I was reminded this week of how this book of the Bible and in fact every book of the Bible, is best understood when seen as part of one big story, from Genesis to Revelation. THIS Story, HIS Story is OUR Story… As we read Joshua let us keep in perspective the part it plays in God revealing to humanity: how we are to view Him, how we are to view ourselves and how we are to relate to HIM as The Lord.
As His people, God has expectations of how we are to relate to Him. Throughout Scripture and in today’s passage we find guidance in our relationship with our Creator, Savior & Lord. Reading the story at hand as a part of the bigger story gives us the proper context and meaning to drive our vision and practices.
This big overarching story is about how God chooses this nation, this people, to be the ‘Womb’ from which He will birth HIS SON! Israel was God’s Bride just as we are ‘The Bride of Christ’. It is through HIS people HE brings salvation to the world, by bringing us in to a relationship with HIM.
One key aspect of our relationship to God, as individuals and as a community, is the use of memorials to commemorate what God has done with, through, and for HIS people.Throughout the Scriptures, altars and monuments have been erected as memorials to God’s presence and actions. These structures are created as reminders, we have to look at and deal with
This chapter reads in a less than linear way, but it is not hard to see how the narrative fits together.
1 When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Tell the chosen twelve men, one from each tribe, 3 ‘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.’”
- The Lord now tells Joshua what the job of the 12 guys is to be
- They were probably picked based on physical ability
- Joshua waited for the Lord to tell him what the 12 guys were for
- Joshua (and the 12 guys) didn’t need all the details, they trusted God
4 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.”
- The guys had to get close to the Ark, right there next to it…
- The stones were big enough that you would need to carry them on a shoulder
- Unity of action / unity of obedience
6 “We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
- They’re going to leave something to mark the occasion, so they can remember
- Three times in Genesis Jacob / Israel set up stones to remember God’s work
- The Ark (God’s presence) stopped a massive river
8 So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there.
- They did just as Joshua commanded, carried them to camp & stacked them up
- How far did they have to carry them?
9 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. 10 The priests who were carrying the Ark stood in the middle of the river until all of the Lord’s commands that Moses had given to Joshua were carried out.
- Joshua make a personal pile, marking the full transformation of His leadership
- ‘That day’… 45 yrs later when the book of Joshua was written
- The time the priests stood in the river may have been 2 ½ days, shifts?
- They toughed it out until the job was complete
- And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men ~ Col 3:23
The entire nation had hurried across the riverbed. 11 And when everyone was safely on the other side, the priests crossed over with the Ark of the Lord as the people watched.
- They had gotten everyone across and all huddled along the banks of the river
- The whole nation watches as the Ark came up out of the dry riverbed
12 The armed warriors from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had led the Israelites across the Jordan, just as Moses had directed. 13 These armed men—about 40,000 strong—were ready for battle, and the Lord was with them as they crossed over to the plains of Jericho.
- This is a bit of a flashback: describing what took place after it was finished
- They had no families or livestock or stuff so they were the vanguard
- They spread out into a defense perimeter to guard while everyone crossed
- ‘The Lord was with them’… how did they know?
14 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. 15 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.
- The Lord did it not Joshua
- Joshua did his part: trained under Moses, hands on work, strict obedience
- Leadership borne of excellent ‘Follow-Ship’
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.
- All the servants working under the authority of the God established leadership
- HIS way is to work through present, relational people HE raises to servanthood
- When God’s people do things HIS way HIS presence is among them
- “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” ~ matt 18:20
- The presence of God is where the power is
19 The people had crossed the Jordan by the tenth day of the first month. Then they camped at Gilgal, just east of Jericho. 20 It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River.
- Passover, 14h day of the 1st Month. They crossed Red Sea 7 days later.
- The people of Jericho knew they were on the other side of the river
- They knew all the details of the Jordan crossing & NOW they are right there!
- Gilgal means: ‘circle of standing stones’
21 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.’”
- Tangible connection to the history of what God did: REMBERANCE
- Memorials, holidays, feasts, and rituals are key ways we connect to the past
- God teaches HIS people the importance of knowing HIS Story
- Each ‘Spirit Indwelt Believer in Christ’ is a living memorial to God’s work!
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 God forever.”
- Joshua states it clearly, what God did and why He did it (Leadership Role)
- God’s kind of leadership acknowledges the work of God ‘Macro’ & ‘Micro’
- The world will have knowledge of God; but YOU will be transformed forever!
- BIG difference between hearing about something & personally experiencing it
In HIS story God, the author of history, places great importance on HIS people entering ‘The Land’. It was just as important as the ‘Exodus’ from Egypt. The two events are joined by Joshua’s words. The entering into ‘The Land’ begins all of the cycles of Jubilee and Sabbatical years. This marks the beginning of Israel being truly a nation.
Joshua leads God’s people in complete ‘Follow-ship’ of Yahweh, doing no more or less than he is told and doing it when he is told. In this mode God exalts Joshua among the Israelites. Joshua is displaying a human type of the leader God will be when He is incarnated. Christ said: “I do nothing on my own but speak just as the Father has taught me…” ~ John 8:28b
The unified nation, equally represented by tribe, makes a memorial to enshrine in their physical reality, what their God has done, and they do it exactly HIS way. As Christ’s Body we are to be united in the same kind of memorializing.
God consistently works through HIS designated servants, partnering with them to display HIS Glory. Sacrificial service of God and His people, under the authority God has set up, is modeled by the Priests and the ‘Twelve Men, One from each Tribe’. These are given to us as examples.
Part of being God’s people is memorializing HIS STORY! We have the opportunity to connect with that story through the Scriptures. We are given this revelation so we can put the parts of the puzzle together and see the picture more clearly…
The story of God setting apart a people to redeem and to share redemption from is OUR story as Jesus Christ’s Body. We have been ushered into the promised land and we get to be part of sharing HIS salvation.
How well do you understand both Israel and The Church regarding how they are to be view in relationship to each other?
What might you personally memorialize God’s work in your life?
How do we practically honor God and memorialize what He has done as a church?
VISION & PRACTICE:
Clearly see yourself as part of the people God is setting apart for HIS glory.
Live for Christ, acknowledging the importance of the past, present and future!
Perhaps the most profound example of how God’s people ‘Practice’ the remembrance of God’s work, is the memorial we refer to as communion or The Lord’s Supper. What is great about communion is that it is a new memorial every time we partake of it.
It is a ‘Living Commemoration’ of the most important thing God has ever done!