Twelve Stones Under Water

So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there. Joshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day.”—Joshua 4:8–9 (NLT)

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, it was at flood stage, so the banks of the river were overflowing. In order for the people to safely cross it, God performed a miracle. Like the Red Sea parted to allow the Israelites to flee from Egypt, as soon as the priests waded into the water with the Ark of the Covenant, the water stopped flowing and piled in a heap. And it was here in the middle of the now dry land of the river floor—in the spot where the Ark stood—that Joshua made another memory marker of 12 large stones. 

A curious decision upon first glance. Once the Israelites had crossed, the river would return and the stones would be engulfed in water. So, why make a memorial that may or may not be seen? I believe it was a warning . . .

As I read this story and analyze its typological significance, I see the 12 stones under the waters of the Jordan as a picture of those who reject God’s salvation. These stones have not been delivered, crossed the great divide, and received the promise of God. These stones represent those who remain under the waters of God’s wrath and judgment. 

In the Old Testament, water is often a picture of the wrath and judgement of God: The Flood, the Red Sea drowning the Egyptians, Jonah’s overboard adventure, various passages in the Psalms—even Jesus’ analogy of the disciples being fishers of men, filling their nets with fish from out of the waters. So, these stones represent people who are not counted among those who have entered the Promised Land. Contrast this with the memorial from yesterday on the west bank of the Jordan, which was a picture of being saved from the waters of judgment.

Consider that the Ark of the Covenant, which typologically points to Jesus, stood in the midst of the Jordan, holding back the waters and allowing the stones to be brought up and delivered to the shore as a memorial and sign of God’s saving grace and faithfulness. But these other stones were covered by the Jordan; they couldn’t be a sign because they couldn’t be seen. And consider that it was Joshua alone (who is a type of Christ) who set up the stones in the river. Friends, there’s no way around this truth: Those who don’t repent and trust in Jesus, the Savior who delivers us from sin and death, will remain in the depths of the river . . . and that river will overflow in judgment at death. And as we saw yesterday, your life can be the marker of His salvation. Your testimony, your transformed life can be the catalyst to some more stones being drawn out of the river of judgment.

DIG: Why did Joshua make another memorial in the middle of the Jordan River?

DISCOVER: What are you currently doing to bring the stones engulfed in the river out and into the Promised Land?

DO: Ask the Lord to give you the boldness, compassion, wisdom, and opportunity to preach the gospel and show the love of the Jesus to those who are stuck in the river.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.