It was a great day for the children of Israel when, after years of wandering in the wilderness, they were led up the east bank of the Dead Sea and the river Jordan, and could look over into the Promised Land. Forty years previously they had approached their objective from a different direction – the direct route from the wilderness of Zin northward – on which route they would have had no river to cross. Num. 13. But now, having come up to the land by this other route, they would need to cross the Jordan in some way or another. Their previous attempt to get into the land from a different direction was under the leadership of Moses, but that great man of God had died, and now Joshua was appointed as their leader, Num. 27. 18-23; Deut. 31. 3, 7, 14; Josh, 1. 2. Two men, and not twelve as previously, were sent into the land to spy; after narrowly escaping detect-ion at Jericho they, had come back with a very encouraging report. This gave a spirit of confidence and expect-ation to the people, and they eagerly listened to the instructions given them as to what they should do to cross the Jordan and enter the land. What a difference from 40 years before ! With faith in God, they went straight through Jordan as if it were dry ground. With Joshua as their leader and the ark of God in their midst, they passed over into the land at last.
A New Testament writer, after re-counting the experiences of God’s earthly people, assures us that “these things happened unto them for en-samples (types) : and they are written for our admonition”, I Cor. 10. 11. We can take this to mean that what happened to them can happen to us in our Christian lives. God has brought us out of a spiritual Egypt, with the intention that we should cross a spiritual Jordan, and possess a spirit-ual Canaan. This being so, the question arises as to what Jordan equates with in the believer’s life.
If we -listen to hymnology, we will believe that it is the passing out of this life into the next. Our hymn-books would tell us that Jordan is the last river we cross to enter heaven. Canaan is pictured as heaven above, and our present life as the wilderness that we have to endure until we get there. Yet to subscribe to this popular thought that Canaan is figurative of heaven is to ignore the obvious fact that Israel had to battle with enemies in the land before they could possess it. There will be no battles fought in heaven in order that we may possess it. We can be grateful to God that the battle was fought down here at Calvary by our heavenly Joshua, and this gives us the right to enter there. Crossing over Jordan and enter-ing the land are not figures of future events but experiences to be known in this present life.
The coming out of Egypt under the blood of the lamb, and what happened to the Israelites at the Red Sea, are pictures of what happened to us when we were saved. The slain lamb and the deliverance from Pharaoh’s power, prefigure Christ’s death for us, and our being delivered from Satan’s power. The opening up of Jordan, and the people getting into the land of Canaan, likewise illustrate another important stage in the believer’s pathway, nam-ely, that we should realize that we have died with Christ. Paul the apostle knew what it was to die with Christ, for he could write: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”, Gal. 2. 20. It is when the Spirit gives us to see our oneness with Christ, as set forth in Romans 6, that we count on His indwelling us by the Holy Spirit. If we would realize our spiritual potential in Christ, we must reckon ourselves to be dead and must let Christ live His life through us. The problem is that many do not realize what the lordship of Christ involves. They give mental assent to it, and agree to the teaching of it, but fall sadly short of it in practice. We can be so satisfied with the fact that we have been delivered from sin and Satan, and are on the way to heaven, that we miss out on this exper-ience of knowing God’s best for us. We have been brought “out" that we might be brought “in”, and should not be like the two-and-a-half tribes who were unwilling to go into the land and were allowed to live outside of it. They were satisfied with what they already had, and had no wish to enjoy what God had for them beyond the river. God was surely disappointed with this attitude, and we can be sure that any of us today who are not willing to go on to possess our possessions are like-wise a disappointment to Him.
The need today is for teachers of the calibre of Joshua and Caleb who can instruct God’s people concerning the Canaan-land blessings that God would have them appropriate, and urge them not to stop short of the potential bless-ings that can be theirs in the salvation that they have in Christ.