That all the peoples of the earth may know
that the hand of the Lord is mighty
and that you may reverence and fear the Lord your God forever.
The Old Testament is rich in historical lessons that teach us today, and Joshua is one of my favorite go-to Books. The Scripture today is the last verse in Chapter 4, and is the culmination of the great testimony of the Lord's mighty hand as the Israelites crossed over the River Jordan into the Promised Land.
You might imagine that after wandering in the desert for 40 years, and after the deaths of the first generation and their Spiritual and National leader, Moses, that this new generation of Israelites might have had a few qualms about trusting the Lord to deliver them into this "land of giants." But the Lord had chosen wisely in designating Joshua as the man to accomplish His purpose for this time.
In my Bible, the preceding chapter is titled "The Miraculous Crossing of the River Jordan", and reveals that the Jordan was flooding at this time of year. The fact that the Lord did not have the Israelites cross into the Promised Land at a different time of the year, or at a different place was to provide proof of His Power, and to magnify it.
Just like at the Red Sea, God's mighty hand separated the waters for them to safely cross; showing them that "God has the same power to finish the salvation of his people that he had to begin it, for he is the Alpha and the Omega." [Quote from the commentary of Matthew Henry.] In other words, just as God's power parted the Red Sea at the beginning of their journey, so would His power part the River Jordan at the completion of their journey into the Promised Land.
Chapters 3 and 4 of Joshua are a great testimony of not only the power of God to protect His people, but of the success of our journey when we rely on, and are obedient to, God's commands. The priests did as God commanded them through Joshua, and the ark of the covenant went before the people, carried by the priests. They did not come out of the Jordan River until Joshua commanded them, and Joshua did not command them until God directed him. What a great example for us! Too many times, we think the victory is ours, when in reality, it always belongs to the Lord! And we are most successful in this life, when we listen to Him and follow His directives, instead of leading our lives as we desire.
And God commanded a man from each tribe to pick up a stone, and build a memorial to Him so that all generations would not forget what He had done for them. For God knew of the tendency of His people (and it certainly applies to us!) to forget the wondrous works He has done for us. He directed this memorial 1) so they would not forget, and 2) as proof for future generations of what He did on this day.
I especially want to make mention of this fact: the safe crossing of the River Jordan occurred just 5 days short of the 40 years since they came out of Egypt, and of the 40 years of wandering that God had pronounced as their punishment for disobedience and not entering the Promised Land the first time. It is a reminder of our Savior's Word in Matthew 24:22: "For the elect's sake, the days are shortened."
But there is another reason that they were granted access into the Promised Land 5 days short of their 40-year sentence: it gave them time to prepare for the Feast of Passover, which had been celebrated as they began their odyssey from Egypt. God ordered this to happen on this very day so that they could enter Canaan four days before the annual solemnity of the Passover, and on the very day when the preparation for it was to begin. His Sovereignty is so evident here!
And this brings us back to the memorial of stones, and the reasons for it, as proclaimed in our Scripture today: That all the peoples of the earth may know the mighty hand of God and revere Him in awe and wonder for all generations .... forever! Even in these times of turmoil and uncertainty, we would do well to remember the times God has delivered us safely to the other side of our journey and disobedience. As He has done in the past when we obey Him, so will He do forever. We have confidence in His promises and His might. What a comfort that should be!