Down by the riverside.

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The Torah portion, called Ki Tavo, or “when you go in” prepares the Israelites for entrance into the promised land.  God tells Moses to instruct the people how to honor God and His greatness in giving them the promised land by performing a ritual once they were in the land. It was officiated by Joshua (Yehoshua)who also circumcised the men prior to them inheriting their blessing. So Moses tells them that this is what you do when you go into the land. They were to build this special altar with twelve stones and cover it with plaster. Then, six tribes would go on one mountain (Mt. Ebal) and six would go on the other (Mt. Gerizim) and they were to rehearse the blessings and the cursings from the two mountains, with the priests and the ark in between the mountains. It was as if God was giving them a second matan Torah, or a second giving and acceptance of the Torah in the land, since the second generation did not experience the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai as their fathers did.

This makes me think that Yahweh was giving a shadow picture of the generation that would see the Second matan Torah, in the person of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Torah is life. Yeshuah is the Living Torah.

My thoughts, however, were not completely about this, but about the Jordan River. My mother, who normally doesn’t enjoy preachers on TV as a rule, accidentally turned on a channel that had a preacher talking about Naaman,a military commander who served the King of Syria, probably King Benhadad II, around 800-700 B.C.. The story in Kings  records that this commander had contracted leprosy and had decided to go to Israel at the advice of a little captive, Jewish girl, for healing. He originally goes to the King of Israel for healing, because of a communication breakdown, but is redirected to the prophet Elisha. He went to the prophet and he tells him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. First of all, it seems he is too proud to go to the Jordan, expecting Elisha to call upon his God in some fashion.

The preacher in this program was asking his audience, “Why Jordan?” The reason this preacher seems somewhat perplexed, is because he had actually been in the river Jordan, and had baptized many in that river. But he said, “I had to have great faith to go in that river because,for one thing, it is muddy and for another thing, something bit my legs while I was baptizing.” So the preacher sounded like he was saying that the Jordan was not the most pristine site for baptism…and maybe didn’t feel very spiritual.
I was wondering if the Jordan river was as nasty as he described it when Yeshua was baptized in it. A quick search on Rabbi Google found the answer for me. Wikipedia describes the river in terms of the impact humans have had on it. Apparently Syria, Jordan and Israel have seriously damaged the ecosystem and flow of the river, which provides 40% of the fresh water to Israel, 70% of which is used for agriculture.

The point is, that it may not have been so nasty when Yeshua was baptized in it. So what is the significance of the river Jordan? Why is it so important?

On the surface, many significant things have happened in or near the Jordan. Yarden, Hebrew for Jordan means descender. Physically, it is the river that runs from the roots of Anti-Lebanon to the Dead Sea a distance of approx 200 miles (320 km) Here’s more from Blue Letter Bible.com on the meaning of Jordan:
to go down, descend, decline, march down, sink down
a) (Qal)
1) to go or come down
2) to sink
3) to be prostrated
4) to come down (of revelation)
b) (Hiphil)
1) to bring down
2) to send down
3) to take down
4) to lay prostrate
5) to let down
c) (Hophal)
1) to be brought down
2) to be taken down
It is the river that  made Abraham become a Hebrew, or Ivrit, or “one who crosses over”, or “one from beyond”.(Gen 12), because Shechem is the city he visits after crossing the Jordan)  Why did Abraham have ears to hear God in that sea of idolatry and paganism? But he did, and God made covenant with him. So it is the place of leaving the old way of life (leave your people and your family) and finding a new “city whose architect and builder is God”. So it is a going to a new city, and becoming (‘I’m assuming here) a citizen of that city…God’s city, where things are done “God’s way”. It is leaving behind that emotional and spiritual connection that took one “away” from God, because it was so steeped in paganism.

The second occurrence of a Jordan event is in Gen 13. Strife between Abraham and his nephew, Lot and his herdsmen causes…well, strife! So, Abraham displays wisdom and a kind of pick-your-battles attitude. He tells Lot, “Let’s not make this an ongoing feud, pick the best of the land and I’ll take what’s left”. So Lot picks his side, toward Sodom and Gomorrah. So the Jordan is a place of separating ways, dividing lines, setting boundaries.

