going to come from, but God had a plan. God has always been faithful to us, so this situation we shouldn’t even have to worry about it. We don’t have to figure it out. God’s already got it figured it out.” That should have been their response, but that’s not usually the response that we have. A lot of times our response is, “I can’t figure it out,” and “If I can’t figure it out, I’m sure God can’t figure it out either.”
Let me ask you guys something. How many of you believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow? Anybody? Okay, a few of you. I would imagine that every single one of us has full confidence that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. There isn’t anybody in here, I would guess, is struggling with that or is going to lose any sleep tonight over that. I would imagine that there isn’t anybody in here that made a trip to Costco today to load up on toilet paper out of the fear that the sun might not rise tomorrow. Why? Why do we have such confidence that the sun is going to rise tomorrow? Because the sun has risen every morning, every day of our existence. The sun has been faithful every day to do what it was designed to do, so we don’t worry about it, we don’t fret about it, we don’t lose sleep over it, we don’t stockpile things out of fear that it might not happen tomorrow because the sun has always been faithful. Why is it then that we can so trust the sun tomorrow, but we struggle with trusting God who has been faithful every single day as well? Too often we find ourselves concluding that God has been faithful, but this situation I’m in right now is different. It’s not like it was in the past.
I want you to notice what is said at the very end of verse 4, “Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.” This was uncharted territory for these Hebrews. They had never been in this place before; they had never been in this situation before. Oftentimes, when we are in the midst of a test or a trial in our life, it is a new situation—maybe something that we have never faced before. When we are in a situation that we haven’t faced before, many times we can come to the conclusion, “Well, I know that God has always been faithful to me in the past. I know He’s always been there. He’s always gotten me out of situations, but this is different.” It would be like the Israelites saying, “Well, you know, I know God has got us across the Red Sea, but this is the Jordan River—it’s not the Red Sea. I know God knows how to get us across a sea, I’m not sure He knows how to get us across a river. I know that when Moses was here everything fell into place and God was able to take care of every need that we had, but Moses isn’t here anymore—now we’re with Joshua. We’re not really sure that Joshua can handle this.” Simply the change in circumstances can often derail us from believing that God is going to come through for us again.
I want to share with you six things that we need to know when our faith is tested, things that we can glean from this passage that we need to know about our own testing times, especially if you’re going through a testing time right now. The first thing that we need to understand is that every test is a spiritual battle, every single one of them. This is what Joshua said in verse 5, “And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.’” Joshua encourages the people to prepare themselves, but notice that he doesn’t say, “Prepare yourself to swim,” or “Prepare yourselves by sharpening your weapons for a fight.” He says, “Sanctify yourselves.”
That word “sanctify” means to set yourself apart. For what purpose? For the purposes of God. They needed to set themselves apart for the purposes of God in that moment because they were not entering into a physical battle, they were entering into a spiritual one. Why do I say that? I mean, is not the Jordan River a physical obstacle? Are not the rocks on the bottom of the Jordan River a physical obstacle? Yes they are, but every battle that we face, though what we see is physical, there is a spiritual battle behind it. There is always our adversary that when God makes a statement, a commandment, or a promise, he will say, like he said to Eve, “Did God really say?” to bring the question mark in our mind that maybe God can’t fulfill what He said or maybe that’s not really what God meant when He said it or maybe God just simply isn’t able to do what He said He was going to do. “Did God really say?”
If we’re going to enter into a spiritual battle, we need to be spiritually equipped to engage in that battle. Let me tell you, every test—every trial, every temptation that we face—at its root is a spiritual battle, so we need to be prepared spiritually. So, Joshua is telling the people, “You need to sanctify yourselves. You need to set yourself apart for the purpose of God.” In practical ways what that means is that we need to be prayed up and we need to be equipped with our spiritual armor because it would require trusting what God says over what Satan was whispering in their ear. They needed to stand upon the Word and the promises and the commands of God.
