For forty years, the Israelites wandered in the desert. They had disobeyed God over and over again. He told them they would not get to enter the Promised Land. Instead, their children would be the ones who would get to live there.
Now their forty years were up. Moses gave a speech to the Israelites, reminding them to obey God, and He would guide and protect them. Then, Moses went home to God. Now Joshua would become the new leader of the Israelites.
God spoke to Joshua.
“It is up to you to lead My people across the Jordan River. I will give you the land that I had promised to Moses. I want you to be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t ever feel discouraged. I am your God, and I will be with you wherever you go.
“I will show the people that you are the one I have chosen to be their new leader,” God told Joshua. “Here is what you must do.”
The Israelites could have taken a route around the river (they had forty years to get there, after all), but God wanted to show this new generation how powerful He is. So, He commanded them to cross the Jordan River.
Just as God told him, Joshua had all the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant to wade into the river a bit. It was springtime, and the river was flowing higher than usual. But as soon as the priests’ feet touched the water, the river stopped flowing. It began piling up, further upstream, as if an invisible dam held it back. As the ground began to dry, the priests stood in the middle of the riverbed.
Then Joshua called for twelve men to go into the middle of the river and pick up large stones. They each carried their stone across the river and set them down.
“One day your children will ask you about these rocks,” Joshua explained to everyone. “They will ask what they mean, and you should tell them that those rocks mark the spot where God stopped the Jordan River from flowing, so we could cross over it into our new home. One stone for each tribe of Israel.
And so the Israelites crossed over Jordan, entering the land that God had promised to their parents when they left Egypt.
“Listen, all you Israelites!” Joshua cried out to them. “Here is the one thing you really need to remember: The Lord our God is the only true God. You need to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength. Read His commandments over and over and over again until you memorize them. Talk about them at home all the time—in the morning, when you eat, when you go to bed. Think about God’s plan for you when you are out traveling. Decorate your homes with God’s words.”
Joshua knew how important it was for God’s people to never, ever forget how powerful God is and how much He had done for them.