Joshua 4:1-5:1 (Part 1) – Unless You Want A Do-Over, Stop & Read the Instructions

Posted: May 27, 2017 in 99-Uncategorized

Joshua 4:1-5:1 (Part 1 of 3)

Memorials to the Jordan Crossing

I remember when I was in my second marriage. When we began the marriage, we had 5 children altogether between the ages of 3 and 10. She had three boys and I had two girls. So, when we had all the kids together, it was indeed a three ring circus. Just the sheer volume of children under one roof was a daunting task when you did anything. Dinners were like feeding armies. Bath times took hours to complete. Getting ready to go anywhere required calculated logistics. Riding in a car to anywhere involved a lot of yelling and screaming as the children descended into the anarchy of “he’s touching me”, “she won’t share”. God, I am thankful those days are gone. It makes me cringe when I think about just managing the logistics of five kids when all five were in my house. One of those logistical nightmares was the Christmas Eve thing. I can remember us trying to get the kids to bed after returning from my second wife’s family Christmas Eve get-together. The kids were all hyped up from the evening’s activities so getting all the kids in bed was difficult to begin with.


Then, when we finally would get the kids to bed, then began the mad frenzy of Christmas present placement and assembly. Why is that what kids want for Christmas when they are between ages 3 and 10 require so much assembly. It’s not “some assembly required”. It’s “a lot of assembly required”. Even the girls things needed assembly. Boys stuff always requires assembly. So, you begin this process, at about 10pm each Christmas Eve and complete it about 4am. Luckily, as they got older they wanted things that were not so heavy on assembly. But those early years! Geez! I was the typical male at first. I would dive into the first toy and try to put it together without the assembly instructions. Inevitably, that proved to be a fool’s game. I quickly learned that if you are going to get this done before the kids start waking up on Christmas morning at like 5am (why is it that you have to use a bullhorn to get them out of bed any weekday morning but on Saturday morning or Christmas morning…), I quickly learned that you must use the instructions. You must lay out all the parts in front of you. You must read the instructions. You must visualize the parts in front of you going together as you assembly them step by step. Then you begin. Multiple times per child. Without taking time to take stock of the project ahead of you and reading the instructions, you can end up getting in bed like at 4:45am in the morning and then the kids waking up begging for Christmas 15 minutes later. I have had that happen.


I used to be a read the instructions later kind of guy. All those years when the kids were little forced me to be a visualization and read the instructions guy. When I just sit and look at the instructions and then look at the parts that I have grouped together by kind. Even then you still make mistakes but the re-do’s are far less then you read the instructions and have the parts laid out by kind. All those years of assembly kids’ toys taught me a lot over the years. Most recently, when my wife of the last 7 years, Elena, and I moved into our new home, we had to buy an entertainment center in which to place our television. I had flashbacks to some of my adventures with the complex toys that I had to put together for my stepsons in my previous marriage. It was those assembly project ON STEROIDS! This entertainment center had so many parts. I was freaking overwhelmed at first. Just grouping the parts together took up two rooms in the house (so that would I have room to do the assembly plus have all the parts nearby). I seriously had to sit and examine the instructions from front to back (a 10-page booklet) before I could begin. Then as I put the pieces together. I would have to read through that step over and over again just so I could get it right. You would have to take stock of what the end game of the step was. You didn’t want to screw up and figure out at Step 10 that what you did in Step 3 was backwards and have to disassemble everything and start over again.


From having to put things together over the past 54 years, I have learned that plunging into anything without understanding what you are doing always results in disaster. That was the kind of idea that I got this morning as I read through Joshua 4:1-5:1 for the first time of three times that we will look at it. Let’s read the passage this morning together:


4 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”


4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 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.”


8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been[a] in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.


10 Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, 11 and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lord and the priests came to the other side while the people watched. 12 The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, ready for battle, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. 13 About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for war.


14 That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses.


15 Then the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.”


17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”


18 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.


19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”


5 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they[c] had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.


In this passage, we see that after the people had safely crossed the river, what would be next? Conquering the land? Not yet. First, God directed them to build a memorial from 12 stones drawn from the river by 12 men, one from each tribe. This might seem like an insignificant step in the mission of conquering the land, but God did not want them to plunge into their task unprepared. They were to focus on Him and remember who was guiding them. Do you often not take time to focus on God and remember that God is in control?


I learned in kid toy assembly that if you skip a step it can be disastrous to your project. We may think that if we don’t read the Bible this morning it will be no big deal. If we think that prayer is no big deal, we skip over that step. However, when we skip Bible reading and we skip prayer and we skip steps in the disciplines of our faith, we are headed for a re-do, a disassemble and a re-do. We may think that we have matured to the point that we do not have to do things that those who are younger in the faith have to do. We may think that we have risen to a stage where we don’t need to read the Bible every day. We may think that we don’t need to take a class on the basics for believers just so we all can get on the same page at church. We may think we know it all have don’t have to do this or that because we have been Christians for 20 years.


Regardless though of how mature we may be in Christ, we are still learning, we are still growing, and we still need instruction. Bible meditation – the reading of the instruction book and understanding of what it telling us and then visualization of how that is going to looking our lives – is a necessary part of life no matter how good we think we have become. We must have that time to reflect on His Instruction Book. We are never too mature to read His Word and to learn more about His instructions. We are never too old to be needy of His guidance. We are never too old to pray and ask Him what to do. We are never so confident in who we are as Christ followers that we cannot learn something new when we sit down, stop, take stock, and listen for what God wants to tell us in this moment at this time.


We need always to sit down, stop, read, meditate on what we have read, visualize when it means to our lives, and THEN plunge in.


Amen and Amen.

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