The Jordan

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 one 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, as he continued in his teaching, "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. May the Lord keep us afloat by rivers of his mercy.

The Euphrates

The River in the Bible - Fifth in a series

The Euphrates is a river of mystery, history and boundary.

The fourth river to flow out of Eden (Gen 2:14), ancient as time, it joined its Edenic brother, the Hiddekel – also known as the Tigris, to flow as one to the Persian Gulf in southern Iraq.

Today, we locate the sources of the Euphrates in the Caucasus Mountains of the Armenian Highlands of eastern Turkey. The largest river of southwest Asia, its name means fruitfulness, with the masculine root in Hebrew meaning to break forth.

A mysterious word is spoken to the sixth angel of the Trumpet Judgments in The Revelation, "Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates." We then read,

"And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them." (Rev 9:14-16)

A demonic host of 200 million (Rev 9:17) were rallied by these four angels to foment a fiery destruction (Rev 9:18) of what would be about 2.5 billion people if this were to happen soon, since the world's population is estimated now at a little over 7.6 billion.

That these angels were chained at the Euphrates leads us to think they may have been those who "departed their habitation" and were chained thereafter (Gen 6:4; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Were they four in number to set forth with their legions from where life began, to the north, south, east and west, to destroy a third of the human race?

But why were they bound at the Euphrates? And why will the Euphrates dry up just prior to the Battle of Armageddon?* (Rev 16:12), Perhaps these mysteries can be solved by studying Israel's relation to this river.

The Euphrates owns a unique place in history for God's people. After we are introduced to it in Genesis 3, twelve chapters later it is proclaimed as the east to northeast boundary for Abraham's seed in God's promise that he would be a father of countless peoples and that his descendants would inherit Canaan land (Gen 15:18-21), which was formally deeded to him by God (Gen 15:9-17).

The promise and agreement is reiterated in Genesis 17, confirming the land as "an everlasting possession" for his family (Gen 17:8). After this, we read of peoples who lived beyond the river, in reference to the lands on the east of the Euphrates, over which Abraham had crossed from Haran as he journeyed to Canaan.

We read of Jacob crossing over the river Euphrates, leaving Laban (Gen 31:21), so, obviously, when he departed his home in flight from Esau, he crossed beyond Israel's boundary, yet he was among kin, as his mother had desired him to find a wife from her family. This pictures that a boundary can be flexible on rare, ordained occasions. Perhaps it also pictures Jacob as an outcast for his sin, foreshadowing the exile of Israel that would take place twelve centuries hence.

The boundaries of Israel were reconfirmed to Moses (Ex 23:31), who related them to the tribes (Deut 11:24); with the condition that their enemies would be manageable as long as the Hebrews obeyed the Lord's commandments.

Over the centuries they often lost control of their land to enemy peoples through backsliding, but the Lord would restore their ownership when they repented.

This pictures to us that God has firm boundaries: when we transgress them we lose his blessings and peace, but if we truly repent God returns the deed to the kingdom of heaven that is within us and restores his protection of us.

Will Israel's stated boundaries ever be restored this side of heaven? Today other nations possess this area.

David battled to hold the land deeded to Abraham (2 Sam 8:3; 1 Ch 18:3) and Solomon reigned in peace in Israel's full territory (1 Kings 4:21), but after that civil war led to a downward spiral and in only about two centuries, after much disobedience, first the northern kingdom and then the southern were conquered, and God's people were taken as slaves "beyond the river" where they remained 70 years before being permitted to return to their land by King Cyrus.

After that, they never again worshiped idols. However, the number who returned was small in comparison to those who were driven out. This reminds us that our love and longing for God and his law must be very deep-seated or we may never desire to return to his established order after being severely disciplined for disobedience.

There are three major boundaries to consider in respect to Israel, which is a type of each believer. First is the southern boundary over which the Hebrews came as they left their lives of slavery in Egypt. They were NEVER to return there, though at times they wanted to and some made that mistake. The Lord strictly forbid that; we must never return to our former existence before we were set free to serve Christ (Heb 6:4-6).

Second, the western boundary of the blue Mediterranean could picture the Lord himself. We must respect and honor the glory and magnificence of the Lord, and if we overstep our bounds through familiarity and lack of fear, we will be convicted of the sin of presumption. Truly, the Lord is our brother, but he is also almighty God. Then again, the Sea could picture peoples and nations that believers are invited to navigate in sharing the gospel: a friendly boundary that we should not view as impassable.

