Standing on His Promise

An immigrant might kiss the ground of a new homeland. In the Old Testament, the Israelites marked their gratitude by standing on the boundary of their new land in the presence of God. Later, they honored the memory with stones from that unusual place.

 Joshua 3:1–4a, 8, 13, 15–16a, 17 (NIV 1984)

Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.”…

 [The Lord said to Joshua] “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”…

 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”…

 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing…. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground….

 Joshua 4:1–3, 6b–7, 15–18, 20–22 (NIV 1984)

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”…

 “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”…

 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before….

 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’”  [emphasis mine] 

           One of God’s many covenantal promises was to provide a homeland to Abraham’s descendants. It wasn’t a straightforward inheritance. His promise was eternal, but He delayed its fulfillment.

          As God revealed Himself to successive generations through Isaac and Jacob, He looked for faith and obedience in the hearts of His chosen people. It took a long and circuitous journey to get to the Promised Land. The nation of Israel endured the parallel physical and spiritual enslavement and much wandering.

          But a promise is a promise. In this passage, a more obedient generation finally arrives in the Promised Land. God stands on His promises; He keeps them. You can count on that.

 

From: Sandhu, T.J. (2013). Walking with God: Praying through footwork metaphors in scripture. Unpublished manuscript.

 

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