The Challenge of Crossing the Jordan

Johnny Ogletree, III M. Div.
9 min readFeb 18, 2021

And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests
who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth,
shall rest in the waters of the Jordan,
the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off,
and the waters which are flowing down
from above shall stand in one heap.
Joshua 3:13

Our hero Joshua stands before the Jordan River with God’s people. He gives them Gods’ instructions on how they were to cross the Jordan River and then enter the Promised land. God gives him instructions for both to the people and to the Levites. The Levites where God’s chosen servants to assist the priests in their efforts in worship and service. Here we find them carrying out the instructions of the Lord delivered through Joshua.

Though we often focus on Joshua, and the remaining time is spent on the people, I thought it good to spend some time looking at the priests. This is no ordinary feat, nor is this a minor or insignificant moment. Their parents and grandparents stood at the shore of the Red Sea and had to step out in faith! They walked across the Sea, after the Rod of Moses was elevated in obedience and with faith. The people of God were able to cross over on dry land, because the Lord send a wind that parted the water from the surface to the floor. Not just did the waters part, but the Word says they crossed on dry land (a whole another level of testimony).

Now this current generation and their leader face a smaller feat, but one that will require obedience and faith to endure. Though Joshua lifts no rod before the people, the priests are instructed to lift up the Ark which contained the 1. Covenant is Commandments, 2. Manna and 3. The Rod of Aaron. All 3 are symbolic reminders of the power of God, and His covenant with His people. They are reminders of His promise, provision and protection all in cased within the Ark which is symbolic of His presence. Anyone who touched the Ark would die, thus it was carried by poles through rungs that allowed it to be transported from one place to another.

The Levites were charged with moving the Ark of the Covenant to the other side of the Jordan; but their instructions were more challenging than just carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The scripture says,

“…when the soles of the feet of the priests
who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth,
shall rest in the waters of the Jordan,…”

The Challenge and Responsibility of Carrying the Ark:

First, they are to carry the Ark of the Covenant. Let’s add to that they are crossing a river with an active current. Next they are charged to stand in the middle of the stream. Last they are instructed to hold the Ark High so that the people of God can pass under it, or for more intimacy, that it might pass over them. They were not crossing a bridge or a path cut before them. They didn’t have the benefit of a damn or a levy. They had at their disposal their faith, their instructions and their covenant duty to serve the Lord.

Increased Difficulty of Carrying the Ark:

Now, I’m not sure how many of you have tried to cross a river, stream or even a lazy river of sorts. The flow of the current makes the journey challenging. With every step, the current seeks to take you off your path, and challenge your balance and strength. One must focus on every step, and be sure each one is not to long or short. Any variation in stride can be a challenge, and mind you this is crossing alone. The priest were charged not to walk alone, but to walk together. The ark could not be carried by one man. It was moved as a group, meaning that they had to come to agreement as to where and if it should be moved. They had to move together as a unit to ensure that the Ark of the Covenant was not dropped and or caught and carried away by the power of the current. Furthermore, they had to hold the Ark of the Covenant high. The Ark was elevated while they walked in the stream, and had to be held high enough and long enough for the entire 12 tribes to cross the Jordan. Now, the Ark of the covenant was not made of plastic or paper mache, but was made of Acacia Wood and was covered and pitched with gold. Thus the priest of God would have to not only endure the current, but would have to have both endurance and strength to carry out their assignment. Moses stood in the mountain, over the battle, holding up the Rod, and these priest would be charged to keep the presence of God elevated until the last child of God emerged from the Jordan River. It was then and only then would they we able to exit the Jordan River.

I was taken back by the Words,
“…the soles of their feet…..shall rest in the waters…”

I was challenged by the degree of difficulty of their tasks, but was overwhelmed with the resting of the soles of their feet. I placed my feet in in theirs, picturing myself in the middle of the Jordan. I first asked myself, as I will ask you, “Would my feet have been in the Jordan to begin with?”

Brave Enough to Brave the Jordan?

