By Pr Ay Nee Ng
How do we cross over? Do we put one leg in one side and the other on the other side? Or does our whole body completely move to the other side? Yet, is that enough? Why is it so important to physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally cross over? What promises are there for me if I cross over?
The promise God gave to Moses and the Israelites when they crossed over the Red Sea is found in Exodus 19:3-13, and it is ours to claim too.
3- 6 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
7-8 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
9 The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said.
10-13 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.”
Crossing the Red Sea was a physical move, yet the people of Israel were still bound to their past. They were still in bondages and wouldn’t let go of Egypt. They went into the wilderness because they forgot that boundaries were to adhere to and didn’t let go of the past and consecrate to God. For Christians, crossing the Red Sea represents the experience of receiving salvation through Christ. We need to consecrate ourselves, that is, set ourselves apart from what the world is and embrace all who God is, and let go of the past—good or bad—to move into the Promised Land.
Before Moses died, God permitted him to climb up on a very high mountain called Nebo, up to one of its highest peaks, Pisgah. (Deut. 3:26-29, 32:48-52, 34:1-12). From that height, he looked across the Jordan River towards the west, the north, and the south. Behold, he saw the wonderful Promised Land on the other side. Peter and I stood where presumably Moses stood at Mount Nebo, feasted on the vastness, and saw a very great deal of the good land which God had promised.
The Jordan River
The Jordan River is a 251km long river in West Asia flowing to the Dead Sea. Israel and the Palestinian territories border the river to the west, while the Golan Heights and Jordan lie to its east. The Jordan River runs through the land and the history of the Bible, giving its waters a spiritual significance that sets it aside from other rivers. It is significant for Jews because the tribes of Israel under Joshua crossed the river on dry ground to enter the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert (Josh. 3:14-17). Also, the prophets Elijah and Elisha also crossed the river dry-shod (2 Kings 2:8), and the Syrian general Naaman was healed of leprosy after washing in the Jordan at Elisha’s direction (2 Kings 5:1-14). It is significant for us Christians because John the Baptist baptised Jesus in the waters of the Jordan (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34). It represents the cleansing our sins and washing away the dirt of old.
Crossing the Jordan River
In the spiritual and the physical, we need help all kinds of help, and help comes from our Lord (Ps. 121). The Israelites needed the Lord’s help to enter the Promised Land because between the place where they were camping, Kadesh-Barnea, and the Promised Land, Canaan, was the Jordan River. This was quite a large river. As far as we know, there were no bridges, boats, or rafts in that time. The Israelites really needed help. What do you think God would do if you were in need? Will He leave you stranded amid danger and harm? No. As He parted the Red Sea, He is mighty to do something extraordinary for you! God helped them cross over the Jordan River just as He helped them cross the Red Sea forty years before after they left Egypt.
Joshua 3 and 4 give an account of the nation of Israel crossing the Jordan as a subjective application of the cross of Christ and a process of deliverance and moving in His Holy Spirit. Joshua rose early in the morning (Josh. 3:1) the day of crossing the Jordan River, pointing to His readiness and watchfulness to cross over. Are we ready and excited to claim this place for the Lord? In the Scripture, men of God were, without exception, early risers to meet God before they met men. Likewise, we should be saturated with the Lord’s presence before the Lord can bless others with what He has worked in us.
Specific Instructions Given to Joshua when Crossing the Jordan River
1. God told Joshua to have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant down to the edge of the river (Josh. 3:8). The Ark of the Covenant was the only piece of furniture in the most holy room of the tabernacle. Now that the Israelites were about to move, the tabernacle was taken apart and made ready to be carried with them. The priests were to lead the way, carrying the ark. When they reached the very edge of the river and put their feet in the water, what would pass through your mind if you were the priests? Well, the priests must have wondered just how they would all cross over. God told Joshua that he would make a path through the river. They would need a lot of faith to really believe that a deep wide river would open up and let them cross through on dry ground, wouldn’t they? Yes, indeed! Strong faith and pure obedience!
