(If you have not heard the sermon on Joshua 4, you can find the audio here. The text of ch4 can be read here.)
This week there are a couple of smaller things that didn’t make the cut, although they are still notable. The first comes from v10: For the priests bearing the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.
I did note on Sunday that God called for the memorial of this event before the event was even finished. The priests were still standing in the bed of the river, 1/3 of the Jordan piled up in a heap at the city of Adam (3:16), when God instructed Joshua to gather 12 stones for a memorial so that future generations would know about God’s miraculous sign and proven faithfulness displayed at the Jordan River.
The fact that the Lord commanded this before the feat was completed points to what a high priority it was. It was what we could call a preemptive memorial and it is not unique in the history of salvation. We see a beautifully similar act in Luke 22:19-20 on the night before the Messiah’s death: And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
What blood? The blood that had not yet been shed. What body? The body that had not yet been broken.
We know that Jesus spent time with His disciples after His resurrection. Why not institute this memorial then? Well, like the crossing of the Jordan, it indicates the high priority that the Lord has place upon the observance of the Lord’s Supper. I think it also served to show the disciples the significance of the meaning of His death. This was to be an event so monumental that it was divinely interpreted for us before it even happened.
The second tidbit that didn’t make it into the sermon pertains to v19: The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. When we see the actual date given, we may assume that its purpose is to assist in commemorating the event and to indicate that the Jordan crossing was a literal historical event. I think both of those things are true, but there is more to it than that.
What is significant about the 10th day of the 1st month? The first time we see it is in Exodus 12 in the account of the first Passover: The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, "This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household…” (Ex 12:1-3). The 10th day of the 1st month is the day on which the preparation for the Passover begins. On the 14th day, the lambs are slaughtered at twilight and the Passover is observed.
In our passage for this coming Sunday, Joshua 5, we’ll find that prior to the taking of the land, the people observed the Passover. However, the Passover was not the people’s first act upon entering the land. The first act was the circumcision of all the males who were born during the 40 years in the wilderness. Exodus 12:48 tells us that no uncircumcised male could eat of the Passover, therefore the mass circumcision had to take place before the Passover. So what? God providentially accomplished the crossing of the Jordan on the 10th, the first day of the preparation for the Passover, so that the males could be circumcised (and somewhat healed) and therefore allowed to celebrate the Passover on the 14th, so that the celebration of the Passover could be the last act of the people before taking the land.
In 4:23, the text drew a parallel between the crossing of the Jordan and the crossing of the Red Sea. This crossing of the Jordan out of the wilderness and into the land was like a second exodus. Like bookends of the wilderness narrative, the Passover preceded the crossing of the Red Sea and followed the crossing of the Jordan River.
Is God sovereign or just lucky? Evidence of the former, both explicit and implicit, is insurmountable in Scripture. God caused the crossing of the Jordan at just the right time to fulfill His plan. Praise the Lord that His timing was just as perfect when He delivered us (Rom 5:6; Gal 4:4-5).
Posted by Greg Birdwell
Posted by Greg Birdwell