Joshua 3
The God Who Goes Before You

Sermon Notes

Happy mothers day to all you moms. We are in a series on the book of Joshua and felt this week’s passage lined up great for today. I hope you are blessed by it. 

This book of the Bible is about Joshua leading God’s people into the land that was promised to them centuries before. God calls Joshua to do this, commands him to be strong and courageous. They have been waiting for and anticipating this moment, and today they actually cross into the promiseland.

Teaches us a few things about walking with God. God doesn’t abandon. Doesn’t ignore. 

God’s people walk with confidence because God demonstrates his faithful presence by enabling his people to enter the promise. 

Walk Confidently Even When the Water Rises.

God is with his people. They are to be strong and courageous. This is the theme of the book of Joshua. we see it over and over. They don't need more stuff, they just need him. God has said he is with Joshua. God has said he would give the Israelites this land and give Joshua victory. 

They now have to cross over the Jordan River and enter into the promiseland. This passage is about that crossing.

Historical situation

The Jordan River goes through the middle of Israel. It’s about 156 miles long. The width of it varies from 90-100 feet and it is typically about 3-10 feet. It is the barrier separating the eastern tribes’ inheritance from the western inheritance. It must be crossed.

The problem here is that this is the season that the Jordan floods. The Jordan is at flood stage. A little historical background. Could be up to a mile wide and 12 feet deep. This is the time of harvest when the melting of the snows of Hermon and Lebanon, which then rush down, fill Lake Huleh and its marshes, as well as Gennesareth. 

There are hardships. God is bringing his people into the promiseland. They will have to contend for it. They will also have to cross the Jordan River.

Don’t just know the historical context of the situation.

Consider the emotional context. Enslaved for 400 years. Set free to wander in a desert 40 years. Finally about to enter into the promiseland and told they will have to fight the peoples of the land and remove them (Deut 9:4). If that is not enough they now are on the verge of entering and the Jordan River is at flood stage. Can’t take all these people through that, not a group of trained soldiers but a group of families. My leadership is in jeopardy. What are they going to think? Can you imagine how daunting and deflating this would be? Hearts sink. Even more, by the way, Joshua, I want you to send the Ark of the Covenant out into this raging river. This is the altar Moses made, where sacrifices were offered, a symbol of the presence of God, and masterpiece of craftsmanship. Yeah, go ahead, send it out with the priests into this river. 

Joshua may be standing strong and courageous in this but there is an Israelite out there who thinks he has seen this on YouTube. 

**The presence of challenges does not mean the absence of God.** 

God with his people doesn't look like an absence of hardship.

We typically think the blessed life is one free of hardship. That is not the case. *The people most blessed by God did hard things.* They gave up the life of ease to make him known and care for his people. Joshua is a great leader. He could be sipping lattes from a five-star resort on the Mediterranean Sea but he is leading God’s people through a raging river. 

The people had to see these challenges and trust God through it. This is normative for the Christian life. Things like this are not exceptional. They are normal. Will be normal for you as well.

  • God doesn't lead you to avoid hardships but to walk right through them.

Don’t think that because it is hard something is wrong, or something unusual is happening to you. God calls his people to do hard things. Harder than you think.

Be prepared for hard things. 

Motherhood is intentionally taking hardship upon yourself.

If you knew how hard it was you might not do it. It is way harder. But it is also better than you can imagine. Wouldn’t trade parenting for anything. I would gladly accept it with a few more weekends off but I’m grateful for it. 

You may think, “What am I doing with all these kids and responsibilities? I must have missed something. It is so hard! Should I have done something else? Nobody told me!” IF they did you might not have done it. More than likely you just would not have listened. 

Expectant mom, can't wait to have a baby so I can sleep again. Going to be surprised at the challenges. 

When things are hard don’t assume something is wrong. You are having to depend on God not you. We want easy. God wants to develop your character. That means a contrast between what you want and what you get. 

*Adversity doesn't mean the absence of God, but rather it shows your need for him*

Rest in God. And you will have to dig deeper in your own soul and rely on him in far greater ways that you can imagine. 

Parenting is hard. Don't go through life content to do easy things. Planting a church. Hardest situation that I know in any church. 

The Israelites need to focus on God and not their problems. Mothers, focus on God and not your problems. Flooding rivers, to crying babies, to disgruntled teenagers, to paranoid mom and dads, are all opportunities to see the hand of God.

Make Remembrance of God’s Mighty Acts

After this miraculous crossing of the Jordan, they are told to gather stones, one for each tribe of Israel, and make a place of remembrance. 

God’s people need to remember what God has done. They are required to pass it on to others. Don’t forget these!

Who won the Super Bowl two years ago? What movie received best picture? What was the song of the year? Things are so important in the moment and yet we forget. We can forget what God has done for us. The great problem with the Israelites is how quickly they forget. 

