Joshua 3:12

The lessons of importance are not exhausted in those already suggested in this passage of the Jordan. A deed so great, so solemn, so vast in its results, has many sides, and many subordinate points of interest. I gather up in this second homily a few of those points of interest and instruction. And first observe -

I. THE SIGN OF GOD'S PRESENCE WITH ISRAEL IS TEMPORARY, BUT THE PRESENCE ITSELF IS PERMANENT. This lesson arises at once from the fact that the pillar of cloud which hitherto had led them does not precede them now. To its guidance hitherto they had marched, and under its shadow rested. And the sign of God's presence had been a sweet assurance and a constant augury of success. Now it disappears altogether from the history of Israel. They will cross Jordan under the guidance of the ark, and of that alone. God's presence remains with them, but the sign of it is withdrawn. There were doubtless many who regarded such a loss as an omen of sinister significance; and many who, mixing devotion and superstition, would deplore that when the great crisis of the enterprise was come, their usual assurance of God's presence failed them. But there were some that had looked net to but through the sign, and built their hopes on the living God. And they, Joshua leading them, trusting in the love and faithfulness which they felt must be His character, were ready to venture without their sign. And venturing, they found God there, though the cloud of His presence had been withdrawn, and they got a notable lesson in walking by faith rather than by sight. We need few lessons more than this: That God's presence or absence is not to be concluded from the presence or absence of the sign of it. We are all Jewish enough to "require a sign." We want some assurance of acceptance over and beyond what gospel words convey. We want some "leading of Providence" in addition to the sense of duty before we feel comfortable in starting on any course. Raptures, mystic whisperings of God's consolation, special experiences not granted to others - these are apt in the regard of all of us to assume too much importance. We are apt to make the same mistake concerning these which some in Israel doubtless made concerning the pillar of cloud and fire; namely, to imagine them a special crown, a testimony to our unusual sanctity, instead of a gracious condescension to our weaknesses and to the fears which mark our setting out on a pilgrimage. Just escaping from slavery, Israel needed signs; now, maturer in experience and stronger in faith, the signs are no longer needed. Probably. in all cases it will be found that signs belong to the earlier stages of the experience either of the community or the individual. When experience and faith are strong, they are withdrawn. Put not a dark construction on any mere want of signs, for while the sign of the presence is temporary, the presence itself is permanent with all God's people. Growing out of this a second lesson suggests itself, viz.:

II. THEY ARE WELL LED WHO ARE ARK LED. Israel no longer had the pillar of cloud and fire, but they had the ark of God, and, as the event proved, the ark led them just as wisely as the pillar; and in following it they found just the same help of miraculous power. What was this ark of the covenant? A wonderful piece of sacred symbolism. Over it - in fact, forming the lid of it - was what was named the mercy seat, God's earthly throne. Within it were the ten commandments, written on two tables of stone. This combination of symbols of law and mercy belonged to no religion but that of Israel. The gods of other nations required but little duty, and were hardly expected to show mercy. But the symbolism of the ark and the whole Mosaic economy projected these thoughts before the minds of Israel: The true God is a God of mercy. But at the same time He insists on duty. The ark proclaimed Him the God of mercy and of law; of gracious promise, of ennobling precept; delivering men by the grace He gave, dignifying them by the duty He exacted. This was the God of Israel. And now, in lieu of signs, the symbol of mercy and of duty was to lead the way. Not eagles, symbols of victorious power, but tables of stone led them, and "marshalled them the way that they were going." And their successful following of this lead suggests that when any one marches to the lead of the ten commandments, or of the promises of God, he is as well led and as grandly succoured as when some cloudy pillar moves before him. There is importance in this. Often our signs are withdrawn; as with the community of Israel so with us, it is probably the case that signs grow fewer and that special experiences grow more rare as character matures. Then comes a time, more or less clearly definite, when, instead of mysterious movings felt to be Divine, the guidance of the Lord is given, through a testimony of mercy and of duty. Before you goes the symbol of heavenly love and of earthly duty. And you have to march, coldly as it may seem, to the lead of tables of stone and verbal assurances only of God's care. Murmur not at this; a hope and a duty are guides sublime. The ark is just as good as the cloud. If you had the choice of an enlightened conscience or a special angel to be your guide, you would do wisely to choose the conscience in preference to the angel. You may mistake the reading of your signs - you rarely will your duty. Next to His redeeming grace, the richest mercy He gives us is a "word behind us," or within us, "saying, this is the way, walk ye in it." And the grandest spirits of mankind - in their pilgrimage from victory to victory - have marched under the lead of nothing grander than some ark, something that whispered hope and demanded duty. Thus led, did Israel lose? Nay, as before the cloudy pillar the sea divided, so before the sacred ark did Jordan. If you have something like what the ark embodied - a promise and a precept - ask no more; where the tables of the covenant lead you, there follow. Few get more, and none get anything better, than these. God guides through enlightenment of conscience, or Bible precept, or the devout example which you instinctively perceive is a pattern to be followed. Seek not any sign; God's presence will ever be with all those that keep His precepts. If the ark of God, as replacing the pillar of cloud, has such suggestions, observe thirdly -

