Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people:
I. IN REALITY, NO SECTION OF GOD'S PEOPLE CAN LIVE AN ISOLATED LIFE. It would he vain for the Reubenites to dream that they could rest at ease under their vines and fig trees. The defeat of their brethren would recoil upon them, and should the Canaanites be victorious the Reubenites would quickly find themselves driven out of the land. And it is the same with the Church - each for all, and all for each; this is the Church's motto. Therefore it is that all should rally round the great standard of the army.
II. FOR ANY SECTION OF GOD'S PEOPLE TO ISOLATE THEMSELVES in their prosperity is not only the sure way to impoverish and ultimately to ruin themselves, but it is TREASON TO THE KING OF THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM; for it implies that the first object of desire is prosperity for themselves, not the glory of the King; that he is loved, not with a pure, but with a selfish love.
III. SUCH ISOLATION HARDENS THE HEART. It is a violation of the first law of the kingdom - the law of love. Its tendency is, as far as possible, to obliterate that law. It ignores the fact that we receive only to give again. Let us fully grasp, then, this great truth, that every blessing received is a trust placed in our hands only that we may diffuse it among our brethren. The applications of this great precept of Christian love are innumerable. Do we possess in large measure the good things of this world? It is that we may communicate to our less favoured brethren. Are we rich in spiritual gifts? It is that we may impart to those less privileged and of fewer opportunities than ourselves. And as we are indebted to the Church, so are we also to humanity, for are we not all one flesh? Hence the claim of missions, both at home and abroad, as a means of imparting the gifts of God already received by us to those who as yet are ignorant of them. Nor is this all. After having won the victory for ourselves, we have to begin the battle over again, and to suffer in sympathy with those who have yet the Jordan to cross. Let us never forget Him who left the blessedness of heaven to undertake our cause, and who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. - E. DE P.
I. THE FIRST FEELING EXCITED BY THE ANNOUNCEMENT MUST HAVE BEEN THAT OF JOY AND TRIUMPH. It was not alone on the contrast between its fountains and depths springing out of valleys and hills, and the arid desolation of the great howling wilderness, that the thoughts of the Hebrew rested, but on the contrast of its repose. The sorest trials of his life had not probably been the hunger and the thirst, the laborious journey and the tumult of the battle, but the ceaseless motion — the movement ever on and on. Rest, rest! rest anywhere, but, above all, in the land that flowed with milk and honey, must have been the innermost desire of his heart. Is not all this applicable to ourselves? It is not the great sorrows of our experience that constitute, after all, the weariness of life; but it is its change, its sense of uncertainty, the consciousness that we keep nothing, call nothing absolutely our own.
Within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan.I. WHAT THIS PAUSE MEANT. "Three days" is a recognised period in Scripture for death and resurrection. But there was another and deeper reason for the delay, which closely touches one of the greatest principles of the inner life. When Israel reached its banks, the Jordan was in flood, and overflowing the low-lying lands on either side of its bed. Across the river stood Jericho, embosomed in palms and tamarisks, in a very paradise of exquisite vegetation, its aromatic shrubs and gardens scenting the air. But as the people beheld it, all their cherished hopes of taking it by their own energy or courage must have been utterly dissipated. What could they do in face of that broad expanse of rushing, foaming, turbulent waters? Multitudes have come to the brink of that river, and have been left there, waiting on its banks, that they might consider the meaning of those impassable waters, and carry away the sentence of death in themselves. Abraham waited there for more than twenty years face to face with the apparent impossibility of ever having a son. David waited there for almost as long, and it must have seemed that the kingdom foretold to him as a youth lay on the other side of insurmountable difficulties. Many a saint since then has been brought down to these same banks, and has stood to witness these flowing streams. What though the promise of God has offered all manner of blessedness and delight! That river! That flooded, fordless, bridgeless, boatless river! Are you there now? Do not hasten from it. Stand still and consider it until the energy and impetuosity of your self-life lies down. You can never reach the blessed life by resolutions, or pledges, or forms of covenant; your good self is as powerless now as your bad self was formerly; you must learn that your strength is to sit still, and that the rich blessings of God stored in Christ for you are an absolute gift to be received by the outstretched hand of faith.
II. HOW THIS PAUSE WAS SPENT. During this space of three days events transpired which are both interesting and typical. Amongst other things Jericho was entered by the two spies.
1. Jericho may fitly stand for the world of men over which judgment is impending, but which goes on its way unheeding. Rahab, the poor outcast of Jericho, who had such strange faith in God, entered in with the people to possess the land that flowed with milk and honey. She is thus the type of Gentile-sinners who are permitted to share in the unsearchable riches of Christ, to sit with Him in the heavenlies, to form part of that new race which is gathering around the true Joshua, the Lord from heaven.
