(Scripture translation references as noted)
In Joshua chapter 3 we can read the story of how the Israelites are continuing their march to the Promised Land. They arrive at the Jordan River where they stop to camp (verse 1.) “Then Joshua told the people, ‘Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.’ In the morning Joshua said to the priests, ‘Lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river.’ And so they started out and went ahead of the people. The Lord told Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’” (Verses 5-8 New Living Translation) Joshua instructs the Israelites to pick one man from each of the twelve tribes and the priests will carry the Ark and he tells them “As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.” (Verse 13b New Living Translation)
Now a little detour here – Numbers 10:1-8 tells how the Lord had instructed Moses to make two trumpets of silver and how the priests are to blow them, using them specifically to call the community together and for having the camps to set out. They have different sounds for different signals and he is told it is a lasting ordinance for generations to come.
I believe at the command of the Lord to Joshua, that it was time for them to move on with their journey, that there is a good chance they were called together and then directed on how and when to move out with the sound of those trumpets. How else are you going to control the movement of such a massive number of people? The census they had taken indicated more than 600,000 men – this was men that were 20+ years of age. (“These are those who were numbered of the sons of Israel, 601,730.” Numbers 26:51 NIV) I think it would be safe to assume that most of those men were married since they tended to marry at a young age and that there would be children in each of those families. Estimates I saw in my research indicated that there were 2.5 to 3.5 million people. (And do not forget about all of the livestock they also had with them.) They absolutely had to have an organized way to control the movement of that population. But, now back to the rest of the story.
“It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” (Verses 15-17 New Living Translation) The priests going out before the people carrying the ark was symbolic evidence of the Lord going before them and surely was awe-inspiring.
What meaning could this have for Christians today? Well, who are the priests today? According to 1 Peter 2:9a, we are! “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…” (NIV) Each and every Christian is a “priest.” That means that we should be bold and with the Lord’s presence in our lives, we should walk out before the “crowds”, and stand firm for them. So how do we “stand firm”? We need to have strong faith and be willing to pray for them. We can stand firm for their safety, we can stand firm for their deliverance, we can stand firm for their salvation, we can stand firm for their very lives. We all have “crowds” in our lives that we should be standing for with our feet planted firmly.
This is a responsibility that we should take very seriously, because one day, God will command all His priests (us) to come up out of that riverbed (the rapture) and then the “flood waters of life” will flow over those that did not cross with us. At that point we will no longer be here to stand firm for them. They will be on their own. Their eternity could literally be in our hands – right now.
Written by Karran Martin
Originally September 30, 2018 – Updated April 22, 2019