Beginning at Mt. Hermon, the Jordan River flows approximately 200 miles into the Dead Sea. It is dwarfed by the Nile, the world’s longest river (at over 4000 miles long), and will not be found on any top 10 list of important or famous rivers. The name Jordan means one that descends and points to the one thing the Jordan can claim over all others; at over 1300 ft. below sea level as it enters the Dead Sea, the Jordan has the lowest elevation in the world. Though it may not be recognized by the world as famous or important, the Jordan has certainly played an important role in the history of man.
It was the gate into the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. In Joshua 3&4 its waters parted allowing Israel to cross over on dry ground. The crossing of the Jordan is referenced time and again in Deuteronomy and Joshua as the defining moment when Israel would show her faith and take possession of the land God had promised. “For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it.” Deu 11:31
Just over 500 years later the Jordan witnessed one of the most amazing things in the history of man. Elijah and Elisha had just crossed over the Jordan (the waters parted for them too!) when a chariot of fire swept up Elijah in a whirlwind and carried him into heaven. To be a gate into the Promised Land was a wonderful thing but now it could boast of being a gate into heaven itself. (2 Ki 2:8-11)
At that same time the Jordan saw the beginning of the wonderful work of Elisha the prophet which would include the story of Naaman and how he was cleansed from his leprosy, not in the rivers of Damascus which were better in the eyes of man, but in the Jordan River. (2 Ki 5:10-14)
The Jordan, a place of healing, the gate to a land of rest, has at least one more great story to tell; undoubtedly its greatest story of all. “It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11 Jesus, the Son of God, stood in her waters and was baptized by John, marking the beginning of His wonderful earthly ministry (Luke 3:21-23).
Sure, other rivers of the world are larger, more beautiful, and maybe more important to the people of the world today. But none of them can begin to compare to the Jordan and its historical significance in God’s plan of redemption. There is nothing about the Jordan itself that makes it special. It is special because of how God has used it to magnify His glory and to turn the focus of the people to Him.
You and I probably share a lot in common with the Jordan. We are not notable among men for our physical attributes and will never make any top 10 lists. But God has chosen us for a very special purpose and if we will do our part then we can also magnify His glory and turn people to the Lord. We may be ordinary in the flesh, but in Christ we can be extraordinary in His service.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.