Secondly, things we need to know when our faith is tested, we need to know that we can trust in God’s ever-abiding presence. You can trust that God is present with you. In this chapter we are told that the priests were going to carry the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River. You probably know that the ark of the covenant itself was a symbol of the presence of God. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold, had two cherubim on top of the mercy seat, and inside the ark were the tablets of the commandments of God, the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budding rod, a jar of the manna that God had fed them with in the wilderness, but the ark itself was a symbol of the presence of God. That ark would be, when they set up the tabernacle, placed in the holy of holies, which was symbolic of the presence of God dwelling in the holiest of places.
Do you realize that the ark of the covenant in this chapter is mentioned 14 times? You might not pick up on that as you just read through the chapter, but the ark is mentioned 14 times. Why is it so frequently mentioned in this passage? I believe it’s because it is the centerpiece of the story. They needed to cling to the presence of God. If God is going to test them, they need to know that God doesn’t walk out of the room when the test begins, He is there with them. All throughout Scripture we are told, and given reminders of the fact, that God is always with us. He assures us of His presence. He told that to Moses in Exodus 33 when He said, “My presence will go with you.” David knew the presence of God was with him in Psalm 23 when he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,”—why? because—“You are with me.” Jesus said to His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” If that were not enough, we’re reminded again in Hebrews 13 where we’re told, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So, when we’re going through a test, we need to know that we will always have the presence of God with us. He does not abandon us.
Third, we need to know that we can trust that God has already gone before us as well. In the passage, verses 6 and 11, we’re told that the priests would go before the people carrying the ark of the covenant, which is a symbol of the fact that wherever God is leading us, He has already gone ahead of us and is there when we arrive. God is going before us. I think a lot of times we feel abandoned by the Lord when we’re going through trials because we don’t sense His nearness. We don’t feel like He is there, we don’t even feel like He is there when we are getting deeper into the trial, but again, what David said, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,”—why? Because he was assured that God was with him. Guys, God is with us, and He goes before us.
Later on in the chapter, verse 16, we are told when the priests entered into the Jordan River that the river stopped, like a wall of water just stopped. But it did not stop where they were, it says that it stopped upstream at the city of Adam. Now, the city of Adam was about 15-20 miles upstream from where the Hebrews were preparing to cross. I looked this up, the average flow of a river—average—is flowing at about three miles an hour. I don’t know specifically about the Jordan River, but let’s just assume that the Jordan River has an average water flow. If the water stopped at the city of Adam, which is 15-20 miles away upstream, that means that God had to stop the water five or six hours before those priests actually began to stand in the Jordan River where they were, which means that God was already hours beforehand preparing them for what He was going to do in their lives when they would eventually step in that water hours later.
God goes before us. So often we think God’s abandoned us. We don’t know where His nearness is. We’re wondering if He’s going to show up right in the midst of our fiery trial, and we find out that God was already there. He was already working. He was already doing what needed to be done in preparation to meet our need.
Fourth, what we find is that when we’re tested the Lord’s testing will push our faith further than it’s probably ever gone before. In verse 8 we’re told, “You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’” This is different. This is something that had never happened before. They’d had a water experience before. They needed to cross another body of water before, but if you remember back at the Red Sea it was different. In that situation, they were all on the shore of the Red Sea. When Moses lifted up his staff, God caused a wind to cause the waters to part, and then all night long that wind blew in order to dry out the bottom of the sea so when they would walk across the next day, it would already be dry ground.
He didn’t do that here at the Jordan River. He didn’t say, “Just hang on, guys. The wind’s coming. It’s going to part the waters. By morning it’ll be dry, and it’ll be all good for you.” No, this time God says, “Okay, I’m going to do it different this time. Now, I want you to step in the water.” “You want me to what? Why don’t You take care of it like You did the last time?” “Because I want you to trust Me more than you trusted Me the last time. I want you to take a step of faith believing that when you do what I tell you to do, I will show up.” So, the priests were required to get their feet wet. They had to step in the water before the water would stop. Ironically, not knowing that God had already stopped the water five or six hours ago, but when those priests stood in that water, suddenly the water level of the river just began to descend until there was no water to walk through anymore.
