THE CALL TO WAR, AND THE RESPONSE
Jos . And it came to pass after—Vayehi achrea.] The conjunction indicates that the history is a continuation of Deuteronomy. This suggests that Joshua was probably the writer of the last chap. of Deut. He takes up and carries on his own record from the point where he left off recounting the death, burial, and character of Moses. After the death] Including the thirty days' mourning,—Deu 34:8. Moses' minister] Not the servant, but "the adjutant," chief helper. The Seventy translate τῷ ὑπουργῷ. The formal appointment is reported, Num 27:15-23.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos
THE WAY OF GOD IN HIS PURPOSES
The Divine purpose was to bring the children of Israel onward into Canaan. Moses was just dead; Joshua is here called to succeed him. This juncture gives us interesting light on the plans of God, and man's relation to their fulfilment.
I. God's plans are not dependent on men. When Moses dies, He has Joshua ready. The halt in the plains of Moab has in it nothing of hesitancy, but merely sufficient of decency. There is no halting in God's purpose till another leader can be found. Joshua was prepared in his own mind and consciousness. Past counsel with Moses had made him familiar with God's way and will. Past victories had given him confidence in God. Past communications from God had pointed to his leadership. Thus, forty years before, "Rehearse it in the ears of Joshua." (Exo .) Joshua was equally prepared in the minds of the people. They had seen God giving him victory over Amalek at Rephidim. They had seen him honouring God when the multitude were disobedient. He had no part in the folly of Aaron and the people at Sinai. (Cf. Exo 32:17.) Caleb and he had stilled the murmurs which followed the report of the spies. They had seen him openly honoured by Moses. (Deu 31:7-8.) They had seen him thus honoured by God. (Num 27:18-23; Deu 31:14-15.) Thus there could be no question, with either Joshua or the people, who was to succeed Moses. The work never halted. From this promptitude of Providence learn—
1. That no man is necessary to God.
2. That the work of the godly man is not suffered to collapse. Such workers are not like children in the winter, engaged in making mere snow men, which the first sun shall melt away for ever. He who labours within the scheme of God's purpose, necessarily works for immortality.
3. A succession of able men, in Divine works, is a token of God's continued interest in and presence with a people.
II. God's plans are, sometimes, BEST ADVANCED by the removal of men who have been eminently useful. Moses was not to enter the promised land, and no advance could be made while he lived as leader. He thus barred the way. In addition to this, Moses was not the man for the future. He had been the best of men for the past. Moses was best to stand before Pharaoh; Joshua before the Canaanites. Moses was fittest for the sea and the wilderness; Joshua for the fortified cities. Moses was the right man to lead the people out from slavery in Egypt; Joshua was the best to organise them into civilised life. Moses had, indeed, shewn neglect as to organisation when in the wilderness; Jethro had supplied a deficiency in his management.
1. To die in the midst of work is not to have lived in vain. You make way for others.
2. The mistakes of our lives are not less harmful because God uses our work generally. Meribah was still a blunder and a sin.
III. God's plan sometimes shews the inferior man succeeding where the more eminent man has failed. "The Lord spake to Moses' minister, Moses is dead, now therefore arise, go over," etc. We do not know what or who is most helpful to success. We often fail to discern success when it does come. Winter is as much a success as spring. The frost and the sun are alike God's prophets to the vegetable world. The night is as much inspired to preach as the day, and it too has blessing. In a world of sin, it may be that disease is more successful than health.
1. Work on, whoever you are. You may not be as Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and trained for forty years at the back of the desert. You may be only as Joshua, who was simply a liberated slave, with "good parts" about him. Work on, for you may succeed where better men fail.
2. But let not him who happens to be working in the hour of success forget the labour of his predecessors. Joshua's work was simply the harvesting; the tilling and sowing and weeding had been arduously completed by Moses.
IV. The fruit of God's plans, though developed very humanly and naturally, IS STILL A GIFT. "The land which I do give." The corn may be the natural result of cultivation, yet it is the gift of "the Lord of the harvest."
V. God's plan and its issues have their HIGHEST RELATION not to one man, or two, but to men at large. "Which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel." This is no mere question of Moses versus Joshua. The land is for Israel; God's gift to the nation. The honour of Moses, and the prestige of Joshua, are, comparatively, small things. God's great idea is gifts and blessings for the people. Nor should we read this even as a question of Israel versus Canaan. It was for the good of men generally that Israel should enter in. It was for the welfare of the generations to come that these idolatrous Canaanites should be rooted out. This nucleus of idolatry must be broken up and scattered, for the sake of the future world. A nation worshipping God, and making way for the Saviour, must be planted here instead. Such is the plan of the Gospel. It is for no caste of bishops or priests. Individuals and classes are mere items in the great account of humanity. It is for no denominations, as such. The Gospel is "Peace on earth, and good will towards men." Oh for the day when men will take larger views of the love of God! Amid the profound mysteries of one elect nation we have revealed in exceeding clearness the Gospel-spirit of God's love to the whole human race.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Jos . Instead of looking at the passage in its connection with both Moses and Joshua, it may be taken in relation to the call of the latter only, shewing thus Jehovah's selection of human instruments.
