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Just a quick review of some of the key spiritual disciplines that we have touched on but that deserve more study:


Chapter 1:

1)  Strengthening ourselves in the Lord so that we obey the command to be Strong and Courageous

2)  Meditating on the Word of God so that we are careful to Obey it completely

Chapter 2:

3)  Avoiding the Grasshopper mentality by focusing on a Vision of Victory

Chapter 3:

4)  Consecrate yourselves – Waiting on the Lord in preparation for the Lord doing wonders among you — Will involve repentance; an undivided spiritual focus; separation

5)  Step out in Faith – Avoiding the Victim Mentality by keeping our Vision on Christ – God does not start working until we step out in faith .. that is when the waters of the Jordan in our life our rolled back

6)  Persevere in Faith – not enough to just stick our toes in the water – we need to live on the other side of the Jordan River – united with Christ experientially in His death, burial (crossing the Jordan) and resurrection (Romans 6-8)

7)  Fundamentally, appreciate that Spiritual Victory is a Gift from our Sovereign God – Drives a positive attitude of Thanksgiving which puts the focus on God rather than us

How can it be a gift you say … look at all the spiritual disciplines we are called on to exercise .. we can only be successful in any of those by the Grace of God … not by our own efforts ..


We could stop here … we have all we need for spiritual victory … but we are going to study chapter 4 … because there is one more major obstacle to claiming God’s promises for spiritual victory in our lives… and this one usually rears its ugly head after we have had some measure of success already …

The Big Shot Mentality – looking back at our past experience and giving ourselves too much credit instead of giving God all the glory – especially dangerous for spiritual leaders.

We love to cultivate a hero worship type of mentality – look at all the memorials we erect to key leaders (usually after they have passed away)

You don’t have to go far to view these … the Washington Monument; the Lincoln Memorial; it is the same in the realm of sports: Babe Ruth Museum; Vince Lombardi Trophy; or in the realm of entertainment – let’s give them an Oscar; let’s give them a Star on Hollywood

Sometimes we honor groups in a collective sense – memorials to the fallen veterans of WWII or the Vietnam world.

Not wrong to recognize significant accomplishments … but in the spiritual realm we need physical memorials to keep us focused on God’s Power and Presence in our lives .. so we don’t get puffed up with pride and start to rely on the flesh.

  • Isn’t that what Baptism is all about – the testimony of our conscience to the saving power of God in redeeming us from our sinful past and giving us new life in Christ – Do you think back on your baptism and see that stake in the ground where you publicly proclaimed your faith in the Lord Jesus – but that was a long time ago for most of us
  • Isn’t that what the Lord’s Supper is all about – that type of physical memorial of the death of Christ on our behalf – we remember His death and our victory in Him until He comes .. The early church probably celebrated that weekly at their corporate meetings … important to participate on a regular basis


2 Special Stone Monuments:

1)  Stones of Burial – set up in the middle of the Jordan River

2)  Stones of Resurrection – set up on the west bank in Gilgal

(Would be good Memorial Day message)

Richard Hess: This text focuses upon the memorial that the Israelites set up. There are three major emphases: the divine initiative comes through the leadership of Joshua; (2) the tribes cross the Jordan; and (3) a permanent memorial enables future generations to remember the ‘amazing things’ (3:5) of the crossing.


A.  (:1-3) Instructions from the Lord to Joshua Re Establishing the Memorial

The memorial of the 12 stones should encourage our faith in 3 key areas:

1)  (:1-2)  Unity — All genuine believers are united in the one Body of Christ –

Now it came about when all the nation had finished crossing the

Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘Take for yourselves

twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe’

emphasis on ALL the nation; every tribe represented; no one left out

Ephes 4:4-6 (lot of parallels between book of Ephesians and book of Joshua)

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of

your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is

over all and through all and in all.”

Certainly not united organizationally … but don’t let our points of distinction

overrule our unity on the fundamentals of the faith


2)   (:3a)  Connectivity — Necessary to revisit our past – remember where we came from

and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from

here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’

feet are standing firm’

don’t forget that the only reason we are living in this resurrection life is because

we already died with Christ and were buried with Christ

can never completely lose touch with our past – we are the redeemed … but

from what/  the converted .. but from where / … the saved … but how / … the elect … but why


3)  (:3b)  Intimacy – love relationship expressed in worship – stirred up by the

memorial that is set up right where we make our home; base camp for Israelites;

Concept of Abiding

and carry them over with you, and lay them down in the lodging place

where you will lodge tonight.”

