Bible Readings for July 2nd
The story of how Israel crossed the Jordan in Joshua is more important than simply a record of the route they took to enter the Promised Land. Rather, this event marks a decisive turning point in God’s history of saving his people and bringing them into their inheritance.
The first main part of this story surrounds the twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, that Israel collected out of the riverbed of the Jordan to build a memorial of the event (Josh. 4:3). Crossing the Jordan was too important to slip into history forgotten—too important for Israel to forget and too important even for us living and reading the story today to forget. As a result, we have an entire chapter here drawing our attention to the fact that Yahweh commanded Israel to build a monument to the event on the far side of the banks of the Jordan.
Additionally, it’s important to recognize that these stones were more than a mere historical marker—and especially, this wasn’t supposed to become a tourist trap with historical reenactments, guided tours, and cheap souvenirs. Instead, Joshua explains that these stones would serve as a sign among Israel (Josh. 4:6). God gave signs to bear witness to some important truth. God establishes the rainbow (Gen. 9:12–13, 17), circumcision (Gen. 17:11), the plagues against Egypt (Ex. 7:3, 8:23, 10:1–2, etc.), the blood of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:13), and the Sabbath (Ex. 31:13), along with a few other signs that God gave for specific situations.
By providing a sign, God gave a physical symbol that points to significance beyond itself. So, just as a stop sign, by instructing you to stop your car before continuing, points beyond itself to city statutes, the authority of the government, and even to the societal desire for safety, so the biblical signs are symbols that point to Yahweh, his covenant, his law, and his love for his people.
What is the significance of this particular sign of the stone memorial, then? In verse 24, we learn that the sign is twofold: “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” On the one hand, Yahweh is bringing great fear and dread upon the people of the Promised Land, just as Rahab described in Joshua 2:9–11. On the other hand, this memorial is also for Israel, to help them to fear Yahweh their God forever. Our God is gracious to give us physical, tangible signs that reinforce the promises that he makes to us in his word.
In the New Testament, God gives us the signs of baptism and the Lord’s Supper to testify to the promises he makes in the gospel. What role should they play in our lives and our discipleship?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.