The next “Jordan” event in Genesis 50, is the funeral of Jacob (who had been renamed Israel) was buried beyond the Jordan somewhere. there was a great mourning there. Think about that. Jacob, who was renamed Israel, was greatly mourned…a great mourning.. Is this a picture of the Holocaust? Whatever the case, I see this as the place where Israel will be resurrected…in Messiah Yeshua.

It was the place where battles ensued when the Israelites crossed over to possess the land. So it is the place of insurrection…but also the place of victory, because Yahweh gave them tremendous victory over their enemies.

It is the place where decisions were made about finishing the job.  Two tribes and the half tribe that wanted land east of the Jordan, but Joshua told them they had to help the rest of the tribes first. So, they left wives and children, fought with their brothers, but not before they built a large altar on its banks as “a witness” between them and the other tribes Joshua 22:10. They agreed not to settle down and enjoy the land until the rest of the tribes had taken possession.

It is also the place where Jacob crosses over to make amends with Esau. So it is a place of “making restitution”. by “changing directions”. Jacob actually went back to return to Esau and ask for forgiveness.

It is also spoken of in this Torah portion and it is the place where the blessings and the curses are recited on the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim.  So the significance here is that the Israelites should take stock of sorts and also to recite those things that Yahweh deemed important in their relationship with Him, because He wanted to bless them, but they will end up not wanting those blessings as much as He wanted to give them to them. It is the valley of decision where choices must be made with the understanding of the consequences of those choices, both good and bad.

The Jordan is also prominent in the story of Naaman , with the detail of him being “baptized”, or mikvahed, and HEALED in the river Jordan. So the Jordan is a place of healing.

The Jordan is the place where Yahweh instructs Moses to make provision for the Levites. So it is a place for ministry to find a home and provision to make service unto God, for the people, to the people and to their God.

Deuteronomy 3:17, is the place where Moses is instructed he can’t cross over, because of his reaction at the rock that he struck. It is a place for a new generation with a new calling. The old guard is finished with the task at hand and the Lord is handing over the reigns to someone that he chooses. It’s time for Moses to enter his rest.

It, like the Sea of Reeds, also became a place for miracles, when Yahweh, through Joshua, causes it to dry up long enough for the priests and the Israelites to cross over. An important fact, also, in this crossing is that the priests were instructed to stand still with the ark while the children of Israel crossed over. Why didn’t the Israelites become mired in mud? There’s no mention of mud, unless Yahweh also dried up the land-crossing completely! I love the part where the priests only have to put their feet in the Jordan, and by that very prophetic act,the water flow changes direction or becomes “heaped up!”

In Judges 8, Gideon crosses over the Jordan with his famous army of 300, in pursuit of those who were ravaging Israel. A champion crosses over the Jordan. A place for victory that beat the odds.

It is the place where breaches occurred, when the enemies of Israel, the Ammonites, were oppressing them by crossing the Jordan to trouble and harass them. But once again, God raised up another champion, Jephthah.

The Jordan is mentioned again, in a story where Saul presumes upon the prophet’s office by offering an unauthorized sacrifice.

In 2 Sam. 18, David escapes the wicked intentions of his own son, Absalom by crossing over the Jordan. A double agent by the name of Hushai, persuades people to take his advice over another, and gives David and his people time. So the Jordan is a place of deliverance.

In Kings, Elijah dwells next to a tributary brook from the Jordan and the ravens feed him there, by word of the Lord, showing that God is our provider and can do it in unusual ways.

And, how awesome is this: Elisha receives his mantle from Elijah as he ascends in his fiery chariot…by the Jordan!

2 Kings 7, tells the story of lepers, who were outcasts anyway and had nothing to lose by doing a scouting expedition into enemy territory, only to find that there was ample provision, not only for them but for those who were starving in their city. Ahem. Shadow picture here.

Matthew 3, Johanan is preaching a fiery message and calling people to repent, with fruits of repentance, and to be washed in the waters of the Jordan. By the way, a true mikvah or baptism must be with living water, that is a natural reservoir of water that is replenished and moving.

And Jesus (Yeshau) when He is baptized, causes the heavens to be opened unto Him. Now there it stops. No mention of the Jordan at all in the rest of the scriptures.

I wonder if that was by divine design! Shalom Chaverim!

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