If you were standing near the Jordan River several miles north of the Dead Sea on the morning after the two spies returned from Jericho, you would have encountered a phenomenon that would have made you fall over in amazement. Picture this scene in your mind. Standing on the eastern brink of the river are several priests holding up a large golden box adorned with two golden statues of angels perched on top; the ark of the covenant. About three thousand feet behind them a gathering of some two million people are watching and waiting. As soon as the priests’ feet are submerged in the water at the riverbank, a miracle occurs. Someway north from where the Israelites were gathered the water of the river stops flowing and overflows the banks. Joshua 3:16 says “the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon a heap,” and the water south of the Israelites’ position simply drains into the Dead Sea leaving dry ground behind. It’s as if God set his mighty hand right down in the middle of the river and held it back.
We know that God is the creator and sustainer of all things, we have been taught this from childhood. In catechism and Sunday school and from our parents’ instruction we were taught all of the Bible stories that show Jehovah God creating the universe and doing mighty things for his people. In school all of this instruction was reinforced when we learned about science, history, mathematics, music, literature, and God’s hand in all of these things. We are well acquainted with the knowledge that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. But do we often sit back and meditate on this? Living in the modern era, when men make fun of faithful Christians who confess that God created all things and that he has the power to stop rivers, we need to be careful lest we allow them to influence us. God very well can stop rivers. Now, scripture is sufficient. We do not need God to do such miracles anymore for he has already given us the greatest miracle of all; he sent his Son into flesh to pay for our sins. It is nevertheless good for us to meditate on the fact that God is so powerful as to do so if he wishes! We mustn’t let modern rationalistic feelings influence us, God is in control of rivers and he can use them however he pleases.
Notice though, what God is doing. Does he perform this miracle simply to display his power? No, he does so to open the way for his people into the promised land, the land of rest, of milk and honey and rich blessing. The ark leads them into this land, the symbol of his presence with them. God led them into Canaan and would let no barrier stand in their way. Think about that! Though God does not do such miracles anymore, he still rules the world with his providence. In everything in our lives God opens the way into rest for his people. Nothing will stand in their way, because Jehovah is their God.
Not only in the creation does God direct things toward our good but also in our hearts as well. Prof. Hoeksema remarks on this in the fourth volume of Unfolding Covenant History:
All this is typical of the way in which the God of our salvation opens a passage into the heavenly Canaan. There is a very real Jordan constituting a very real barrier to the promised heavenly rest. It is the Jordan of guilt and sin and death, which must be crossed in order to enter into God’s rest. Yet our guilt we can never pay, our sin we can never remove, and death we can never overcome. Although that Jordan is an impassable barrier, God opens up the passage. He dries up the flood of our sin and guilt, and through the river he paves the way for us, the way of his own righteousness. The river becomes our way. He removes our sin and pollution, and he prepares us to enter into his covenant by sanctifying us. He swallows up the power of death so that we may safely cross in the hour of our death and finish the crossing in the hour of the resurrection. We cross by faith that is not of ourselves but of God, faith that is the power by which we sanctify ourselves to receive that wonder of his grace. (265-266)
Let’s give thanks to God who brings us across the Jordan!