Following the Ark
For believers today, crossing the Jordan represents passing from one level of the Christian life to another. It is not a picture of a believer dying and entering heaven. For the Israelites Canaan was hardly heaven! It is a picture of entering into spiritual warfare to claim what God has promised. This should mean the end of a life lived by human effort and the beginning of a life of faith and obedience.
The Jews could not get victory in Canaan and overcome the enemy without first going through Jordan. Nor can Christians today overcome their spiritual foes unless they die to self, reckon themselves crucified with Christ, and allow the Spirit to give them resurrection power.
At the Red Sea, the Israelites were commanded to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. In contrast, at Jordan they were instructed to fix their eyes on the Ark of the Covenant, follow behind it a certain distance, and cross the river when the waters were rolled back. The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord played a tremendous part in Israel’s history in the desert and also later on in the land. Like everything else in the tabernacle, the Ark had spiritual significance. It was the most outstanding piece of furniture in the tabernacle and represented the presence of God. It was more than that however, for it also typified the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
First of all the Ark contained the two tables of stone on which the law was written by the finger of God. These spoke of the holiness of Almighty God. The Lord Jesus Christ was altogether holy and perfectly obedient to the Father.
In the second place, on top of the Ark was a cover made of gold called the mercy seat. This again represents Him who was sent forth by God to be our propitiation (mercy seat) through the presence of the sprinkled blood. We read in Romans 3:24-25, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
This is rather heavy and technical language, but it means that God sent forth His Son Jesus Christ to be the One through whose shed blood, God was able to reveal His mercy and grace to us. So in verse 26 we learn, “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” God is just because God is holy. He cannot overlook sin. So in atoning for sin, He gave His Son Jesus Christ to become sin for us. It was in this way that He could show forth His wonderful grace and have us declared righteous and at the same time remain just.
The Ark speaks of the presence of God. The Ark, located in the Holy of Holies, represented God’s continual dwelling with men. In summary, we see that Christ is the archetype of the Ark. He is the Obedient One who kept God’s law perfectly. He is the Merciful One who makes it possible for a Holy God to show mercy to sinful men. In the third place, Christ manifested the presence of God among us when He dwelt here upon earth. Now He indwells each believer, for we are His temples.
Just as the Israelites were to keep their attention focused upon the Ark as the great entrance was to be made into Canaan, so we are to keep our spiritual eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. This is what we read in Hebrews 12:2—“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” This is basic for our whole Christian life. We must keep our eyes on Him, not only to see Him, but also to follow Him. This is exactly what the Israelites were instructed to do with regard to the Ark at the crossing of Jordan.
The people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt, were told to stand still just before they crossed the Red Sea. They were to wait and see the salvation of the Lord. Then, after God had saved them, they were to start walking on the basis of that salvation. Theirs was a physical salvation at the Red Sea, but the lesson for us is a spiritual one. After we see the salvation of the Lord, then we are to walk accordingly.
At the Jordan, the people were to pause for three days. Then the Ark was to move and they were to follow it. At the Red Sea, the angel of the Lord, together with the cloud, stood behind them to protect them from the enemy. The Egyptian army followed after them but were not able to come up with them. The Israelites were not to fight the Egyptians nor to protect themselves in any way. Their deliverance was entirely from the Lord.
The situation concerning the Ark was different. It went before them into the danger spot and stood in the midst of the river. There was no threat from enemies behind. All the threat was from before them. Their fighting lay ahead. So it is important with us that we keep our eyes on Christ who goes before us. He said of His own work with us—“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4).
So it is as we enter into spiritual warfare having first been born again we follow our Shepherd. Our Saviour spoke of this in John 10:27 where He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Then He added, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” They shall not perish, or in the language of Joshua, they shall not go back into Egypt. That way is barred to them.
Then He adds, “…neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” God promises to take us through the spiritual warfare that lies ahead. No matter what the storm or stress, we are safe with Him. No one can pluck us out of His hand. This is a wonderful assurance which is ours because we are in Christ Jesus.
The crossing of Jordan by following the Ark of the Covenant is a perfect picture of Christ! He goes before us to open the way; He stands with us until we cross over; and He follows behind to protect us! God kept His Word as His people trusted Him and obeyed Him.
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28)