After the spies returned with their report to Joshua, all that stood between Israel and the Promised Land was the Jordan River.
In making preparations to cross the river, Scripture tells us Joshua rose early one morning and moved the people close to the Jordan’s banks.
There, where everyone could see this obstacle to their entry to the home, they camped for three days. On the third day, Joshua sent his officers throughout the camp with their marching orders.
If there had been discussions among the Jews about how they would get across the river, and there most surely had been, Joshua was letting them know how their safe passage would occur.
They were told they should follow the ark of the covenant as it was carried by the priests, and we must understand just how appropriate it was that their forward progress should be guided by the ark.
Regardless of anything that seemed to be an obstacle, they should always remember God was their God and He was in covenant with Israel. How could they lose as long as they trusted and followed Him?
Now, the people were commanded to leave behind the place where they camped and “go after” the ark. However, they must not come too close to the ark. Joshua commanded that they keep a distance of “about two thousand cubits” from the ark of the covenant. This meant they must draw no closer than about 3,000 feet between themselves and the ark.
The great distance shows reverence for God and His care for them, but Joshua said, “come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go.” There were so many of them that the people at the front of the group would have seen the ark and the people behind them would only have seen people following the ark.
God wanted everybody to be able to see ark as He led them across the river. Our Father makes Himself available to every believer today. No one person on earth has greater access to God than the access available to every other person.
Joshua said to them, “for ye have not passed this way heretofore.” Sometimes God calls us to follow Him in ways and directions with which we are unfamiliar. Just as He did not want the Israelites to lose sight of the ark of the covenant, He does not want us to lose sight of the hope we have in His precious Son, Jesus.
Joshua said the priests were to carry the ark into the water, but as soon the soles of their feet touched the water, “the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan.” Because the Lord rested in those waters, they would be cut off and the people could walk into the Promised Land.
Maybe the only thing that lies between you and the receiving of God’s promise is a “river,” and all it will take to grab hold of His promise is that you need to keep your eyes fixed on Him and take that step of faith.
— The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church, Lumberton, N.C.