Note: Effort, Work involved in worshiping

How were the priests able to hold the ark of the covenant all day long??

Had to carry these 12 stones to Gilgal on their back – not some little pebbles

B.  (:4-5) Instructions Relayed from Joshua to the People

So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of

Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, ‘Cross again to the

ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up

a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of


Must have seemed like a strange request to these leaders … we have just come out of the danger zone … now you want us to go back to the middle of the riverbed?

But that is where the ark still is … we are always safe when we are walking by faith with our eyes fixed on the Lord

C.  (:6-7) Explanation of the Significance of the Memorial – Legacy for Next Generations of God’s Saving Power

We have a bad tendency to forget or overlook what God has done for us

Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying,

‘What do these stones mean to you?’  Then you shall say to them, ‘Because the

waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’  So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

Richard Hess: The purpose of this text is to establish a memorial by which future generations will learn of the identity of the people of Israel as the one nation whose God could do such great wonders. The explanation occurs in the centre of this passage and is given by Joshua. The discourse itself has a chiastic structure, as the NIV translation suggests:

A.  to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you,

B.  ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that

C.  the flow of the Jordan was cut off

D.  before the ark of the covenant of the LORD.

D1. When it crossed the Jordan,

C1. the waters of the Jordan were cut off.

B1. These stones are to be

A1. a memorial to the people of Israel for ever.

The chiastic structure provides an explanation concerning the significance of the memorial. It is a sign that educates future generations about their heritage and, more importantly, about their God. They will see that sign in the stones that came from the Jordan when its waters were cut off. They were cut off because the ark of the covenant passed through the Jordan.

Some kids ask more questions than others … Why this … Why that … a lot of times they stump us with unexpected questions we can’t even answer …

Perhaps you have heard the story of the little boy who asked his father, “How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” His father said, “I don’t know, son; I don’t have any idea.” The boy said, “How far is it from here to China?” His dad said, “I just don’t know, son.” “Well, how deep is the deepest part of the ocean?” His father said, “I really don’t have any idea.” The little boy said, “Daddy, how-oh never mind.” His dad said, “That’s all right, son. Ask questions. It’s the only way you can get answers!”

Do we have the type of communication in our homes where our kids ask us:

  • What did your baptism mean to you?
  • Why are we celebrating the Lord’s Supper?
  • Why are we going to worship service this morning?

What is our response?

Must be real to us before we can communicate that significance to our children

How genuine is our faith and our love relationship with the Lord Jesus … as perceived by our kids?

Robert Hubbard: Here the stones serve as both “sign” and “memorial” (zikkaron, v. 7; cf. Ex. 13:9). They authenticate that the past event actually happened and remind Israel of its continuing significance for later generations.  But the stones bear no self-explanatory inscription (cf. 8:32). Instead, their mute testimony will cause curious Israelite children to ask in the future, “What do these stones mean?” This is significant: The text assumes visits to the site by future generations, probably for some ritual remembrance if not reenactment, of the river crossing. Such visits served to keep alive its meaning over the centuries.

Legacy is a powerful theme – at work I am involved in a major marketing campaign to push the newer smaller Caterpillar products – called compact construction equipment – we are the leader in the industry in the big machines … but we are new to the game in some of the smaller equipment – Campaign called the Legacy Campaign … because the whole theme is we have taken everything good about our traditional equipment and applied it to the smaller equipment

  • Same tough genes
  • Same generation of tough
  • Everything you’ve come to expect but now in a smaller package

We have a significant legacy to pass on to our children and to the next generation … how effective are we at getting that job done?

Significance of “Crossing Over”   or “Coming Up From

  • Sermon by David Roper brings this out
  • Look at how many times those phrases appear in this chapter



A.  (:8) Obedience to the Lord’s / Joshua’s Instructions – The Lord is the one running the show

And thus the sons of Israel did, as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve

stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the Lord spoke to Joshua,

according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel and they carried them

over with them to the lodging place, and put them down there.”

B.  (:9) Second Monument Created by Joshua in the Jordan River

Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place

where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing,

and they are there to this day.”

Probably took them from the middle of the river and arranged them in some fashion:

In a circle??  Piled them up??  Like an altar??

