Under Joshua, the Israelites arrived at the border of the Promised Land.
Did they have to take the first step before God moved? Let's take a look at the Word of God before making any judgments:
"And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to
Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed
over."" (Joshua 3:1)
The third chapter starts with Joshua, a type and shadow of our Lord Jesus Christ, not with the Israelites, not even with the priests.
Three days elapsed, then Joshua sent word throughout the camps:
"2And it came to pass
after three days, that the officers went through the host; 3And
they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the
LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from
your place, and go after it. 4Yet there shall be a
space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near
unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed
this way heretofore." (Joshua 3: 2-4)
The three days speaks of Jesus' death and his burial for three days. After the three days, the officers told the Israelites to wait for the ark and the priests to move, then they would move.
The Israelites did not make the first step. The Ark of the Covenant, carried by the priests, would move first. The Ark is another picture of Jesus Christ. We see Him, we believe on Him, and we receive His grace and truth in our lives to move on. Above all, though, let us not once assume that we have to make the first step, because Jesus has taken the steps for us.
"5And Joshua said unto
the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among
you. 6And Joshua spake unto
the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the
people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people."
Joshua tells the people that they will see the LORD do wonders in their eyes first, then they will move. The second extensive account in Scripture affirms that greatness of God, His goodness, as the precursor to any repentance or obedience in our lives (Romans 2: 4)
God moves first, then we move. Jesus is our life, and the more that we believe on Him for all things, the more that His quickening Life moves in us to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13)
The rest of the account is even more compelling in the greatness of God, not in the works that we "must do":
"7And the LORD said unto
Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that
they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." (Joshua 3: 7)
Jesus must be magnified, for He must be first in all things. There can be no other order otherwise.
"11Behold, the ark of
the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
12Now therefore take
you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. 13And
it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear
the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of
Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters
that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap." (Joshua 3:11-13)
The Ark goes first -- the Ark, the picture of Christ and His Finished Work on our behalf. The priests who bear the ark will step in, not the Israelites. The word "rest" in verse 13 cannot be ignored. "Rest" is the Hebrew word "Nuach", the same word/name of the Patriarch Noah whose family stayed in another "ark" to rise above the floods of judgment which covered the earth:
"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD." (Genesis 6: 8)
The first mention of "grace" is connected with rest, and just as Noah the personification of rest received God's grace to live and survive and thrive in spite of the floods, so too the Israelites crossed the river Jordan because of the grace of God, personified in Joshua. Today, Jesus, whose name comes from "Joshua -- Savior" has brought us from life to death, and from a land of want and loss to plenty and blessing.
He took the first step, at the Cross, and in Christ every other step has been taken. Will you believe Him?
Let us cease from presuming on "our part". It's all of Christ, none of us that brings us from death to life, and every other good thing that we receive in this life, we receive because Christ is our life.