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Crossing the Runaway River

Joshua 3; 4; 5:1; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 481-486


The Message

God gives us leaders to help us do great things for Him.

Memory Verse

“The Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5).

How do you feel when you wake up on a day when you know something exciting is going to happen? What if it’s something you’ve never done before? Let’s imagine how an Israelite boy may have experienced a very exciting day.


Joshua had told the people of Israel that today would be the day. Today the Lord would do something amazing.

What would it be? God had done amazing things for the Israelites. God had parted the Red Sea and led the people out of Egypt. He had provided manna every day that they were in the wilderness It was amazing! Food every day without fail!

And then, not long ago, God led the Israelite army, and they had defeated those two kings, Sihon and Og.

Yes, God had done some amazing things. But those things had all happened when Moses had been leading. Moses was dead now, and Joshua was their new leader. Was Joshua as good a leader as Moses? Would God still do amazing things for the Israelites?

It had rained a lot lately, and the days were getting warmer. The melting snow in the mountains raced toward the river. The Jordan River was a muddy, angry torrent, high over its banks. Canaan, the Promised Land, was on the other side of it, and they’d been camped here for three days.

Joshua began instructing the Israelites. “The ark of the covenant will go into the Jordan ahead of you,” he was saying. “You are to move out from your positions and follow it.

“As soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up like a wall,” Joshua continued. “The priests will remain in the middle of the river while the entire Israelite camp crosses. Break camp now and get ready.”

Soon the order to line up was given.

Up ahead the priests were carrying the ark of the covenant. Moving forward, they were leading the entire Israelite camp straight toward the rushing, roaring river. The priests didn’t hesitate for a moment as they stepped right into the rapids. As soon as their feet touched the water, it stopped. The water came to a complete halt, piling up, just as Joshua had said it would. The water downstream of the priests kept flowing away from them. In a matter of seconds the water had disappeared around a bend. The priests moved to the middle of the river. A great shout went up from the Israelites. The line of people moved quickly to the riverbank. They began to pick their way across the rocky riverbed and up the other side.

The priests still stood in the middle of the riverbed, still holding the ark high. Finally the last of the Israelites stepped into the Promised Land. Then the priests crossed.

The instant the last priest cleared the banks, the waters broke loose. With a fearsome thunder they resumed their mighty journey.

It was over. As easily as that, their long journey was over. There was no doubt that God was with Joshua just as He was with Moses. And God is still with good leaders today. Good leaders who bring people together to meet God’s promise.