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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 3

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-17

Crossing the Jordan

Joshua 3:1-17


We wish to discuss the preparatory steps to the crossing of the Jordan. These steps are set forth in the opening verses of our chapter.

1. Lodging near the river Jordan. Before they could go across they had to come down by the riverside. However, as we see the Children of Israel camped by Jordan we can but remember that "near," or "by," is not enough. The fathers or elders of Israel had, of old, camped at Kadesh-barnea, just at the borders of Canaan, forty years before; but they would not pass over for fear of the Canaanites. All of that group were now dead excepting Caleb and Joshua.

2. Awaiting the moving of the ark. In Joshua 3:3 we read: "When ye see the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, * * then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it." It is just as big a folly to run ahead of the Lord, as it is to lag behind Him. Sometimes we are in danger of getting too anxious to move out into our ordered pathway to move before God cries "Go," is fatal.

If we want God to go with us, and to bless our word and work we must follow His guidance, and not run ahead. To go too soon is presumption.

3. Going after our Leader. Let us observe the expression, "Ye shall * * go after it." Our mind goes to the Book of Romans where we read: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." If then we are led by the Spirit, we must walk "after the Spirit."

If we would know God, we must follow on to know Him. We dare not allow fear to make us hesitate. Obedience must not be delayed by fear. The waters of the Jordan may seem an impassable barrier to our progress, but our God will attend to the difficulties.

4. The space between the priests with the Ark, and the people who followed after. Joshua 3:4 says: "there shall be a space between you and it, (the Ark) about two thousand cubits by measure."

We are not the "leaders" but the "followers." The servant is not the Lord, and Master. We may have the sacredness of His presence and we may know Him as the One walking by our side; however, we must ever say, "Hallowed be Thy Name."

The space between the Ark and the people was, first, to assure them that the Lord was going before to mark out the path for them; it was, secondly, to assure them of their walking in the right path, that they "may know the way." They had never been that way before.

5. A new experience. The last clause of Joshua 3:4 says, "For ye have not passed this way heretofore."

New experiences demand new strength, new illumination, new aid. In the Christian life we are always meeting higher ground, farther visions, enlarged revelations of truth.

As the age nears its end Satan's strategies, world conditions, and church apostatizings, bring us new need for Divine leadership. We are, today passing along a thoroughfare we have never passed before.


1. Precedents to obtaining God's best. Our verse says, "Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

Sanctification here, as in many other Scriptures carries with it the Divine call to separation, cleansing and dedication.

God cannot work wonders in behalf of a people whose hearts are not perfect toward Him. In Nazareth, Christ could do no mighty works because of their unbelief.

In Psalms 78:1-72 we read of how Israel limited God. Think of it! God Himself, in so far as His working in and through us, is either hindered or helped by our own attitude toward Him, We must be made meet for the Master's use, before He can use us.

2. Necessary to our serving God. If it is necessary for us to be sanctified in order for God to show wonders toward us, it is necessary for us to be sanctified, in order for us to be prepared to do service for Him. We suggested this as we closed our first consideration.

It is for this cause that God has taught many young people, to "flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." The servant of the Lord must be clean, if he would bear the Lord's burdens. Read 2 Timothy 2:20-22 .

Unclean lips cannot proclaim acceptably the glorious Gospel of the Son of God, neither can unclean lives work His will.

II. A WONDER WORKING GOD (Joshua 3:5 , l.c.)

1. The day of miracles has not passed. There are many these days who are teaching that God is withholding His wonder-working powers from the Church. We have diligently studied the Bible, and particularly, of course, the Epistles; yet we have nowhere found that God has ceased to do wonders among His people.

When Christ went away He said, "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go * * and, lo, I am with you." These words can mean nothing less than this: God backs His ministering, evangelizing saints with all the power of Heaven, The fact of the business is that we, with Paul, should seek to know the mighty power which God wrought toward us in Christ. It is one thing to know His resurrection; it is another thing to experience the power of His resurrection.

2. We serve a God who never fails.

"God lives, shall I despair,

As if He were not there;

Is not my life, His care,

Is not His hand Divine?"

In the Book of the Colossians we read: "Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power." It is when we are thus panoplied that we may be able to walk worthy of our Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work.

God pity the preacher who believes that the age of miracles is past; and that the minister, in his own strength, must fulfill his own ministry. To the contrary, Christ still lives; the Holy Spirit is still present with His people; God is still able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Let us realize that in no place will God fail us.


1. The ark going before. In Joshua 3:6 Joshua said: "Take up the Ark of the Covenant, and pass over before the people." Thus they took up the Ark and it went before.

How wonderful is this promise! We believe that it is just as much for us, the Church, as it was for Israel, He who went before His people, of yore, to prepare the place for them to pitch their tents, still goes before us.

He is not merely behind us, backing us up with His power; but He is before us, leading us in each step of the way.

Epaphras, the beloved servant, prayed that the saints might "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." The Lord still has a plan for every life, and when we are willing to follow on in full obedience He will lead us in the way.

2. The people standing still until the Ark moved. The people had no right to rush over to Jordan, and set siege against Jericho until the Ark of the Covenant had gone before. To have done such a thing would have spelled disaster, We dare not run till we are sent. We dare not move, until we are commanded.

The art of standing still is very necessary among believers. Have ye not read: "Be still, and know that I am God"? Some of us are so full of carnal energy that we want to be eternally doing something, whereas we should be quiet before God. God help us to be true.

IV. GLORIFYING GOD (Joshua 3:8-10 )

1. "As I was * * so I will be." This is what God told Joshua in the close of Joshua 3:7 : "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." Can we not find in this statement our right to claim that God still lives, and that He still works for us as He wrought of old?

