"Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,
I. THE CRISES OF LIFE. - Our life is built up of acts, every one of them important. They, made by our character, react on our character and make it. And in the sense that it contributes to an enduring result in character, no act is little. But there are times specially solemn in our life, when the roads which invite us diverge at a large angle, and are such that each step we take on the one makes return to the other more difficult. And if a man is made by his ordinary acts, much more is he made by his crisis acts. If a nation's character is moulded by its acts, much more by its crisis acts. Here there is a crisis reached in Israel's history very analogous to the first great crisis, when they passed the Red Sea. Shall they or shall they not commit then selves to the struggle with the seven nations of Canaan - some with what seemed impregnable fastnesses, some with chariots of iron, some conspicuous for gigantic stature? Jordan accentuates the question. To cross it is to commit themselves to a course condemned by ten out of twelve of the spies sent out forty years before, is to hazard everything on the chance of battle, is to have no retreat, is to win or lose all things. It was a crisis on which their national future hung. It needed crisis virtue. Let them hang back and their enthusiasm would evaporate, their unity break up; they would fall off into a number of nomadic tribes, and probably degenerate into a people like the Ishmaelites, without any of that consecutive progress and self-contained strength that constitutes a history. Let them go forward, and to remotest ages and countries mankind is blessed by the national history that takes a forward stride and reaches a stouter solidity by their new departure. Happily, they had crisis virtue; at least, a sufficient amount of faith to let them venture - to make them obedient to faithful leaders, and united in their purpose to obey the guidance of their God. And meeting the crisis, they accepted its duty, with results of perpetual usefulness, and left us a testimony as to the solemnity of all such junctures and the blessedness of meeting them aright. The kind of juncture that comes to us you will recognise from your own experience. They vary in their kind, but all have this in common, that they summon a man to some higher duty, some better life, some bolder enterprise, and put before him "an open door;" that to decline them is to degenerate into a poorer character and more sordid life, while to accept them is to rise to "newness of life." Their variety, indeed, is striking. Sometimes it is a great mercy that comes to a man, meant to wake him to a sense of the fatherliness of God, and to win him by the gentle constraints of gratitude to filial duty; to cure grumbling or to destroy despair. If he meets this crisis well, he passes to a higher level of gentler, kinder, gracious thoughts and purposes; and a sense of debtorship to man and an overflowing gratitude to God are the abiding results of the crisis of a great mercy. Sometimes the crisis is the revelation of a duty. Some sudden turn in our experience devolves on us a duty hitherto discharged by others; or some new duty arising from a fresh contingency. It may be a duty of Christian mercy to some overtaken in calamity. It may be that a slumbering conscience or an indolent mind has been awaked to the discernment of God's requirements. It may be that with some growth of years or development of thought and feeling we see we owe some duty to our Saviour and our fellow men hitherto not due from us or not known to us. This is a crisis not to be overlooked. Hitherto there was comparative unimportance in the neglect of this duty. It was a" time of ignorance God winked at." But to neglect it now, when it stands out eminent and clear, would be to cast off the Divine Master, and to be guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord that bought us; while to do this would strengthen the bond that binds you to God and man, would result in enlargement of heart, ennoblement of purpose, strengthening of conscience, and enjoyment of peace. Sometimes the crisis is a temptation, pressing on the spirit on every side, and by guile, clamor, terrors, and allurements compelling its divergence from the path of duty. I need not enumerate other kinds of crises. Let me only urge that, in whatever way the crisis come, we meet it manfully. When you come to Jordan see that you cross over it. God will not fail you if you do not fail yourself.
II. I ask you to observe, secondly, THE CREED FOR A CRISIS. It is given us here: one of those beautiful instances of faith in which noble hearts find at once their expression and their sustenance. Here is one couched in a name of God. Here are two significant titles, neither of them in common use previously: He calls God "the living God," and "the God of the whole earth." Once only is the former of these names retold in Scripture before this use of it, and the other is not found in use until long after. They are, therefore, not traditional words a parrot might have used, but great original words which register the truth Joshua had conquered for himself. And if we would meet our crisis, when it comes, as nobly and grandly as Joshua met his, we must try and get his creed of two articles.
1. We must believe God is the living God, for all do not believe that; not that they would formulate the idea that on such a day God died, and has not been heard of since. But the general feeling is, He is as good as dead. A distant God, without living eye to mark our necessities, without living hand to help us, without a living heart to feel for our distresses. And if Joshua had been of that creed there would have probably been no passage of the Jordan, and no victory of Jericho, and no conquest of the land. But by the ever extending obedience or experiences of his life he had learned this mighty secret - that God is alive, is here, gives their bias to all events, can hear a prayer, can save a soul, can cleave a passage through sea or river.
