Pastor John, you recently tweeted Joshua 4:24, which reads, “He dried up the Jordan, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty.” And then you added the word “missions” to the tweet. How does Joshua 4:24 relate to global missions?
Well, I’m glad for the question because I love to talk about this. Let me read the text that I was quoting. This is Joshua 4:23–24. “For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over as the Lord your God did the Red Sea.” So, you got the splitting of the Jordan and the splitting of the Red Sea as one big great miraculous way God is dealing with his people, which he dried up for us until we passed over. Now, here’s the purpose clause. Why did God split the Red Sea? Why did God split the Jordan in such a stunning and miraculous way, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty? That you may fear the Lord, your God, forever.
God’s Fame Everywhere
What that text says is one of God’s purposes in the Exodus and in the entrance into the land with a stretching forth of his mighty arm in dividing the seas was so that the news would spread everywhere among all the nations. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is supremely mighty. Now, that’s what I mean by missions. We read in Psalm 96:3, “Declare his glory among the nations,” and that becomes the theme of many missions conferences. Well, here it is: God is declaring his glory among the nations. God is a missionary God.
What I would do to expand it and explain it would be to say from the very beginning, when man fell and God inaugurated a plan of redemption, God had the nations in view. Even when he chose Israel to focus on for 2,000 years, he had the nations in view. Because he said to Abraham, “I’ll make you a great nation. And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed” (see Genesis 12:2). When he chose Israel and began to do his mighty works in and for Israel, he was doing them always on the stage of the world with a view that the nations would see his glory.
If you go back to Exodus 14 where they’re coming out of Egypt, he says in chapter 14:4, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”
Now, here’s the question. When he did that, when he put his glory on display for the Egyptians, is that the only thing he had in mind, or did he have also in mind that this news is going to spread everywhere and people are going to know Yahweh is the true God? And some of them by grace may turn to the true God and be saved, and that’s what missions would be.
What I had in the back of my mind, when I wrote that tweet was Rahab. Probably nobody knew that’s what’s in my mind. But Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith Rahab, the prostitute,” she’s in Jericho about to be destroyed as they cross the Jordan there, “By faith [she] did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
That’s Hebrews 11:31. And my question is: Why did she do that? Why did she do that?
Rehab’s Fear of Yahweh
Here’s the answer: in Joshua 2:9 Rahab said to the men, “I know that Yahweh has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt before you.” How’d she know that? Verse 10: “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the kings of the Amorites to Sihon and all whom you devoted to destruction.”
God had Rahab’s salvation in mind when he split the Red Sea. That’s what I mean. When I say that God’s exaltation of his own glory in the salvation of his people is a missionary act, I mean the reputation that he’s going to get from this is going to lead people like Rahab to humble themselves before Yahweh, stop putting up their rebellion against the true God, and embrace him and be saved. When the tweets said “missions,” he dried up the Jordan, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty. That’s what I meant.