Crossing The River Jordan
"And the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant of Jehovah stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel was crossing over on dry ground, until all the nation had completely crossed over the Jordan." (Joshua 3:17)
I attended a virtual crystallization-study of the Books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Like always the in-depth trainings held by Living Stream Ministry have been landmarks in my Christian life, prompting me to come to the Lord Himself to dwell on the revelations unfolded in these sessions of spoken messages. I take them as messages spoken from the Lord Himself.
This time I was struck by the record of the children of Israel crossing over the River Jordan to enter into the good land. The parting of the Red Sea is quite famous, where the children of Israel exited the world (Egypt) and the ruler of the world with his evil forces (Pharaoh and his army) were buried. In our Christian life, the crossing of the Red Sea is a picture of our baptism. There we severed our ties with the world and we were freed from the slavery of its ruler. (This is why we need to be baptized because thereafter we can always point the enemy back to this marvelous landmark that we have been transferred from his gripping, worldly power into the liberty of being led by the Spirit in our Christian journey.)
The crossing over the River Jordan, however, is another step further. Many assume that the crossing over the River Jordan signifies our crossing into the afterlife, into heaven. However, this interpretation does not quite add up because in the Book of Joshua the children of Israel were required to fight and annihilate the enemies on the other side. In contrast to popular belief, the crossing of the Jordan River is not the end of one's Christian journey, it is the beginning of the battles of God's people collectively to fully dispossess and possess the good land in order to eventually live off its produce and build God's house on that land. (The good land signifies Christ whom we depend on to live and on whom and with whom we build God's house.)
In contrast to popular belief, the crossing of the Jordan River is not the end of one's Christian journey, it is the beginning...
The exposition on the interpretation of this crossing is profound. (I recommend the Life-Study of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth by Witness Lee (Message 4) to dive into this topic deeper.) I would like to focus more on Joshua 3:17 where the priests who carried the Ark were the first ones to step into the water and the last ones to step out of the water. In other words, just like the verse states, they stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until all the nation had completely crossed over the Jordan. They signify the stronger believers, the overcomers. The water here signifies death (a termination point) so that you can arrive on the other side, resurrection. Of course, not physically but spiritually as mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:12, "So then death operates in us, but life in you."
Thus the experience of these Ark-bearing priests remaining in the death water is perfectly exemplified by the Apostle Paul himself as described in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. There existed and presently exist believers who "are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested" in their mortal flesh, so that life operates in others. God needs them desperately because without them, God's people as a whole would be stuck in the wilderness with no final destination, no resting place. God needs them lest His purpose would never be fulfilled.
Watchman Nee is another pattern of such an overcomer. He had the chance to escape persecution but he chose to return to China where he knew he would never be able to go out anymore. He was captured and jailed until his martyrdom twenty years later. In his final days he professed that he had maintained his joy. His decision puzzled many because he could have continued his ministry and gained more following if he had escaped. I thought his act exhibited a mere excellent leadership. I thought that was noble of him not to leave his fellow believers in China to suffer by themselves. Yet I was deeply moved when I realized that this brother must have realized that his remaining in the death water would release life to operate in so many. In that jail, he was not allowed to have a Bible, read any spiritual book, or write any letter with spiritual content. He was also ill. He wrote in his last letter that he had kept his joy. Where else that joy had come from in those seemingly vacuum decades if not from his intimate relationship with the Lord.
There existed and presently exist believers who "are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested" in their mortal flesh, so that life operates in the others.
Being presented with these patterns, the thought of being apportioned suffering so that others can enjoy the flowing divine life or even the simple notion of suffering while others are enjoying is daunting. I can never do that. I aspire to be one of these overcomers whom God needs but I just cannot bear standing firm in the death water. That was when it was so striking to note that unlike the crossing of the Red Sea where the children of Israel crossed over by themselves, this time the Ark crossed over with them. In fact, the Ark took the lead. The priests were simply those who bore the Ark on their shoulders, being fully one with it.
I don't think you would disagree with me if I say that Christ is the Ark today. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was the embodiment of God's testimony. In Colossians 2:9, it is clearly stated that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In other words, if you wanted to see, meet, converse with God in the Old Testament days, you would have to come to the Ark. In the New Testament, today if you want to contact God, you must come to Jesus Christ. In reality, Christ was that Ark born on the priests' shoulders. He took the lead crossing the River Jordan and He was the One standing firmly in the death water so that all of God's people could cross over into resurrection.
Christ is the only True Overcomer but He lives in us. We need not be afraid to aspire to overcome. We need to believe that Christ is in us and He with us. Recently someone reminded me that the priests bearing the Ark were actually standing on dry ground, in the middle of the river. Yes, they were in the water and yes, they were on dry ground. It's a mystery. Yet in my experience, this did happen. In the most trying situation, there would be a dry ground to stand if we let the Lord to take the lead and practically become one with Him. The subtle matter is oftentimes when I go through a difficult time, my focus would completely be on my own survival and victory.
Christ is the only True Overcomer but He lives in us. We need not be afraid to aspire to overcome.
From the source of how it was accomplished (the Ark, Christ) to the issue of who it was accomplished for (the whole nation, God's people), the crossing of the River Jordan clearly shows that the standing of the priests bearing the Ark is not an individualistic feat. We overcome not by our own good Christian efforts, but by being one with Christ, fully dependent on Him. We overcome not for ourselves but for all of God's people in all their ages and stages.
This study has been a turning point in my Christian journey as a member in the Body of Christ. Let it be so, o Lord. Cause us all to learn to be dependent on You, to be led by You, to be one with You, even if You're leading us into the death water so that Your people may experience life. Cause us not to despise our situation, but to experience the dry ground in the midst of the water, to truly experience the overcoming resurrection life for the sake of Your people and ultimately for Your own sake, dear Lord, so that You would gain what You've been longing for, a counterpart after Your own heart.
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