How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

The grace of God we stepped into at the beginning will also lead us home.

Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.

How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Jordan River north of Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.

  • When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
  • This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.

Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.

This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.

This also reflects our own spiritual lives.

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Bethel Reveals What You Need to Know to Connect with God

There has always been only one way.

There has always been only one way to God—even in the Old Testament. But how? That way is by grace through faith in the object of God’s choosing. Bethel gives us a peek at that way.

Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel

(Photo: Modern Beitin, ancient Bethel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In his flight from his murderous brother Esau, Jacob spent the night at Bethel, where years earlier his grandfather Abraham had heard God promise that he would receive all the land as far as he could see. There, Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven, and the Lord repeated to him the promises Abraham received.

Shaken, Jacob awoke and said:

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. —Gen. 28:17

Jacob named the site Bethel—“house of God.” The dream gave more than a vision of God’s house.

It offered a foreshadowing of how to get there.

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Living Life in the Balance with God

The Promised Land was a good land for a reason.

To hear Moses describe the Promised Land, it sounded as if it offered vast natural resources—a land where food was plentiful and lacked for nothing (Deut. 8:9). Well, true and not true.

Living Life in the Balance with God

(Photo: Grapes left on vine after harvest in Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The land had streams, pools, springs, wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey. Sounds pretty nice. Sign me up.

But this good land existed in a delicate balance of nature—and God tipped the scales. The Hebrews would learn that God alone made the good land “good” in direct proportion to the gratitude, praise, and obedience of His people.

The same is true of our lives.

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Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre Shows Our Need for a Savior

How the site demonstrates the need for the place it hallows.

One of the biggest surprises to Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem occurs when they step inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection falls short of the expectations of many Christians accustomed to Western worship.

Gold drips from icons. Chanting fills the spaces. Incense rises between cold stone walls. Six sects of Christendom betray jealous rivalries over the goings-on within. Territorial fistfights even occur on occasion.

The Holy Sepulchre's dome covers Christ's tomb

(Photo: The Holy Sepulchre’s dome covers Christ’s tomb. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Without proper mental preparation, a Christian pilgrim may see only the distracting depravity of religion that has affixed itself to this site like barnacles on sunken treasure.

But if we look past today’s traditionalism to history’s tradition, we find an unbroken connection to the central event of all time—the redemption of the universe.

For in this place, Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again.

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Why God Always Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

The One who set eternity in our hearts created in us a hunger that space and time cannot satisfy.

The superscription of Psalm 63 notes how David prayed the psalm in the wilderness of Judah, either while fleeing from King Saul or, later, from David’s rebel son Absalom.

Why God Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Sunset over the Judean Wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. —Psalm 63:1

The “dry and weary land” that David described also described his own weariness, and the lack of water around him served to surface an even deeper thirst. At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God.

Our physical needs are connected to our spiritual lives for that very reason.

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God Lays Siege to Your Life to Restore You, Not Destroy You

The biblical sieges illustrate the Lord's love for His people.

In ancient Israel, a city wasn’t a city without a wall. The wall served as the primary means of protection from an enemy. Without a wall, you were a sitting duck.

When God Lays Siege to Your Life

(Photo: Jerusalem’s Old City Walls. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In times of war, an enemy would surround a city wall and lay siege to it. This method purposed to starve the inhabitants of food and water—forcing surrender. Often a siege took months or even years. But it was very effective. All it took was time.

The sieges of ancient Israel serve as a fitting metaphor for what God often does in our lives when we erect walls to keep Him out. But there’s a key difference.

God lays siege to your life not to destroy you, but to restore you.

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How to Deal with Overwhelming Odds through Your Powerful God

Michmash shows us the power of God in our lives.

When the Bible includes geographical references, they appear as more than throwaway statements. Often they play a vital role in our understanding and application of the Bible.

Michmash—Overwhelming Odds and Your Powerful God

(Photo: Cliffs near Michmash and Geba. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For example, geography bears importance as to how Jonathan and his armor-bearer—only two men—could help rout the entire Philistine army.

The geographic descriptions given in 1 Samuel 14:4-5 describe two steep crags on either side of a great ravine separating Geba on the south from Michmash on the north. Here Jonathan and his armor bearer scaled the crags for a surprise attack on the Philistine garrison at Michmash.

Because geography does not change, these natural elements remain for us to easily imagine the story.

As well as its application.

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You May Have Failed—But God is Not Done with You

God’s truth seems too good to be true only because we’ve lived too long with lies.

I stood waist-deep in the Jordan River, waiting for the man I was about to baptize. He made his way slowly into the current, stopped in front of me, and looked me in the eye. “Are you sure I can be baptized?”

“What do you mean, Don?” I asked him. He had tears in his eyes.

Yes, You Failed—But God is Not Finished with You

(Photo: Jordan River baptismal site Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

With a trembling voice, this man in his sixties confessed to me a terrible sin he committed many years ago. He waited for my answer.

I’ll never forget that moment.

Let me ask you. If you could pick one event in your life you could go back and do it over, which would it be? If you’re like me, it would be tough to choose just one. We’ve all done things that have left us in deep regret. We mourn them like a death.

And while we can’t change the past, we also can’t ignore it.

Nor do we need to.

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Mount Carmel and Elijah’s Place of Burning Leave a Lasting Lesson

Elijah’s question to Israel remains a question we too should answer.

Even when God allows hard times in our lives, He means to draw us back to Him. Elijah’s question to Israel on Mount Carmel remains a question we too should answer and apply.

Mount Carmel and the Place of Burning

(Photo: Fires on Mount Carmel in 2010, by יחידה אווירית משטרת ישראל CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll never forget the images of Mount Carmel’s scorching flames in December 2010. The largest fire in Israel’s history billowed so much smoke that a NASA satellite could photograph it. In addition to the tragic loss of life—both human and animal—the devastating inferno destroyed 5 million trees.

While reading about the fire in the news, I thought about the scenic overlook on Mount Carmel I have visited many times. The name of the place is Muhraqa, which means, ironically, “burning.”

Fortunately, most of Mount Carmel’s beautiful historic sites (including Muhraqa) escaped the 2010 forest fire. Beauty untouched beside utter devastation.

In a land where water is life, the lushness of Mount Carmel came to represent nothing less than the blessing of God.

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The Passion Week Shows What Jesus is Looking for in Your Life

Was Monday a bad day for Jesus, or did His words suggest application for us?

Sometimes what you expect is not what you get. You come to a situation that promises one thing, but you find another altogether. Monday of Passion Week proved that way for Jesus.

Fig tree in Israel

(Photo: Fig tree in Israel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After His Triumphal Entry on the colt, Jesus entered the Temple area in Jerusalem and found the Court of the Gentiles—the area for Gentiles to worship God—filled with markets and moneychangers.

The next day, Monday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem along the same road He had traveled before. He saw a fig tree in leaf, which typically indicated that it would have unripe figs to eat. But the tree offered only leaves.

No fruit for breakfast. So Jesus cursed the tree. His disciples heard Him.

We should hear Him too.

Jesus’ words indicate what He is looking for in our lives.

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