After the crossing of the Red Sea, Israel spent 40 years in the desert. Despite Godís provision and salvation, Israel often would not trust YHWH and they rebelled against Him. When the people were too scared of the people living in the land of the promise to go and take the land promised to their forefathers, God said that those who refused to go up into the land would die before they ever had the chance to enter it. The Jews did not trust God to defeat their enemies, so God would not trust those people to take care of the land He promised. Therefore, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until the rebellious generation died off.
Israel came to the waters of the Jordan river while it was overflowing. They were in another predicament in which God wanted them to cross a large body of water where there wasnít exactly an easy way across. The Levites stepped into the water holding the ark of the covenant, and God stopped the flow of the river so that the water moving downstream was stopped and it rose in a heap. There was a giant wall of water on one side and an empty riverbed on the other. YHWH intervened on behalf of his people, uncovering land where there was once only water, and Israel walked across the river on dry ground.
If we think about this story in light of some of our other water stories, itís easy to see similarities. The water of the Jordan functions as a tool for cleansing the covenant people of God. In the story of Re-Creation, the floodwaters swallow up the rebellious and destructive evil in Noahís world and when the water subsided, the evil had been cleansed from the earth. In the Red Sea crossing, the evil that was keeping Godís people enslaved, from worshipping their God rightly, and from living fully was destroyed and the people of Israel were cleansed and freed from Egypt, leaving it in and on the other side of the Red Sea. Israel had to wait to cross the Jordan river until all of the people who refused to go into the promised land the first time had died. Symbolically, the water of the river represents Israel being cleansed of those who rebelled. The generation of disobedience had passed away and they were left on the other side of the Jordan. Israel arrived at the other side of the river purified of those who opposed God.
Israelís arrival on the other side of the Jordan marked a significant transition for the covenant people of God. When the waters of Creation were brought together to one place, the land that appeared was home to the first of Godís people. Life had begun. After the floodwaters subsided, humanity started anew, free to honor God because the powerful image destroyers were eliminated. The old way of life was gone and a new way had begun. When Israel arrived on the other side of the Red Sea, Egypt completely lost its grasp on them and they were free to be a sovereign nation belonging to YHWH. The old way of life was gone and a new way had begun. If you read the book of Deuteronomy, perhaps even if you did a word search for ďJordan,Ē it is very clear that crossing the Jordan river is the equivalent of entering the promised land. Thereís a lot more for Israel to do upon entering, but the act of crossing is the first step in that process. Israelís arrival on the other side of the Jordan marks their transition from being nomadic wanderers to a people with a permanent home. The old way of life was gone and a new way had begun.
The crossing of the Red Sea affirmed the YHWH was with Moses as leader over Israel. Crossing the Jordan river affirmed that YHWH was with Joshua, the new leader of Israel. God showed that just like He had been with Moses over the last 40+ years as he led Israel, so God would be with Joshua. By miraculously holding up the waters of the Jordan, just as God did with the Red Sea, it would become clear to the people of Israel that Joshua was trustworthy and chosen by God to be their leader as they entered the promised land to take what God gave them. Joshua would be the one to take the new generation of Israel into their new way of life.
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