Joshua 4:1-71NIV New International Version Translations
1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” 4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
Chapter 4 of Joshua gives a further account of the miraculous passage of Israel through Jordan. This chapter highlights:
- The provision that was made at that time to preserve the memorial of this crossing, by twelve stones set up in Jordan (v. 9) and other twelve stones taken up out of Jordan (v. 1-8) itself.
- The march of the people through Jordan’s channel, the two tribes first, then all the people, and the priests that bore the Ark of the Covenant last (v. 10-14). This was similar to the crossing of the Red Sea where God parted the waters for the people of Israel.
- The closing of the waters again upon their coming up with the Ark of the Covenant (v. 15-19).
- The erecting of the monument in Gilgal, to preserve the remembrance of this work of wonder for posterity (v. 20-24).
In verses 2, 4, and 8 Joshua chose 12 men, choosing one from each of the tribes of Israel. They would be the representatives, acted for all the Israelites. Similar to today, we are all doing God’s work and sometimes our leaders do things for us. We must recognize and appreciate the work that they do for us.
In verses 3, 5 and 9, the men took 12 stones from the middle of the river Jordan. Joshua built a monument with these stones. It would always remind the Israelites about what God had done for them during this remarkable crossing. Just as the Passover reminds Israelites that God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, the pile of stones would remind them that they had come into the Promised Land with God’s help.
The belief is that there may have been two monuments that the Israelites built, with one in the middle of the river Jordan. This was to show that the old life was finished. The journey through the desert had ended. They had entered the Promised Land. The past was now behind them. Whether there were only one or were two, the point was to remember a “born again” moment. Generations of slavery, forty years of wandering and then a new life, leaving the past behind them. Our New Testament tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ Jesus they are a new person. Their old lives have ended and their new lives have begun.
Items for Discussion
- What are the things we do today to remember what our God has done for us?
- What “monuments” do we still build today?
- Why are “monuments” an important part of our history?
- If we were to remove all of the “monuments” in our country, what impact would that have on our lives?
- This is also a story about delegation and how the acts of leaders is shared by those they represent – What attributes in leadership do you respect most?
2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
Chapter 3 of Luke is about John the Baptist’s ministry. (1-14) John the Baptist testifies concerning Christ. (15-20) The baptism of Christ. (21,22) The genealogy of Christ. (23-38)
The scope and design of John’s ministry was to turn the people from their sins, and toward their Saviour. John the Baptist came preaching, not as a sect, or political party, but as a profession of faith. He did so with the sign or ceremony of washing with water. By the words used here, John preached the necessity of repentance, in order to the release us of our sins, and that the baptism of water was an outward sign of that inward cleansing and renewal of heart. This would be true repentance, along with our profession of it. This the fulfilment of Scriptures, Isaiah 40:3, in the ministry of John.
When way is made for the gospel to enter the heart, by taking down high thoughts, and bringing them into obedience to Christ, by levelling the soul, and removing all that hinders us in the way of Christ and His grace, then preparation is made to welcome the salvation of God. Here are some general warnings and exhortations which John the Baptist gave.
The guilty, corrupted race of mankind is become a generation of vipers; hateful to God, and hating one another. There is no way of fleeing from the wrath to come, but by repentance; and by the change of our way the change of our mind must be shown. If we are not really holy, both in heart and life, our profession of religion and relation to God and his church, will stand us in no stead at all (no gain). Instead, it will become our destruction if we do not bring forth the fruits of repentance.
John the Baptist gave instructions to several sorts of persons. Those that profess and promise repentance, must show it by reformation, according to their places and conditions. The Gospel requires mercy, not sacrifice; and its design is, to engage us to do all the good we can, and to be just to all men. And the same principle which leads men to forego unjust gain, leads to restore that which is gained by wrong. John tells the soldiers their duty. Men should be cautioned against the temptations of their employments. These answers declared the present duty of those who were asking John about his message, and at once formed a test of their sincerity. As none can or will accept Christ’s salvation without true repentance, so the evidence and effects of this repentance are spelled out here.
Items for Discussion
- John the Baptist knew his ministry (his role and purpose in God’s Kingdom), what is yours?
- Why is it so hard to change your own heart?
- Why is John the Baptist so specific about ill-gotten gains from one’s employment?
- What is John the Baptist saying about ill-gotten gains and what we should do with them?
- How do you think our society does with the concepts of repentance discussed here? Do people get it?
- How would you tell if a body of Christ, a church, was truly a repentant group as John the Baptist defines repentance?
- What should be the Christian monument that we leave for others?
- How should a church, help its congregation become a truly a repentant group as John the Baptist defines repentance?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations