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Joshua 3-5 - Water, Stones, New Food

Sun, Oct 11, 2020
Teacher: Mark Juers
Duration:22 mins 6 secs
God goes first, God protects and provides a way. He does it to show the people that He is with them. This is a sacred moment that he wants them to remember and to remind their children of. This is the start of a new life, new food, new land.

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Good to be back from holidays, although that’s not quite the right phrase to use, I didn’t go anywhere, no one is going anywhere, but it was nice to take a screen break.

4 things for today from this passage. There’s plenty more but I’m going with 4 and I’m going to move through pretty fast so if you’ve got your Bible there and a notepad and pen to write them down that’s 10 points to you. If you haven’t yet then why don’t you take this brief moment while I’m waffling on a little bit to go and grab those things. I’m going to move pretty swiftly. If I’m going too fast, the beauty of youtube is that you can replay it later at a slower speed, you can change it in the settings, or if I’m going too slow for you then you can speed it up.

Anyway, we have just heard an amazing account in Joshua’s leadership of God’s people. They are about to enter the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey, but they need to cross the river Jordan to get in. This is a huge deal. They are crossing a major threshold, it is a momentous occasion in God’s story with his people. It marks a huge shift from how things were to how things will be.

There is a tradition that a groom will carry a bride across the threshold of their doorway on their wedding night. There is a shift that is occurring in that couple’s life. A tip to young couples, check the location of where you will be on your wedding night. The first night for Erin and me had a fair lot of stairs leading up to and through the doorway and it wasn’t clear where the threshold exactly was so it seemed that I would be carrying her up a flight of stairs. So if you’re wanting to make it easier on yourself to be impressive and romantic, do some reconnaissance in advance.

Anyway, in that tradition of the groom carrying the bride it is a picture of the husband making a way through. It is an image of protection and provision. And that’s the first thing I want you to see in this story. God goes first, God protects and provides a way.

God goes first

There’s no bridges over the river Jordan, they have a whole lot of stuff to take across, this is a problem. It says there that the river was in flood. This is an impossible problem. Joshua has no way to fix this himself, the only way would be to wait until the change of season when the water recedes and then still have a very wet and dangerous crossing, or travel a long way around. But God wants them there and God is Israel’s protector and he wants to do it this way. He brought the people out of Egypt and the occasion was marked by a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. At that time the Egyptians were chasing them down, danger was behind them but God split the sea in front of them and then his presence stayed behind them in between them and the Egyptians. God’s presence was right where the danger was. Then there’s the whole period of wandering in the desert. Now, at the Jordan, the ark of the covenant is carried by the priests to the water’s edge, this is the presence of God as he was with the Israelites then and God goes first, in front of them. The waters are again split and God’s presence goes first. And then the ark of the covenant stops, right there in the middle of the dry river bed, whilst every woman, man and child walks passed through the danger. What an incredible image of God’s direct and present care. He is not a distant God barking out orders to the unfortunate troops down below. He is there in the thick of it. God’s presence was right there where the danger was.

This becomes an eternal promise, if you go to Isaiah 43, written much later, it says

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

And then the Lord Jesus takes this promise and fulfills it to the extreme for you. This is not a distant story and a distant promise and a distant experience for small problems. Jesus takes this promise and applies it to death itself. In the Bible water is a symbol of chaos, destruction and death. 

Are you worried about death and what is on the other side? The Easter story is that God goes first!

Jesus died, he descended to the dead, on the third day he rose again to resurrection life. God goes first through death into life. And then Jesus declares to us disciples that “I will be with you, always, to the very end of the age”

Christ the groom, carries the church his bride. That’s you. And me. That’s us.

Attention seeking

The second thing to notice is that God is an attention seeker. Jealous for your attention. 

Firstly, God is wanting attention on Joshua. In chapter 3 verse 7 “Today I will begin to exalt you JOSHUA, in the eyes of all Israel” 

Now if we didn’t read the end of the sentence we might think well, God is in the industry of hero making, and maybe we want to pray that God would exalt us, and maybe we should mimic every micro action of Joshua, or King David, or Daniel. 

Of course, there’s lots we SHOULD learn from these people in the Bible, but how does that sentence end? “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, SO THAT they may know that I AM WITH YOU as I was with Moses.” Joshua is exalted as a leader, SO THAT, everyone keeps seeking and following God’s presence. Leaders beware, your position has a purpose and it’s not about you.

Don’t just look at Joshua, the real story is always about God. God is an attention seeker and he seeks it for himself.

Erin and I kid free time, went for a run. Erin has been doing lots of running recently, I haven’t, so the idea of being jealous for her attention and affection, so she would notice her strong fit husband, well it was a bit of an effort. The thing she was most impressed by was that driving home I wanted to stop at a public toilet and the thing she was most impressed by was that I’d done that run on a full bladder. FLEX. I thought that was more for older couples to try and impress each other with their bladder control but no, Any young couples watching, anyone dating or thinking about dating, another relationship tip. You heard it first from Reverend Juers, bladder control flexing, it is impressive.

