Joshua 4: Crossing the Jordan River

Joshua 4: Crossing the Jordan River

The crossing of the Jordan was a significant event for the nation of Israel.  They had just spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness preparing for this moment.  The adult generation who came out of Egypt, but refused to go into the Promised Land had now all died, except for Joshua and Caleb.

Of those who would cross that day, many were children when they crossed over the Red Sea with the Egyptian army behind them. Others had been born in the wilderness and knew only the stories.  Many recalled the pillar of cloud and fire which went before them. This would be a different moment. They are not led by a pillar of cloud and fire, they are led by the Ark of the Covenant, which represents the presence of God with them.  Who is described as Immanuel?  Jesus. What does it mean?  God with us.

When Israel crossed the Red Sea this was a picture of the believer being delivered from the bondage of sin; here crossing the Jordan is a picture of the believer claiming their spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ. Joshua is a type of Jesus Christ who leads us day by day into the inheritance He has planned for us.   However, it is required we take a step of faith. Unless we step out by faith and get our feet wet, we will not make much progress in living the abundant life Jesus Christ died to provide us.

What did God say He would do for Joshua on this day?  “I will exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you.” (Joshua 3:7)  This is what the Lord did that day. “That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.” (Joshua 4:14)

The Lord uses this entire chapter to describe the memorial of 12 stones (one for each tribe) which is placed in the river bed before the Jordan rolls back over them and also in Gilgal, their first camp in the Promised Land where another 12 stones will be piled on land for all to see.  These were to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

In fact notice the days mentioned once again:  “On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho.” (Joshua 4: 19)  Know what day this was? Exodus 12 tells us the significance of this day:  “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month of your year. Tell the whole community that on the tenth day of the first month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.”   This was the Passover Lamb.

Let me summarize the events of this chapter:

  • In 4:1-3, God tells Joshua what to do, regarding the 12 stones. .
  • In 4:4-7, Joshua tells the 12 men what to do with the stones.
  • In 4:8-10, the people do what Joshua told them to do.
  • In 4: 11-18; we hear how the people and the priests passed over the Jordan.
  • In 4: 19-24, we hear the final reminder of what these 12 stones are for.

Here was the significance of the day.  They had arrived at Gilgal on the 10th day of the first month. The day in which the families took in a lamb to be sacrificed four days later to celebrate Passover.

Israel had come into the Promised Land just in time to celebrate Passover.

*Notice the reverse order compared to the first Passover in Egypt.  In Egypt, Israel celebrated the first Passover, posting the blood of the lamb on their doorpost. The Angel of Death passed over their homes and all within were saved. The first born in Egypt who did not have the blood posted on their doorpost died.

The nation of Israel led by Moses then went out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. Now under Joshua, we see the parallel, but it is in reverse order. Rather than Passover then crossing, we have the reverse taking place: cross over then celebrate Passover. When we get saved, the blood of Christ is applied to our hearts and we are no longer under the sentence of death that is the judgement of God and eternal separation from Him. After our baptism by the Spirit we enter into the Promised Land, which is the abundant, spirit filled life. There we observe the Lord’s Supper which memorializes his death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.


Approximately one thousand years later, another Joshua came to the Jordan River where a man named John the Baptist was baptizing people calling them to repentance. The name Joshua comes from Yeshua, and is the root word from which the name of Jesus is derived.  Yeshua, or Joshua means: Jehovah Saves.  When Mary is visited by the angel, Gabriel, she is told she will be with child by the Holy Spirit and she is to name this child: Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.  Jesus is the Savior. He is God in flesh.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He is Lord. We are to call on the name of the Lord and we will be saved.  It does not matter in which language you call upon Him in- whether it be Hebrew or Greek, English, Spanish, German, Korean or Chinese- it is the name of the Lord.  Christ simply means ‘anointed one, which also means Messiah. ( Do not let these names in Hebrew, Greek and English confuse you- it is the name of the Lord one calls upon and this refers to the Son of God who became flesh, born of a virgin and named Jesus, the One who would save his people and die for the sins of the world.)

