JOSHUA 4:1 – 6:27 and LUKE 2:21–52
The Lord speaks to Joshua to take 12 men, one from each tribe and instructs them to take 12 stones from the place where the feet of the priests stood firm in the midst of Jordan and to take them over to the other side where they lodged (vs 1-8). These stones were to serve as a memorial to remind them and all future generations as to how the Lord cut off the waters of Jordan. Memorial stones, whether the ones referred to here or in other places have great significance. There was the memorial when Israel defeated Amalek soon after the Exodus (Exo 17:14). There was the memorial established after Korah and the others defied God and Moses (Num 16:40). Jesus commented about Mary, after she broke the alabaster jar as an act of worship that a memorial would be made concerning her. We continue to cite her act of worship to this day. Memorials are to serve as reminders. They are meant to encourage us as well as to warn us. We have the advantage of many Biblical markers to help guide us in these days. Joshua also instructed them to place 12 other stones at the place where the feet of the priests were firmly planted (vs 9). These must have been prominent stones due to their being noticed many years and perhaps generations afterwards.
I would like to draw our attention to the Ark of the Covenant. In this and the next few chapters we will see that everything centres around the movement of the Ark. We know that the Ark of the Covenant speaks of the presence of God. In it are the two tables of stone. (Law) There is also Aaron’s rod that budded that speaks of Resurrection power and authority. It also included the Golden Pot of Manna which refers to the “hidden truths”. Let’s compare in some detail the difference between the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses and the Jordan River under Joshua. First, in the crossing of the Red Sea we know that Israel had not yet been given the Law. That would come later as they approached unto Mt. Sinai. When Joshua is leading Israel we have the Law contained in the Ark of the Covenant. This will be elaborated further when we look at circumcision in the next chapter. Secondly, they had Moses Rod that was stretched forth over the waters which resulted in them being rolled back (Exo 14:16.) Under Joshua we have Aaron’s rod that budded which is contained within the Ark which speaks of authority and resurrection life. The Ark of the Covenant is the focal point. It is the presence of God in the midst of Israel that makes all the difference. We have already seen in these early chapters of Joshua how vital it is to be in close proximity to the Ark. The way of approach for us is seen through Moses Tabernacle. The Ark of the Covenant is located in the holy of holies and one cannot presume to just draw near to it on their terms. There is the mistaken notion in many New Testament churches that one can just enter in because Jesus tore the veil at His death. I am of the strong opinion this is not the case.
The Levitical manual is one that identifies the priestly role. It also helps to define the qualifications of becoming priests of God. We are called and made into priests (Rev 1:6, 5:10) by way of a process in walking in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). We have choices to either appropriate grace to be changed whereby we become more like Him or we can choose otherwise. There is a narrow way and a broad way within the kingdom (Math 7:14). If we allow God to circumcise our heart resulting in a dying to self (Gal 2:20) we qualify in walking the narrow path. If God’s Word becomes inconvenient we will make other choices that place us on the broad path. This path will not lead to the Holy Place or Holy of Holies. If this is true it then keeps us at a distance from the Ark of the Covenant; the place where His presence dwells. We want to be where the Lord is, we want to seek and ever be in his presence (Psa 27:4).
Why am I dwelling on this thought of the Ark of the Covenant? Let’s take a look at Jos 4:10:
Jos 4:10 For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until everything was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over.
Remember in chapter 3 where we looked at the thought of “The Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan”? As long as the priests were standing in the midst of the Jordan bearing the Ark the waters remained abated. It is hard to determine how long the waters remained parted but it allowed for Israel to cross and for the priests to establish the 12 stones within the Jordan. The priests maintained their position while this transition took place. The moment when the Ark came out of the midst of the Jordan and when the soles of the feet of the priests touched dry ground, the waters returned as before. We will see in the next chapter that this crossing is significantly different from the Red Sea crossing under Moses for other reasons. These events have great spiritual meaning for our lives. Chapter 4 ends with another reminder regarding the 12 stones that were placed in Gilgal. These were the stones taken from the Jordan River where the priests stood bearing the Ark. Joshua instructs them to be placed in Gilgal which became the reference point for Israel. Israel would branch out from Gilgal in their taking of the land and come back on various occasions. The name Gilgal means “wheel”. It is an interesting meaning seeing that it served as a base of operations for Israel.