Won’t be visible once the waters flow back over;

Your reaction is probably the same as mine …Why not some type of an expedition to try to locate these stones on the river bed of the Jordan?

Look at all the efforts directed at finding Noah’s Ark . . .

But why did Joshua make the effort to do this??  No one would ever be able to see this monument?  What was the purpose??  Thanksgiving to God – He sees the memorial

– Marking the spot: God was here in a powerful way!

Stones of Death and Burial – symbolic of our union with Christ in His death and burial – we passed that way … but are not going back – act of personal worship on the part of Joshua – avoiding the Big Shot Mentality – act of humility in recognizing that he too needed to pass through that death and burial

symbolic experience – putting the attention back on God where it belongs

Ray Stedman: The other memorial was a series of twelve stones in the middle of the river which were to be placed where the priests stood while all of Israel passed over to the other side. The stones were put in place before the waters came back. This is a picture for us of how Jesus Christ stays in the place of death long enough for every area of our lives to pass out of the control of self and into the control of Christ.

C.  (:10-11) Central Focus on the Ark of the Covenant – Key to Victory is the Presence and Favor and Power of the Sovereign God (not due to Joshua)

(This will be developed further as our third point in verses 15-18)

Leadership of Joshua derived from Moses / Role of the priests / obedience of the people

For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan

until everything was completed that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak

to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua.  And the

people hurried and crossed; and it came about when all the people had finished

crossing, that the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed before the people.”

How long do I have to trust the Lord in this difficult area??  Not up to us to determine the length of required perseverance … It’s not over until the Lord says it’s over ..

The people hustled … but it still took all day to fully carry out all that God had commanded.

David Howard: The verse ends tersely: the people crossed over the Jordan quickly. The message is clear: when God’s people obeyed what they knew they were supposed to do, things went well for them. The first example of disobedience in the book comes in chap. 7, and the results are disastrous. God’s desire was ultimately to glorify himself and have his people revere him (4:24).

Richard Hess: Two reasons are given for the crossing in this passage:

  • obedience to God’s directives and
  • preparation for battle.

D.  (:12-13) Commendation of Certain Tribes ??

( Or is it — Aside Regarding the Partial Obedience of the Reluctant Tribes ??)

And the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh

crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken

to them; about 40,000, equipped for war, crossed for battle before the Lord to

the desert plains of Jericho.”

(Although they seem to be commended here … so not sure how to take this)

Charles Ryrie: This was less than half the total number of fighting men in these tribes, the others remaining on the E. Side of the Jordan to protect their lands and families.  These 40,000 men led the crossing.

John Davis: Verse 13 indicates that 40,000 men of the two and a half tribes actually crossed over the Jordan.  It is clear from Numbers 26:7, 18 and 34 that the total potential fighting force of these tribes numbered about 110,580 men.  Why, then, did only 40,000 cross over?  The answer is probably found in the situation on the east bank.  The conquest might take some time, and the eastern tribes could not afford to leave their cities undefended.  We might presume therefore that the remaining parts of their armies stayed on the east side for purposes of local protection.

E.  (:14) Exaltation of Joshua

On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they

revered him, just as they had revered Moses all the days of his life.”

1)  First application is to Christ

2)  But as we are in Christ, there is application to leaders of the church as well — If we humble ourselves, God will exalt us at the appropriate time; there is a type of respect that is appropriate to show to spiritual leaders


A.  (:15-16) Command from the Lord to Joshua

Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.”

Ron Ritchie: This Ark was a symbol of the very presence of God. It was a wooden box within which were kept the Ten Commandments – the second set, the first being broken by Moses because of anger – the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, a symbol of God’s desire that we have his word in our hearts, the Manna, which is the symbol of God’s provision for us of the Bread of Life, and Aaron’s rod, a dead staff of wood which had budded as a sign confirming Aaron’s authority as High Priest, and which is a symbol of resurrection out of death, of life from death.

B.  (:17) Command Relayed from Joshua to the Priests

So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, ‘Come up from the Jordan.’”

C.  (:18) Miraculous Power of God Demonstrated in the Reversal of the Miracle

And it came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the

Lord had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’

feet were lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to

their place, and went over all its banks as before.”


E.  (:19-20) Erecting the Memorial at Gilgal

  1. Providential Timing

Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first  month

Just in time to observe the Passover (chap. 5); exactly 40 years after

leaving the land of bondage they now enter the promised land

  1. Base Camp established at Gilgal – Significance of location

and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho.”