Not only will the Lord’s testing push us further than we want to go sometimes, but each test is likely in preparation for a future test to come. That is the fifth thing that we need to learn here. In verse 10, we’re told this, “And Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites.” What does that mean for us? It means that what God was going to do for them that day in parting the Jordan River was going to be a reminder to them that when they got across that river, they were going to face even more fierce trials, but God’s faithfulness in getting them across the river would forever be a reminder to them that when those enemies came against them, and God had promised that they would have victory over their enemies, it wouldn’t be any different than the fact that God had fulfilled His promise in the crossing of the Jordan River.
I will tell you, and you’re probably not going to like this or be encouraged by it at all, but whatever you’re going through right now is at least in part in preparation for something worse that may happen in the future. Maybe “worse” is too harsh of a word, something that will be a little bit harder to trust. Let me ask you, what would be harder to trust God for, wading through the water to get across a river or having an army coming after you wanting to take your head off? Remember, their parents had sent in spies to check out the land forty years prior, and they came back saying, “Yeah, it’s pretty good land. God was telling the truth about that, but the dudes there are big, and we can’t handle it. There’s no way we’re going in there, we’re going to get slaughtered.”
Well, those giants were still there, and they still needed to be defeated. Now, God had promised them that they would have victory, but they needed to have a boost in confidence by seeing God’s faithfulness in the crossing of the Jordan River. That’s what Joshua’s talking about in verse 10. He’s saying, “This is happening to us today to give you guys a little bit of confidence that if God can handle this, He’s going to handle it when we get across there and we end up in a fight. If God can be here with us today and fulfill His promise, we have to trust that God is going to be faithful to us tomorrow when we face off with our enemies.” Each test that we go through is in preparation for a more difficult one to come, but God is faithful; and if He’s faithful today, He’ll be faithful tomorrow.
We get to the end of the chapter, and if you’ll follow along with me beginning with verse 14. It says, “So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.”
God’s people did what God had asked them to do, so God did what He promised them He would do, and that’s how faith grows. We’re put in a situation where we might have reason to question—reason to doubt, reason to try and figure it out on our own, reason to take it upon ourselves—but when we trust God, and we walk in His Word, and we do what He says, we will find that He shows up every time. He is faithful every time. So the people did what God told them to do, and God did what He promised to do.
I would imagine that there’s a fair amount of us in here tonight that are probably going through our own battles—our own tests, our own trials—the situations in our life that God has us in. Let me remind you that whatever it is, it is a spiritual battle at its root. It’s not just a physical battle. It might feel like a physical battle because it’s what you see before you, but behind the scenes it really has a spiritual root.
Let me ask you, are you preparing yourself spiritually? Are you doing battle in the spiritual realm to overcome whatever the problem happens to be? Are you believing God? Are you believing that He is with you, even if you don’t feel Him at this moment, and do you believe that He has gone before you? He is already ahead of you putting things in place so that ultimately you’ll have the victory. And, do you remember that His desire is that your faith will grow? So, this test that you’re going through might be a little bit more difficult than the last test, but unfortunately it’s probably not as difficult as some of the tests to come. Why? Because God is mad at you? Because God wants to make your life difficult? No, because God is pleased when we trust Him. And, when we trust Him through whatever it is that He allows to come our way, He will be faithful to show up every single time.
These priests got their feet wet in the Jordan River. They did what God asked them to do, and lo and behold, God showed up. Do what God asks you to do and watch Him show up. Let’s pray.
Pastor Todd Lauderdale teaches an expository message through Joshua 3 titled “Faith Has Wet Feet.”