Crossing the Jordan River // Repentance & Healing in a River

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April 28th, 2020
Israel Tour, Teachings / By

What comes to your mind when you think of the Jordan River? 

Perhaps Joshua and the spies come to mind, crossing the Jordan River to take the promised land and the miracle of the water not touching the ark of the covenant. Or perhaps you think about John the Baptist – baptizing new believers, and even Jesus himself in the Jordan River, as an inauguration into His ministry. 

The Jordan River appears many times within the scriptures, and often refers to a freedom that comes after a long season of adversity and waiting.

Crossing the Jordan is a turning point on the way to freedom. The waters of the Jordan represent freedom from oppression, breakthrough, and deliverance. 

In Deuteronomy 30:18-20, the Israelites were reaching the last leg of their journey through the wilderness en route to the promised land. On the way they endured hunger and loss during what seemed to be a never-ending journey. But in this moment it was coming to a conclusion, and the Lord instructed them to choose a good path, saying these words: 

“I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live…”

It is impossible to grasp the full significance of this moment without considering all that the Israelites had been through up to that point. A two-week flight from Egypt turned into a 40-year multi-generational saga. Can you imagine being stuck with your family on a “vacation” that never ends? 

We often find ourselves in state of crossing and transition after times of being stuck in a “wilderness.”

For Israel in the Old Testament, this was a literal wilderness of heat, hunger and exhaustion. Perhaps we can’t relate to being stuck in a literal desert, unless we experienced a hike without sunscreen or water, but perhaps we relate in other ways? 

Have you ever experienced a wilderness in your life? 

Metaphorically speaking, perhaps we can relate to being in a place in life where we feel stuck, that no matter what we do and no matter how many times we “recalculate route”, it gets us right back to where we started. 

Perhaps we are experiencing lack and unfulfillment in our relationships, health, career, or our destiny and purpose and life. Maybe we have given up hope of  things ever changing for the better and have decided to tread those same well-worn, familiar paths of bitterness, hopelessness, cynicism and defeat. 

It can become commonplace to accept this state as status quo as we groan to God, just like the Israelites: “Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place?” (Numbers 20:5). 

How do we break the “wilderness cycle” and get to the place of crossing? 

If we are really being honest with ourselves, many times we are co-authors of our own predicaments, and not just mere participants. Life is unpredictable and Jesus himself tells us that in this life we will have trouble (John 16:33). However, it can’t hurt to check our hearts for the following attitudes, especially if we are in a wilderness place in our lives and needing to finally cross over our own “Jordan River”. 

Matter of the Heart

All throughout scripture, we are commanded to love the Lord our God, worship Him only, and to meditate on the Word day and night.

We are instructed to set our hearts upon Him and that His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. 

Sadly, lack of spiritual discipline, lack of personal time of prayer, being in the Word, hearing the Word every week, and forsaking the fellowship of believers leaves us open to our own faulty thinking and understanding, as well as philosophies and ways of being that are not of God, and lead us away from Him (Romans 1:20-22).

The breakdown of spirituality begins with the breakdown of spiritual discipline. Life is busy and sometimes disappointing things happen that discourage us from seeking God. But we should seek Him always, even through grief and pain. 

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Matter of the Attitude

The best way to understand complaining is to think of lamenting without faith. Israel cried out in Exodus 14:11 with the words, “”Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” 

It is perfectly normal to complain and voice grievances to the Lord, most of the psalms are just that. But there is hope! In Psalm 42:5, David cries out to God in his depression and grief, yet places hope in faith in Him that he will be restored.

We all have been at points in our lives that instead of trusting God, we lose faith and sight of His promises. We become angry, assuming that our suffering is for nothing.

But just as God was and still is faithful to Israel today, He is faithful to us. 

A Matter of Humility

Repentance is foundational in experiencing a turnaround in our lives. The longer we continue to be unrepentant, remain stuck in our sin, lack spiritual discipline, and rely on our own understanding – the deeper our sin, and our unrepentant nature will ensnare us.

No matter where we are in life, Christ is always ready to meet us there. He is knocking on the door of our hearts to let Him in, and we are never too far gone to accept his mercy and grace. Jesus gives us this hope because while we were yet sinners, He died for us (Romans 5:8).

Let Us Cross Over!

Matthew 3:6 and Mark 1:15 describe John the Baptist baptizing the people from Jerusalem, Judea and the surrounding area.

This submersion in water was a physical marker of the people’s confession and repentance. They did not leave the river the same way they entered it. 

Jesus also allowed himself to be baptized in the Jordan river, not because he needed to be, but because it was the way “to fulfill all righteousness” in signifying His release into His teaching and healing ministry. 

As the presence of God came through the Jordan River in Joshua 4:18, in the form of the ark of the covenant into a new life in the promised land, Jesus God incarnate also passed through the Jordan River into a new stage in his life. 

The Jordan river represents an opportunity we all have before us. With confessing our sins to God and one another, and in physical baptism, we can be renewed, refreshed and have that breakthrough and moment of clarity that we may have been seeking in our lives. 

Jesus gives hope of salvation and healing in Him, as prophet Isaiah said: 

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Always Faithful 

Remember that even in the wilderness God has always been faithful to us. During the 40-year long trek in the desert, Israel was never without provision and their sandals never broke. 

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.” (Exodus 19:4)

If you would like to visit the Jordan River today and even be baptized in this historical and biblically significant place, you can do so today! To learn more, visit www.jerusalemencounter.com

Want to see the Jordan River? Join us on our Digital Tour!

FIRM Staff
FIRM is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
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