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  • Writer's pictureSteve McAtee

Israel Unveiled Vol. 1: Jordan River

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

By Amir Tsarfati

Here we are right at the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John. To the best of my knowledge, John wasn’t a Baptist, John was a Jewish descendant of a priestly family who called for repentance. He was a voice calling in the wilderness, prepare ye the way for the Lord, and Jesus Himself was indeed the one for whom John prepared the way.

Right here, at this very location, not only the baptism of Jesus took place but also another very significant event in the history of Israel: the crossing of the River Jordan from the way of wandering in the desert into the Promised Land.

The Jordan River is a river that flows all the way from below Mount Hermon up in the northernmost part of the country. In fact, the waters of the River Jordan are actually the melting snows of Mount Hermon as they spring out of the ground from 3 different streams and form into a river. The main headwater of the River Jordan is the dam and therefore, the name of the Jordan is “Yarden”, 2 Hebrew words “Yar” and “Den” meaning descending from Dan.

The River Jordan flows all the way from the northern part of the country, enters into the Sea of Galilee, leaves the sea, and after 100 miles of winding stream finds its way just about a mile from the Dead Sea which is the dead-end of that river. This is the very location where We know that Moses was on Mount Nebo but Moses could not enter the Promised Land. We know that Joshua was commissioned to take the mantle and to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. That was a very interesting moment in the history of Israel which, in a very beautiful way, parallels to that which happened, here, as Jesus approached this place.

We know that Jesus Himself came to this place and that this is where He started His public ministry. Jesus approached as John was calling for a baptism of repentance and the minute John saw Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

It’s interesting that for the Jewish mindset the Lamb of God is something that brings to their mind the Passover Lamb, that is the lamb that had to be slaughtered, that is the Lamb that eventually enabled the Jewish people to be free from slavery, to have the blood on their doorposts so the Angel of the Lord would pass over their houses. While the Egyptians were mourning over the death of their firstborn, the Israelites were able to start the journey, to start the exodus, from the land of slavery into the Promised Land.

So, when John looks at Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” John, in his mind, can see the Passover Lamb. That beautiful Exodus story, obviously, is related to this site as the children of Israel, right at this point, are officially ending their exodus from Egypt and officially beginning the entry into the Promised Land.

As Jesus goes into the water of the River Jordan there is an amazing display, maybe for the first time, of the entire Trinity: Jesus, the Son, steps into the water; God, the Father, says “This is My Son, My Beloved”; and the Holy Spirit in the shape of a white dove is landing on Jesus’ shoulder. (Matthew 3:16). What an amazing display of the Trinity of God, of the Godhead itself, right here in this location.

But 1500 years earlier, another amazing display took place here. The Bible says that as the children of Israel set their foot right into the waters of the River Jordan, the River Jordan rolled all the way back and a pile of water was going all the way up to the sky, (Joshua 3:16) as more than a million Israelites crossed the River Jordan from the east into the Promised Land to the west. What an amazing display of the power of God, of the might of God, of the strength of God and of the sovereignty of God.

Jericho is just on the other side. The Bible says that the children of Israel were exactly the opposite of Jericho. We are right now, exactly, geographically, opposite the City of Jericho. I find it amazing to see more parallels between the stories such as in the preparation for the entrance into the land. It was the task of the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant and to step, by faith, into the waters of the River Jordan.

You might find it hard to believe but the River Jordan (that just below me is right next to the Jordanian side where there are some Jordanian soldiers right now) can get to a level that would leave me under the water right now. In fact, while being the Deputy Governor of Jericho for the entire Jordan Valley, I myself experienced during a visit to this very site when the waters of the river were above my height right now.

The Bible tells us in the Book of Joshua chapter 3 (verse 15) that as the children of Israel were about to cross into the Promised Land, the River Jordan, at that time, was overflowing and was actually overflowing on both sides. This was right after the rainy season. It was heavy, heavy rains that filled the Sea of Galilea and in addition to the melting snows from Mount Hermon, created a very, very wild stream in the River Jordan that, eventually, brought the water all the way here at a level that was spectacular.

It takes a lot of courage to set your foot into water that deep especially if you carry an object which is so heavy. The Ark of the Covenant contained within it the symbols of the sinful nature of Israel. It carried the 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments, tables which were given because of the sinful nature of people. These were the laws that the Lord God prescribed knowing the sinful heart of mankind.

