Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
After leaving the arid desert land, it was so powerful to arrive at the Jordan River. There’s something magical about water, isn’t there? It summons the idea of cleansing, purification, refreshment and quenching. It was astounding to watch the majesty of the Jordan cutting through the Israeli landscape as it flows from the top of Mount Hermon to the mouth of the Dead Sea. Due to its winding course, the river itself actually measures nearly 200 miles, over twice its direct distance. And the presence of the Jordan River far exceeds even that. Second to the desert that we talked about yesterday, the Jordan River is mentioned more than any other physical feature – 200 times!
Even if you aren’t a Biblical scholar, undoubtedly, you’re familiar with the many miracles that happened on the banks and in the water of the Jordan. This sacred river was the setting of Joshua succeeding Moses as the leader of the Israelites and leading them into the Promised Land. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel on the banks of the river. Elisha and Elijah accomplished the majority of their works along either side of it, and John the Baptist baptized Jesus in its waters. It overwhelms me to tell you that while I was in Israel, I had the opportunity to also be baptized in the Jordan. Though I was baptized as a child and then again a few years ago, I relished the opportunity to be immersed in the rushing flow and renew my commitment to follow the Lord’s path for my life.
Interestingly, I learned that the Israelites didn’t view the river as sacred or divine, despite the astounding history that occurred all along its shores. Instead, they viewed it as a barrier… a wall they need to surmount in order to get where they needed to go. They simply saw it as an imposing natural boundary moving from one place to another, but all throughout Scripture, God used the waters of Israel to signify so much more than that.
The river was viewed societally as a way to get from “here” to “there,” and God used it spiritually in the same way… to take His people from “here” to “there.” As He led the Israelites through the waters, they had to leave the old behind to arrive at the new place He had prepared for them. In order to pass through and arrive at the new, you must shed the old. We all have Jordan Rivers; we all have barriers that keep us on this side of the river, and sadly, many of us live our whole lives without trusting Him to deliver us safely to the opposite shore. He wants to wash away your former self and deposit a new creation on the safe side of the rivers in your life.
He was in the midst of the flooding waters that delivered Noah and his family into a new world and new creation. His Holy Spirit hovered over the watery chaos of the exodus, and it was in the midst of the fear and desperation the Israelites felt as they rushed to freedom through the parted waves of the Red Sea.
In both a literal and spiritual sense, water brings life to creation. The shepherds in Israel lead their flocks beside still waters (we were able to witness Psalm 23 come to life on our journey through the country) to give them rest and quench their thirst, but they also know when to avoid raging wadis that form following rainstorms that can threaten the lives of their sheep. Our shepherd (who we will talk about in more detail in an upcoming post) also guides us gently to streams of living water that will quench our eternal thirst and desire for the life He offers. His waters are transformative, complete, restorative and clear.
Just as I was immersed in the Jordan River to signify a new covenant between myself and God, His constantly flowing river of life signifies His covenant with us to transform us into new creations, blameless and pure.