The River - Sixth in a series
The Jordan speaks to us of initiation. Jesus was baptized there before he began his public ministry.
The Jordan itself was baptized by fire when the Lord rained down brimstone and fire from heaven, transforming its beautiful plain into a dead sea (Gen 19:24), still the lowest place on earth.
Elisha parted its waters, initiating his own ministry, by striking it with Elijah's mantle that fell as he traveled to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Ki 2:14) Elisha considered it a better river than any other nation's because it belonged to God's covenant people. Thus he sent Naaman the leper to dip in it seven times for healing. (2 Ki 5:10) The Jordan cooperated with Elisha, even floating an axe head for him in a time of need. (2 Kings 6:5, 6)
The Jordan parted its waters for the priests carrying the ark of the covenant as the Hebrews crossed over to Canaan after their 40 years in the desert, initiating their reign in the promised land, and Jericho knew it! (Joshua 3:15, 16)
Jacob was by a stream that flows to the Jordan when he wrestled all night with the angel and was then renamed to Israel, initiating the designation of God's people (Gen 32:28).
Gideon crossed over the Jordan with his 300 troops "faint though pursuing" to return control to Israel after the Midianites had bullied them long enough, initiating a new day of rulership for the Lord. (Jdg 8:4)
It is still a river in Israel that does not dry up, a nahar, and a river of man in the sense that it is not generally chosen for navigation by vessels due to its course and seasonal fluctuations, but man's uses of it are many. In fact, it is still used for the baptism of Christians in Israel, mostly for tourists.
Jesus also spoke of a baptism not of water: "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50) He would be immersed in suffering to the end that we might be reconciled with the Father.
He was anxious to accomplish this baptism and wanted us to understand that if we are faithful, we will also receive that second type of baptism. He explained to his disciples that families, friends and neighbors would part ways as they chose life or death, that is, whether to follow him or to decline: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three." (Luke 12:51, 52)
All those truly initiated to Life are initiated to War, to defend the faith. May the Lord keep us afloat by rivers of his mercy.