It also contained a jar of manna, a way of showing how complaining the children of Israel were, wanting to return back to the pot of meat in Egypt, forgetting the grace and all of the provision of God in the desert. So, God reminded them about that with the jar of manna and, of course, the staff of Aaron that was budding as a way to show the children of Israel that they had a lack of faith.

He had to show them signs and wonders through using that staff so they would eventually believe. Lack of faith, lack of thanksgiving, and a lot of sinful thoughts in their hearts and in their minds, all these together, were represented by all the objects inside the Ark of the Covenant. In general, the sin of the world is represented within the Ark of the Covenant.

I find it very interesting that the children of Israel had to step into the deep water of the Jordan River, right here, on their way into the Promised Land. That was, of course, almost 1500 years prior to the coming of Jesus to go through the waters of the River Jordan at that time.

I find it amazing to see the parallels between the two as Jesus coming to the waters of the River Jordan, not really having to go through the water. If you think about it, Jesus did not have to be baptized. It’s not that He had sinned and He had to be baptized for the remission of sin. But Jesus wanted to set an example for all of us.

Just as God rested on the 7th day, not because He was too tired, but He knows our abilities. He knows our capacities and He wanted us to learn how to rest. In the same manner, Jesus came and went through the water of the river in order to show all of us a great example of what we will eventually have to do in order to show a public display of our faith in Him.

Not just faith in Him but a public display of our identification with His death and with His resurrection. Dying to our old man, with the old nature, and the sinful nature, then resurrected with Him, with our sins forgotten and forgiven, and becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus.

It is amazing to see that as we go through the water we are, kind of symbolically, leaving our sinful life in the water as we enter into our Promised Land, into that which God promised us, the life of freedom in Christ. The Bible says, “He who has the Son is free indeed”. (John 8:36) The children of Israel left the land of bondage, the land of slavery, and entered into their Promised Land. As we go through the water, as Jesus told us to do so, we leave our sinful life in the water, and we enter into our own Promised Land.

It is also beautiful to see how in Jesus’ case, right after the baptism, the Bible says that the Spirit took Jesus to the desert, the Desert of Temptation. Joshua warned the children of Israel that the minute after they crossed the river and entered into their Promised Land, temptation was waiting around the corner.

This is why Joshua said, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord,” as he warned the people of Israel there will be temptations. There will be so many things in that land that might cause you not to follow the Lord anymore.

It is the Word of God that we should hold onto. It is the promises of God that we should hold onto. It is the will of God that we should turn ourselves to in order to be able to stand fast, to be strong, sustained, and resist all temptations.

As we know, Jesus in the Desert of Temptation was not tempted by God. God allowed that temptation but temptation never comes from God. It comes from Satan, himself. Temptation builds up a character if we stand and resist it. This is a test and we will never, ever be able to withstand that test if we are not grounded in the Word of God. Jesus used the Word of God to push Satan aside and to resist temptation. The children of Israel were warned by Joshua, right here, to hold onto the Word of God, to meditate on it day and night so they would be able to resist temptation as they entered into the Promised Land.

Where are you in your faith? Where are you in your walk with the Lord? Have you been baptized? Did your baptism really symbolize the death of your old person, the identification with Jesus’ death, and did you come out of the water with the power of His Resurrection? Are you a new creation in Christ? Do you know the Word of God so once you enter into your Promised Land and when temptation is around the corner, you can resist it and be strong?

It is time for you to cross the Jordan of your life. It’s time for you to have that major step of faith into the water, into the unknown sometimes, knowing that God is there to take care of you. It’s time for you to leave the mentality of bondage, fear, and slavery behind and enter your Promised Land. It’s time for you to get ready, to know that temptation is around the corner, but to be grounded in the Word.

It’s time for you to get over your fears and hold on with faith to that which is promised to you by the Lord, to leave behind you, abandon bad habits, bad company, and to enter into your Promised Land. If there is one thing that Joshua said to the people of Israel is, “Be courageous, do not fear.” Courage can come from the Lord; you just need to ask for it. As Philippians 4:19 says, “and my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Cross your Jordan River, enter by faith into your Promised Land, withstand, and resist temptation by holding on to the Word of God. God bless you.


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