Joshua Crosses the Jordan River Lesson for Elementary Sunday School Kids



Today we are going to talk about choices. So as a way to get us thinking about that I brought two identical pieces of candy.

Well, they are almost identical.

Before I explain I need a helper. (choose someone)

Do you see these 2 pieces of candy? One of these wrappers actually has candy inside, and the other one just has a folded up piece of paper. Without touching them I want you to make a choice. Choose which wrapper you think actually has candy in it.

(Announce whether they got it right or wrong, thank them for their help and then have them sit down. When I taught this lesson I gave the girl that helped me the York Peppermint Patty I used for the illustration)

Nice work!

Wasn’t too hard of a choice, huh? Even if you got it wrong, the worst that could happen was that you’d lose a piece of candy! Today we are going to talk about making choices, but these choices are a lot bigger than candy.

The First Spies

Our story starts with Moses. After he had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and to Mount Sinai they made the 11-day journey to the edge of the Jordan River.

They had almost made it to the Promised Land. Moses and the children of Israel were standing across the river from the land God had promised them would be theirs.

When they got their, Moses sent 12 spies to check out the land ahead of time. They wanted to know about the people that were currently living in Jericho and what it would take to defeat them.

So the spies went and checked out the land. When they came back their story was in 2 parts.

First they talked about all the good food they had found. In fact they actually brought some of it back for the people to see and eat. The land was full of good food!


(Show Slide #12: Deut. 1:28)

But then they started to describe the rest of the city.

The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’
Deut. 1:28b

What they were saying was, we are going to LOSE if we try to take over this city.

The people are strong than we are!

The people are taller than we are!

And the city has HUGE walls.

And the Anakites live there!

Now to us ‘the Anakites’ don’t mean much. When we hear that name it sounds like any other name to us.

[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”]But to the children of Israel, and to Moses it sounded terrifying.[/pullquote]

But to the children of Israel, and to Moses it sounded terrifying.

The Anakites were a race of people that were GIANTS.

Do you remember Goliath, from David and Goliath?

Same idea here. There were a bunch of Goliaths in the city.

The spies looked at themselves and the children of Israel and then looked at all the men who lived in Jericho and were like, ‘No way! We are never going to be able to defeat them, they are huge AND really strong!”

You may be thinking…’why don’t they just use airplanes and cannons and stuff? That way they don’t have to actually fight them’

During this period of history war tactics weren’t that advanced. When people fought there wasn’t a lot of machines or technology involved. It was mostly hand-to-hand fighting. It was up close and personal.

These people had never heard of guns or airplanes or weapons like we have today.

So the spies bring back this terrible report and tell the people how there is no possible way they are ever going to take this piece of the promised land called Jericho. If they try to attack it they will all die!

Even though God had specifically promised them this land and told them He would help them and He would make this land theirs they didn’t believe Him.


(Show Slide #2: Deut. 1:32)

Moses says it this way:

…you did not trust in the Lord your God
Deut. 1:32b


See that word trust?

God wanted them to TRUST Him. But they did not.

So God sent them into the wilderness for 40 years. They were right up to the point of having a place to call home again, the Promised Land, but because they didn’t trust God they wandered around the desert for the next 40 years.

A journey that should have taken 11 days took 40 long years.

That’s a long time, huh?

40 Years is a Long Time!

Put it this way…

How many of you have ever seen the movie, Where the Red Fern Grows?

That movie is 40 years old! (1974)

That’s a long time!

How about this. This is a little tougher one but do any of you know about how much gas is now?

(take responses)

Well, 40 years ago gas cost $0.55

That seems like forever ago.

One more…

How many of you hope to get something really cool for Christmas this year?

Things like video games, and ipads, and comptuers, right?

Do you know what the new toy was 40 years ago?


(Show Slide #3: Rubik’s Cube)

A Rubik’s Cube was the latest and greatest toy 40 years ago!

I bet none of you are going to ask for a Rubik’s cube for Christmas this year!

My point is, 40 years is a long time.

Spying out Jericho

Eventually the children of Israel came all the way back, again, to the edge of the Jordan River. But this time, all the people who were adults the first time they were there, were dead! Most of the people who came to the Jordan River the second time were either kids the first time, or were not even born yet.

But they finally had made it back.

And this time was going to be different.

So at this point, Moses dies. The man who had done so many great things for God’s people dies and passes on the responsibility of leading the people to Joshua, a man who had been helping him for a long time.

Joshua is now in charge of more than a million people who are waiting for his commands.

One of the first things Joshua does is to send spies into the land to check out the situation. But he doesn’t make the same mistake as last time.

This time he sends the spies out secretly. He doesn’t tell everyone that they are going to check out the land.

I want to show you what one person thinks Jericho might have looked like back in those times. This is a short video that helps us better understand what the spies might have seen. Check this out:

(Show Slide #5: 3D Jericho Animation)

Let’s go to the next slide and I want to point out a couple things about Jericho you might have missed.


(Show Slide #6: City of Jericho)

You remember at the beginning of our lesson we looked at the verse about the city being filled with strong men and having ‘walls up to the sky’?

Jericho was surrounded by 2 outer walls. You can see them at the bottom of this image (refer to the slide).

These walls were very tall, impossible to climb over. Not only that but they were also built on the side of a hill.

So anyone trying to even put a ladder up on the side of one of the walls to sneak into the city would have had a really hard time because the ladder would have kept sliding down the hill!


So the 2 spies that Joshua sent reach the house of woman named Rahab. Rahab lived in a very interesting place in Jericho. You see these houses right beside the wall, right on the ege of the city? That’s where Rahab’s house was.

