Joshua: Day 3

The Ark Crosses the Jordan River


Today's Text: Joshua 4:1-24, Joshua 5:1-15, Exodus 25:10-22

Text: Joshua 4:1-24, Joshua 5:1-15, Exodus 25:10-22

I think I have a super-nose. It has twice identified dangerous fires in the nick of time, once diagnosed an ear infection in a baby, and can always sense any change in my husband’s morning ablutions. The poor man can’t wash his face with a different soap without my nose sensing the difference. I’ve learned never to ignore a smell because scents yield up so much valuable information.

Our sense of smell also delivers when it comes to evoking memories. I learned to depend on smell when I was still young, so when I found myself in a moment that I wanted to impress on my memory forever, I used a scent to anchor it. Over time, I amassed a rolodex of lotions and perfumes that I used as markers for memory; I needed only to breathe in the scent to remind me of those treasured days. The smell of lime conjures up the peak of the Kahlenberg looking over the Danube River, and the smell of strawberry reminds me of our first apartment.

Purposeful, intentional memory building is not my own clever invention; God used markers in the Old and New Testaments to memorialize significant moments in the lives of His covenant people. Just like the Israelites, we are “forgetful hearers” and we need help remembering God’s past faithfulness and His future promises (James 1:25).

Israel had both God’s promises and His faithfulness to remember, and their escape from Egypt was bookended by two unbelievable river crossings: the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God taught them to remember by establishing an equally unbelievable monument. He commanded twelve men to heave giant river stones out of the muddy riverbed on their shoulders and carry them to shore. They muscled these stones into an heavy pile. As the slimy green algae dried on the rocks, they stood back, wiping their hands, to look at what they had done, and saw an impossible, otherworldly monument. These were rocks from the very bottom of the Jordan River. They never should have been seen, and yet, because God miraculously stopped the river, they were stacked on the shore as a reminder of God’s impossible miracle for generations.

This unlikely mound of river rocks was a testament and a signal that this was the end of an era. No more would they be wilderness wanderers; they had finally come home. “And the day after they ate from the produce of the land, the manna ceased. Since there was no more manna for the Israelites, they ate from the crops of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:12). God underscored the end of their travels by putting a stop to the manna. They could set up homes, and grow their own food on their own land.

As they settled in to this wonderful home they had never known before, it would have been easy to forget how they got there. Their legendary victories were only achieved when they walked in obedience, and their devastating failures were a direct result of failing to obey God. The people of Israel were inclined to forget the source of their help, and we lean right with them in that same direction.

Even as we set up memorials, using the power of sight and smell and our other senses to remember our lives, Joshua drives us to remember those old and sure memorials of God’s faithfulness. Israel’s epic victories were not undergirded by their own doing, but by God’s faithfulness to His promises.

“In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”
- Joshua 4:21-24


  • My family has had a horrible year, the majority of it having to do with my oldest brother going through one of the most difficult times in his life. Back in April, right before everything hit the fan with him, he went kayaking by himself on a part of the river he was not familiar with. He ended up being lost and unable to take out because of the Rapids and struggled to keep his boat afloat. He would come to areas of calm, but there would be no where to get out and was nowhere near a road where anyone could come pick him up. To top it off, he didn’t have service most of the time on his cell and kept trying to ping his location while we drove all over trying to find him. Finally, just as it was getting dark, i found him trying to get out at a huge embankment on the side of the river down off of a trail back in the woods only accessible to 4 wheel drive vehicles.

    That very next week he had his first big hit. He lost his job and career of nearly 20 years that he was passionate about and had worked so hard to get, but to make matters worse he was also in jail as a result of the crooked county he was working for. My family and I thought of his scary trip down the river the weekend before and thought it was a sign that he would be taken down Rapids, be lost, have nowhere to get out of the river, and struggling to stay afloat, but that ultimately God was showing us He would bring him through.

    I’ve been behind on my devotionals, so I just read this one yesterday, but it hit home with me. As the months have progressed, things have only gotten worse and his and our situations seem hopeless. We have prayed every day for a miracle from God and for Him to rescue my brother from this terrible situation. I have to admit that we have all lost hope a lot of times throughout the past year. However, this story of the men gathering the stones and the Lord parting the Jordan just reminded me of God’s faithfulness and directly tied into my brothers river story…I think God reminded me with this word that it isn’t over–He WILL part my brothers own personal Jordan and he will bring his raging waters to cease…and in the end use it all for His glory! Sometimes God uses the worst times in our life to deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him and to use it as a testament to show just how wonderful and powerful and FAITHFUL the Lord is.

