“Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.”
The purpose of setting up a rudimentary stone altar was to remind the generations to come of the faithfulness of the Lord. Whenever someone walked by the area and saw stones stacked upon one another, it would be clear that it was not caused by nature, but by design and with a purpose. When they asked about the stones, the older generation would recall the stories of what God did, as a means of teaching the works and the ways of God. As time went on, these stone altars were scattered in many places throughout the land. The one we read about here is unique, not because of the way the stones were stacked, but because these stone would never again be seen since they would be covered by the flowing waters of the Jordan river. Why build an altar of remembrance that no one would ever see?
Paul alluded to Israel’s passing through the waters as a picture of baptism. Baptism illustrates the work that was done for us when we believed in Christ. Our sins were washed away, never to be seen again. These stone, buried under the flowing waters of the Jordan, serve as a reminder of the work that is done when we believe. Israel could look at the water and remember the faithfulness of God to keep His promises. In the same way, you and I can look back at the waters of baptism and remember the faithfulness of God. Perhaps you were baptized in the past and have since wandered from the Lord, and grown distant in your relationship with Him. Look back on those waters, think back to the joy you had when you were following Jesus, reflect upon what it is that led you away, and return to the Lord who loves you, died for you, and wants to work out His plans in your life.
“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
What the church needs today more than anything else, is a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit; like the one received on the day of Pentecost, and the day the Tabernacle was erected. For both, Israel and the church, divine power and direction were directly related to the presence of God. While we cannot manufacture a work of the Spirit of God, we can learn a valuable lesson from the events that transpired on the day the Tabernacle was first constructed.
“According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work.”
God gave detailed instructions regarding how the Tabernacle would be built and operated. When Israel followed those instructions, it resulted in the outpouring of the presence of God. The same was true of the early church. Jesus instructed His followers to wait on the Lord, and pray for the baptism of the Spirit. When they did, God responded by fulfilling His promise. This is not a formula or a recipe, as much as it reveals that God has designed His church to function in a particular way. When we decide to trust the promises of God, and seek Him for a work of he Spirit, He will fulfill those promises.
Take some time to pray that God would pour His Spirit out on you and your church.
“Jesus answered and said to John, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”
The baptism of Jesus was a critical event in His life and ministry. It becomes a great illustration for us, of Christian living and service. First off, note that Jesus was baptized to fulfill righteousness. Water baptism is a picture of a spiritual baptism, which happens the moment a person believes in Christ.
Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” 1Corinthians 12:13
While water baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement for obedience. We are commanded, upon receiving Christ, to make it public with baptism. Jesus, to illustrate the value of this public declaration, submitted Himself to the rite of baptism. Second, note what happened upon His baptism; the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. This is a picture of a second baptism that the Bible speaks of; not when we are submerged in water, but in the Holy Spirit. I find it of the highest importance, that before Jesus began public ministry, He was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, any who asked would receive the Holy Spirit, and along with the outpouring of the Spirit, would be power to walk with Christ. Take time right now to ask God to baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and empower you to live for Christ and serve Him. Finally, note that Jesus heard the voice of God. One thing abundantly clear in Scripture is that God honors obedience. I believe whenever we take steps of obedience in our lives, we will hear the voice of God clearer. Whatever He is asking of you, do it, and His voice will become louder and clearer to you.