It is summertime and many are enjoying water time. This may include swimming, boating or just relaxing on the beach.
Water had great significance for the Israelites. However, their experiences involved more than recreation and relaxation. The Red Sea and the Jordan River are two bodies of water where they encountered miracles.
The Red Sea
In Exodus 14 we read about the people of Israel crossing the Red Sea. When Moses raised his staff and stretched out his hand, the water was divided by a strong wind. The land dried and the Israelites didn’t even get their feet muddy as they walked across the water-bed. There were Egyptians following them. These men drowned in the waters when Moses again stretched out his hand. It was impossible for the Egyptians to swim across the sea.
The miracle at the Red Sea was God’s final act in delivering His people from Egyptian slavery. The exodus from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea was the greatest Old Testament act of salvation. It showed God’s saving power.
Historical records document the Israelites’ exit from Egypt. However, their departure also has prophetic significance. Physically, the escape freed God’s people from Egyptian slavery. It also points to the greater spiritual truth of God redeeming His people from slavery to sin through His Son, Jesus. John 8:34, 36 says, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Passing through the Red Sea is symbolic of the believer’s identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 10:1-4 says, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
In When Heaven Invades Earth, Bill Johnson reiterates that the people of Israel going through the Red Sea was the baptism of Moses. He then relates our water baptism after conversion to the Israelites’ experience. For everyone involved, going through the waters is a departure from sin.
The Jordan River
Forty years later, the Israelites find themselves at the edge of another body of water. Once again, it is not a relaxing day at the beach. Joshua 3-4 tells the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. They walked, not swam, from shore to shore. Like at the Red Sea, God parted the waters of the Jordan River. This crossing was the momentous occasion that concluded the Israelites’ wilderness period. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Bill Johnson describes the crossing of the Jordan River as a new baptism. While the baptism at the Red Sea symbolized a departure from sin, the baptism at the Jordan River was a baptism into a new way of living. For the Israelites, this meant they would fight battles differently. Previously, they physically fought and won battles. Now, God would fight for them. II Chronicles 20:15 says, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’” Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
Bill Johnson compares the Israelites’ baptism in the Jordan River to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He writes, “The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the Old Testament picture of entering the Promised Land.” He goes on to say, “Suppose the children of Israel had chosen to cross the Jordan but became content to live on the banks of the river. They would have missed the purpose for crossing the river in the first place. There were nations to destroy and cities to possess. Contentment short of God’s purposes would mean learning to live with the enemy. That is what it is like when a believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit but never goes beyond speaking in tongues….There is power that has been given to us that we might dispossess the strongholds of hell and take possession for the glory of God.”
When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we begin a new way of living. In Matthew 19:26 NLT Jesus says, ““Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Then He goes on to say in John 15:26 NAS, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” We see this promise fulfilled when Paul says in Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The Red Sea and the Jordan River
Joshua 4:23-24 connects the two water events of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
The Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament. So, I wonder if John the Baptist thought about the Israelites crossing these two bodies of water when he spoke of two baptisms. Matthew 3:11 says. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This is what occurred on Pentecost. Acts 2:2-4 says, “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
The people of Israel crossed the Red Sea – a story of salvation. They crossed the Jordan River – a story of Spirit-filled living. As believers, we can be water baptized – our story of salvation. We can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit – our story of Spirit-filled living. God worked miracles for the Israelites and He still is our miracle-working God.
The people of Israel did not have to get wet when they arrived at the water’s edge. God rolled back the waters so they could walk on dry ground. May their experiences remind us of what God wants to do for us. He does not want us to drown in disappointment and despair. Let us remember that water offers us more than summertime rest and relaxation. Be refreshed spiritually and physically.