Read His Words Before Ours!
I don’t like dirt. I know it’s necessary for gardening, farming, and supplying life nutrients, but in my home or on my person, no thanks. Dirt equals unclean and impure. So, one could imagine how my mind struggles with a dirty river making anyone clean, cured, or blessed. But that’s exactly the role of the Jordan River in Biblical times.
The Jordan River starts at the base of Mount Herman and descends, flowing through the Sea of Galilee and ending in the south at the Dead Sea. It twists and turns through steep-walled valleys; the Jordan Valley contains reeds, tamarisks, willows, white poplar, and dense bushes, also known as thickets. Perhaps because it’s a floodplain, vegetation is so lush it concealed lions within those thickets in biblical times! And finally, Joshua and the Israelites found themselves on Jordan’s flooded banks as they traveled to the Promised Land. (Joshua 3:1-17)
After God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egpyt, they crossed the Red Sea on dry land (Exodus 13:17-14:31), and camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. Terrified and refusing to enter the Promised Land, they wandered the desert for 40 years. At last, Joshua was tasked with leading them into the Promised Land, but how would they cross the Jordan at flood stage, a half mile wide by 10 feet deep with swift currents?
God instructed, “Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant: When you reach the edge of the water, stand in the Jordan.” (Joshua 3:8)
Stand. In water 10 feet deep.
This could have evoked the same fear that kept them wandering in the desert, but God was gracious to share His plan. “When the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, come to rest in the Jordan’s water, its water will be cut off. The water flowing downstream will stand up in a mass.” (Joshua 3:13) They obeyed, which allowed the people to cross over to Jericho on dry land.
For a generation, the Israelites had been confined within the boundaries of their fear and disobedience. But now, like the Jordan River overflowing the boundaries of the riverbanks, their obedience allowed them to break through their boundaries. They crossed over from their old life of wandering to a new life of the blessings of God’s fulfilled promises.
Now let’s imagine you have a skin disease. You’re told the cure is washing seven times in a particular, dirty river. Would you do it? Personally, I would protest first and then speed to the river.
Far from hypothetical, this is Naaman’s story (2 Kings 5:1-14). The prophet Elisha told Naaman, a leper and the commander of the Syrian army, to wash in the Jordan River seven times to be healed. But Naaman was prideful and resisted. Why couldn’t he wash in the Abana or Pharpar rivers, which were clear and always abundant, unlike the Jordan, which was swampy, muddy, and shallow in places?
Thankfully for Naaman, his servants convinced him to follow Elisha’s instructions. So there amongst the thickets, also known as ga’on, or pride, he washed seven times and God healed his skin immediately. Naaman became renewed by leaving his pride in the pride. Who would think a little dirt could cure what ails you?
Naaman wasn’t the only one who took a “dip” in the Jordan. Journey with me to the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, where John the Baptist performed baptisms, an outward act of obedience that reflected inward purification by God. Baptism by John affirmed belief in the coming Messiah and repentance of sin. One day, Jesus came to be baptized in the Jordan; not for repentance, because He was sinless and holy, but to consecrate Himself for His earthly ministry.
Again, this dirty river served as a source of purification. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, identifying Him as the Son of God through God the Father’s voice. The dirt and mud did not, and do not, diminish the Jordan River’s significance to Christians. Jesus’ Jordan River experience led Him into ministry for three years before He shed His red blood to pay for “our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Ephesians 2:1-4 tells us, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” “walked according to the ways of this world,” and we lived in “our fleshly desires.” But
God…”made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses.”
God takes us from old to new, from death to life.
In the same way, He took the Israelites from the desert to the Promised Land,
Naaman from diseased to cured,
and Jesus from unknown to known so we could be cleansed.
Looking at our spiritual lives, how has God taken us from old to new, from diseased to healed, from abandoned to loved? Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We might get a little dirt on us, or have to tread floodwaters from our own “Jordan River,” but God will faithfully see us through these challenges into newness and fullness of life!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!