God is very pleased when we do what He asks us to do, even though it may seem impossible and very difficult. We know that God will always help us to do whatever He asks. “All things are possible to them that believe” (Mark 9:23). In that occasion, the impossible happened! When the feet of the priests who were carrying the ark touched the water, the water stopped flowing from up the river (Josh. 3:13). Below where they stood, the water kept on flowing, so it wasn’t long before the river bed was drained dry directly in front of them and they were able to cross over (Josh. 3:17). It is so amazing what God can do. But the priests who were carrying the ark didn’t cross all the way over—not right away. When they reached the centre of the river bed, they stopped and stood there while all the other Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land.
2. God told Joshua to choose a strong man from each tribe to put twelve stones on the place where the priests had stood as a remembrance and then take twelve stones from the Jordan River which were set up in Gilgal (Josh. 4:3, 20). Long after this, when anyone would ask where these stones came from and what they meant, they were told the wonderful story of how God brought his people safely across the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. After forty long years of wandering in the wilderness and living in tents, the Israelites had finally entered in the Promised Land, a very fertile land. They found plenty of grain and other things to eat. They didn’t need the manna from heaven anymore, so it ceased to fall. Now, God was caring for them in other ways. However, nothing was going to be easy for them just because they were in the Promised Land. There were many strong people living there who didn’t belong in the land, and they were the enemies of the Israelites.
There is an important difference between the experience of crossing the Red Sea and that of crossing the Jordan. Both experiences commonly share the fact that they are two sides of one cross and symbolize the spiritual death and resurrection of the believer. Yet, the Jordan carries it into another realm. The Red Sea points to the substitutionary death and the positional identification of the believer in Christ’s death and resurrection. The wilderness is the revelation of our need for the Jordan River, the experiential identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.
The Jordan River points to the practical application of deliverance from the self-life. When the Israelites crossed it, they put a monument of twelve stones as a symbol of the practical ending of the self-centred life. Another memorial of twelve stones was taken from the bed of the river and placed on the shore of Canaan, typifying not only the newness of life through the resurrection of Christ but also an everlasting and practical separation from sin. Newness of life is received in the resurrection, which is typified by the Israelites rising from the Red Sea. Yet, even when the Israelites were physically out of Egypt, they weren’t spiritually and mentally. They constantly longed to go back to Egypt; Egypt was in their hearts. It wasn’t until they passed through the Jordan River that they were really out of Egypt. The Jordan River typifies the cross dealing with the Israelites in an inward way.
The Red Sea represented what God did for the Israelites, while the Jordan was a type of a work consummated in them. When a Christian comes to knowledge of the Word and starts to apply this knowledge, he, in fact, has crossed the Jordan. This type of Christian has decided to lose his soul in order to save it, which means nothing less than the decision to apply the cross in a subjective way. After we have come to the blessings of the substitutionary work of Christ, sooner or later we will learn how wide the gap is between the old creation and the new creation, between the natural life and the spiritual life.
At the Jordan River, the Lord Jesus was baptized, which signifies that He didn’t start His ministry out of Himself, but out of the Father. Then, the heavens opened and the Spirit descended. Everything was by the Spirit. The Lord Jesus stepped into His public ministry after being baptised in the Jordan River, where He accepted the cross as the basis of His ministry. The first issue in His public ministry was the temptation of the devil in the wilderness, just as the first issue of the Israelites after applying the cross was a confrontation with the inhabitants of the Promised Land. A person’s personal spiritual conflict is in exact proportion to his apprehension of the cross.
The secret of our Lord’s walk lies in the fact that in the Jordan River, He understood the real meaning of the cross and was able to say, “Not My will” (Luke 22:42). Everything personal was set aside. This is the way of our Lord, and this is the way for us as His servants. It is of the utmost importance to see that the Jordan River is not a repeated and extended type of the Red Sea, but that there, the Spirit is made alive in us and there is growth in our love for God.
