The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (KJV).
Let’s see how the truth of this statement is illustrated in a Bible story we all know in the book of Joshua. By looking at the what, who, where, when, why, and how of Israel’s Jordan crossing, we learn how God is for us. The lessons that follow encourage us to overcome great obstacles in our own lives.
First, what is the Jordan, and what does it represent?
The Jordan is a river in Israel, more than two hundred miles long. Jordan means “descender.” It descends from the foot of Mount Hermon, more than nine thousand feet above sea level, to the Dead Sea, thirteen hundred feet below sea level.
After wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the Israelites crossed the Jordan on the flat plains of Jericho north of the Dead Sea. The river would not have been flowing particularly fast at this point of crossing. Yet it was a great obstacle between the Israelites and the Promised Land.
For the Christian, the Jordan is more than a river. Our personal Jordan is whatever stands in the way of our laying hold of God’s promises, whatever obstructs us from enjoying the blessings of the Christian life. Consider what blocks your path right now. It doesn’t matter what it is. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Second, who was crossing the Jordan? A people with a rebellious history. They would have entered the Promised Land many years before had it not been for the disobedience that doomed them to forty years of wilderness wanderings. Their faithlessness has become an object lesson for the people of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10; Hebrews 3-4).
Some commentators have speculated that the Israelites totaled over one million at that time. If their army of about forty thousand armed men is any indication, it was a significant number (Joshua 4:12, 13). Their crossing was a daunting task, but the people committed to forge ahead despite their troubled history.
Like the Israelites, maybe we have a negative past that is holding us back from succeeding in great undertakings, or even attempting them. We can allow many other things to hinder us. But it doesn’t matter who we are, what our past is, or what our weaknesses are. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Third, where were the Israelites crossing the Jordan? Near the city of Jericho (3:16), a mighty, walled city only six miles away. Jericho was in a fertile valley where many people lived. Do you think they were ignorant of Israel’s approach or happy for them to march in? Of course they weren’t! So why did God have Israel cross so close to her enemy? Maybe to show that God was in control and not Israel. She had to depend on Him every step of the way.
Remember, God is with us wherever we are, no matter how dangerous or desperate the situation. His grace and strength are sufficient to overcome all we may face. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Fourth, when were the Israelites crossing? In the rainy spring when the Jordan overflowed its banks, at the time of Passover (3:14, 15; 5:10). This place of crossing was usually not more than five feet deep, except in the wet season. At this time of year, the melting snow from Mount Hermon floods the river valley, up to two miles wide. It is possible the Israelites crossed the Jordan when it was a good mile wide and much deeper than five feet.
What a mighty obstacle! But it did not matter, because God was with them, just as He is with us. However deep and wide the obstacle, when we encounter it, if God be for us, who can be against us?
Fifth, why were the Israelites crossing? To receive a blessing or enjoy a rest? No! They were crossing to fulfill the great promises that God made to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 15). The Israelites were crossing to receive the Promised Land for an inheritance. It was a giant-sized task, and giants lived there. They were crossing for battle, and God was going before them (Joshua 1:2-6; 4:13).
We, too, face our impossibilities for a reason, or for many reasons, and those can create spiritual battles for us. So we fight the good fight of faith with the armor of God, meeting whatever challenges lie ahead. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Finally, how were the Israelites crossing? In this last question we realize that the what, who, where, when, and why mattered not in light of the how. Here is the description in Joshua:
So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water . . . that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap . . . Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground (3:14-17).
The Israelites crossed the Jordan because of a miracle — our faithful Father’s mighty power! Every obstacle bowed to the how of God Almighty. If we trust in His strength, the river of impossibility can part in our lives as well through things only He can do. If God be for us, who can be against us?
The miraculous parting of the Jordan would surely have been enough to encourage the Israelites that God was with them. But it is amazing what He did next.
None of the Israelite boys born in the wilderness had been circumcised (5:4-7). Just after they crossed into the Promised Land, God required them to be circumcised, stipulated by the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 17). But remember what happened to the men of Shechem in Genesis 34? After being circumcised, these weakened men could not defend themselves when Jacob’s sons attacked.
So why did God command circumcision on the Jericho side of the Jordan, with the enemy of Jericho so close by? Here, within the Promised Land, God reminded Israel of the importance of His covenant promise and the sign of Abraham’s faith. But also, in vulnerability they learned dependence on God. They had to trust in Him who was with them from everlasting to everlasting. Their victory over Canaan would be by faith in His strength, not theirs. Because they were obedient to God’s command, He protected them while they healed: “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (Joshua 5:8-10).
God with us
After being circumcised, the Israelites were given another powerful reminder of God’s presence with them: They celebrated the Passover in the Promised Land. The event recalled how God, through Moses, had provided manna for the people for forty years in the wilderness. But just as God had promised, the manna ceased once they ate of the harvest in the Promised Land (vv. 10-12).
As if this reminder weren’t enough, the Lord himself appeared to Joshua in a special way, assuring him of His powerful presence. The Commander of the Lord’s army had come, and Joshua worshipped Him (vv. 13, 14).
Returning to Romans 8, Paul reminds us that the Commander of the Lord is with us today:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . .Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (vv. 31, 32, 35, 37).
Is God for you? If you are not sure, you can be! David said that the “sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). God respects humility and repentance before Him.
We can be sure today that God is with us through His Son Jesus, our Passover. He has rolled away our sins. If we have a spirit yielded to God that says, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” that says, “Have mercy on me, a sinner,” then the faithful Father who is for us is also working in us.
In Christ we are overcomers, conquering all that hinders us from enjoying the fullest spiritual blessings of this life. Since God is for us, like Israel, we will cross our Jordans too!