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Joshua 3 begins with the people on the brink of entering the promised land. They camp before they passed over and the river before them must have looked like an insurmountable obstacle. Joshua knew that entering the land was, first and foremost, a spiritual problem and sends instructions through the camp that “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it” (v.3). The ark goes way ahead (v.4) so the people can clearly see the way, and before the final command to go is given, Joshua is encouraged by the Lord (v.7).
The river that looked so much like an insurmountable obstacle becomes a wonderful opportunity for God to show Himself true to His Word (cf. 1.6, 9). The priests are told, simply, to stand still as soon as their feet touch the water (v.8, 13, 15, 17). The presence of God in the people’s midst would be enough to secure them safe passage over the river. There was no need for ingenious engineering, nor the risking of life and limb crossing a raging river (cf. v.15b). What must have been seen as an insurmountable obstacle was a wonderful opportunity for God to recreate, in part, the events of the Exodus wherein His people are delivered miraculously from old to new (Exodus 14).
The arks is taken, the people set off, the priests stand in the river, and the people pass over as on dry ground (vv.14-17). Obstacle overcome, opportunity taken. Miracle worked, many delivered.
Whilst it’s great to see God working in the past, what does this event mean for you and for me today?
The ark, the ultimate symbol of God’s presence with His people (Exodus 25.22), was the means by which this miraculous deliverance occurred. God with His people allowed them to claim His promises, live the life He had prepared for them, and go wherever He called them.
For you and for me, the same is available to us through Jesus.
He is Immanuel (which means, God with us) (Matthew 1.23).
Jesus is the fulfilment now of everything the ark previewed here in Joshua 3.
Our deliverance, our salvation, our entering into the promises of God, our journey from old to new, all of these things are possible only through Jesus.