The 2nd Generation of Israelites
It is also important to see that the second generation of Jews who enter the Promised Land were already looked upon as being delivered from Egypt: “For the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed” (Josh. 24:17). This verse is interesting, because it shows that the Lord looked upon both the first generation and the second generation as delivered from Egypt. All through the Old Testament, Israel—all its generations—is seen as delivered from Egypt (Mic. 6:4).
The first generation could never have entered the land except by crossing the Jordan. Likewise, a Christian cannot enter the Promised Land solely on basis of the objective death of Christ. Even though the first generation had received the Law and had the Tabernacle, they didn’t have guaranteed the entrance into the Promised Land. There is only one thing that will ever link us to our inheritance, and that’s the personal and collective application of the cross. There is no other way. If the first generation was to ever enter the land, they had to pass the Jordan in spite of the fact that they had already passed through the Red Sea. The objective never guaranties the subjective. The first generation didn’t enter the land because they refused to apply the cross in a subjective and practical way. The first generation under Moses was not in a position to enter the land at Kadesh-Barnea because they hadn’t accepted the cross as the Lord had accepted the cross at the Jordan.
The second generation–seen by the Lord as having crossed the Red Sea–are looked upon as being in a position willing to apply the cross. They entered into the land, not because they had the tabernacle in an objective way, but because they were willing to apply the meaning of the Ark of the Covenant in a personal way. In the wilderness, the pattern of the tabernacle was given. In the wilderness, Christ is set before us as the pattern and the basis of life.
Do we have a personal encounter with God? If yes, we have crossed the Jordan, and now it is not “our will be done” but what God wants for our lives. Once we have crossed the Jordan and entered the land, an immense change takes place. The pattern is replaced by the reality. Before we cross the Jordan, we may emphasize teaching and understanding of the Scripture. But once we cross the Jordan, it will dawn upon us that the reality of all Bible teaching is to become the embodiment of the Scriptures. We practice what we believe. That will change our attitude to the Scriptures for ever. It will also be a change from the earthly to the heavenly. The Lord challenges us to know the Scriptures, but we also have to know the power of God and the power of His resurrection (Matt. 22:29) and have the fullness of His Spirit in us.
What is the Purpose of Crossing the Jordan River?
The Red Sea says: “Christ died for you and you died with Him” (Rom. 6:6). The Jordan says: “Because you died with Him, let sin no longer reign in your mortal bodies” (Rom. 6:12). The great purpose of crossing the Jordan is Ephesians 4:13: “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. It is God’s purpose that we stay in the wilderness as short as possible and cross the Jordan as soon as possible. Unfortunately, most Christians today are in no position to enter into the land and to battle the giants. Church, honestly, may we ask ourselves: where are we?
When Moses was 80 years of age, ten spies were sent to spy the land of Canaan and only two–Joshua and Caleb—came back with a good report that the land was fruitful and flowing with milk and honey. But the people refuse to enter into the Promise Land. They refused to cross the Jordan River to claim their inheritance because they could not see past their own comfort, their own misgivings, and their self-centeredness.
Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?” (Num. 14:5-11)
The generation that crossed the Red Sea refused to enter the land of Canaan. It was the next generation with Joshua as their leader that held unto God’s promises. Church, how long will we wait to cross the Jordan River in our lives? We have all crossed the Red Sea when we received salvation through Christ. We have witnessed miracles, but is there any change in our walk with God? Are we ready to embrace more of God? It is NO longer our game plan but God’s game plan. Are we willing to pay the price and take up our cross? Are we willing to let the Egypt out of us and to cross the Jordan–being delivered from our self-centeredness? As we take possession this day of this place, may we consecrate ourselves for our Lord Jesus Christ and dedicate ourselves in the fullness of His Holy Spirit.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph. 4:11-16).
Church, let us cross over our Jordan, leaving whatever isn’t pleasing to God in our body, soul, and spirit. Let us claim His purposes and promises and build in His love for His glory. Let us consecrate ourselves to receive the promises God has in store for each of us. This is a new season for each of us. Amen!