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Twelve men each take a stone from the Jordan to the bank. These stones are erected in Gilgal as a memorial for their offspring. Twelve other stones are erected by Joshua in the middle of the Jordan, also to serve as a memorial. The number twelve represents the whole people of God.
The stones in the Jordan are on the place where the ark stood. There is, as it were, unification of the people with the ark at the place of judgment. It is the same for us. The believer is judged in Christ: “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11).
But the ark has also come out of the Jordan again. The twelve stones on the bank of the Jordan remind the believer that with Christ he died, is buried and raised up: “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col 2:12).
Twelve Stones as a Sign for the Children
The water cannot flow back yet, because twelve stones have to be taken from the depth of the Jordan. This must be done by the twelve men who have already been set apart for this (Jos 3:12). They have to go to the place where the priests are still standing. From the place where the priests’ feet stand, they have to take up twelve stones and carry them into the lodging place. These stones should become a sign for them and their children.
The sign speaks of the Lord Jesus for Whom death is over. If later parents and their children walk along the sign and the children ask about the meaning of the sign, the parents can say that this is the place where they entered the land. For us it means that we tell our children that the death of the Lord Jesus gave the entrance to the land. It is a reminder of the fact that He was dead, but has now risen and is in heaven.
The sign is on the bank of the Jordan. The sign does not only refer to the death of the Lord Jesus. It is not just a sign that the ark has been there. The sign consists of twelve stones out of the Jordan. Twelve is the number of the tribes that together make up the whole people of God. Therefore the sign also indicates that the twelve tribes have been in the Jordan. It represents to us that Christ has been in death and that we have been there with Him. Likewise, it suggests that He is risen and we with Him. We stand in Him on the shore, in the land of the living.
Are we talking about this with our children? The experience of being dead and resurrected with Christ is not an experience we gain only once in our lives. Once again we have to see the sign on the bank. We will forever see the Lamb “standing, as if slain” (Rev 5:6).
Twelve Stones in the Jordan
What Joshua does here does not seem to have been commanded to him by God. It is something he does himself and does not leave to others. Joshua is a type of Christ in the Spirit. What he does here reminds us that what Christ did in the depths of the Jordan, He did all alone. This act of Joshua tells us that the Spirit also wants to work with us to personally erect a memorial of twelve stones in the depths of the Jordan. We remember that the Lord Jesus was in the depths of judgment for all His church. No one has stood by Him in it.
This memorial is no longer visible once the water has flowed back. When Joshua walks along it and looks at that terrible water of death, he knows that the sign in that water is where the ark stood. In the same way, we may look at death as the death in which He was, so that now death no longer frightens us. Death no longer has any power over everyone who belongs to the church (Mt 16:18).
As we celebrate the Supper, we look at the death of the Lord Jesus in this way. His question “do this in remembrance of Me” (1Cor 11:24) has to do with His death. At the same time, we know that He, Who was dead, is in our midst as the living One when we gather to proclaim His death. Also Moses and Elijah, when they are with Him on the mountain of transfiguration, “were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31). His death will always be remembered by us, we will always be busy with it, not only out of gratitude for our salvation, but also because we have been brought into the land by it.
The Crossing Finished
Those who entered the Jordan first come out last. They bear the ark, the certain protection against death. After the rest that has characterized all the preparation, the crossing happens fast, “the people hurried”. There is a desire to enter the promised land.
Among the whole people that crosses, there are also the militant men of the two and a half tribe. They are faithful to the promise they have made before (Num 32:27) and of which Joshua recently reminded them (Jos 1:12-15).
What was announced by the LORD (Jos 3:7) has now happened. The people have crossed the Jordan and arrived in the promised land. That is an event of unknown magnitude. Joshua has led the people in this. In the same way, it may also penetrate to us how great it is that Christ passed through death, rose up, and went to heaven. The Father glorified Him and exalted Him before our eyes. We will honor Him in His glorification, just as we will honor Him in His humiliation.
