15 And the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” 18 And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.
19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Verses 15-17: When God directs, Joshua listens. The obedience shown here is great, and something we all would like to think that we would do without hesitation. After all, if God spoke to us directly it would be so different than trying to decipher His will in other ways. Yet Jesus promised that He would send us the helper, the Holy Spirit. The part of the trinity that we often struggle to understand yet it is the part that directly affects our daily lives. Yet if we are Christians, we have access to tap into that Holy Spirit and gain its guidance in areas of our lives. Like prayer, it can be a frustrating process because most of the time there will come no answer, or at least no clear one. It may be as simple as a sudden impulse to read and study a certain passage or book in Scripture, something we could easily misconstrue as something we desire ourselves rather than a directive from God. Yet the more we know and understand God’s will, the better we will be equipped to determine if an impression could be from the Holy Spirit. Studying the Scriptures goes a long way toward accomplishing that purpose, as does a prayer life that is frequent and in alignment with God’s promises, repentance of our own sins, and a willingness to wait on the Lord.
Verse 18: Imagine the sound of the water of the Jordan River, previously held at bay on one side and raised up into the air, comes crashing down upon the now-dry river bed. Not only did the water resume its normal course of flow, it also resumed the previous overflowing level of capacity. You can imagine the sweat beading on the faces of those priests as they stood there in the middle of the riverbed, not only while waiting for thousands to cross but then for twelve men to come back and each take a stone, and then for Joshua to come back and erect a monument in the river where they were standing. Yet they stood steadfast, and God held the waters back until they had all reached the other side. Not one man set down his part of the Ark to flee to safety before the allotted time. That takes courage and faith, in equal measures!
Verse 20: As mentioned previously, the text seems to indicate this is a second monument that is erected, one in the river and then this one at Gilgal, which is further east across the Jordan. It is close outside Jericho, just to the northwest of the walled city where the Israelites are heading.
Verses 21-24: Last time I used the mention of the monuments to discuss building our own visual reminders so that we could better remember the times when God has worked on our behalf. This time, I want to take the opportunity to take a closer look at how we should be using those opportunities to share with others, whether our children or otherwise. Notice here how Joshua not only mentions the miracle done here with the river, but also ties it back to a similar miracle that was done for their near-ancestors with the Red Sea (only two men, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land, so everyone else present at the Red Sea would be dead by now). Not only do we need those monuments to remind ourselves in times of trial and sorrow, we can use them as talking points with our children and others who enter our lives and our homes. Think of them as icebreakers, conversation starters in our homes. You do not have to be perfect and eloquent to boast about what your God can do, especially when He stepped in to accomplish things in your life that you had no chance of achieving in your own power. You do not need a degree in Theology, experience behind the pulpit, nor an elegant plan to share these things with those who ask. This is a passive form of spreading the Gospel, because it is based around others initiating conversation first, but it is a great way for introverts to share these things without having to struggle to find a way to bring up the topic. And, most important of all, it allows us to share these things with the next generations of children in our families. The best thing we can do is to equip our descendants with the faith, and the reasons before that faith. We should strive to actively model its importance in our lives, and these monuments (along with the conversations that will arise from their presence) are a step in the right direction toward this objective.