So the spies show up and Rahab lets them in and gives them some fascinating information. Information that was probably a little surprising to the spies.

You see Rahab would have had a lot of people in and around her house. So she knew what was going on in the city. She would have known what people were talking about.

And she lets the spies in on a little bit of the conversation that was happening inside Jericho.

She says:

a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.
Joshua 2:9b


Rahab tells the Jewish spies that everyone in Jericho is terrified of them! All of the big strong men in Jericho are afraid of the slaves across the river from them!

Eventually guards show up at Rahab’s house. The king has sent them to get the Jewish spies they believe are in Rahab’s house.

Rahab hears what they have to say and then tells the men… Oh! You just missed them! They took off back toward the city gates. If you hurry up you might be able to catch them! But you better go, now!

The guards believe her and take off towards the city gates believing they are chasing the Jewish spies.

Rahab returns to the men and after a bit she lets them down out her window. Which is perfect because she lives right on the city wall! When she lets them out her window they can head back to their camp and talk to Joshua because they are already past the city walls!

The spies return to Joshua and relay everything they had seen and heard.

The Jordan River

Now there is one problem.

The spies were able to figure out a way to cross the Jordan River, but there is no spot for more than a million people to safely get across the river.

[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”]In fact, at this time of year, many think the Jordan River would have been more than a football field wide.[/pullquote]

In fact, at this time of year, many think the Jordan River would have been more than a football field wide, and would have had more water than normal in it.

It was during the rainy season that this story takes place and when that would happen the Jordan river would get wider and flood the area all around it.

But rather than me talking about it, let’s take a look at some video of what part of the Jordan River looks like today.

(Show Slide #7: Jordan River Video)

Does that look like a nice calm and peaceful river?

Does that look like something you’d be able to walk across?

See what I mean? The Jordan River presented a real problem. If Joshua and the children of Israel were supposed to cross the river there wasn’t an obvious way that was going to happen!

But Joshua tells the people in 3 days they are going to cross the river and go take the city of Jericho.

But he gives a really strange command:

Get your provisions ready.
Joshua 1:11


Pack some food.

Is that the kind of directions you give before trying to get across a river?

If we were going to cross a river we might tell everyone, ‘Start building boats!’ or ‘Everyone get your swimsuits and life vests ready!’. If you think about it you’d probably start preparing to deal with the water.

But Joshua says none of this.

Everyone gets ready and on day 3 they start moving towards the Jordan River.

The Ark of the Convenant, which represented God, was to lead the way….3,000 feet in front. So everyone could see it.

The priests picked up the Ark of the Covenant, and started walking straight for the river.

Just imagine this moment….

The priests begin to walk toward the water, but nothing is happening yet.

The priests get a little closer. They are 5 feet away from the edge of the Jordan River and nothing is happening.

4 feet, 3 feet, 2 feet, and then they get right up to the edge of the Jordan River and nothing has happened.

Then, they take their first step into the water, trusting that God will take care of them, and we read that:


(Show Slide #8: Joshua 3:16)

the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away
Joshua 3:16

The water stopped and moved back so there was dry ground for them to walk on.

This must have instantly brought back memories for some of the older people, they probably remembered stories their parents told them of how God parted the Red Sea and how they walked through on dry ground.

Now they are experiencing the same thing. They are standing in the middle of the Jordan River and not getting wet! The water has moved so there is dry ground in the middle of the river to walk on.

This is a great example of trusting God and having faith in him.

You see, we don’t use our eyes to trust God.

If the priests that were carrying the ark had trusted their eyes they would have never tried to cross the Jordan River. Remember, until they actually walked INTO the river nothing had happened. If they had trusted their eyes they would have gone up to the edge of the river and then turned back, because they didn’t see anything happening.

Trust is about listening to the one who can see everything. The one who has all the power.

Object Lesson on Trust / Faith

Trust is like this…

I need a volunteer. A brave one!

(choose one:

  • blindfold them and spin them around a few times to disorient them so they don’t know which way to walk or move
  • explain to the class that this person now doesn’t know where they are and describe some of the dangers they could face if they aren’t careful. (running into a wall, falling down, falling off the stage, etc…)
  • begin to give the helper instructions:

I’m going to tell you where to walk. If you’ll listen to me you won’t fall down or run in to anything.

(as you give directions and the person sucessfully completes them without hurting themselves add some explanation)

Can my helper see where she is going?


How does she know where to go?

She is hoping that I am giving her good directions and trusting that I won’t let her hurt herself.

She can’t see, right? So she has to trust me, the one who can see.

  • to finish the illustration secretly move a chair into position so when your helper sits down she will sit in the chair. (don’t let the chair touch her…you don’t want her to know it is there)
  • ask your helper to sit down. (when I did this the person didn’t sit like they were sitting in a chair, they moved to sit on the floor, where their feet were. So when you give instructions tell your helper sit back like there is a chair behind them…but they can’t feel for the chair.
  • thank your helper and return her to her seat

This is an example of trust, of faith.

When we trust God we are trusting that God can see the future way before us. So when God tells us to do things we don’t completely understand we have to trust that He can see what we cannot.

[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”]We can’t see so we have to trust the One who can.[/pullquote]

We can’t see so we have to trust the One who can.

Just like in our example, my helper had to trust me because she couldn’t see. She had to listen to my voice.

When we read God’s Word that is a way of hearing God’s voice. And we have a choice, like we talked about at the beginning. We can either do it our own way, or trust the one who can see the future and knows what’s best for us.

We can’t see, so we have to trust the One who can.

God tells this to Joshua before they cross the Red Sea, and He promises it to us.

Let’s read this verse together as we close:


(Show Slide # 9: Joshua 1:5)

…As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Joshua 1:5b

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