Let this be a sign among you 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; 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.” Joshua 4:6-7.
At the house where I grew up there’s a patch of cement my dad put in to fix a big crack in our driveway. While the cement was still wet I carved my initials and those belonging to my girlfriend in a heart shape.
I remember to this day that romance I thought would last a lifetime.
I never forgot her. I couldn’t. Every time I left the house I passed by our initials on display for eternity in our driveway. I’ve told that story a hundred times and each time I recall her with fondness. I thought I would marry her and we’d live happily ever after. Every time I think of those initials in that driveway I recall a bushel full of lessons I learned from that blazing courtship that shaped ways I would relate to future girlfriends.
God provided markers for Joshua and His people too. He instructed Joshua to remove twelve stones from the Jordan River and take them, “across the river to the lodging place and put them down there.” verse 4:8. “So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” 4:7.
God wanted His people to remember where they came from, how God rescued them and then led them into the promise land. But by crossing to the promise land God’s people were not just changing their address. The cross over meant now God’s people were to live transformed lives. The key to transformational living is wrapped up in simple obedience to clear instructions.
The instructions God gave to Joshua and the Israelites were clear and personal. Joshua’s first instruction was to personalize the life experience. The Jews acknowledged Joshua’s instruction and personally obeyed it, taking the stones from the river to the place where they would camp. After the Jews had carried the stones, Joshua set them up at Gilgal, near Jericho.
The crossing was not to be a vacation. His people knew that when they crossed they would be at the back door of Jericho. God commanded Joshua to get 40,000 troops ready in battle gear and cross the Jordan and be prepared for battle in the dessert plains of Jericho.
It’s the same for us. When we cross over into new territory or a new and exciting relationship with Christ, we’d better be prepared for battle ourselves. Satan won’t wait to strike. He’ll be after you to destroy you from your first step into transforming territory.
In addition to personalizing the experience the Jews were to follow Joshua’s exact commands. We read in Joshua that the people did exactly as Joshua instructed them to, without grumbling and without complaining. They didn’t make excuses, they didn’t rebel. They all simply obeyed.
One of the reasons they obeyed was Joshua’s new status as their leader. The Bible says when all the people and the ark had crossed the river, “On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they revered him just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life.” 4:14.
The people also revered their priests. Joshua and the people had a vital link to the priests. It was the priests who carried the ark. It was the priests whose feet dipped in the Jordan made the waters to break. It was the feet of the priests who allowed the Israelites to cross the river on dry ground.
When all the people had crossed Joshua told the priests to come up out of the water. The Bible says that when the priests feet were lifted up on dry ground, “that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all it’s banks as before.” 4:18.
When they camped at Gilgal that night I wonder if they heaved a collective sigh and considered how awesome their God was. How He had brought them out of captivity and into the land He promised to give to Abraham. I wonder if they discussed the awesome power of God that pushed back to waters and allowed them to cross the river on dry ground.
This story of God’s power and love for His people allows us to grow our own faith and testify to the greatness and provision of God in our own lives.
The last instruction God gave Joshua and His people was to be circumcised. Circumcision to the Jews represented shedding off the old way of life and embarking on a new productive journey in their new surroundings. Their circumcision conquered their disobedience and opened the door to obedience and following their God and allowing Him to love and guide His people.
How about you? Have you been through the waters? Did you see God at work along the way? Did you walk through the river on dry ground, even though you were plagued with doubts along the way? Doubts like, Can I trust God? Will He provide for me? Will He show me the way? The story of God’s people crossing the Jordan gives us all hope that the answer to all your questions is a resounding, “Yes!” And as He prepares us to cross the rivers and then takes us there, we will understand what transformational living is all about.