The Children of Israel, in Isaiah 51:1-23 , cried unto the Lord, saying, "Awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old." Then they asked the Lord, saying, "Art thou not [He] that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not [He] which hath dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep?"

Once more we say, that He who wrought of old, still works.

2. "Hear the Words of the Lord your God." Joshua did not assume any self-ordered leadership over Israel. He was an intermediary. He stood between God and the people. He told them what he was commanded to tell. He did what he was told to do. Here is a message for the preachers and workers of today. We preach not ourselves, but Christ. His Words are our words. We cannot go beyond what is written. Paul said to Timothy and he says to us, "Preach the Word."

3. "The Living God is among you." This is Joshua's statement in Joshua 3:10 . How deep was its meaning then, and how wonderful is its meaning now. He is still among us, and we delight in recognizing Him, and in acclaiming His presence, while we ascribe unto Him all power and glory.

Joshua based his assurance of victory on the Presence of God. Let us give special attention to this: "He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites."

We call this "believing before receiving." We call it a faith that accepts as accomplished, that which is not yet done.


1. The obstacles which confronted Israel. Between Israel and the fall of Jericho lay the surging waters of the Jordan. How could so great a people pass over the swelling tides? To them, after the flesh, those waters presented an impassable barrier.

How often do difficulties loom up before the saints:

How oft do we wonder what we will do,

When waters loom up, and we can't get through,

Yet beyond the waves, there is work to do,

Who will roll the floods away?

Then when we arrive there is something new,

For the floods have gone, and the sky is blue,

And the Lord stands by to lead us through,

And victory crowns our day.

Let us never despair again though the world, the flesh, and the devil oppose us. When God stretches forth His hand all is victory.

2. Stepping forward by faith. Joshua said: "It shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap."

He who would try to do away with the miraculous and seek to show that by some natural cause the waters of the Jordan were held back on that memorable day, has done no less than to endeavor to do away with the glory of the Lord of all the earth. He who, today, seeks to deny the miracles does no less than to deny the Lord, even the Lord of all the earth.

Observe that the priests were to place their feet in the waters of the Jordan before the miracle began to show itself. Here was a real test, which God placed upon faith.

Who among us will do the same thing? Peter did.

VI. EVEN AS HE SAID (Joshua 3:14-16 )

1. "As they that bare the Ark * *, and the feet of the priests * * were dipped in the brim of the water, * * the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap * * and those (the waters) that came down toward the sea * * failed, and were cut off."

How wonderful does it all read. The thing that impresses us is this: it was as they obeyed, with the obedience of faith, that God began to work. How often do we make impossible God's undertakings, by our failure to undertake.

2. It all happened as the Lord had spoken. Does not His Word always come true? We like the opening statement of Joshua 3:14 , which says: "And it came to pass." That coming to pass was not a mere accidental occurrence. It was an answer to the step of faith, and it was a fulfillment of the Words of Almighty God.

Every Word of God is yea and amen in Christ Jesus. There is not one thing that He has said, that He will not do. When His promises are based upon His children's faith or faithfulness, His promises are conditional. When, however, the conditions are met and His believing saints undertake upon the basis of His command, then they will find that He will do even as He said.

We must walk by faith if we expect God to accomplish for us. Salvation is not the only gift of God which is received by faith. We are saved by faith to be sure, but we walk by faith; and, it is the prayer of faith which brings down from Heaven the workings of God for us.

It is true today as it was true in Joshua's day "according to your faith be it unto you."

VII. THE ARK IN THE MIDST (Joshua 3:17 )

1. We have the story of the Lord in the midst of His people. Has He not written, "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save"? Has He not also written, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them"?

As long as the Ark was in the midst, the people had no fear. As long as God is in our midst why should we be afraid?

Had the waters come down, the Ark would have been the first to have been overwhelmed by their rush. When a trysting soul fails, God fails.

2. We have the story of the Lord sharing His people's dangers. No matter what may befall us, it necessarily befalls Him, for He is in our midst. He does not send us forth alone to face the perils of fire or flood, He goes with us; He walks by our side. He is the Christ who looks unto us and says: "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."

3. We have the story of the Lord in the midst as the hope of His people: Had the Ark suddenly been overthrown, the people had turned in every direction to flee for their lives. As long as He is with us we have joy; hope thrills us. We are not even afraid though we travel through the valley of the shadow of death, for He is with us, and we fear no evil.

4. We have the assurance of a completed work. Not only does our key verse tell us that the people passed clean over Jordan, but it tells us that all the people passed clean over. There were none left to be cast down by the returning waters. He who believes God shall never perish.


The owner of an Aeolian harp hung his instrument where the wind could sweep over its strings. The evening zephyrs came and touched it into music soft and gentle like the sound of sweet voices far away, and when the winds rose they fanned it into harmonies grand and majestic.

Close by the harp lay a great rock half sunk in the earth, and the rock said to the harp, "Alas for me! I cannot sing. There is no music in my soul." Directly Thor, the Thunder God, passed that way with his mighty hammer. His sword was dull and his spear was blunt. He built a fire and heated his weapons, and with the rock for an anvil, he struck with mighty force on clanging steel and ringing stone. And then the slumbering tones in the rock broke forth. Great strains of deep, rich melody floated through the valley and over the hill, and all the air about was pregnant with music. The music was in the rock as well as in the harp, but where it took only the touch of a gentle breeze to bring it out of the one, it took tremendous blows to bring it out of the other. And so it is with the hearts of men. Some yield under an easy pressure. God's Spirit comes like a gentle breeze and the heart responds. Others are hard like steel and stone, and unless the hard blows of adversity or affliction come and beat upon them until they are almost broken, they remain dull and hard forever. Unknown.

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Joshua 3". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/joshua-3.html.
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