Joshua’s calling as a prophet was confirmed to the Israelites when God parted the Jordan River and allowed them to cross into the promised land. The Lord told Joshua to commemorate this miracle by having one man from each of the 12 tribes of Israel pick up a stone from the riverbed and construct a memorial with the stones. Once they had entered the promised land, the Lord stopped sending manna, and the Israelites ate from the fruit of the land.
If possible, bring 12 stones or rocks to class and stack them in a place where students will see them as they enter. If students comment on or ask questions about the stones, do not respond. To begin the lesson, invite students to read Joshua 4:21 silently, looking for the question it contains.
Write the following question on the board: What mean these stones? Ask students to raise their hands if they had a similar question as they entered the room. Invite students to look for the meaning of the stones stacked in the classroom as they continue their study of the book of Joshua today.
Explain that Joshua and the Israelites moved their camp so they were near the Jordan River (see Joshua 3:1). They knew they were supposed to cross the river and settle other portions of the promised land, but the river was flooding, which made it difficult to cross (see Joshua 3:15).
What would you have done in these circumstances?
Invite a student to read Joshua 3:1–6 aloud. Before the student reads, divide the class into three groups. Assign each group one of the following questions and ask them to look for the answer as these verses are read:
What did the officers tell the people to do?
What did Joshua tell the people to do?
What did Joshua tell the priests to do?
After the passage has been read, repeat the three questions and ask students to report what they found. Then ask:
Why do you think the people were instructed to sanctify themselves before they crossed the Jordan River? What difference would their preparation make in their response to the Lord’s miracles? (You may want to read Joshua 3:5, footnote a, to help with this discussion.)
Read Joshua 3:7 aloud, and ask students to follow along, looking for what the Lord told Joshua after the priests started to carry the ark toward the river.
How do you think the Lord’s words recorded in verse 7 may have affected Joshua?
On the floor of the classroom, place two parallel tape lines about six feet (two meters) apart. (You may want to do this before class.) Explain that the space between the two lines represents the Jordan River that the Israelites needed to cross to enter the promised land. Invite a student to come to the edge of one tape line. You may want to give this student a heavy backpack or a large pile of books to hold. Explain that the student will be acting out the part of one of the Levite priests who was carrying the ark of the covenant.
Ask a student to read Joshua 3:8–11, 13 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what the Lord said He would do to help the Israelites cross the river. Explain that the phrase “stand upon an heap” in verse 13 means the water would stop flowing downstream.
After Joshua 3:13 is read, ask the following questions to the student representing the priests who carried the ark:
What would those who were carrying the ark have to do before the river stopped?
Would you be willing to step into the water? (Invite the student to step into the space between the two lines.)
What quality did the priests demonstrate by stepping into the water before the water stopped flowing downstream?
Invite two students to take turns reading aloud from Joshua 3:14–17. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened when the priests stepped into the water.
What principle can we learn from the priests’ actions that can help us when we are faced with obstacles and challenges? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including the following: Moving forward in faith invites God to perform miracles on our behalf. Write this principle on the board.)
To help students understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Recall how the Israelites came to the river Jordan and were promised the waters would part, and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Interestingly, the waters did not part as the children of Israel stood on the banks of the river waiting for something to happen; rather, the soles of their feet were wet before the water parted. The faith of the Israelites was manifested in the fact that they walked into the water before it parted. They walked into the river Jordan with a future-facing assurance of things hoped for” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 63).
What do you think it means to move forward in faith?
Point out that although we may not have flooded rivers to cross in our lives, we will have obstacles and challenges that we may not know how to overcome. Read the following scenario aloud and ask students to respond with ways they could move forward with the faith that God will help them:
You feel that you should share the gospel with a friend but are nervous that you may do it incorrectly and that it will negatively affect your friendship.
What are some other challenges or life events that may require us to move forward before we can understand how things will turn out?
When have you or someone you know experienced miracles or blessings after moving forward in faith?
Consider sharing your testimony of this principle or inviting students to share their testimonies of moving forward in faith.
Ask students to name any memorials, such as monuments or statues, within their community or country. You might consider showing a picture of one, if possible.
What is the purpose of a memorial?
What is the memorial you named intended to remind you of? How can you benefit from remembering these things?
Draw students’ attention to the pile of stones in the classroom, and explain that as the Israelites crossed through the Jordan River, they were commanded to gather stones. Invite students to scan Joshua 4:1–5 looking for how many stones they needed to gather and where they needed to get them. Ask students to report what they find.
Point out the question on the board (“What mean these stones?”), and invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Joshua 4:6–7, 20–24. Ask students to follow along, looking for answers to this question.
What answers did you find to the question “What mean these stones?”
According to verse 24, what effect should remembering this miraculous event have had on the Israelites?
Write the following on the board: As we remember what the Lord has done for us … Ask students how they would complete this statement. The following is one possible response: As we remember what the Lord has done for us, our reverence for Him increases and our testimonies are strengthened. (Write this principle on the board.)
How can remembering previous miracles and spiritual experiences increase our reverence for God and strengthen our testimonies?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy:
“Remembering enables us to see God’s hand in our past, just as prophecy and faith assure us of God’s hand in our future” (“Remember and Perish Not,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 38).
Invite students to consider how the two principles they have identified relate to each other. Help them see that the first principle they identified focuses on moving forward in faith, while the second one teaches us to look back and remember what God has done for us.
How can these principles help you as you face challenges in your life?
Encourage students to look for God’s hand in their lives. Invite students to draw a picture of a 12-stone memorial in their scripture study journals. Encourage them to create their own memorials in writing by recording an experience they have had when the Lord helped them or when they felt God’s hand in their lives (see Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 66–69).
Summarize Joshua 4:8–19 by explaining that these verses describe some of the details of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. Invite students to read Joshua 4:14 silently, looking for how this experience affected the Israelites’ view of their new prophet, Joshua. (You may want to explain that in this verse, the word fear refers to feelings of reverence or awe; see Bible Dictionary, “Fear.”) Ask students to report what they find.
Summarize Joshua 5:1–11 by explaining that once the Israelites were in the promised land, the Lord instructed Joshua to have all the men circumcised. Remind students that circumcision was a token of the covenant that the Lord had made with Abraham and his seed. For some reason this practice had ceased during their 40 years in the wilderness, and the Lord wanted it reinstituted (see Joshua 5:4–5).
Ask students to recall how the Lord had provided food for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness. After students respond, invite them to read Joshua 5:12 silently, looking for what happened to the manna after they arrived in the promised land.
Why do you think the Lord stopped providing manna to the Israelites once they arrived in the promised land? (If needed, explain that once the Israelites were in the promised land—a fertile land where they could grow and raise their own food—the Lord expected them to provide for themselves.)
Invite a student to read Joshua 5:13–15 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for the sacred experience Joshua had that was similar to Moses’s experience with the burning bush. Ask students to report.
Explain that the messenger who announces himself as the “captain of the host of the Lord” was the Savior. (You might point out that the messenger allowed Joshua’s worship. This suggests that the messenger was Jesus Christ.)
Conclude by inviting a few students to summarize what they have learned in this lesson. Encourage students to act on the truths they have learned.