Crossing Your Jordan River


volume 16, number 11, March 16, 2017

“. . . for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest.” -Joshua 3:15

Crossing Your Jordan River

Finally, after the initial promise to Abram 700 years earlier, after 430 years of Egyptian bondage, after forty years of camping out in the wilderness, the culmination of Israel’s possession of the Promised Land is about to begin. While camped on the east side of the Jordan River, Israel was commanded to leave Shittim and wait for directions from the Lord on when to move. The Hebrew root word for Jordan means to go down. It is used in referencing Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai. Jordan means descender. The Jordan River begins ten miles north of the Sea of Galilee at Mt. Hermon and then winds its way sixty-five miles south to the Dead Sea, descending 2400 feet along the way. Two major streams feed into the Jordan River, the Jabbok and Cherith. Jabbok means emptying and Cherith means cutting. They were to empty themselves out to the Lord who had cut a covenant with His people. At flood stage the Jordan River would overflow its banks anywhere from two hundred yards to one mile; and the water would be between eight and twelve feet deep. And then remember how fast the water would be moving downhill. Yahweh commanded the priests to carry the ark of the covenant (mentioned ten times in this chapter, the very presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy God of Israel) to the turbulent, mighty rushing river and place their feet into the water. When they did so Yahweh promised that the waters would divide and the people would walk through on dry ground. Moses appointed twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, to carry a total of twelve stones out of the river bed and to set them up as a memorial of God’s faithfulness to them. He also instructed them to leave twelve stones in the bottom of the river so that when the waters passed over them the stones would never be seen again. 

Israel did as she was told and God divided the waters and brought the entire nation through the river, just as He promised. Something similar happened forty years earlier at the Red Sea. Both incidents are a picture of eternal salvation. Paul tells us that the Jewish fathers were all under the cloud and passed through the sea, that all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1,2). They had passed from death to life. The “salvation” symbolized at the Red Sea, however, was more of a positional salvation. After all, Israel repeatedly grumbled while in the wilderness and longed for the good old days back in Egypt. This “salvation” at the Jordan River, however, was different. It was more of an experiential one. The twelve stones left in the bottom of the river, never to be seen again, remind us of Paul’s declaration, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life,” (Romans 6:3,4). Paul declares that the old man is dead, that the old manner of living is dead, that we are new creations in Christ (Romans 6:1,2, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Promised Land was symbolic of victory, Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey, leaving Mt. Sinai and going up to Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth, the Lord Jesus Himself. But to get from death to life the people of God must pass through the river of death. If you are in Christ, then you have been delivered from the domain of darkness and you have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ. But the question remains-are you living out experientially the fullness and glory of life in Christ Jesus? David said, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed my heritage is beautiful to me. . . In Thy presence is fullness of joy. At Thy right hand there are pleasures forever,” (Psalm 16:16, 11). Is your life characterized by joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)? Or are you like the children of Israel who were unable to go into the Promised Land because of unbelief and disobedience? 

Israel had to leave Mt. Horeb (Deuteronomy 1:6). They had remained there long enough. They had to enter Canaan, but to get there they had to pass through the turbulent waters of the Jordan River at flood stage. In other words, they had to get out of their comfort zone. They had to surrender. 

Are you remaining in your comfort zone? What is it? Are there family members with whom you need to share the good news of the gospel and the rushing waters of your Jordan River are hindering you? Is there some aspect of ministry you know you must pursue but you are afraid to move out in faith and obedience? Do you need to surrender your time, money, and gifts to the King of Glory?

God promises to be with you, to never leave you nor forsake you. He promises always to make intercession for you, to save you to the uttermost. He promises that though we sin we still have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He promises that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]

But here’s the deal – you must put your feet into the water. You must act in faith. When you do so, then the waters of doubt and fear will disappear. And when you pass through the waters, you will be overcome with joy. The most joyful people I know are poured out in ministry, particularly to the lost. Yes, they become exhausted in the work, but never of the work. They do not burn out. They refuel and refresh, but then they are very quickly back at it. 

What is holding you back from experiencing fullness of joy in the Spirit? Step into the waters, my friend. God will meet you. He will sustain you. He will provide your every need in Christ Jesus. 


1. Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1,2, Romans 8:38,39). 

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