So here is John the Baptist baptizing people in the Jordan River, probably in the same general area where Joshua and the nation of Israel crossed over the Jordan River. Large crowds are coming out to see him and respond to his preaching.  Of course the Pharisees are there to see what this is all about. John the Baptist is questioned as to who he is.  Anyone who was Jewish knew the story of Joshua and the significance of the crossing of the Jordan River and it was here God signaled that He, God, who had exalted Joshua before all Israel and now He was going to continue the deliverance of His people from the captivity of sin, He began 1000 years before when they first crossed over the Jordan River. He is going to exalt another Joshua, the very Son of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.

The people wanted to know who are you, John the Baptist? The priests and the Pharisees wanted to know who this man was.  John the Baptist told them: “I am not the Christ. They asked him, “Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” Are you The Prophet? He answered, “No.”  Then who are you and why are you baptizing if you are not the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet?” (John 1)  *Andrew would tell Peter the day he met Jesus, ‘we have found the Messiah, the Christ and brought him to Jesus.’ Philip found Nathaniel and told him: ‘we have found the one Moses wrote about in his law.’

John the Baptist answers with Scripture from Isaiah:  “I am the voice of one calling in the desert. Make straight the way for the lord. I baptize with water, but among you stand one you do not know. He is other one who comes after me, the thongs of his sandals I am not worthy to untie. “

The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said; a man comes after me who has surpassed me because he was before me. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came with water was that he might be revealed to Israel. “(John 1)

Remember God parted the Jordan River so Joshua would be exalted in the eyes of Israel.

Why did Jesus, who knew no sin, have to be baptized?  He tells John the Baptist and us it was fitting for this baptism to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus identified with men, and he also identified with our sin. He was tempted in every way we were but without sin.  This act is the first act of His Ministry to be identified with us and also His obedience to do all which God had commanded Him to do.  He was not worried what it looked like to others that He was responding to an invitation of baptism for repentance. Just as he went about doing everything He was commanded to do including enduring the shame of the cross for the joy that was set before Him which was to become the author and finisher of our faith.

To understand this we must remember what Jesus said He came to do regarding the Word of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5 Jesus tells us:  “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish the laws, but to fulfill them. For assuredly, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law until all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5)

Now focus on what John the Baptist said when he recognized this was the Lamb of God, the One who knew no sin.  John the Baptist tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized by him by saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” (Matthew 3)  “But Jesus answered, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  This baptism of this one whose name is Jesus , the sinless Son of God who knew no sin is part of Jesus doing what He said he came to do, to fulfill all the law. This is the key- Jesus had to fulfill the Law of Moses to the most minute detail. In order to fulfill all righteousness.  * It is this righteousness we are clothed in when we get saved.

To better understand this we must look back to Genesis 14 where we are introduced to a mysterious figure. “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of the Most High God. “ Genesis 14.  And we read Abraham gave him a tithe of all.

We read in Hebrews 5:  “So Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father. And He says in another place, You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

We also read in Hebrews 7 about this mysterious priest:  “First, his name means, king of righteousness; the also, king of Salem, which means king of peace. Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”   Jesus had to keep all the law, fulfilling all righteousness.

Jesus was able to set aside the first covenant, by fulfilling all the laws of the Old Testament. He was then able to establish the new covenant. (Hebrews 10: 9)

Thereby Christ became our High Priest. “He went through a greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say a part of this creation. He did not enter by the means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, and by His own blood obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9: 11)

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of heifers sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself, unblemished to God cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we might serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13, 14)

So quite simply, Jesus was baptized in accordance to the Law of Moses so He would qualify and could enter into the Melchizedek priesthood- so He could be the High Priest and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.

He made sure he met all the qualifications. Followed the law, every jot and tittle.

We are told Joseph and Mary did everything according to the law. The baby Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. When the time of purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the law of the Lord. (Luke 2)

Every year his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. We read in Luke 2, at age 12 he was left behind, unknowingly by his parents. They returned to find him sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them question and everyone was amazed at this understanding. When his parents saw him and his mother and father asked him why had he treated them so; Jesus at 12 years old replied:  “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be about my father’s business?” He was already going about fulfilling the law.