III. GOD'S HYDRAULICS ARE NEVER FAULTY. In the West of England just now there is considerable discussion about" dockising" the river Avon, i.e., so throwing a dam across the mouth that all the river up to Bristol would be converted into one huge dock. And in the discussion the strength of such a dam, its cost, its leakage, the right place for it, how to provide for the outlet of all water above a certain level, are canvassed by all. Here we have the "dockising" for a day or two of the river Jordan, a very much larger river than the Avon, one whose very name suggests the swiftness of its current. And the dam that effects this great collection of the waters is "the ark of God," set down in the midst of the Jordan bed, with the priests grouped on either side. How would the philosophers of that day criticise that dam, and express with assumed anxiety their fears that the law of gravitation and the law that governs the flow of liquids would prove too much for the legs of the priests, and even for the weight of the tables of stone. But whatever fear might be entertained by the people before the ark entered Jordan, and whatever misgivings by the priests when they were standing in its pebbly bed, there was a power which operated from that ark which dammed the fiver as no engineer could have done it. So that instead of reading of struggling with the water, of multitudes carried down the stream, of hairbreadth escapes, of multitudes left behind, all got safely across. And here, I think, we have a specimen of what is everywhere to be seen; the efficiency of spiritual barriers against all assailing forces. We see them on all hands; we dread lest they be overborne by some strong current bearing down against them. But lo! they stand against all force that threatens them. God's truth is such a barrier. With error like a huge river rushing down upon it, it seems as slender and insufficient as was the barrier of the ark. Science is so arrogant and captious, chronology so sure, metaphysics so disputatious, error so agreeable to the natural man, that it seems as if there could be no standing. But the Jordan of all the philosophies and all the heresies threaten in vain, and God's ark of truth is sufficient to withstand them. God's grace in the heart is such a dam; nothing seemingly more feeble, nothing really more strong, against the swelling tides of inward corruption and outward temptation that assail the character. Sometimes prayer shields a distant boy, an erring friend, and protects them with a guard as really omnipotent as it appears feeble. Judge not by the outward appearance. The clock is not about to go backward, nor error usurp the place of truth. Don't tremble for the ark of God, as did Eli. Whatever God wants guarded, it is omnipotent to guard. So that, amongst other lessons, this sweet one comes to us that we are guarded better than we think. And what seems God's weakness is mightier than the strongest strength which can come against us. - G.

Joshua rose early in the morning.
Why does Joshua rise early in the morning? He has important and responsible duties to discharge during the day, and this may be one reason. Perhaps this has been his habit during a long succession of years, and now it is as easy and natural to him as breathing. Much has been said by some in favour of early rising, and it has been the practice of many distinguished men. Franklin wrote these words, "The morning has gold in its mouth. Dean Swift declared that he never knew any man come to greatness and eminence who lay in bed of a morning." Doddridge, Barnes, Wesley, Judge Hale, and others we could name, always rose before five o'clock in the morning. As we look upon these sayings, and consider these examples, should we affirm that early rising is the imperative duty of every man? There are certain persons who live to do evil, only evil, and that continually. The longer they remain in bed the better it will be for themselves and others. There are some Who live a life of sheer indolence. Since their sleeping and waking hours are equal, so far as others are concerned, it is of no importance when they rise. In these times, too, when day is turned into night, there are multitudes, especially in our large cities and towns, who cannot go to rest till a late hour, and to whom early rising is therefore a physical impossibility. Besides, no hard and fast line can be drawn regarding measures of sleep, because some require more than others. We believe it would be highly beneficial to the bodies, the minds, and the souls of all, if the old custom — "early to bed and early to rise" — were constantly observed. Let every individual, however, endeavour to discharge every duty which is legitimately imposed upon him; and whether this is done by day or by night, he will fill up the outline of work which God gives to him, and find acceptance in His sight.

(A. McAuslane.)

They removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan.
is the strong word that gathers up the teaching of the chapter.

