That’s the feeling you get as you flip the page from Joshua 4 to Joshua 5.
It had been a long road for the Israelites to get across the Jordan River. 400 years of slavery. Then the miraculous deliverance from Egypt. Then 40 more years of wandering in the desert until the last of the unbelieving generation had died off. Then, finally, under the helm of General Joshua Son of Nun it was time.
Time to go in.
Time to possess the land.
Time to take what God had promised centuries earlier to Father Abraham.
And no doubt God was with them. Though the Jordan River was in its flood stage, the Lord blocked blocked the rushing waters so they piled up in a heap while His people walked across. That’s round abouts of 2 million Israelites walking through the mud into an already inhabited land, completely convinced that it belonged to them.
Add to that a God that build invisible, river-stopping dams, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Or at least that’s what the people in the promised land thought:
“As soon all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel” (Joshua 5:1).
This is where the experienced leader would step in, like a coach of the football team who had just intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter, and rally his troops: “We’ve got ’em on the run now, boys! It’s time to strike while the iron is hot!”
And of course, it was. No doubt these kings were already somewhat intimidated by the size of the army, but they had time to prepare, right? They could fortify their cities. They could draw up battle plans. They could strategize and form alliances because those two million people would have to wait for weeks – maybe even several – to get across the river.
But then as quickly as those waters ceased to flow, the hearts of the kings melted in fear. What kind of army was this? And what kind of God did they have with them? There would be no time for battle plans and clever strategies; only time to consider the options of when and how to best surrender.
“At that time, the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time” (Joshua 5:2).
Huh? Um, shouldn’t you be attacking right now?
Conventional wisdom would say yes. There would be no better time. But instead, the Lord orders His people to take a break for a religious ceremony. And this particular kind of break would require a good bit of recovery time afterward before anyone was ready to fight. To make matters worse, God also said they should take a little more time and go ahead and celebrate the Passover (vv. 10-12).
A bit unconventional as far as battle plans go. But surely – SURELY – there’s something in this pause for us to see about what God is really after.
Here is a group of people who want to do great things. And want to do great things for God. And God wants them to do great things. But more than the great things He wants them to do is His desire that they remember who they are. In other words, sometimes it’s better to remember than to attack.
That’s a good word for us in our action-oriented culture. Get out there – make your mark – chase your dream – attempt greatness – all that stuff. But sometimes, before you head out throwing your sword around, you need to pause and remember. Remember where you came from. Remember what has happened to you. And most importantly, remember WHOSE you are.
That will be important when we do finally head in. We need to go into the battle not confident of our battle plan, not sure of our strategy, but instead armed with the knowledge that we are marked as the sons and daughters of God. So shouldn’t you be attacking right now? Perhaps not. Perhaps you should instead be sitting down for a little while and recalling that no one crosses over the Jordan based on their own merit in the first place.