Honestly I hear Prophets, Preacher and Pastors claim to be a Good Shephard. You know, the one that loves the sheep, and will not only feed them, and give their life to protect them. Making that sacrifice needed, taking the risks that are necessary. Denying themselves and not only following, but being willing to guide other from earths shore to eternities shore (you know, they promised land

), and not wavering. But would you even be in the river to come to rest? Honestly, I believe most would receive the instructions, would pick of the Ark, take one look at the current and the width of the River and call in sick. Some of you would have asked for the lots to be redrawn, while others would have not shown up for the task. Some of us would have gotten Caleb or asked Joshua the wear bouts of the nearest bridge.

But not these priests! They grab the poles of the Ark and begin walking towards the River. They look at the current and takes steps into the water. The feel the weight of the responsibility and lift the Ark of the Covenant High, and take their position in the Jordan River. I am pressed by this text in that, the challenge of walking across the river alone is challenging, and the challenge is increased when you have to walk and carry something together. I know many of you have faced the challenge of carrying large and heavy items with others. It’s great to have the help of others to carry the burden or weight, but it increases the degree of difficulty because everyone has to walk together and carry together. It’s not just one persons balance that is being challenged, or the strength and endurance of one man being put to the test; its those who have drawn the assignment and have to face the challenge. And they carry the Ark together! And they make it to the middle of the River, and eventually they and God’s people make it to the other side!

Carrying the Ark Requires Finding Agreement!

So my next focus was the team of Prophets, Priest, and Pastors facing the River. Can we even find agreement long enough to walk together? Will we spend our time arguing over the position we are in while carrying the Ark? Will we spend our time fighting about who will be calling out the steps to keep us walking in unison? Or would we face a circumstance that reveals some have studied to show themselves, and the other is unprepared? Have you ever been a pall bearer? Imagine the challenge that they faced making sure the Ark of the Covenant was not only lifted high enough, but was at the same level so that it would not fall over or become impossible to keep elevated for those who have yet to pass over.

Find Rest for Your Soles:

Next, I looked at the resting of the feet. Mind you, these priest are listed together as a unit and not as individuals. Their efforts to serve the Lord are noted, but are seen as one effort and one sacrifice. These priest are called not to cross over together, but to position themselves in the middle of the Jordan so that others could get to the other side. These priests would have to have not just enough courage to walk to the other side, but must have the fortitude to stand in the water and believe that God would not only keep them safe, but would stand the water up as they stood for the Lord! They walked and carried the presence of the Lord with them and demonstrated a faith along side Joshua that helped people endure the challenge they faced.

Finding Rest, Models for the Rest!

In a day where the feet of God’s servants seem to be restless, I wonder how many of us could bring our feet to rest? In this day where resting in the Lord seems to be a thing of the past. Too many have found themselves eager to claim the shore for themselves, and not found the peace of being in the moment with the Lord long enough to ensure the safe passage of His people. How many of us have the fortitude and the faith the not only enter the storm but to stand in it? How many of us still find peace in our relationship with Jesus? This rest stems from our faith and commitment to keep our eyes stayed on Him. It’s our ability to go within ourselves and not draw from our own strength, but to pull from the witness of the Holy Spirit which ministers to us while the storm rages and circumstances seem impossible. Our forefathers we able to find this rest, and for this, delivered us into a place of rest, and not just an eternal rest for our souls. Their rest moved us from tent to temple. Their rest moved us from renting to owning. Their rest moved us from wagon trails to neighborhood. Finding rests is what provides a foundation for stability and strength, while being restless leaves jobs incomplete and unstable.

Sadly, I don’t believe the number is as numerous as we hope or believe it to be. But I do know our God is asking us to make a sacrifice worthy of Him. A sacrifice that mirrors His. A sacrifice that honors His. These priest plant their feet firmly in the middle of the barrier blocking the people of God and remain their until they have been delivered. What an effort of faith! What a documentation of obedience! What a testament of God’s power!

We can learn a lot from this encounter. I do believe our God is speaking to us about how we can get past this present challenge. It can not be achieved if we will not listen to God, be obedient to His command, Carry out His Will, Act in Faith, Takes steps of Faith, Find Rest in Him, Put others before us and Lift the Savior High for all to See!

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