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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

What Does Water Have to Do with It?

Updated: Jan 10

Passed Through the Water

The Baptism of the Lord (Observed) – 1/7/2024

Joshua 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament reading from the book of Joshua in the first chapter with special emphasis on verses thirteen through seventeen which read as follows:

 

“So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and o the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                The journey of the people of Israel was not an easy one. They ran quickly from the land of Egypt after God sent Moses to deliver His people by preaching and plague. And on the night of the first Passover, God passed over the people when He sent the angel of death who killed all the firstborn of Egypt, which finally drove Pharoah to release God’s Israel. Israel then fled towards the land promised to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the land of Canaan, the promised land. As they journeyed, two things happened that caused them no small amount of stress and difficulty. The first is that they ran into the Red Sea which stopped their journey back to the land promised to them hundreds of years prior. This would, at minimum, require the inconvenience of going around the Red Sea, no doubt adding many days to their journey.

                The second, and arguably more problematic thing, is that during the relatively short time it took them to make it to the Red Sea is that Pharoah changed his mind about the whole affair and ordered his army of horse drawn war chariots to undo the flight of the Israelites. So, Moses and the people of Israel that he led were in between the proverbial rock and hard place. They could not quickly flee from Pharoah and his army due to their bringing of all their possessions, children, and elderly with them. They also did not have the strength of arms to resist the professional army of Pharoah.

                In the midst of this, Moses turned to his God and Savior and God delivered them from harm. In one of the great miracles of the Bible, the Red Sea was parted, and God’s people passed through with their feet dry and heads still firmly attached to their shoulders. When Pharoah’s army tried to pass through, the waters returned to their original place and the army was destroyed.[2] 

                In other words, God delivered His people by bringing them through the waters. But this was not the first or the last time He would do this. God delivered eight righteous people, that is Noah, his three sons and their wives, through the waters of the flood by means of the ark. [3]

                And after wandering in the wilderness for forty years due to their faithlessness and sin, Israel found itself in a similar situation. There, between Israel and the promised land lay a body of water. Now this body was far easier to cross than the Red Sea, being only a river. All that lie between them and the goal that they had been pressing toward for forty years was a river. Now the Jordan River is neither a great and wide river like the Missouri or Mississippi, nor is it a small stream like our own Bear Creek. It is somewhere in the middle, something more akin to the James River right outside of town. And while it is certainly narrow enough to either wade or swim across, it still presented an obstacle to God’s people and the promise that the Lord had given them.

                God commanded Joshua to move into the promised land, but Joshua was also a prudent tactician. After this, the first chapter, where our reading for today came from, Joshua sent spies into the land. If you remember your Bible history, you will recall that these spies met a certain woman named Rahab who helped them. This Rahab is one of the ancestors of our Lord Jesus as St. Matthew records in his Gospel.

                And after the spies return and the plan is hatched, Joshua orders the priests to carry the ark of the covenant, that special box that held the tablets of the Ten Commandments, manna, that is the bread that came from heaven each morning to feed Israel during their time in the wilderness, and the staff of Aaron, Moses’s brother that miraculously budded and bore almonds.[4] This was also the place that God promised to center His presence among His people so that they would know where He was and where to direct their sacrifices. God, after all, likes us to know how, where, and in what He we can find Him and receive His gifts, particularly the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

                The priests then led Israel to the river and a miraculous thing happened; as soon as their feet touched the water, the river stopped flowing. Indeed the upstream water piled up in a heap and did not come down stream until the people had crossed and the ark was safely on the other side of the River Jordan with them.[5] Like Noah and their ancestors who followed Moses through the Red Sea, God again delivered them by water.

                God did not stop with these three either. In 1 Peter 3, we are reminded that the delivering of Noah by the ark through the flood prefigured of Baptism.[6] In a similar way, being delivered through water in both in the Red Sea and the Jordan River did as well. In other words, though the amount of water is usually smaller and the miracle less obvious to our eyes, God still uses water to deliver His people. He first shows us this in the ministry of John the Baptist, who administered a baptism for repentant Israel. He shows us this in the baptism of God the Son, Jesus Christ, when the heavens broke open to allow the Holy Spirit to descend like a dove and by the Father’s booming pronouncement of His pleasure in His Son.

                And God shows it today when anyone comes to holy Baptism. Where our Lord’s Baptism was not for the remission of sins or repentance, ours is. And by His Baptism, the Lord Jesus not only sets aside all the waters of the earth as a proper and fitting substance for baptisms but began officially His public ministry of redemption. In other words, we are connected, us and Jesus, by water. And just as God delivered Israel in times of old, today He delivers the faithful by forgiving sins by putting them on His Son, Jesus, Who then put them to death in Himself. As St. Paul notes, “He who knew no sin became sin for us.”[7] And when He then went to the cross, weighed down with all the sins that have been washed from us, He drove the great stake of the cross into their heart, killed them, and buried them with Himself. And while our Lord rose from the dead, our sins did not. Even though they cling to us like a great horde of undead zombies such that we feel their effects and suffer their curses in this life, we are no longer accounted as sinful, unclean, or unrighteous.

                God delivered us with water. He baptized us into Himself, washed us clean in His own blood. He Himself has ensured that His Name has been placed on us and that we are no longer marked as Gentile sinners, but by adoption in our Baptisms, has made us beloved sons and heirs of all God’s promises.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] English Standard Version

[2] Exodus 14:21

[3] Genesis 7:1ff

[4] Hebrews 9:4, Numbers 17:8

[5] Joshua 3:15-16

[6] 1 Peter 3:21

[7] 2 Corinthians 5:21

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