There is something about being on one side of a river especially when it is a boundary. I remember the thrill of crossing the Tamar into Cornwall. So many times I have made this journey and always there was a moment of elation, of joy that Cornwall had been reached - it was a long way from the deep countryside of Kent, that for a little while the way of life would be different, something new was beginning. The boundary was tangible and visible.
Now near Jericho the Jordan in Spring overflows its banks and in places is more than a mile wide and treacherous to cross. How to do it? The people followed Joshua not knowing how but with great faith. The ark of the covenant was the most sacred of the tabernacle furnishings and symbolises the throne of of the Lord. So in the account the Lord himself went ahead of his people, as he led them to the land of Canaan. The significance of this cannot be overestimated for the manner of crossing will bring assurance to the nations, that the one true God is with them and that he will surely dislodge the present inhabitants of Canaan. Those on the other side of the river worship Baal, thought by them to be the most powerful of their Gods for he triumphed over the sea-god. By opening the waters of the Jordan, for us a reprise of the parting of the Red Sea, God shows that he is Lord of the waters, just as he was Lord of of the flood and of course of creation (the spirit of God hovered over the waters) Such clear power over water will strike fear in the Canaanites and boost the confidence of the tribes of Israel. Notice too that the ark remains in the river bed until all have crossed. It is through the Lord that the people reach the promised land, they came through the Jordan by his power.
Paul in his letter to the Hebrews begins by reminding his readers of God’s permanence.
“In the beginning Lord you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands, they will perish but you remain: you are the same.”
God’s promises are everlasting, they can be relied on in ways unknown for the promises of man. No matter what the circumstances, God will fulfil them - so the priests after three days on the edge, looking at the waters, without bridge to cross follow Joshua’s instructions and dip their feet in the edge of the water .
Imagine that - the promised land (think of my Cornwall maybe) waited for, for so so long and it comes down to dipping your toes in the water and trusting.