Ye have not Passed This Way Heretofore
Joshua 3:2-8
And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;…

We are travelling onward, but the future is hidden from our eyes. We are not as those whose path lies across an extensive plain, and the boundary of whose vision is far away, but rather like those who are journeying in a deep valley, and who cannot see the storms that may be gathering behind the mountains. Our horizon is very limited. What Jordans we may have to cross we know not. But we have an ark, of which that which accompanied Israel is but a faint and feeble shadow — an ark that is a stronger pledge of God's faithfulness, a deeper manifestation of His love and power. The Christian's ark is Christ. Jesus journeys with him through all the wilderness into the land of promise. Every congregation is made up of a number of minds, no two of which would probably be found to be exactly alike. There are, indeed, many points of resemblance which ought not to be overlooked. But with all this resemblance there is much diversity. There is something peculiar to each mind, something in which it is unlike its fellows. Each has some peculiar adjustment of its natural powers; and this necessarily causes a peculiar and distinctive history. Just so far as our minds are similarly constituted, and we are infected with the same awful disease, and united to the same Saviour, and influenced by the same Spirit, we can sympathise with each other. Just so far as there is something distinctive in our minds, modifying our experiences, and stamping a peculiar character upon our history, will our path be lonely; and we shall feel that there is One only who "knoweth the way that we take." But He does know it, and adapts His dealings to our need. Some are comparatively free from trial, others are called to bear their yoke in their youth. Some are just reached by the wave — the spray only seems to reach them; others are immersed in its depths — the waves and billows pass over them. And the history of these last bears greater resemblance to the varied experience of Israel; and yet even concerning these, with whom God has already dealt so mysteriously, it may come true in the future, "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." There may be some who are already entering a way that is new and mysterious to them. There was perhaps a time when they felt no anxiety or alarm about the great subject of their acceptance with God, and when the pleasures and enjoyments of the world filled up their thoughts; but a new impression has been made upon their minds, and they are beginning to be sensible that there is a great purpose for which they have been created, and, alas! they have not yet fulfilled it. And thus, like St. Paul, they find the commandment to be "unto death." "The law worketh wrath." How can this Jordan, which separates them with its overflowing waters from the land of peace, be crossed? There is but one path across it, and that path is Christ. Jesus, the ark of our covenant, is gone before us. But there is another period in our lives of which the passage of Israel through Jordan is a more exact type. We must acknowledge that there is something extremely awful in such a conclusion to our earthly pilgrimage as death; and the real wonder is, not that there are some who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage, but that there are such multitudes to whose thoughts this solemn and mysterious event is scarcely ever present, and on whose minds it makes no lasting impression. It lies quite beyond the bounds of our present experience. We may perfectly realise all the circumstances of death up to the moment of the separation of the soul from the body — the weakness, weariness, and pain of sickness, the tenderness and love of relations and friends in watching over us, and in smoothing our dying pillow — because in all this we have past experience to go upon, and we have only to imagine an increase of that which we have already felt. But when we endeavour to advance a step beyond this, and to realise the mysterious separation of the soul from the body, the loosening and snapping asunder of that invisible bond which unites them, we feel that we have stepped into a new region. Our past experiences fail us; and after trying much to realise it, we cannot but feel, "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." And yet both the unknown mystery of death and its loneliness have been fully provided for in Him who "through death destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil." For Jesus, the ark of our covenant, has gone down before us into Jordan. The dark stream of Jordan manifests His power and reflects His light. And thus the loneliness of death is overcome. But let us not forget that it is presumptuous to expect this blessed hope and confidence to arise in our hearts in the immediate prospect of death if we are neglecting and slighting the ark of our covenant at this moment. The symbol of God's presence did not meet the Israelites for the first time at the brink of Jordan, but accompanied them throughout all their journey in the wilderness. Let us take heed, then, to the impressive words, "Sanctify yourselves." As we have been "set apart" for God in our unconscious infancy, let us set ourselves apart for Him through faith in Christ in our conscious manhood. Let us dedicate ourselves to Him wholly, unreservedly, body, soul, and spirit.

(G. Wagner.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;

WEB: It happened after three days, that the officers went through the midst of the camp;

Untrodden Ways
Top of Page
Top of Page