Waiting 3 More Days By the River

For forty years the Israelites had wandered in the desert.   The leader of Israel had passed away, though “his eye was not dim nor his step abated.”  A whole generation had passed away, who didn’t have the faith that God could lead them into the land flowing with milk and honey.

But all that was in the past now. Joshua was the leader now.  Trained under Moses, he was the one who was going to lead this new generation across the Jordan.  In the book of Joshua chapter three it’s recorded that Israel finally makes it across the river, into the land that God promised to Abraham hundreds of years before.  Finally they could be where they were supposed to be. The focus of the chapter is on Israel crossing, the Ark of the Covenant before them, into the land that they had been waiting for.  The waters of the river stop, and the nation passes across on dry ground. 

But before they do, the book of Joshua records a curious fact. 

Joshua 3:1-2 Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed. 2 the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;

It’s just a few fleeting words, but before the nation of Israel finally crossed into the promised land, they camped for three days just on the other side of the Jordan.  For forty years they waited for the promise, and just as they come up to it they are told to set up camp.

We are given no reason why Israel camps out here.  They have already waited for 40 years. For hundreds of years if you get right down to it. They had even been close to the promised land before, close enough to send in spies to check it out. But they had to wait.  It is their fault, of course. They sin separated them from God, and from receiving the promise of God while on earth.  Their doubt, unbelief, and idolatry ensured that a whole generation would never see the promised fulfilled.

But all of that generation were gone now.  A new generation has come, with a new leader, and now they are waiting again. After 40 years they have come around to the east side of the river and are about to cross over into what some have spent their whole life longing for. They are close enough to see it!  But they have to wait. 

Again, we are given no reason why Israel camps out here.  Maybe for tactical reasons, or physical reasons, or whatever, but the Bible doesn’t say.  

What does this teach us?

  1. Sometimes we don’t know why we wait.  After a generation passes away, the nation that remains is no doubt ready to enter in.  The Bible gives no indication as to why they had to wait for three more days.  It might not seem like a big deal, 3 days compared to 40 years. But to be so close to the promise that they have waited for, only to sit and see it on the other side of the river. The truth is that sometimes we have to wait on God’s promise, and we don’t know why. We may never know on this side of heaven. Sometimes to trust in God means to wait without knowing why.  
  2. Waiting is part of the plan. God’s plan is greater than our plan. This should go without saying, but it’s something that we often forget. God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  It’s not that God will not give us what he has promised. We can know that the promise will come. What we don’t always know is when, or how, or where. The deliverance of God’s promises is not a matter of if, but of when. That means we must trust Him, and know that His plan is greater than our plan.
  3. The promise is worth the wait.  We know what God has promised us will be worth the wait.  Even if we have to wait our whole lives to receive the promises of God when we die, it is worth it.  The Israelites had waited their whole life hearing about the promises of God.  Only to march right up to it and set up camp for three days.  We too might see the promises of God as not far off, but we just can’t get to it on our own. But if we trust God, then we know that the promise is worth the wait.

Chances are you are waiting on some of the promises of God today.  Maybe it seems like they are just across the river, or maybe it feels like they are forty years away. Either way, trust God and know that He is good and worth the wait.  


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