2. And the second was like to it. He deemed God "the Lord of all the earth." No local deity, like those heathen deities whose sovereignty was often as limited as a German duchy; no limited being; but master of all powers of nature, master of all tribes of men, with the government upon His shoulder of all things; able to open a path where all passage seemed denied; so that his and Israel's future would not depend on their own wisdom, strength, or fortunes, but would depend supremely on. the favour of God. Aye, and that is the sort of creed which we all need for the crises we have to face. God living and reigning; earth alive with His presence and His work; all events dependent on His will. Oh, let us catch from heroic souls at least their creed. Their faith, which works such wonders, must be the true faith. God IS living, His heart is alive with tenderness. He is not the great grave into which all things fall, but the great fount of life from which all things live. So alive that He could become incarnate and take infinite trouble to redeem us. So alive He is here today, ready to help us. If you suspect the creed of priests, here is a layman, a soldier, a hero; this is the first article of His creed. Have you that creed? If not, pray for a large enough heart to hold it. And especially if you are in any crisis of your life; for if in any crisis of our life we assume in our despair that, so far as we are concerned, God is dead, or unable to control the elements of nature, the fair results of all opportunity are lost because it passes unused. If you have come to Jordan, cross over it; and if you want strength to do it, find it in this creed: God is the living God, and the Lord of all the earth. And observe lastly -
III. CRISIS GRACE comes wherever there is crisis faith and obedience. It is a strange story, in its circumstantiality, that of the dividing of the Jordan. The baring of the bed of the river, the water gathering for thirty miles up by the sudden arrestment of its flow into a lake like Loch Lomond in size and form, while below the point of transit it flows away as if its career was ended. There is interest in all explanations that are suggested; in that, for instance, which, combining the destruction of the walls of Jericho with this dividing of the river, and both with the numerous traces of volcanic action in the neighbourhood, and demonstrable changes in the river bed, sees here the action of an earthquake, upheaving the bed, and thus for a day or so making of all the deep valley of the Jordan above it a temporary lake. But there is more importance in our marking the fact and its lessons than in our being able to explain the mode. Does Joshua believe God to be the living God? "According to his faith it is Him." And with all Divine energy of love He comes nigh to help them that trust in Him, laws of nature and forces of nature notwithstanding. Such faith never goes dishonoured; and we ought to mark it for our comfort in life. God is not dead; lie is living still, as fresh for working miracles as when He divided Jordan, and as sure to open up our way, and to lend supernatural aid to simple faith, as when Israel halted before Jordan. Our hope must not be limited within the sphere of what is obviously possible according to laws of nature. I should think God never in any miracle broke the usual laws, but only employed unusual forces. And He does the impossible still - making weakness strong, despair victorious; healing the sick, saving the lost, giving victory and success. The supernatural is not contranatural, but blends kindly with nature; and whenever in the crises of our life there is the obedience which honours God and the faith that trusts Him, there is specifically supernatural help and grace making the grandest deliverance and achievements possible. Our lives might be perpetual miracles, and every day behold the impossible achieved, and the insurmountable surmounted with blessed ease. Is there some stern crisis on you now? Do not faint. There is crisis grace for all who have faith enough to admit and act on it. Let it in, and even though Jordan be at the flood you will pass over as on dry land. - G.
Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among youExodus 15:8).
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The ark of
(E. Smith, B. A.)
As soon as the soles of the feet... shall rest in the waters of Jordan.
(S. F. Smiley.)
1. Such Divine help comes in difficult duty. Though duty be difficult, when we go forth toward it, as God has ordered, and in faith in His promise, we may be certain somehow His help will meet us.
2. Such Divine help comes scattering foreboded inability, e.g., the women going to the sepulchre, asking, anxiously, "Who shall roll away the stone?" but going on and finding it rolled away (Mark 16:1-4).
3. Such Divine help will come in death. See what Mr. Greatheart says of Mr. Fearing in the second part of "Pilgrim's Progress." The whole passage is most exquisite.
4. Such Divine help will also come in conversion. There is that Jordan of belief in Jesus — of the absolute commitment of the self to Him which we must pass before we can enter the Canaan of forgiveness, and God's favour, and the noble life. Now go on toward it. Cross it. But you have no feeling, you say; that is not to the matter. But you do not know such feeling as other people say they have; that is not to the matter. But you do not understand how it can be; you need not; that is not to the matter. But you are not fit to make the crossing; you never will be fitter; that is not to the matter. This is enough. God tells you to go forth, along His way in faith of His promise; and when your feet but touch the brim of a perfect self-surrender, you are His, you are Christian. His forgiveness falls, you have passed into the Canaan of the new life.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)1 Samuel 4:3). To the men standing on the brink of the swollen Jordan, however, the ark was not a charm, a power, but only the representative of a power. Their own faith earned them miraculous passage, and not the little acacia chest; and they felt it so. There is danger of our coming to use the holy things of our religion more as the Israelites used the ark at Ebenezer than as they used it at the river. We easily fall into a way of attributing Divine potency to rites and ceremonies, prayers, sanctuaries, and ordinances, forgetting that these things are only types, significant as types, but not as forces — that the power of Christianity is not in the rites, but in the faith only that uses them. A symbol is a dangerous thing: the Hebrews learned that lesson at Ebenezer. A symbol is a precious thing: the Hebrews learned that lesson at the Jordan-crossing.
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D. (A. F. Schauffler, D. D.) The Jordan Memorial Stone 'The Waters Saw Thee; they were Afraid' Gilgal, in Deuteronomy 11:30 what the Place Was. The Country of Jericho, and the Situation of the City. The Holy War, Joshua
(A. F. Schauffler, D. D.)
The Jordan Memorial Stone
'The Waters Saw Thee; they were Afraid'
Gilgal, in Deuteronomy 11:30 what the Place Was.
The Country of Jericho, and the Situation of the City.
The Holy War,