The first generation of Israelites who walked out of Egypt, freed from slavery, paid a grave price because they refused to take a risk when confronted with the enemies of God. Forty years later their offspring faced a similar challenge. They stood poised on the edge of the Promised Land. To get there, though, they, too, had to cross over a body of water: the Jordan River. Moses was now dead, and Joshua was God’s anointed leader. God’s call to Joshua linked him to all those who had come before him. Just as God has promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses that He would never leave them, the great “I AM,” Jehovah God of Israel, promised Joshua,
I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses…. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:3, 5)
Three times in this conversation God reassured Joshua and exhorted him to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9). Joshua’s God was about to fulfill the covenantal promise He had made to Abraham hundreds of years earlier:
The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God. (Genesis 17:8)
Between the Israelites and Jericho stood the Jordan River. Unless God intervened as He had at the Red Sea, the Israelites would have to wait until the flood season passed. But God used this very obstacle to establish Joshua as their anointed leader (Joshua 3:7) and to prepare them for the even more difficult challenge ahead (vv. 9-13).
Crossing Over – What Does it Take?
A commitment to “cross over” requires a clear direction from the Word of God.
When God transferred leadership from Moses to Joshua, He tied His promise to go with the people to a command that Joshua and his fellow Israelites must study and meditate daily on God’s Word, God’s Law, as given to them through Moses. Moreover, Joshua and the people were not just to read the Word, but they were commanded to obey it (see Joshua 1:8-9)
A commitment to “cross over” requires a readiness to undergo suffering and loss in serving the Lord.
Before crossing the Jordan, Joshua also called the people to set themselves apart in preparation for God’s mighty work (Joshua 3:5). The very act of consecration reminded them that the coming campaign was not for their own glory, but for God’s glory alone.
Several days after our sixteen-year-old son’s death, God led Sharon to review her most recent journal entries. She wept as she realized that in the months before the accident, God had led her to repeatedly surrender our son to God’s protection and sovereign plans. Although she had also written prayers for our other children, Mark’s name appeared more frequently, even in the context of possibly losing him in a car accident. Coupled with her fears was the written conclusion in one entry, that “if Mark were killed in a car accident I know You would give me the grace to not only survive but to also experience joy once again.” On days when torrents of grief threatened to wash her away, the memory of this Spirit-led consecration gave her enough strength to trust God and to withstand the discouraging whispers of the Enemy, who always wants us to turn back, to give up, at the water’s edge.
A commitment to “cross over” is founded on a confidence that God will lead the way.
God does not send us; He leads us. The priests actually touched the water’s edge before the water stood up in a heap. As God had commanded, they stood with the Ark in the middle of the river until every Israelite had crossed over the Jordan and reached the other side. The Ark is mentioned eleven times in this passage and was the focus of their obedience; it represented the very presence of God. He dried up the Jordan River, not just to get His people to the other side, but also so “that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:24)
Free To Choose Rightly
God’s instructions require trust and discipline. His answers to our prayers for help and guidance,- whether these answers come through our circumstances or through the clear teaching in His Word or through the godly counsel of a friend or pastor – will often confuse or surprise us.
Will the Christian employee, asked to compromise Biblical values in order to keep his job, “cross over” and remain faithful to God no matter what? Will the father, who must demonstrate “tough love” to rescue his child from some life-destroying sin, “cross over”? Will the busy family answer God’s call to extend His mercy to the homeless and the hurting; will they, too “cross over”?
Many of God’s directives appear to defy what we consider to be reasonable and normal behavior. As we consider these commands we are, in a sense, poised on the brink of the River Jordan. “Can I trust God to keep His promise to be there with me, to protect me? Can I trust God with the results of my obedience.”
The answer is certainly “yes” – you can trust God for all of this and more.
The harder question, of course, is this: “Will you?”
This article is adapted from Treasures of Faith, Living Boldly in View of God’s Promises by Chuck and Sharon Betters. Visit any bookstore or www.markinc.org to order Treasures of Faith for personal or group study. A Leader’s Guide is also available.
For more on Moses and others listed in Hebrews 11, listen to Dr. Chuck Betters on In His Grip on www.ONEPLACE.com.