    He made my family a promise that He would bring us through this terrible situation and would bring justice as well and redemption for my brother. He reminded me of this with this message. Praise the Lord, for even when we doubt Him, He still remains faithful. Thank you, Lord for this reminder of your wonderful promises.

    • Stephanie

      How is your brother now? Do you feel like he’s on the other side of the trial?

  • I think it is so powerful to have physical reminders of God’s faithfulness. It is easy to forget what God has done once we are through the rough patch – but how important to keep a tangible reminder of God’s deliverance in our own lives so that when we face new obstacles, we can look back and easily be reminded of how God is always God.

  • Rachel Jamison

    Remembering God’s promises and His faithfulness gets me through many a long day! I know that He will carry through with what He has promised me in His word, and I must only be obedient and joyful and wait with a trusting heart.

  • This reminds me of Deuteronomy 6 where the Israelites are once again exhorted to repeat and take to heart the word he gives them. Once again, he provided them with specific physical instructions (bind the word to your forehead, tie it to your doorframe) so that his truth would be with them and remind them constantly.

    While I’m not about to go about walking around with some scrolls tied to my forehead (!!), I am challenged about how I can keep reminders about God and his promises physically around me. I find even little things like the SRT lock screens or posting bible verses on the wall around the house are helpful. These are reminders for me when you get lost in the minutia and busyness of day to day life, to lift your eyes back up to Jesus and recentre your focus

  • I wanted to ask for prayer. I’m in a difficult season. Full of anxiety and fear. I am struggling trusting God and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A part of me feels like there’s no hope. I know He’s faithful. This season has been so long I’m just tired. I feel purposeless at times. I feel like I don’t have enough faith to overcome.

    • Hannah

      Praying for you friend

    • Shelby


    • chrissy

      I was in the same spot as you (the way youre feeling) just last week. I was ready to give up but i couldnt knowing how far i already came and believing God is so good. He will not leave u nor forsake u. Keep scripture on ur tounge and dont let the devil win. Ur victory is around the corner. The hardest part is right before the blessings rain down. Keep going. U got this. Im still waiting on my blessings but i have renewed strength (after prayer). Im almost there, i can feel it. It was hard, very hard but it will make a great testimony. U got this girl! Love ur sis in Christ

      • churchmouse

        *the devil uses time to discourage God’s PEOPLE and God occasionally uses time to test OUR resiliency. (sorry I didn’t proofread my post)

    • churchmouse

      Praying for you. The devil uses time to discourage God’s purpose and God occasionally uses time to test or resiliency. I admire you for hanging in there and for being honest enough to say it’s so very hard and no fun. I link my arm through yours to lift you in prayer. It is easier to stand firm when linked.

    • Taylor Garibaldi

      I am in the same position as you currently, it’s so hard. I am trying to cling to the fact that God is faithful. I pray that your struggles would cease.

    • Armanda

      Your prayers and words are so comforting to me. Thank you all so much. I’m hanging on I’m not giving up. God is my strength. I’m praying for you sisters too that He would make us unstoppable and fearless.

      • April L.

        I too am in this season. Many years ago I was in this season, my husband and I were in counseling. I told him how tired I was and just needed rest. The counselor said, why don’t you ask God for rest? I looked at him and said, do what? He repeated the question and I said well I’ll try it. My husband and I prayed together for a season of rest for 6 months, and were blessed with it. Who knew you could ask God for rest? I mean we prayed, please let nothing bad happen for 6 months, let us heal, no fear, no worry, etc. We received what we asked for. Maybe, this is your time to ask for rest. As soon as I read your comment, I scrolled to the part where I could comment. My fingers started typing about us asking for rest. Please let us know how you are doing.

        • rochelle

          i needed to read this, April, about the season of rest. i’m so very tired. so depressed, anxious. literally on my knees, begging God, crying out. this has been one of the hardest seasons of my life, by far. and it just keeps going and going. i’m going to pray and ask my Father for rest…

        • Armanda

          I have been the same Rochelle, on my knees begging anxious and depressed and tired it feels never ending. My husband and I have been praying for rest since yesterday we are trusting Him now and waiting. I know He’s moving. Yesterday I took a leap of faith I got really anxious came back home then turned back around. He’s giving me strength. His power is made perfect in weakness.
          Isaiah 43:13 Yes, and from the ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” This scripture has given me strength. May God rain rest on all our weary souls.

        • Kristin

          SAME!!! I’m having a hard time being patient. It really is a testing of faith (James 1:2-4). Thank you for sharing ladies, I’m praying for all of us that God is near to us during these dark seasons and that we keep pressing into him. Xx

      • Ashley

        Praying for you sister. This song encourages me when I’m feeling like you are.