The enemies of the Lord were now in great fear after hearing how the waters of the Jordan were dried up. It needs to be remembered that the Ark of the Covenant was also now in their territory. The children of Israel are no longer the tail but now becoming the head (Deu 28:13). This is God’s work; Joshua and the children of Israel are beneficiaries of something that was in the heart of God that dates back to the days of Abraham. It is the responsibility of the priests to capably represent the Ark whether in journey or while in its resting place in the Holy of holies. In later years we will see great presumption in how the Ark was handled. One of the primary lessons that will need to be learned is that we are to never take the presence of the Lord for granted. This is something that a priest should never do.
In verses 2-9 we see the Lord instituting a 2nd circumcision. All the men over 20 that came out of Egypt had now died so now we have a whole new generation of men. Why a 2nd circumcision and what does it represent? When Israel came out of Egypt they were physically out of that land nonetheless the desire and attachment for Egypt was still in them. This is likened to our salvation experience. When we accept Christ into our hearts we are saved and forgiven of our sins. Yet, there is a sin nature that works within us. Do you remember our study on the Sin Offering in Leviticus 4? There is a nature of sin within a believer that still must be addressed and removed. The crossing of the Jordan represents a circumcision of heart. It is here where the inner desire for Egypt (the world) is removed. It is a picture of the New Covenant which is where the law of God is written upon the fleshly table of the heart. It has the ability to get to the root of where all sin originates. This is what is represented in this 2nd circumcision. We also need to note that Israel now has the Ark of the Covenant in its midst. Within the Ark are the two tables of stone (The Law). When Israel crossed the Red Sea they had not yet been given the Law. This circumcision speaks of the circumcision of heart. The Bible makes mention of how we are to pursue the secret and hidden things of God.
Pro 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
Mat 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
There are so many gems that can be discovered as we pursue God with all our heart. His Word is a treasure and it conceals many precious truths to those who seek after them. The golden pot of manna speaks of revelation and hidden truths that can be found in God’s Word. The familiar verse from Heb 4:12 can also be applied:
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God can be likened to that sword of Circumcision. It has the ability to cut through the emotions and mood swings of the soul to strengthen and feed the spirit man. It also has the ability to get right to the heart to reveal its true condition. Can we appreciate the New Covenant parallel seen in this crossing? Can we also appreciate how precious and hallowed the Ark of the Covenant is? Its contents give insights as to how God moved on behalf of His people. It is a picture of what is required from the modern day priests of our day. Are we in a position to see fulfilled in our lives what is represented by the Ark? This would mean an embracing and upholding of God’s law and standards coupled with a love for His Word.
In the last 3 verses of Chapter 5 we see Joshua having a unique encounter with the Lord Himself. Joshua saw a man with a sword drawn in His hand. He correctly enquired as to whether he was for him or against him. When he introduced Himself as the captain of the Lord of hosts He knew it to be the Lord. He immediately fell on his face and worshipped and came to know that the ground he was on was holy. What happens when one is standing on holy ground? We saw in Moses that he heard the heartbeat of God and was then commissioned (Exo 3:4-10). We see with Isaiah that he became undone, seeing himself as unclean. His lips were cleansed which enabled him to then become God’s prophet (Isa 6:1-6). What about Joshua? He sees the Lord with a sword in His hand. Joshua is about to go forth conquering territory for Israel’s inheritance. Before he wields the sword in Canaan there first must be a yielding to the sword in his own life. This is the true picture of the circumcision that is mentioned earlier in the chapter. The enemies and strongholds within must first be conquered before the enemies and strongholds without can be taken. This precedent still applies today. In closing with this chapter let’s consider a portion of the Lord’s Prayer.
