It takes a STEP of FAITH to see MIRACLES in our LIVES: "So it was, when…the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still…and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan." (Josh. 3:14-17)
After the death of Moses, one of the first tasks that God had entrusted his successor Joshua was to lead the Israelites in crossing the Jordan River in order to physically enter the land of Canaan. This is what God told Joshua: "Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them--the children of Israel" (1:2). It was a seemingly impossible task for this huge Israelite population to walk across the Jordan River, especially because this river was overflowing its banks at this time.
The miracle of the Jordan River parting (so that the Israelites could enter Canaan on dry land) was comparable to miracle of the parting of the Red Sea that the previous generation had experienced (see Exodus 14:21–31). This miracle also helped to confirm Joshua as the successor to Moses. We should note that many years later, a similar miracle would confirm Elisha as the successor to the prophet Elijah as well.
The detail concerning the Jordan River overflowing all its banks (v. 15) enhances the miracle, as an act of God displaying His sheer conquering power, by focusing on the seemingly impossible natural impediment. The symbol of God’s presence was the Ark of the Covenant, which served metaphorically as His throne (25:10–22; Deut. 20:1–4; 1 Sam. 4:1–11). So, God would lead the way in the person of the priests and Levites bearing the ark (vv. 1–6). When the priests’ feet touched the water of the Jordan, a miracle occurred. The river was stopped at the city of Adam, some miles to the north. The waters piled up there in a heap, and whatever water was left in the bed of the river below that point drained into the Salt (Dead) Sea.
The famed theologian D. K. Campbell has emphasized that this was indeed a special miracle due to the following six reasons:
- The event came to pass as predicted (vv. 13).
- The timing was precise and exact (v. 15).
- The event took place when the river was at flood stage (v. 15).
- The wall of water was held in place for many hours, possibly an entire day (v. 16).
- The soft, wet river bottom became dry at once (v. 17).
- The water returned immediately as soon as the people had crossed over and the priests came up out of the river (4:18).
It took great courage and tremendous faith in God for the priests to step into the rushing torrent of the flooded Jordan. But as long as they stood on the eastern bank, no Israelite would be able to cross the river. The priests had to take a step of faith and ‘get their feet wet’ before their task could be accomplished. As soon as the priests stepped into the water, the waters of the Jordan River backed up into a heap. True faith always produces miracles! The priests stepped into the muddy Jordan on faith, and the people accomplished the work of entering into the Promised Land. As Matthew Henry wrote, “God could have divided the river without the priests, but they could not without Him. The priests must herein set a good example and teach the people to do their utmost in the service of God, and trust Him for help in time of need.”