    • Logan

      Praying for you Amanda! Look for the Father all around you. He has not forsaken you. He has not abandoned you.

    • lish

      I am with April on asking you to ask God for rest. Sometimes we pray and then we put in all the effort and struggles. But seriously, the bible says we are to rest in Him. Look at what we have just read. The battle is the Lord’s. The Israelites just wait for instructions. They had time to heal after circumcision. They just ate from the land when the manna ceased. The rest is important. When you lean on Jesus, when we cannot, that’s where He can. Praying for you.

    • Shelbs

      Sister, you are being sharpened. Remember that the Israelites wandered the second time in the wilderness (BECAUSE OF FEAR) but during this time they learned obedience and taught it to their children. You may feel purposeless but our purposeful God is using you for something special. Though you are in a painful season, know that you will come out more refined than you ever thought you could be. You will reach the Promised Land, I am confident in this. But first- you might have to wander for a while.

      You are so loved and I am praying for you!

  • While not stated in Joshua, Samuel called these stones Ebenezers. I love this line from the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing!
    “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come; And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home. “

    • Lindsey

      Yes! Exactly what I was thinking about. I actually recently learned all of this. Katherine and Jay Wolfe talk about it in their incredible book Hope Heals.

    • Pat

      Love that hymn too!

      • Esther

        That’s the name of my great grandfather. He was a preacher.

    • She Reads Truth

      Yes! Love this, Kendra. Thanks for sharing today!


    • Chrisy

      So so good. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Tori

      I’VE NEVER REALIZED THIS! I’m so glad you brought this up! Come Thou Fount is probably my favorite worship song of all time and I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection. Thank you!!

  • Caroline Harries

    Thank you Lord that you are faithful to your promises! Calling them forth and thanking you that they are always yes and amen

  • Something I cannot comprehend….. Why He loves us so….

    • churchmouse

      I’m raising my hand here! Me too, Cindy, me too! His love… Incomprehensible love!

  • I love this idea of remembering these stones in our lives that represent Gods faithfulness. I am one who loves words so I stacked rocks using my journal. That time when God found my favourite bouncy ball. The baby boy loudly talking upstairs. My house and yard. And remembering these answered prayers (some that I didn’t even know I was praying) I am encouraged to know that God hears ME. This is God saying I love YOU. I care about YOU.

  • Diane Huntsman

    Their legendary victories were only achieved when they walked in obedience, and their devastating failures were a direct result of failing to obey God.

  • hi all. I asked for prayer a couple days ago for my surgery on my neck. thank you for praying. not only did the surgery go well, but in the hour beforehand while I was on my own waiting (my husband getting the kids off to school), Jesus was palpably present with me. sweet peace, comfort and his reassurance to never leave me were beautiful moments I will hold dear forever. who would have thought?! But God. thank you for praying and praise be our God of all comfort who comforts us in all circumstances!

    • churchmouse

      Thank you for letting us all know so that we can praise God for what He did and surely will continue to do for you as you recuperate. Encourages me to pray without ceasing

    • Terry

      Your God experience can be one of your memorial stones. Grateful for answered prayer. Continued prayers for a complete recovery.

    • Debbie

      I agree with Churchmouse! Thank you for sharing and encouraging us!

    • She Reads Truth

      Love this so much, Maggie! Thank you for the update. Continuing to pray for your recovery.


  • A speaker I heard once encouraged us to create “memorial stones” where you have a rock garden big or small and on the rocks write something God did for you like opened the door to a new job, kept us safe during a winter storm, etc and then share those with your family and friends.

  • Victoria

    “the unseen stones of faith” – love this! Your words gave me the opportunity to recall, and smile as I remembered, my own spiritual legacy. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  • Evangeline

    No more manna…we are home…taste the fruit of your labor, develop new memories, never forgetting my Hand from the past guiding, directing, discipling, and yes patiently loving . Praise Him our Faithful Father.

  • KatSmith1026

    I’m curious to see … how do each of you remember God’s past faithfulness & future promises in YOUR own life? For me, I’ve kept journals since my senior year of high school – a great way to remember! I also date everything I underline & all the notes I write in my Bible – that way I can remember what was going on in my life when I read a certain passage/verse, & I can also find my journal entry about that passage. I’d love to hear ways that you remember God’s faithfulness to his promises!

    • Robin W.

      I’m a journaler. I’ve done it since I was in 5th grade. I still remember my first journal – it even had the lock and key. I don’t have many positive memories growing up, fewer even of my mother, but she did get me that first diary and since I have been on a path of remembering.