Then here he is at the Jordan River eighteen years later, Jesus at age 30, the age one had to be to qualify for the priesthood. Jesus begins his ministry as the one who would become our High Priest. Washed now with water and anointed by the Holy Spirit which descended upon him, Jesus tells John the Baptist, this is proper for me to fulfill all righteousness.

Jesus made sure He did everything He was required to do to fulfill the law.   “God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5: 21)

God the Son knew what His mission was before He came to earth. “Therefore when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am – it is written about me in your scroll, I have come to do your will, O God.”  (Hebrews 10:5-7)

“For when this priest (the Lord Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool; because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10: 13, 14)

Jesus’ baptism show He identified with sinners. His baptism symbolized the sinner’s baptism into the righteousness of Christ, dying with Him, buried with Him and rising free to walk in the newness of life.

The twelve stones left in the river remind us our old life is buried with Christ, and we must now live in the new life in the Promised Land where the other 12 stones were placed at Gilgal for all to see.

Remember God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt so they could enter into the Promised Land. The Lord Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly.  The life lived in the Promised Land.

Jesus brought us out of the captivity of sin and our sins, cleansed us with His blood, the blood of the Lamb so we might be passed over by the angel of death, God’s judgement.  Now we are clothed in his righteousness.

It was because He had to fulfill all the laws that Jesus insisted John the Baptist baptize him. When John the Baptist heard the voice of God confirming this was his son and saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him, He knew this was the Son of God who would baptize with the Spirit. The one John the Baptist came to prepare the way for through repentance.

We, who are born again believers, are identified with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. We now have overcoming power over the world, the flesh and the devil. We are overcomers in Jesus Christ.

Bottom line:  if you want to overcome and claim our spiritual inheritance, believe the Word of God, step out by faith and get your feet wet!

Surrender yourself to the Lord and die to your old life. And guess what He will do?  “He will bring you into the land and give you the days of heaven upon earth.” (Deut. 11:21) This the abundant life, the spirit-filled life.

We will see the other steps which must be taken in order to prepare us for what lies ahead as we study the story of Joshua. For the enemy will fight tooth and nail to keep you from taking possession of what the Lord has given to you.

When you got saved, Paul tells us we were blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  I refer to this as our savings account opened for us at salvation by our Heavenly Father.

Paul uses the term- ‘reckon’ in the KJV in Romans 6, an accounting term which means to count something accurately and know it to be true.  The Holy Spirit reveals the things God has freely given us that we might know what is deposited in our account.

Now like any account in this day and time requires you have a password to enter into your account, I believe our password is you must use to draw upon this account is: FAITH.  Faith which leads to obedience.

God wants us to grasp the truth about Himself. God also wants us to know the truth about ourselves. God wants us to understand the truth about other people.

When we begin to understand the truth about God and believe He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. We will begin to grasp the truth about who we are and what He says we can do. None of this will take place unless the Word of God is active and alive in your life through obedience.

He tells us apart from Him we can do nothing.  But He also tells us we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

God wants us to know the Truth. Jesus said if you continue in his word, you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.  And in that same passage Jesus says if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. (John 8)  Notice Jesus substituted his name for truth. For He is the way, the truth and the life.

Life is found in God.  This life is sustained in a relationship with Him through His Word and prayer.  He wants each morning to meet with you.  He beckons you with these simple words— come- let’s walk together and talk together.  He wants to share His life with you and wants you to share your life with him.

When my mother was alive and our children were all small, she would often call me and want to know what they were doing and what they had done. She wanted details. Why? Because she loved them so much and wanted to share in their life.  Same is true of our Lord.

Behold He stands at the door and knocks. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him/her and dine with them and they with Me.   Revelation 3.

How He wants you to live the life He has for you.  He wants to share his life with you and you share your life with Him.    He likes details.

Oh How He loves you and me!  He gave His life, what more can He give? Oh how He loves you and me!



One thought on “Joshua 4: Crossing the Jordan River”

  1. I was searching for the ages of those who crossed the Jordan River into Cannana’s land and I ran across the above comments. I throughly enjoyed the information!

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