2. During this brief pause Joshua also had an opportunity of ascertaining the feelings of the two tribes and a half. Are not these the type of Christians to whom the land of promise is as freely open as to others, and who make an incursion into it with no thought of remaining? They are willing to meet and measure their strength with the seven nations of Canaan, but they are not prepared to abandon the strong facinations of the world, and to settle down to a life hidden with Christ in God. The end of such is but too clearly suggested by the fate of those Eastern tribes. They had their much grass, but they became gradually cut off from the corporate life of Israel. They gave few great names to the roll of saints and heroes emblazoned on Israel's story. They fell first beneath the invasions of Assyria, and were swept into captivity, from which they never returned.
III. HOW THE PAUSE ENDED. On the third day the hosts seem to have come nearer the river's brink, and their tents were pitched for the night within close proximity to the hurrying waters. It was then that Joshua said unto the people, "Sanctify yourselves," &c. From which it would seem that the wonder-working power of God is dependent upon the sanctification of His people. "Why art Thou as a mighty man that cannot save?" "He could do no mighty works there, because of their unbelief." We all want to see wonders wrought by God — in our own characters, that the fir-tree may replace the thorn and the myrtle the briar; in our homes, that the desert places may blossom with roses; in our Churches, that they may arise and put on their beautiful garments. Oh! for another Pentecost! Oh! to see converts fly as doves to their windows! And why is it that we strain our eyes for them in vain? Is it not because we have not sanctified ourselves? Sanctification means the cleansing of the soul, and the putting on of the white robes of purity and humility. We are not clean enough for God to use us. We are not humble enough to bear a great success.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
I. OBSERVE THE TENOR OF THIS NOTICE. Notice that there are three leading words in it: "prepare," "pass over," "possess." The first word that came to them was, "Prepare." Be in journeying order. The soldier carries his rations with him when he has to make a quick march: "Prepare you victuals." Children of God, be ready to go from this world. But inasmuch as he said, "Prepare you victuals" did he not mean "Begin to feed on food of that sort upon which you are henceforth to live"? The manna would cease in three days, and never fall again. After they crossed the Jordan, they would feed on the corn of the land. Feed on Christ, feed on spiritual food, feed on the pure truth of God's Word, and feed your souls on nothing else. Know the taste of what you eat, and let it be as clear and definite as that of butter and honey, that so you may steadily refuse the evil and choose the good. Joshua meant — Stand ready, for the time is getting very short. There is not long to wait. Soon you will have traversed the stream, and landed on the hither shore. How would you feel if you knew that within three days you must die? The exhortation given in ver. 13 is one which may be useful also to us: "Remember the word." It is a grand help for going over Jordan if we will remember the word of the Lord. Our faith enables us both to live and to die on the promise of God. But then he said also, "Sanctify yourselves" (Joshua 3:5). If we knew we were to die in three days, should we not wish to put our hearts, our thoughts, our families, into a better state? Since we may die suddenly, let us purify ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit. The next word was, "Pass over this Jordan." They were not called to linger on the brink, nor to sit with their feet in the stream, but to cross over it. Israel had been forty years in the wilderness, and surely that was long enough. He who hath served his God with all his heart will not wish to linger a moment after his life-work is done. You are not called to linger on the bed of sickness for ages, but to pass over to your rest. And notice, the call was not to go down into the Jordan to stop there. Blessed be God, we are not going down into the grave to be lost there; but we make use of it as an opened door to paradise. The third word was "possess." They were to pass the river to possess the land which God had given them. We possess nothing here. Those goods which we think we possess melt away like an icicle from a hot hand. But we have on the other side of Jordan treasures worth owning. By a covenant of salt, God has given us in Christ Jesus everlasting rest, triumph, happiness, glory.