Mat 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Mat 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Do you notice that the theme of holiness comes before the kingdom? Do you think that much of today’s church tends to get it backwards? The sword within must come before the sword without.
The Lord gives Joshua specific instructions regarding the taking of Jericho. The city was well fortified with the people shutting themselves inside figuring that Israel would not be able to penetrate its walls. The Lord made clear that he was giving them the city but it had to be obtained according to God’s battle plan which was most unusual. They were to surround the city and go around it once a day over a period of 6 days (vs 3). In verse 4 we are told that there were to be 7 priests with 7 trumpets and on the 7th day surround the city on 7 occasions. The number 7 speaks of completeness.
The taking of Jericho is perhaps a precedent that the Lord is looking to establish. The battle plan must be complete and thorough when looking to take a territory against the enemies of God. We will later see instances where Israel failed to do this. It was on the 7th day when the people were to make a loud shout resulting in the wall come tumbling down. Once again this is God’s work. He is giving Joshua and Israel the privilege of being His instruments of judgement upon His enemies. Israel was not to say a word in their circling of Jericho over the first 6 days (vs 10).
One cannot help but notice the functioning of the Ark of the Covenant in this strategic battle. The 7 priests with trumpets went before the Ark as it circled Jericho. What a wonderful thought it is in seeing God Himself fighting on behalf of His beloved people. This was a solemn move of God as He moved against the king and mighty men of Jericho. The Lord God was surely in the midst of His people. We may not always understand the way and methods God uses but we can trust Him when He says that He will go before and fight on behalf of His people.
We know that Pharaoh did not let Israel go out of Egypt in the early stages of their encounter. The Lord was teaching Moses about spiritual warfare. It would have been no problem for God to have destroyed Pharaoh earlier while opening up the Red Sea for their exit. Yet, it was the Passover Lamb that in the end broke Pharaoh’s power. The plagues allowed iniquity to become ripe which then paved the way for the Passover Lamb. It’s here at Jericho where we see a vivid type of the true Passover Lamb.
The battle of Jericho was the first war Israel experienced after crossing the Jordan therefore it is important to take note of various precedents. First, there had to be obedience to God’s battle plan. We see that the priests were involved in both the blowing of trumpets and in the bearing of the Ark around the city. It is also important to note that there was to be no taking of any accursed thing otherwise there would be trouble for that person as well as for Israel. We will see this take place in the next chapter. In doing these studies I have been amazed at how God seems to judge quickly in certain situations. At other times there seems to be a certain tolerance for similar infractions where the longsuffering of God is extended to hopefully bring change. There is something about the presence of God when it is on the move in a time of significant transition.
It is a powerful dynamic when you consider that a holy God interweaves with the purpose of man. Sin cannot stand in the presence of a holy God. Whenever a fresh move of God is underway there is a judgement upon sin whether it pertains to the taking of nations or an execution of judgment upon a nation and or its people. This is why the spirit of the Lord is emphatic in the last days that we are to come out of Babylon and its sins (Rev 18:4). When God is moving and judging sin we do not want to be wrongly aligned. On the night of Passover there was not one Egyptian first born male that was spared when God’s judgment came upon the land. We are quickly approaching the end of the church age. If these precedents had deep meaning for Joshua and Israel back then how much more for us who have the advantage of history to instruct us? What God did in Jericho is a picture of the 2nd coming of Christ. Are we men and women of the true circumcision of heart? This is the company who will fight alongside the king of kings when He again returns to the earth. It will be a company that is not accompanied by the Ark but by the Lord Himself. Here is another kingdom principle that the church seems to get backwards.
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:” (2 Tim 2:12)
Before we become a king we first must be a priest.
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Rev 20:6)
Luke 2 – Read day 76 commentary