In our sojourn on Earth, the Lord leads us through many crossings in our life. Each one of us will cross over different circumstances at different times. Yet there is one crossing that every human being on this earth will have to make, that which brings us from this side of the grave to the other—what we call, death. Death came about when our first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and fell into sin. God cursed them and their offspring with both spiritual and physical death. Death is indeed a fearful subject for all mankind. Interestingly though, a child of God frequently refers to it as “crossing the Jordan”. Have you ever wondered why this is so?
The metaphoric expression “crossing the Jordan” originates from the Old Testament event during which the children of Israel crossed over the Jordan River to enter into the land of Canaan after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Canaan was the land which God had promised to Abraham when He called Him out of Ur of the Chaldees. (Genesis 15:7-21 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it). This physical “Promised Land” is a picture of the eternal inheritance that God had promised, in a covenant, to Abraham and his seed after him. However, this promise would only be realised after more than four hundred years.
The children of Israel had grown into a big nation in Egypt under the preservation of God. When Pharaoh saw that the children of Israel became mightier than the Egyptians, he enslaved them, afflicted them and killed their new-born sons. The children of Israel cried out to the LORD for deliverance, and the LORD sent Moses to deliver them from the land of bondage. They left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea and were about to enter the land which God had promised to their father, Abraham. However, because of their unbelief (not trusting that God was able to deliver the inhabitants of the land into their hands), they wandered in the wilderness for forty years before they could reach the other side of the “Promised Land”, having been separated by the Jordan River. It was of great significance for this new generation of Israel when they finally reached the western side of the Jordan River. They had been delivered from the land of bondage, and after sojourning for forty years through a long, hard and tedious journey, they finally had a glimpse of the “Promised Land”. Crossing over would bring them to a place that flowed with milk and honey. Crossing over would bring an end to their sojourn, delivering them to a time of rest. Crossing over meant finally having a place which they could call their own. The crossing over of the Jordan is thus a picture of a child of God who comes to the end of his journey on Earth and is translated to his heavenly home to be with the Lord Jesus for eternity, a crossing that all believers yearn for.
You may ask, “What is the significance of the “crossing of the Jordan” to me as a youth? How may I prepare for this crossing?” Firstly, we must acknowledge that this event is good and precious for a child of God. This may seem contradictory as the Word of God states that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), death being the curse of God upon the whole human race after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin. Indeed, death is a curse for non-believers of Christ. However, we believe that this is a blessing instead for those who are redeemed by Christ. In our Confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 42 states: “Our death is not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life”. This is a great comfort for all of us who struggle with our depraved nature from the time of our birth, having to deal with the lusts of the fresh constantly, plagued by the corruptions of the body. To have this assurance that we will finally be free from earthly corruption and that we would be in glory with our Saviour forever and ever, not only gives us strength in our adversities but also inspires us to live courageously for Him in our youth.
Second, knowing this blessedness, we must not fall into the error of living our life carelessly or indifferently. We must instead live our life as one who has been made alive by the Holy Spirit in Christ and has a purpose and calling here to fulfil. With the knowledge that we will “cross our Jordan” one day, we must now have a renewed purpose in life. In our pursuits for education, career, and family, our purpose and goal must always be to seek first the kingdom of God. We must be reminded that we should constantly seek the things which are above and not things on this earth. This will give us great advantage in the way that we live as we would no longer be bound by pursuits after vain glory, never-quenching power and unsatisfied riches.
Third, since our “crossing the Jordan” is not an event determined by ourselves but solely by our heavenly Father, we must live our life constantly preparing for this day. We must not believe that we still have much time to waste away as we are youthful. The Word of God reminds us to always be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). To redeem the time, we must dedicate our time and energy, living with the consciousness that we are walking in the calling that God has called His people to. One of these chief callings would be to support the preaching of the Gospel regardless of our station in life.
Finally, in preparation to “cross the Jordan”, we must walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called (Ephesians 4:1). We are called to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10). This is a call to us while we are yet on this side of Jordan. We are to be prudent in employing the gifts and talents which God has given to us, which are to be used for His glory and honour in every station of our life. We do this faithfully till are ready to “cross the Jordan”. We can then echo the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
“Crossing the Jordan” is never easy for anyone to face, nor is it easy to watch our loved ones crossing this river. However, with this firm belief that our death is no more a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage to eternal life, we can and must live already now as one who is risen with Christ and seeking those things which are above. Let us then echo with the Psalmist in Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” Amen.
Written by: Elder Leong Fai Chong | Issue 37