1. The advance was from a notable past. "Finis" had been written to the first volume of the history of Israel; bondage its preface, vengeance its introduction, mercy its continual illumination. Sin had made their forty years a wilderness, in which they wandered from one oasis to another of heavenly grace set as with palm-trees and wells of water. And the present was rich and satisfying. Eastern Palestine was overflowing with honey and oil and milk. The stately oaks of Bashan, its sheep and goats and mighty bulls waiting to be herded among their riches, its abundant pasturage and countless watercourses, quite outrivaled the land beyond the river. Here they were already in possession; while beyond, fenced cities and disciplined troops forewarned of hardship and blood. This new volume opened to-day will show no such lavishness of miraculous helps. Still the word is "Advance." If the leader is less, the people are more. If miracles and interventions are fewer, courage and skill and power are greater. God's helps are transferred from without to within the hearts of men. He works best for them by working through them.

2. The advance was a long step toward their destiny. God's purposes never turn back. His plan demanded the transfer of the people across the Jordan. Just because Eastern Palestine was broader and richer, they must go over. Their national growth and mission demanded a new type of life. Israel must set his feet by the shore of the great sea, and dwell upon the roads traversed by caravans and armies. Then Alexandria can supply its spiritual philosophy, Greece its culture and language, Rome its law and wide sway, to aid in recording and extending the gospel. Physical geography is potent in civilisation.

3. Advance requires spiritual preparation. It is not first for the sake of earthly reward. An eternal purpose, a holy destiny rules the progress. Before each Jordan is crossed, the people must be sanctified, the leader empowered. The past was no dead past to bury its dead, but was to live in remembrance of deliverance granted and mercies showered, of disastrous and destructive sins.

(C. M. Southgate.)

Adam, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashite, Girgashites, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Israelites, Jebusites, Joshua, Levites, Perizzites
Adam, Jericho, Jordan River, Salt Sea, Sea of the Arabah, Shittim, Zarethan
Tribe, Tribes, Twelve, Yourselves
1. Joshua come to Jordan
2. The officers instruct the people for their passage
7. The Lord encourages Joshua
9. Joshua encourages the people
14. The water of Jordan are divided

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Joshua 3:12

     1654   numbers, 11-99

Joshua 3:1-17

     4819   dryness

Joshua 3:5-13

     8021   faith, nature of

Joshua 3:9-13

     8112   certainty

Joshua 3:10-13

     8105   assurance, basis of

'The Waters Saw Thee; they were Afraid'
'And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. 6. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people. 7. And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. 8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Meeting Hereafter.
Funeral Service. Joshua iii. 17. "And the priests that bare the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan." INTRODUCTION.--That must have been a striking sight! The whole of God's people passing over Jordan. On one side, on that of the Wilderness, a crowd pressing down, and going into the deep river bed, on the other, those who had traversed, rising out of
S. Baring-Gould—The Village Pulpit, Volume II. Trinity to Advent

Adam and Zaretan, Joshua 3
I suspect a double error in some maps, while they place these two towns in Perea; much more, while they place them at so little a distance. We do not deny, indeed, that the city Adam was in Perea; but Zaretan was not so. Of Adam is mention, Joshua 3:16; where discourse is had of the cutting-off, or cutting in two, the waters of Jordan, that they might afford a passage to Israel; The waters rose up upon a heap afar off in Adam. For the textual reading "In Adam," the marginal hath "From Adam." You
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica

The New Leaders Commission
'Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2. Moses My servant is dead: now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates,
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Charge to the Soldier of the Lord
'Only be then strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded thee... that thou mayest prosper wheresoever thou goest. 8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shall meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.'--JOSHUA i. 7,8. This is the central portion of the
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Stones Crying Out
'For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over. 11. And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the Lord passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people. 12. And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Some Miscellaneous Matters Belonging to the Country About Jericho.
Let us begin from the last encampings of Israel beyond Jordan. Numbers 33:49: "They encamped near Jordan from Beth-jeshimoth unto Abel-shittim."--"From Beth-jeshimoth to Abel-shittim were twelve miles." It is a most received opinion among the Jews, that the tents of the Israelites in the wilderness contained a square of twelve miles. So the Targum of Jonathan, upon Number 2:2; "The encamping of Israel was twelve miles in length, and twelve miles in breadth." And the Gemarists say, "It is forbidden
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica

The book of Joshua is the natural complement of the Pentateuch. Moses is dead, but the people are on the verge of the promised land, and the story of early Israel would be incomplete, did it not record the conquest of that land and her establishment upon it. The divine purpose moves restlessly on, until it is accomplished; so "after the death of Moses, Jehovah spake to Joshua," i. 1. The book falls naturally into three divisions: (a) the conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (b) the settlement of the
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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