Finally, the east to northeast boundary is the Euphrates. First we should ask ourselves, are we living out to the boundary of God's gracious provision for our lives? Have we pushed forward to conquer all the territory he has allotted? Many will find joy and greater fulfillment by reaching out to their full boundaries in Christ's call to the abundant life.

Yet, the Euphrates speaks of a firm wall — the edge to what we may pursue and indulge in before we transgress God's laws. Staying within our bounds is a daily struggle and we need all the help we can get from the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer, fellowship and our church to keep ourselves in God's land.

A day is coming when all hell will break loose and the Euphrates will dry up.* In a conflagration of filth, madness and hatred the heavens and earth will pass away. (2 Peter 3:10) On that day we will want to be safe in Christ, so we strive today to respect all of God's boundaries.

*Could the time of the great battle be near? "In 2008, Turkey, Syria and Iraq instigated the Joint Trilateral Committee (JTC) on the management of the water in the Tigris–Euphrates basin and on 3 September 2009 a further agreement was signed to this effect. On April 15, 2014, Turkey began to reduce the flow of the Euphrates into Syria and Iraq. The flow was cut off completely on May 16, 2014. The Euphrates now terminates at the Turkish–Syrian border. This is in violation of an agreement reached in 1987 in which Turkey committed to releasing a minimum of 500 cubic metres (18,000 cu ft) of water per second at the Turkish–Syrian border." (Ref 1; Ref 2)

The Kishon

The River in the Bible - Fourth in a series

The Kishon was a seasonable river for ancient Israel: it gave at opportune moments, just when needed. What did it give? Assistance in battle and victory.

Pronounced "key SHONE", it is today one of Israel's largest and most important rivers, flowing through the Jezreel Valley and Carmel hills on its way to Haifa Bay. Its name, "bent like a bow" or "tortuous," describes a winding route. In commentaries we read that a portion of it is perennial but some of its path can dry up and then swell very suddenly and dangerously to overflow its banks in early spring, after rain or the melting of snow.

Around the turn of the 12th century BC in the days of the Judges, the Kishon gave help to Israel to reestablish their claim to the Promised Land. Again, in the mid-eighth century BC, it assisted Elijah in his quest to restore the faith of God's people in the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps it helped the people at other times since it was near the Esdraelon, a great battlefield of Israel (ref)

We first read of Kishon as a town of Issachar given to the Levites by Joshua as their portion in serving the people as priests. (Joshua 21:28) The town and river are associated. If we reflect on this, the Kishon reminds us of the importance of — and command to — worship God.

Next we read of the Kishon River in Deborah's prophecy shared with Barak, "And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand." (Jdg 4:7)

The Lord planned to use the river to confound the enemy even though they had 900 iron chariots and Israel had none. Barak agreed to go and fight, but only if Deborah would accompany him. He had lost confidence in his own capacity to hear from the Lord and in God's promise: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (Deut 20:1)

At Deborah's word, Barak followed the Lord, pursuing the enemy down the mountain toward the Kishon (Jdg 4:14-16), and Jabin's army could not ford the raging torrent. Deborah saw the triumph and later sang, "The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." (Jdg 5:21) Her "thou" was the river, and the Lord.

Deborah's song ended with this prayer: "So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." It is then noted, And the land had rest forty years. (Jdg 5:31)

Again, in Elijah's day when he challenged the Israelites to make a decision to serve God (1 Kings 18:21), after defeating the 450 prophets of Baal in a contest that proved God's power, he and the people brought them to the Kishon and Elijah killed them there.

Though it was dried up after three years of drought, as Elijah prophesied, a small cloud on the horizon portended a great rain (1 Ki 18:44, 45). Thus did the Kishon once again wash away corpses to the sea, ridding the land of the enemies who bowed to idols and persecuted the children of God.

Any in Elijah's time who knew God's Word would have recalled Barak's triumph at the Kishon, but if they did not, they could not glorify God as exuberantly as those who did. The faithful are to remember all of God's works over history, and to thank him (Ps 105:1, 2).

The Kishon was a river of God's help to warriors. How greatly we need that help in times of overpowering discouragement and defeat! Let us look to the River for a surge of power from on high — seasonable lifting to replenish grace and mercy in our hearts — all that we need to accomplish his purposes.

Note: For an explanation of how there was water to drench the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel but no water in the Kishon until the rain came, see here.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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