Make sure you remember what God has done for you. You will too quickly forget. God, if you get me through this situation then I will…  And then you never come back. Don't do that. Celebrate his provision. Take time to reflect. Make effort in doing this. 

God made a way for them to cross the Jordan river, and they didn't even get their kicks dirty. They walk through on dry ground. Unimaginable! God can make a way.

Here is another thing to remember. Today’s trials are tomorrow’s praises. What you are afraid of today just might be the very thing you celebrate tomorrow.

Make time to remember.

Remember hardships and God’s provision. How he made a way when there wasn't a way. Remember how long you prayed to have kids and God was faithful? Do you remember how you prayed to make ends meet? Do you remember how you prayed for the big job and he provided? Are you moving forward with a bad attitude or with gratitude? Ungratefulness is the result of not making a point to remember. 

Are you stepping out, trusting God, or have you shrunk in your faith. Don’t really trust God. Not going to live sacrificially for him. Not going to cross any difficult rivers or put yourself in a place of dependence on him. 

*The greatest thing you can give to your kids is your own personal holiness and devotion to God.* 


-His deliverances in your life

-Jesus Christ and him crucified 

Important things should stand the test of time and adversity. Remind your kids of the gospel. Remind yourself of what Jesus has done for you. 

I remember when our kids were young and Amanda called me at work crying.

The basis of her concern was our kids were possessed by demons and she keeps getting angry at them and is so discouraged at what is coming out of her. It hit me that our kids don’t need a perfect mom. They need a mom who knows she is not perfect and knows that she has a redeemer. She has a savior. Because what my kids most need is not to have their way, to get more stuff, but rather they need a savior. To know they can be forgiven when they are being selfish, to know there is a God who loves them, and to know his grace and love motivates them to change. Confess your sin. Ask for forgiveness when you are angry. Don't sit there and act like you are perfect; that does not help any child. Teach them and model for them what it means to remember Jesus. To remember God’s provision of salvation for his children. 

You recognize your brokenness and his ability to save. You will spend the rest of your life going deeper in that simple truth. Recognizing your brokenness when you are doing everything you can and that young beautiful child is being an absolute stinker and testing you in every way possible. Experience miscarriages and many other heartbreaking realities. 


Remember what your mothers have done for you. Scripture calls you to honor them. Cease to honor them when you cease to be grateful for them. Your mother is not your Savior. She is imperfect and cannot rescue you from everything, even though she tries. Will tell the same stories the rest of your life! Will have some of the same faults, will worry and complain, etc. 

Remember and honor parents. Your mom will pray for you like no one else. Do you believe in the power of prayer? Do you want her praying for you? Then tell her how to pray for you. Parents model that for your kids. Remember the power of God is greater than the power of sin. 

Do you remember these stones? But also note, this remembrance is not to live in the past. It’s not to say we need to go back to this. It is to remind us that the God who was faithful then and in those circumstances is with us and will be faithful in the future. Hope is not in recreating past situations and events, but carry the same faith and devotion into future generations. 

*It's not what you have done but who you have trusted.* are you teaching your kids who you have trusted?

Look to the God who Goes Before You

This passage shows God providing for his people. He provides a way for them to cross into the promiseland. He provides a way through the Jordan River. And he leads the way for them. 

God tells Joshua to send the ark first. That is almost like walking into a death trap, and without the intervention of God that is exactly what it would be. The ark is the symbol of God’s presence. So it is God going into the river first. He does not lead them around, but through, and he does not go around and make his people go through, but rather he leads them. 

God will send his Son, to go not around, but through the grave. He will taste death for them so that they might be set free. 

God goes before them. God leads the way. Just as he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the desert, God goes before his people. He goes through suffering, pain, hardship, death, and also to the resurrection of life. 

The ark goes before the people into the river. The ark is a symbol of the presence of God. It was where atonement was made for the people. Here God’s presence goes before the people to make a way for them. 

We need to remember this. God makes a way for us, through his son. He makes a way for us to cross over from life to death. 

This is the thing we most need to remember.

This is what we most need to point our kids to. Don’t need a perfect mother, need one who knows she is not perfect and knows where to find grace. 

Graceless people drive others away from God. Graceless people condemn. 

Many driven people who have their life figured out, they have plans to execute and lists to get done, and will get it done, come hell or high water… run through anything or anyone who gets in the way. Have you forgotten grace? You were not able to cross and God helped. You were at the end of your rope.

At some point God will put you in situations where you just can't get by on your own strength. You will need him. You will need others. 

Mothers are a gift from God. Children are a gift from God. Gift from God and not God. They cannot save you. They cannot do everything for you. 

Jesus is the one who makes sense of all our suffering. Who gives us hope to follow him. He is the one who fills us with excitement for the things we have. Not just to endure but to flourish. How else can you flourish in hardship and adversity? 

Stop looking to other things. Just focus on the God who is there. Who promises to be with us and to help us. The God who goes before us. 

Link to Joshua 2

Find the entire chapter of Joshua 2 at