II. OBSERVE THE SEQUEL OF THIS NOTICE, or what followed upon the summons. The first thing that happened to Israel was this, a singular faith was bestowed. I can hardly believe that the people under Joshua were the children of those unbelieving Jews whose caresses fell in the wilderness; for throughout the early chapters of Joshua it is recorded that they believed Joshua, whatever he said to them. He had strange and strong things to utter, but they did not doubt or demur. Now, when the children of God come to die, those of them who have been poor, trembling things before, receive new courage and unwonted strength, and even minister comfort to those who are stronger than themselves. It is brave to see how Mr. Ready-to-halt puts his crutches away when he is going over Jordan. Mr. Feeble-mind bids them bury his feeble mind in a dunghill, for it would be of no use to anybody. The Lord will give us more grace, and we shall wonder at ourselves that we could have been aforetime so distrustful. "At eventide it shall be light." Next, a special assurance was given: "To-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you" (Joshua 3:5). The Lord is always working marvels; but when we come to cross the Jordan we shall see His wonders in the deep. Next, note that the people had with them a conquering leader. Joshua was at their head, to encourage and direct them. When you and I shall pass over Jordan we shall have Jesus with us. He says, "Be of good cheer. Because I live, ye shall live also." But what next? The Israelites had a clear guidance afforded them (Joshua 3:4). You have been through many experiences, but to die will be a new one. Once for all, you must cross this Jordan, therefore the Divine presence shall go before you, and show you the way. Oh, yes, you shall have Divine direction when the darkness gathers about you! With Israel a forerunner led the way. So our great High Priest has tasted death for every man. Nor did the forerunner quit the scene, for the Divine presence remained. The priests went on till they came to the river-bed, and descended the hollow, going on to the very centre of it. There they stopped till all the host had passed over. The Lord Jesus will go before you as your great High Priest, your propitiation and your covenant; and He will abide with you in the last solemn article until you are safe landed on the shore of the land of promise. In consequence of the priests going down into the river the stream was dried up. Wonderful sight it must have been to behold the waters roll back, and stand in a congealed heap. Thus there was a broad passage-way for the multitudes of Israel to go marching through, and to effect the crossing rapidly. Suppose, when you come to die, the Jordan should turn out to be no river at all. What if you should go over dry-shod? Why should it not be so? Death is a pints prick to many. Death hath lost its terrors. "The sting of death is sin," and that is forgiven. "The strength of sin is the law," and that is fulfilled. The black waters have failed; we pass over Jordan dry-shod. Then notice, the people were very quick in crossing. Death is short work. After all, what is the act of death? "What!" cries one, "is there not a terrible amount of pain connected with death?" I answer, "No." It is life that has the pain; death is the finis of all pain. You blame death for a disease of which he is the cure. You imagine a thing called death which does not really exist. In the twinkling of an eye we shall be up and away! Therefore, because you will haste to pass over, you need not be alarmed at so short a trial, which will actually turn out to be no trial at all. We read in (Joshua 4:9) that the Israelites in traversing the Jordan left a memorial behind. You also will bear your testimony in departing: you will set up your memorial for your children after you, and they shall say, "Our father died in sure and certain hope of being with Jesus." Even if your death-bed should not be so bright as some, even its clouds may not be without their effect. A holy man had prayed much for his boys and girls, but never saw them converted, and this, with the troubles which grow out of their waywardness, made his last hours to be sadly clouded. But mark how the Lord wrought! They buried their father, and when they were met together, the eldest son turned to his brothers and remarked, "If our father, who was so good a man, was so troubled in death, what will become of us when we die?" This most reasonable remark was the means of the conversion of the brothers. I would like to die in the dark if it would bring all my people to the Saviour. Would not you? One thing more: they also raised a memorial on the other shore. They piled twelve stones upon each other in Canaan. You and I, when we get to heaven, shall take our memorials with us, and pile them up. We will make known to angels and principalities and powers the manifold wisdom and goodness of God to us in life and death.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
II. THERE MUST HAVE BLENDED WITH IT A GREAT TRIAL OF FAITH. The chosen land was indeed close at hand. It seemed as if they could almost touch the shore. Just beyond gleamed in the sunshine the towers of Jericho, and blue in the distance were the hills of Judaea. But, close as they seemed, Jordan rolled between, and they could not but ask how they were to cross it. What, then, of that other Jordan, which we all must cross? that death we must all die some time or other, and through which alone we can enter into our Canaan? Let us make sure that what awaits us beyond on the other shore is heaven, and not the darkness. With the act of dying we have nothing whatever to do. It is in God's hands, not ours, and there we must leave it. Has not the ark gone before?
III. AN ACT OF PREPARATION NEEDED: "Prepare you victuals." There is nothing actually corresponding to this in the experience of the Christian when he is called to cross into the better land. Special preparation for heaven, the Christian needs none. If he be in Christ, that is enough; he is safe. If he be a believer, he can have no less; and though he were the highest of saints that ever caught the light of the face of God, he could have no more than to be "found in Him, not having his own righteousness," &c. For myself I can conceive nothing more blessed than for a saint to pass at once from the midst of his work for his Master into the enjoyment of his Master's presence. Yet I admit that the near sight of so great a change could not but very solemnly affect us, were the warning given to ourselves. There would be an intense revival of faith and hope, and in that close sight of heaven a flinging away of all earthly and temporal ties.
(E. Garbett, M. A.)
(A. B. Mackay.)
(T. W. M. Lund, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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