Etymology of the word unknown; possible that it already referred to

a circle of stones” – cf. Josh 5: 9 – play on the root of the word “roll

Doug Goins: Names always are significant in the Old Testament. The word Gilgal means, “The reproach“has been rolled away.” A beachhead”has been established in the land of promise. Forty years of spiritual defeat and failure have been rolled away. And the fact that they have this beachhead at Gilgal means that they are now ready to follow the Lord wholeheartedly into the land that he is giving them.

Robert Hubbard: The narrator finally names the site where Israel camped—Gilgal, on the eastern edge of the territory (not the city) of Jericho.  This marks the debut of the town that in Joshua 5–10 will provide Israel “both a bridgehead in Canaan and a springboard to the mountainous interior.”

Name Gilgal means “to roll away” or perhaps “circle

Appropriate base camp for attacks on the hill country

Continued to be a prominent city – one of the three cities on Samuel’s traveling route

(1 Sam. 7:16)

Kenneth Gangel: Gilgal would go on to become a place of historic significance as well as the first encampment. In chapter 5 circumcision and Passover are celebrated there; Samuel will make it one of his cities of judgment (1 Sam. 7:16); Saul will be anointed king in Gilgal (1 Sam. 11:14-15); and the apostasy of the city will be condemned by Hosea (9:15; 12:11) and Amos (4:4; 5:5).

  1. Memorial Set Up – Celebrating Spiritual Victory

And those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.”

B.  (:21-23) Recounting the Miraculous Event

  1. (:21)  Memorial Aimed at Generations to Follow

And he said to the sons of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers

in time to come, saying, What are these stones?’”

  1. (:22)  Memorial Testifies to the Miraculous Event

then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’”

  1. (:23)  Miracle Patterned After Earlier Crossing of Red Sea – 2 major events

Prophets never lost sight of these 2 events

For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you

until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red

Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed.”

What He’s done for others … He’ll do for you!

C.  (:24) Restating the Special Significance

  1. Impressing our Enemies and Witnessing to the World: Reinforcing the Reality of God’s Power in Our Lives

that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty

  1. Enhancing our Worship and Commitment to God’s Authority in our lives

so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Richard Hess: This sign has been accomplished in order that Israel might fear God throughout its life. To fear God is to give him wholehearted loyalty. Both the miracle and its remembrance, as well as the exaltation of Joshua, pointed to this purpose. The miracle directed the people’s attention to loyalty towards God, his covenant, and his appointed leader of the people. The gospels record the signs and wonders of Jesus of Nazareth for the same twofold purpose: that those who hear might believe and that this belief might lead to fullness of life in commitment to Christ (John 20:30–31).

David Howard: The statement about the miracle being a testimony to all the peoples recalls the words of Rahab, who acknowledged that the inhabitants of Jericho had indeed heard about how great Israel’s God was, when he defeated Sihon and Og in the wilderness (2:10–11). It also recalls the purpose of the tenth plague in Egypt, which was much more than merely to convince the pharaoh to release the Israelites. Exodus 12:12 states that the tenth plague (if not also all the others) was God’s challenge to the Egyptian gods: “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.” All of these cases show that God performed miracles to attest to himself, along with the more immediate purposes of accomplishing certain ends for the people involved.

CONCLUSION:  What are the stones we have erected in our families to mark milestones?  Where has God shown Himself strong on our behalf?


Special stories associated with each of these major events in my own life:

1)  God’s Direction in my life – Prov 3:5-6 – verse engraved on piece of redwood tree

2)  Marriage Partner – special kind of marriage certificate – from college fellowship group

3)  Provision of Needs at Seminary – story of the frozen pot pies when I was down to my last nickel

4)  Karen pregnant with our first child – after difficulty becoming pregnant

5)  Provision of the house we have lived in for the past 23 years – special plaque

Good exercise sometime today … sit down with your family and try to point out the significant stones in your life

As we press forward to claim God’s promises for spiritual victory in our lives, we will want to remember these stones from the book of Joshua

Stones of Burial – showing we have left behind our old life of living in the flesh and by our own effort

Stones of Resurrection – showing we have crossed over the Jordan and are living on the other side where we are united with the life of Christ and have our rest in Him … no lack of battles and challenges … but the presence of the Lord to show Himself strong on our behalf