Histo-RAY Commentary by Ray Moore – JOSHUA CHAPTER 3

Histo-RAY Commentary by Ray Moore – JOSHUA CHAPTER 3


“Progress always involves risk.  You can’t steal second with your foot on first.” Fredrick Wilcox

Compared to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Jordan is a humble body of water.  Yet the Jordan takes on the image of a barrier between life and death, earth and heaven, struggling to survive and glories of eternity.  It flows from the slopes of Mount Hermon south into the Sea of Galilee and down to the Dead Sea.  Jesus was baptized in the Jordan.


Verses 1-4  Joshua tells Israel to be ready to travel in three days. The river is at flood stage and a mile wide.  Once again, it was miracle time.

Spiritual leadership now switches from the cloud that has followed the nation for 40 years to the ark of the covenant.  Both the cloud and the ark represent YAHWEH Himself.

The ark was a portable shrine built as a rectangular box which was 27 inches wide and 40 inches long.  It was overlaid with gold.  The cover of the ark had a golden cherub on each end facing toward the middle.  It was between these 2 cherubs that God met with Israel.

The reference to the “distance of about 1000 yards”, gives us a graphic picture of what the march may have looked like.  People could see the ark from all directions and all points of the march.  This shows 2 emphases of the ark:

  1. It shows God’s people God’s way.
  2. A holy presence from which people must keep their distance.

Verses 5-6  Their preparation for entering the Promised Land was spiritual and not physical or military.  They (and us) were to “consecrate” themselves to:

  1. God’s word
  2. God’s will
  3. God’s way/leadership

Throughout the book of Joshua, we see that spiritual preparation and spiritual warfare far outweigh the importance of military preparation and physical warfare.

Instructions for the ark were to “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass ahead of the people”.  The ark contained the words of God on stone tablets, God’s promises to Israel covered by the mercy seat to remind them of God’s love and grace.

Verses 7-8  From the book of Joshua, we learn that our lives and battles are all a part of God’s work and leadership.  If God does not go before us, we cannot cross “Jordan” to receive His blessings.  We must wait for His timing and His way.  The waters didn’t move until the priests got their toes wet.  There is a great spiritual lesson here.  Church leaders today must be first to demonstrate faith in God.  If they are unwilling to walk into the waters of spiritual warfare, the congregation will never cross.

This was Joshua’s “big day”.  Now God said to him, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel.”  It was time to establish the credentials of Joshua to lead Israel.


Verses 9-11  Joshua’s task was to rid Canaan of 7 wicked nations.  Joshua promised a sign, but it wasn’t revealed until verse 13 where Joshua says “ it’s waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”  The exact wording “this is how you’ll know” is found only one other time in the Old Testament, Numbers 16:28 where God is authenticating Moses’ position as a leader.  Here he is doing the same with Joshua.

Versus 12-13  The selection the “12 men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe,” anticipates chapter 4 and their task of carrying stones.


The priests are in the middle of the river and the power and flow are described.  In the ancient calendar, it was the time of Nisan, approximately March/April.  Spring floods are at full strength.   When the priests feet “touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.”

What are some principles we can learn from this chapter?

  1. When God says move, He means it.
  2. God acts decisively when we believe and obey completely.

What are some applications?

  1. When it’s time for the church to move forward, good leaders step into the river first.
  2. Be careful and prayerful in the presence of an awesome God.