Promises and Power – Message 3
January 22, 2023
I. Introduction: We continue our message series, Promises and Power.
- When we trust in God’s promises, He provides the power needed to fulfill
- The title of today’s message is Crossing. (Crossing the Jordan
River to enter the Promised Land.)
Joshua 3:11 (NLT)—
…the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River!
(Hebrew means “descending” or “downward”); it has the lowest elevation of
any river in the world, dropping 600 feet over 65 miles from the Sea of
Galilee to the Dead Sea.
Some of us are facing flooded rivers we must cross, or obstacles we must
climb over, that are preventing us from accomplishing an assignment from
God to change our lives, improve relationships, or to prevent damage or
hardship in other’s lives.
These barriers are preventing our progress; we must discover how to push
II. Requirements for facing a challenge…
- APP.: Have you identified the personal hurdles and barricades you are
1. Resolve to follow God.
(Joshua 3:1-8. C/R: Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1; James 1:5-8)
- Joshua 3:1 (NLT)—
Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia Grove
[Hebrew Shittim] and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River [10 miles away, an
all-day trip], where they camped before crossing.
Parting the Red Sea happened 40 years before; only two people were alive
who experienced it (Joshua and Caleb), so the people would’ve wondered how
they would cross this 5-10-foot-deep river with children, possessions, and
Joshua 3:2-3 (NLT)—2 Three days later [after resting]
the Israelite officers went through the camp, 3 giving these
instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests
carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God
[Kohathites using poles made from Acacia wood; Numbers 7:9] , move out from your positions and follow them.”
The gold-covered ark (referred to 16x in chapters 3 and 4) symbolized the
Presence of God.
It contained a gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the
stone tablets of the covenant (God’s law including the Ten Commandments).
(Exodus 25:10-22; Hebrews 9:4)
Blood from a sacrifice was sprinkled on the atonement cover (the mercy
seat) of the throne of God (Psalm 80:1) on the Day of Atonement ( Yom Kippur; Leviticus 16:14-15)
Joshua 3:4-5 (NLT)— 4 “Since you have never traveled this way before
[through the flood]
, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a
clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any
[Why? Touching would lead to death (2 Samuel 6:1-7; 1 Chronicles 3:9-12);
also, distance allowed better view for large crowd.]
Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves
[perhaps by bathing, certainly by prayer and repentance] , for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”
We too, should eliminate sinful practices that separate us from God and rob
us of strength.
APP.: What in your life prevents you from following closely to God?
Joshua 3:6-7 (NLT)—
In the morning Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the Ark of the
[on Acacia poles]
and lead the people across the river.” And so they started out and went
ahead of the people.
[God goes before us into every challenge!]
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.”
The people would know Joshua was the chosen leader to follow Moses, when
God responded to Israel’s desperate need by displaying His power in
stopping the water flow.
Joshua 3:8 (NLT)—
“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.’”
[Carried by 4 or 2; Harrison Ford and John Rhys-Davis.]
Joshua obeyed God and instructed the priests to walk into the raging river
with the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of God, Israel’s most precious
possession, on their shoulders.
God did not act until the priests followed His directions received from
Walking into the raging river with the ark on their shoulders required
faith, because it was risky: “what if they dropped it in the river?”
APP.: Has God given you a promise, but nothing has happened?
APP.: Are you following His instruction fully?
Another requirement for facing a challenge…
2. Respond with action.
(Joshua 3:9-17. C/R: Matthew 7:21; Ephesians 2:10; James 1:23-25;
- Joshua 3:9-13 (NLT)—
So Joshua told the Israelites, “Come and listen to what the Lord your
God says. 10 Today you will know that the living God is
among you. He will surely drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites,
Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites ahead of you. 11 Look, the Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord
of the whole earth
[Not merely the God of Israel] , will lead you across the Jordan River!
Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of
all the earth. 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.”
[This description parallels the report of events at the Red Sea (Exodus
14:21–22; Psalm 8:13)]
Joshua 3:14-16 (NLT)—
So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who
were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing
[usually 100 feet wide, spring rains and snowmelt from Mount Hermon in the
north caused the river to become a mile wide, up to 10 feet deep and
But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark
touched the water at the river’s edge, 16 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
[Sea of Arabah, Salt Sea]
until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the
town of Jericho.
The people had to walk by faith into the place where the raging water had
Perhaps this was easier for some with weak faith because the backed-up wall
of water was too far away to see, and they could just follow the crowd, but
they had to move, to risk!
Christianity in America used to be that way: just go along with the crowd,
but our culture has changed so that you may have to walk by faith sometimes alone and with opposition!
Joshua 3:17 (NLT)—
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.
Every slow, halting, step by these people [500,000-1,000,000 of them] took
placed them at risk because the water could return! They continued by
trusting the God of Joshua!
APP.: Is the challenge you are facing progressing very slowly? Don’t give
God is developing your ability to endure by faith in painful delays (Romans
5:3-4; James 1:2-4).
An additional requirement for facing a challenge…
3. Remember God’s works.
(Joshua 4:1-24. C/R: Psalm 71:17–18; 78:1–7; 103:2; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
- Joshua 4:1-6 (NLT)—
When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe.
Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests
are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them
up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of
the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of
the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must
pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in
all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will
use these stones to build a memorial. …”
These men picked up stones from the middle of the river to memorialize that
God held back the water so the people walked into the Promised Land on dry
Joshua 4:9 (NLT)—
Joshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the
Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the
Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day. …
[We assume God directed this action.]
Who could see it? Only God, but the people would remember it; it would
Joshua 4:14- 24 (NLT)—
That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the
Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as
they had revered Moses.
[People will recognize and remember when you exercise risky faith!]
The Lord had said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests
carrying the Ark of the Covenant to come up out of the riverbed.” 17 So Joshua gave the command. 18 As soon as the
priests carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant came up out of the
riverbed and their feet were on high ground, the water of the Jordan
returned and overflowed its banks as before.
The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month
[Passover lamb selected; Exodus 12:3]. Then they camped at Gilgal
[8 miles away]
, just east of Jericho. 20 It was there at Gilgal that
Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River.
Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will
ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 Then you can tell them,
‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the river right before
your eyes, and He kept it dry until you were all across, just as He did
at the Red Sea when He dried it up until we had all crossed over. 24 He did this so all the nations of the earth might know
that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your
[They would add that there is an unseen memorial in the middle of the
Faith is the evidence of things we cannot see
(Hebrews11:1); there are memorials in our memories of God’s great
deliverances that build our ability to trust God in challenges.
It’s helpful to have visible memorials of God’s faithfulness to remind
those who witnessed God’s work and offers an opportunity to share the
stories of those who weren’t there.
ILL. Our baptistry reminds us of being baptized into Christ individually
and building a church collectively. [Other memorial, the Lord’s Supper will
be celebrated on Sunday]
APP.: Do you have a memorial that reminds you of God’s faithfulness: a
tangible picture or object, or a memory of a place where God spoke? Do you
tell others? If not, begin!