The Ark Comes Up From the Jordan
The staying away of the water depends on where the ark is. If the ark enters it, the water gives way. If the ark leaves the river, the water flows back. The safety of the people depends on the position of the ark. When the water flows back, it seems as if death has not been conquered at all. In the application to us we can see this from the fact that people are still dying, even believers.
Has not the Jordan been conquered then; does death keep its power? The question is answered, in picture, when the people see themselves on the bank of the Jordan in the presence of the ark. Thus death no longer has any power over those who are connected with Him, but only over them alone. For all unbelievers, death is and remains the enemy of whom they will sooner or later be the victims, if they do not repent before that moment. The believer died and is raised with Christ. Death has been conquered. The stones make that clear.
The crossing takes place “on the tenth of the first month”. This reminds us of the day the lamb was taken in the houses of the Israelites at the Passover (Exo 12:2-3). Through the Passover, the memory of Christ’s death under the judgment of God as our Substitute is kept alive in the hearts.
God brings them in Canaan five days before the forty years are completed (cf. Num 33:3; 38; Deu 8:2; Deu 29:5). God has appointed it this way that they enter Canaan four days before the annual feast of the Passover, on the day that they must begin to prepare themselves for it. He wants to remind them immediately when they enter the land of their liberation from Egypt. That is where the origin lies. When they think about this, they will certainly glorify God as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 22:13) of their well-being and happiness.
The Passover, the Red Sea and the Jordan – all three represent Christ in His work on the cross. In the Passover God freed His people from the judgment that came upon the lamb instead of upon the people (1Pet 1:18-19). The Passover is the beginning of God’s liberating action. His liberating action is followed by the passage through the Red Sea, where God judges the enemy of His people.
The Lord Jesus in His death on the cross “disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:15) and thereby freed God’s people from their captivity. His liberating act has been completed in the passage through the Jordan. There God acted with the ark as a picture of His Son, both in the judgment of death and in the resurrection (Psa 114:3).
They camp in Gilgal. This place will get its name after the circumcision has taken place there (Jos 5:9). But it has already been mentioned here because they are on the right ground for carrying out the circumcision: on the territory of the resurrection. The sign of circumcision comes in Joshua 5.
Twelve Stones Set Up at Gilgal
Twelve men each took a stone from the Jordan to the bank. These stones are set up at Gilgal to form a memorial for the offspring. Twelve other stones have already been set up by Joshua in the middle of the Jordan, also to form a memorial sign. There are twelve stones to represent the whole people of God. The stones in the Jordan are on the place where the ark stood. There, in the Jordan, there is unification of the people with the ark at the place of the judgment.
It is the same for us. The believer is judged in Christ, at His going into death. But the ark has also come out of the Jordan again. The twelve stones on the banks of the Jordan remind the believer that he died and rose with Christ. Both aspects – His death and His resurrection – can be found in the letter to the Colossians. About his death and our identification with it we read: “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11). About His resurrection and our identification with Him we read: “Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col 2:12).
The children will ask us about our life in the land, about enjoying the blessings of heaven. The fathers are told that they will tell their children how the LORD proceeded to give them the land. Future generations must tell it as if they had been there themselves and it affects them personally.
So it is with the whole work of the Lord Jesus. It happened far before our time, but we can still talk about it as if we have been there. The relationship with the Red Sea is made, because everything we possess in Christ is also the result of doing away with our sins. Therefore, in the letter which deals with our spiritual blessings, there is also mention of the forgiveness of our sins: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph 1:7).
We also see a sequence in explaining the meaning of the sign. First, it is given as an explanation of the sign that it reminds us of the blocking of judgment (Jos 4:7). Here it is a testimony that we have entered the land as a consequence of the death of the Lord Jesus (Jos 4:22-24).
These truths belong in the Christian family. Fathers must be able to explain what the death of the Lord Jesus has to do with living in the land. They should not leave this to teachers in the church or to the brother who do the Bible classes. This story must continue. Children must hear it from their fathers. However, every child must test it against the Scriptures, that is his responsibility.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19