And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:13-17)
The Second Crossing
When the Lord brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, they walked across the Red Sea on dry land. Moses had stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were divided as a wall on the right and left. There was no escaping the Egyptian army before God’s deliverance, and the people feared the Lord and believed the Lord when they walked through the sea. When the Egyptian army came after the Hebrews, the Lord caused the waters to return and cover the chariots, horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh, killing every man. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt would be recounted for centuries as a story of the goodness and severity of the Lord. By grace, the Hebrews are delivered, and by the wrath of God, their enemies are destroyed.
The crossing of the Red Sea would be a story vividly told forty years later when the harlot, Rahab, hid the spies in her home at Jericho. No one would forget the story of the people walking across on dry land in the midst of a great sea. The God of the Hebrews was the greatest of gods showing His power as greater than anything. When the Lord gave the Law to the Israelites at Sinai, He reminded them that it was by His power they were brought out of the land of Egypt and the house of bondage. The Hebrews did not deliver themselves – only God could do that. Crossing the Red Sea was the grace of God, His infinite mercy, and undying love for His own special people.
There is an illustrative lesson in the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. The Hebrews were in bondage to the Egyptians like man is in bondage to sin. There was nothing the descendants of Abraham could do to deliver themselves and, without God’s power, would have remained in bondage. Sin has the power to enslave the heart, and man cannot save himself. Only through the love and grace of God was Israel delivered, and only through the love and grace of God can a man find grace to wash away sin. God parted the Red Sea, allowing Israel to escape. The Father gave His Son a sacrifice to release man from the bondage of sinful man could walk across the sea of grace to redemption.
In obedience, man is given a law to bring him to the promised land. Israel wandered through the wilderness forty years before reaching the Jordan River with the land of promise on the other side. When a man is baptized into Christ (crossing the Red Sea), accepts the covenant of Christ (Sinai), and lives a faithful life (wilderness), he stands on the banks of the Jordan looking over into Beulah land. He cannot enter on his own because the land of milk and honey is a place provided by God’s grace. Crossing into the land of rest can only come about by God’s will and His will alone.
Israel stood at the banks of the Jordan as the people had stood at the shores of the Red Sea forty years earlier. Once again, the power of God will translate the people from a wilderness journey to a land of rest. As the priests carry the ark of the Lord through the waters of the Jordan River, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off. The waters that flow from the north will stand up in a heap, and the water flowing to the south will disappear. Once again, the people will walk across a body of water on dry land. God’s grace and power will not deliver them but translate the people to a land of rest. The journey is over, and the promise is fulfilled.
While in Egypt, the Lord promised to deliver the Hebrews to a land of goodness. The faithful kept the word of the Lord and received the promised land. Sin enslaves the heart, and through the gospel of Christ and the waters of baptism, the soul is delivered from the power of sin. When the wilderness of life is completed, God translates the faithful across the Jordan River, symbolic of death on wings of angels to the bosom of Abraham. The second crossing is when the saints die, and God delivers them to His dwelling place. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, their eyes saw a land more beautiful than they had ever seen. As the people of God close their eyes in death, they will awaken to a land more beautiful than they have ever seen. God’s grace led the Hebrews through the Red Sea and then brought them home through the Jordan River. His grace leads believers out of sin so that one day they can cross the river of death to a land flowing with milk and honey. Lord, divide the waters today.