Why am I telling you all this? God genuinely wants you to know he is impressive. He is powerful, he is jealous for your attention, you are meant to have an experience of God and feel wow, I am way out of my league with God but for some reason he is taking notice of me, and he is wanting me to notice him.  

The epitome of this is the way in which we read about the instructions that are given to the Israelites. In chapter three only partial instructions are given and by the end of chapter three we have the priests standing in the middle of the river with the ark of the covenant and the whole nation has crossed over. No further instruction had been prepared or given. You can imagine the priests thinking, “and then what, do we get to leave the riverbed at some point?” If you had a distant God then unfinished instructions would be a problem, but when you have a present God then unfinished instructions keep you listening.

The start of chapter 4, with the nation across and the priests still in the middle of the riverbed, they’re in limbo, it says “the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men” and then we have the instruction for them to go back to the middle of the Jordan to get the stones and then the priests with the ark of the covenant finally come all the way across. God could have given all of those instructions beforehand, then they go and execute the instructions start to finish, BUT HE DOESN’T. If you get all the instructions your eyes are not on the instructor, they are on the instructions. He gives just enough information to get them going and then gives more guidance on the way. 

God draws attention to himself so that you know he is with you. He is not a distant instructor with your whole life listed out step by step, he wants to walk with you which means life is going to be full of moments where you’ll stop and think I’ve got no idea what’s next and your attention will need to be drawn to God for further guidance at the right time.

Friends, timing is important, act on what you know, wait on what you don’t know.

Have you lived through a miracle, have you witnessed an amazing work of God in your life? Are you waiting for a miracle, are you praying for a miracle, is there a miracle unfolding for you right now? Then remember that God wants to build trust through that. Not just trust in our great and powerful God who created the waters and can part the waters, not just the God who can work wonders from a distance, but the God who walks with us. Who wants to be in dialogue with us.

St Hils, we’re in limbo. We are between seasons with a lead minister who has finished and the next lead minister some time still in the future. Perhaps our locum Chris Appleby feels like the one of the priests standing in the middle of the riverbed. Perhaps the incumbency committee the wardens the church board, perhaps everyone, the priesthood of all believers feel like they’re standing in the middle of the river I don’t know, I don’t want to stretch an analogy too far. The point is, God draws attention to himself across the threshold

Sacred but not superstitious

The third thing to notice is that this is a sacred but not superstitious moment.

Look at how earthy this all is. It’s physical, it’s tactile. There is feet touching water, there is dry ground, there are the twelve stones, then they celebrate the passover and have unleavened bread and roasted grain from the new land. It is stuff you can see and you can feel and smell and taste. They are sacred objects in God’s sacred story. There is reason given for the twelve men to go and get the stones. It says from 4:5 “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites to serve as a sign among you” So they are symbolic, these stones are representative, each of them represents a tribe. “In the future, when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

There is nothing special or magical or superstitious about these stones, they are just ordinary stones like all the other ones. What makes them significant is what they represent. They mark a milestone in the journey and they help to tell the story through the generations.

We have this Paynesville shopping bag I saw it yesterday afternoon, every time I use it I think of Paynesville and Raymond Island and Cormorant by the Lakes, it makes it very easy to talk to the kids about those special times. 

If you need help remembering, then tangible, representative objects can be really helpful, don’t set them up to worship them like a shrine, you never want to go down the path of idolatry. Objects are not gods, they have no power, they are not worthy of worship, only God is worthy of our adoration and praise and we look to him for his mighty power, but objects can help us remember special occasions, and events and the crossing of thresholds.

Which leads me to the fourth point, remember!


There’s something about being in lockdown that makes you forget. I am forgetting some of the normal things of life, and I noticed the other day that I’ve stopped missing things. I’ve actually gone numb to some of the things that I would normally crave and desire. We were watching something and there was this scene of a whole group of people sitting around a dinner table enjoying a meal and celebrating life as a social group. And I thought, oh yeah, that’s what people normally do, but the desire for that has gone numb, I used to miss that but now I don’t, it has been so long since we’ve been able to do that, it has been so long since we’ve been able to have a whole Connect Group joyfully sharing a meal that I’ve stopped remembering.

Remember what continues on

Remember what changes, manna is left behind, the bread that they had in the desert wandering is finished, and the new food of the land lies ahead. Always remember what season you are in. Remember the covenant we are a part of, the commitment and binding agreement that we have now with God through Jesus Christ. Remember you are not in a season of law but of grace. Remember the amazing freedom we have in the Spirit. Remember that all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. Remember wisdom comes from the Lord. Remember the special meal we call the Lord’s Supper, that true soul food. Remember your baptism, your own passing through the waters, even if you can’t recall the image of it in your mind, remember the reality of it happening. Remember you are united in Christ with all the saints throughout all time. Remember you are never alone.

May God bless you with a tangible experience of his presence with you this week. Amen.