The ark occupies the central place here. The ark descends first into the water of the Jordan. Thereby the water stays at a distance and the way is free for the people. At a respectful distance, they pass by the ark, which remains in the middle until all the people have safely crossed over.
Here we see a beautiful picture of the work of the Lord Jesus. He has cleared the way to the blessings of the heavenly land by undergoing the judgment – of which the water is a picture (Psa 42:88The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.
) – for the church. All who belong to the church look at Him with gratitude at a respectful distance for He has turned away the judgment for them by undergoing the judgment for them.
Going through the Jordan is an inadvertent reminder of passing through the Red Sea. If we compare the two crossings, we see that there are some differences. Both crossings are in their spiritual sense a picture of the death of the Lord Jesus, but both waters represent two different perspectives of His death. What has happened to Israel at two different times in their history, is different for us in the spiritual sense. At our conversion we went, in picture, through both the Red Sea and the Jordan.
The Red Sea represents the death of the Lord Jesus by which we are freed from the power of sin. The people of Israel come into the wilderness after the Red Sea and that is what the world has become for us after our conversion. The Jordan represents the death of the Lord Jesus by which we entered the heavenly land. The land is a picture of the heavenly places, where we are blessed “with very spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:33Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ,).
We are not, like Israel, leaving the wilderness behind us. They are pictures. As long as we live on earth, we remain in the wilderness and also in the heavenly places, but we are not at the same time in both territories. For example, when we work hard and get tired, we experience life in the wilderness. As well as when our (small) children give us a lot of work. However, when we are busy with God’s Word and enjoy the Lord Jesus, we experience what it is like to be in the heavenly places.
There are even more differences between the passage through the Red Sea and the passage through the Jordan. The passage through the Red Sea happens at night – the passage through the Jordan happens during the day. The passage through the Red Sea is a run, with the enemy on the heels – the passage through the Jordan happens in peace, in majesty, where the people go to the enemy. The people go through the Red Sea between two walls of water – when going through the Jordan, the water is kept at a great distance, while in the middle only the ark is seen.
By the Red Sea, Moses says to the people: “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent” (Exo 14:1414The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”). God does everything. He defeats the enemy from whom the people are fleeing. On the other bank they see that God has freed them from the power of the enemy (Exo 14:3030Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.). Moses comes first. With his staff he divides the water, so that the people can pass freely.
The truth of this is shown in the letter to the Romans. In that letter we see our life as sinners in the world. There we are added to a dead Christ in baptism (Rom 6:33Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?), just as the people are added to Moses in the Red Sea (1Cor 10:1-21For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;). After our baptism we see the world as a wilderness, the land of death.
In the letter to the Romans we do not read anywhere that we are raised with Christ. For this we have to go to the letter to the Colossians and the letter to the Ephesians. In those letters we read about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and His place in heaven now. That is what is represented to us in the Jordan. In our spiritual development the awareness of this comes later. First we only have an eye for the needs of our sins. We have the solution in Christ Who died for us.
Later we discover that we went with Him through the Jordan, that is to say that we get an eye for all that God has given us through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus because of our connection with Him. This requires a quiet consultation of three days. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus are enclosed in the number three (verse 22At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;). It takes food (Jos 1:1111“Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.’”), exercises in our souls and hearts, to understand what the Jordan means, and then enter the land.
The Red Sea is an exit (Exodus); the Jordan shows that the death of the Lord Jesus is not only an exit, but also an entrance. The exit from the power of death is great and gives joy. But God wants us to enter the land through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As said, this truth is presented to us in the letter to the Colossians and in the letter to the Ephesians. We not only died with Christ (letter to the Romans), but also raised up with Him (letter to the Colossians) and put in Him in the heavenly places (letter to the Ephesians).
The Red Sea says that we died with Christ. The Jordan says that we are also raised with Him, but with the whole land still before us. Therefore we have to find and think of “the things above” (Col 3:1-21Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.). The letter to the Ephesians goes one step further and already sees us in possession of the land. The struggle there is a defensive struggle which we see in the picture at the end of the book Joshua.
The book of Joshua can be considered as the bridge between the letter to the Colossians and the letter to the Ephesians. We are made alive and seated in Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 1:33Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ,; 2:4-64But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus,). We are already in heaven. That is our position. The book of Joshua shows us how we can experience that position, how we can realize what we are. But then we first have to realize the Jordan. Even after the Israelites have gone through the Jordan, they do not conquer the land lightning fast. First they stay three weeks before Jericho. Everything goes peaceful.
All these pictures want us to reflect on the question: What does the death of the Lord Jesus mean? Not only has He taken away my sins, He has also acquired heaven for Himself and also for me. I will show my answer in the practice of my life of faith. It makes clear what I have seen of this and what significance I attach to it.