    • Dawn

      Like you I have journaled since I have been young, but I also have a joy jar where I write down events, people, blessings, etc that I given me joy. Then periodically I will read some to help me remember just how truly blessed I am.

    • Maggie

      I too love to journal. sometimes I keep a prayer journal and remember God’s faithfulness when he’s answered a prayer and I get to cross it off. I just turned 40 and looking back on the decades of my life and the difference between now and ten or twenty years ago also serve as powerful markers to God’s faithfulness and presence in my life.

    • Angela

      Interestingly, as part of my study recently on the topic of prayer, I was led to write my own story down, which I did over the next few days. It was then that I saw the ‘big picture’. So often after we pray for something, we forget, or thing did not immediately turn out the way we prayed for and we put it aside. It is only when we look back and take a long view that we realise the answers unfolding through time.
      Now, I try to keep notes. Not a journal journal as I do not like to write too much of the daily stuff, but whatever the Lord speak to me about, I will try to remember to jot it down. I just started this not too long ago. Maybe a year? Already when I look back at the earlier entries, there are so many things I have forgotten and the things that I wrote down back then ministered to me again when I re-read them.

  • churchmouse

    Memorial stones were lifted from the mud of the Jordan River to signify the beginning of their homecoming. This prompts me to think of the spiritual memorial stones I’ve gathered to mark my home- coming to the Lord, my steps toward Him. Church attendance in my childhood – though obligatory more than desired, it was a firm foundational stone. The influence of Christian friends lay more stones. Opening that first red Bible to page one, to read for myself what I had been told. That was a huge stone. I knelt and prayed, the bowed head and bended knees erecting yet another stone, this one high and lifted up, acknowledging a decision and a commitment. Bible study with other searching Christians stacked more spiritual memorial stones. I place another boulder each day of SRT. My house holds a lot of stuff, you know furniture and appliances and books and clothing, etc. accumulated over time, but the most precious things would be those which cannot be seen, which cannot be divided up upon my death. It is the unseen stones of faith that memorialize the steps taken throughout my lifetime marking my life as belonging to Him. One stone at a time. One step forward followed by another towards my home – coming until one day I see Him face to face. These are more precious, more valuable than any other stuff I own. These stones alone are my legacy. My spiritual legacy. May I continue to build high so that, when I am gone, my family and friends will remember. And be stacking their own.

    • Lynne

      Churchmouse, I always look for your comments each day as I read SRT. You always inspire and encourage me. God is using you in a powerful way! As I read your words, I lift up a prayer for you. May our Awesome God continue to use you and bless you!

      • churchmouse

        Thank you for your kind words. I would add that in the days when I feel more like a failure on this journey, the unseen stones remind me to persevere, to trust that He is helping me to lift the next one. And some stones are lifted with great difficulty because they came on the heels of struggle, pain, disappointment, hurt and yes, sin. His arms help me lift. In fact, He does the heavier lifting. And I am grateful.

  • Back in August, I went home to ‘mark’ where we buried Dad… we placed a memorial stone with his name, his time on earth, and a list of what he represented to us…Dad, uncle, husband, grandfather, friend…with a picture…We sure did mark that spot…a forever reminder of where we left him.
    There is a place, similar, yet in another country, where I go frequently…a placed marked by a big stone..the name of my precious daughter, her time here on earth, and words expressing the sorrow of her passing, but, and by God’s grace and faithfulness, there will come a day when we will be reunited, to love and laugh as we always did…
    There are many stones that mark moments in my life, of monumental significance… joyous, heart breaking, wonderful, life beginning, life ending..moments etched forever on a heart that by God amazing grace, has the capacity to hold them all.. and I am sure my journey is not over yet..
    But God..
    God has and continues to be faithful to his promises…I love that he never leaves us nor forsake us…or that He will be with us to the end of time..He provides, He makes,a way when all seems lost, He loves, oh, how He loves us…

    Today, I would like to mark as a great day… Before reading this devo, I caught up on yesterday’s…my heart leapt, sang, doing a joy filled dance as I read of one of our own, and God’s faithfulness to her and her husband…God has heard their cry, their prays and today, they will be marking as a day the Lord answered their prayers and hearts desires, the arrival of their baby boy…Woop, Woop…
    All PRAISE and Glory to the One who is faithful, through it all..Amen..

    Be Blessed my dears…hugs..

    • Brandi

      Much love to you, Tina.

    • Liz S

      Humbled and moved, as always, by the raw beauty of your words and heart dear Tina. What a joy it is to celebrate memorial stones in the lives of our fellow travellers! And what peace, knowing our children, and theirs, will be led by the same faithful God! Love across the waters…

Further Reading...