The River Jordan
I have just been reading and thinking and studying about the river Jordan. Some things in the last few years have become very interesting to me; one of the interesting things to me is this wonderful river that we call Jordan. There is no river in the world that has been talked of so much, and had so many beautiful things spoken and written about it as has this remarkable river.
It was the river Jordan that God drew a line through and cut off the waters and opened the way by which the Israelites might pass through from the wilderness into the land of Canaan. The reader will note that we have written elsewhere (Crossing Jordan) of the passage of the Israelites through this remarkable river — How they piled up twelve stones in the bottom of the river Jordan, and also took up twelve stones and laid them on their shoulders and carried them out from the bottom of this river, and laid them on the banks of Jordan for their public testimony. It was the river Jordan that Elijah smote with his overcoat, and the waters parted before him. It was the river Jordan also that the young Elisha smote with the same overcoat and said, “Where is the God of Elijah?” It was in the river Jordan that, later on in life, Elisha made the iron to swim. It was in the river Jordan that Naaman dipped seven times, and was cured of leprosy, and his flesh became as the flesh of a child. And behold it was in the river Jordan that John the Baptist baptized the Lord Jesus Christ, when the blessed Holy Ghost descended as a beautiful white dove, and abode upon Him. Evidently He was in the river, or nearby, when this wonderful transaction took place.
Some of the most wonderful events in sacred history occurred in connection with the river Jordan. The river Jordan has been a place where for the last century the tourists, pilgrims, and travelers have gone to look upon those wonderful waters. Today the river Jordan is one of the most interesting streams in the world to a New Testament Christian. We notice that this river has its source back in a beautiful mountain range. It makes its way down through the beautiful Jordan valley, and the stream is fed from the melted snows of Lebanon, and the bubbling springs along the Jordan valley.
It was in this valley where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob used to water their flocks. It was this beautiful Jordan valley that attracted the eye of the young man Lot when he broke with his uncle Abraham and pitched his tent toward Sodom. We read that he lifted up his eyes and beheld the Jordan valley. His prospects for a businessman were very bright then. He had a fine start, but what a sad ending!
But as interesting as this river is, there is something very sad about the river Jordan. After all that we have seen and heard that was beautiful, we now have to behold the river Jordan winding down through those lovely valleys and finally into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea opens her mouth and swallows the river Jordan and, behold, this beautiful river of sparkling waters, full of life, becomes as dead as the Dead Sea. And though the river Jordan has been emptying itself into the Dead Sea for thousands of years, yet it has never been able to reform the Dead Sea. The sea is so dead now that no life can exist in it, and strange to say, the river Jordan is still emptying itself into this sea of death, and the Dead Sea is as dead now as it was two thousand years ago.
As I have studied this question I said again, “There is another picture of the American church. For the last fifty years, since the days of Dr. and Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, the great holiness movement, which is full of life and juice and fire and unction and glory, and has been fed by the sparkling waters from the river of life, with hundreds of thousands saved and sanctified at her altars — this wonderful movement has emptied herself into the nominal church, just as the river Jordan empties itself into the Dead Sea.
Though hundreds of thousands from the holiness movement have gone into the nominal church, the leaders themselves confess that the church is deader now than she was twenty-five years ago. And, beloved, if that is the case, don’t you see some marks of similarity between the river Jordan and the Dead Sea, and the holiness movement and the nominal church? Then we are made to wonder, Is there any hope? Will the river Jordan ever reform the Dead Sea? Will she ever bring her back to life? We must answer no! For although this beautiful river has flowed into this sea for thousands of years, there are still no signs of life. And while the holiness movement is still turning annually a flood of life and glory into the nominal church, Dead Sea-like, she opens her mouth and swallows them and they die just as dead as the institution.
Then we stop and ask again, “Is there any hope?” We will say, “Yes, when we look in another direction.” It is this, for all hands to go to work and cut a new channel for the river Jordan, and turn her course down some other beautiful valley, and let this sparkling, fresh water flow out over the great valleys of that land, and irrigate the good soil that is lying dead. Then you will see life and not death. And now the hope of the holiness movement is that the channels shall be cut, and that she may be turned into a new valley, that she may irrigate these great fields in America and bring forth fruit to the glory of God and the good of humanity. For we see as long as the river Jordan empties into the Dead Sea, there is no hope of life; and as long as the holiness movement empties itself into this great dead ecclesiastical body, it will just open its mouth, Dead Sea-like, and swallow up everything that has life; the thing it swallows will die just as dead as the thing that swallowed it
And this all proves to me that there is great need of a new movement in this land; that God’s holy people may unite in a great, progressive body to irrigate and fertilize and cultivate and spray and prune the great orchards that God is expecting us to plant out and cultivate. It can be done, and it ought to be done, and if we don’t do it we will be the eternal losers, in this world and in the world to come. And I am ready to say with Joshua of old, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
But what if you should hear the river Jordan say, “Oh, no, let’s not quit the old ship. Let us flow on into the Dead Sea; by and by we are going to reform the Dead Sea. Someday we will sit down on the banks of the Dead Sea and it will be alive with the beautiful black bass and rainbow trout and speckled perch and the buffalo and spotted rock.” Now who believes that the Dead Sea will ever turn out such material as that?
There is a picture that I have had hanging on the walls of my memory for several years. I want you to read it, and then sit down and think it over and see what God says to you, and see if you don’t think you had better throw your life and energy into the cutting of that new channel and trying to save the river Jordan from the hands of the Dead Sea. And I will meet you at the marriage supper of the Lamb, washed and robed, and ready for the feast. Amen!