I. God's choice of men for His service has regard to temperament and disposition. Joshua's military instincts (Exo ); his boldness and firmness; his unselfishness (chap. Jos 19:49-50); his power of personal influence (chap. Jos 24:31).
II. God's choice has regard to previous training. Joshua had been for forty years a responsible leader and ruler (Exo ; Num 13:2-3; Num 13:8).
III. God's choice has regard to past character. Joshua had been zealous for God's honour. He had shewn holy faith. He and Caleb had stood alone confronting the people. Milton's Abdiel—"Among the faithless." Bk. V.
IV. God's choice has regard to the work to be accomplished. To eject the Canaanites, a soldier was needed. For the Pentecostal sermon, impetuous Peter is chosen; for the great mission in Asia Minor and Southern Europe, ardent Paul; for the testimony on the plain of Dura, the three inflexible Hebrews; for winning the favour of Artaxerxes, the devout, yet courtly Nehemiah. The man and the emergency must correspond. Omnipotence never chooses to waste itself on human awkwardness. God cements things that fit. The man who is inapt has need to pray for the Divine training of himself ere he can expect the Divine blessing on his work.
1. Whom the Lord calls He also qualifies.
2. Where He entrusts men with authority, He procures them respect.
3. Where He sends them into conflict, He secures them victory.
4. Where he gives them victory, He intends them to take possession.
1. He that was here called to honour had been long bred to business. Our Lord Jesus Himself took upon Him the form of a servant, and then God highly exalted Him.
2. Those are fittest to rule that have learnt to obey.
3. He that was to succeed Moses was intimately acquainted with him."
"Well doth Joshua succeed Moses. The very acts of God of old were allegories. Where the law ends, there the Saviour begins. We may see the land of promise in the law: only Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament, can bring us into it." [Bp. Hall.]
Jos . Every place that the sole] Every place against which your faith and courage lead you to go up, shall be yours. Your inheritance in the land shall have no limits but those set by your own unbelief and fears. As far as you will tread, you shall possess.
Jos . Be strong and firm—(Schroeder)] "The words signify not firmness and strength in general, but the strength in the hands and the firmness in the knees, Isa 35:3, cf. Heb 12:12-13" (J. H. Michaelis).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos
"SERVING THE LORD"
In the service of God—
I. There is no honour without work. Joshua is placed at the head of the host, not merely to be a chief, but a leader. "Every place" must be won. Israel must go up against each. The sole of the foot must tread, and that often in the tramp of battle, wherever the people would inherit. And the man who is at their head must lead them to the war. He, too, must divide the inheritance for them. Not least, he must "meditate day and night" in the law; for how shall he secure obedience if he be ignorant of that which is to be obeyed? Leading in such a case means arduous toil, perpetual care, ceaseless interest, and unrest. There can be no honour in the mere position. Idleness there would be simply exalted shame and prominent disgrace. It is always thus. The height of our position is the measure either of our honour or dishonour, according to the work done. High position is vantage ground for work, not rest. It is so socially, ecclesiastically, mentally, and even morally. He who climbs high in order to lie down, only exposes his slothfulness. He may lie more quietly in altitudes which the din of honest labour does not reach; for all that, he is simply a conspicuous sluggard.
II. There is no work without encouragement. The whole passage is emphatic with promise. Wherever God gives arduous duties. He supplies bright hopes. Probably there is no position in which humanity ever stood, saving that of impenitence and persistent sin, which has not its own specific illumination in the Scripture promises. The day has its sun, the night its moon and stars, and even the arctic zone its aurora borealis. God's love has beams of light strong enough to reach every spot in that part of the sphere of moral being where His name is had in reverence. Scripture has light for the darkness of penitence, of labour, of suffering in all its forms, of bereavement, and of death.
1. Our gloom and darkness are not essentials of life. He who supposes they are must begin by assuming the light of Divine encouragement to be insufficient.
2. Our gloom and darkness are not desirable. They cannot be; God has sought to remove them in every form.
3. Our gloom and darkness are of our own choosing. Our Heavenly Father has provided light for all who seek light, and invites all to walk therein.
4. Our gloom and darkness are harmful and sinful. They prevent our work, discourage others, shew our neglect of the Bible, or they shew that reading and meditating we do not believe.
III. There is no encouragement apart from obedience. (Jos ; Jos 1:9.) In the sphere of moral life wicked men always walk opposite to the Sun of righteousness, and thus are ever in the night. In order to be strong for conflict, Joshua is to be strong in the comfort of hope; in order to be strong in hope, he is to be strong in obedience.
1. He who disobeys the precepts has no right to the promises. It is as though a child should steadfastly ignore his father's wishes, and then presume upon his unrestrained gifts and his undiminished love.
2. He who disobeys the precepts lacks the spirit which alone can use the promises. Lax obedience shews lax faith, and promise yields its value only to trust. Lax obedience shews lax interest, and no man can really delight where he is careless.
IV. There can be no sufficient obedience without meditation. (Jos .) We are responsible, not only to do what we know, but to know what there is to be known. The ambassador who refused to open the despatches of his government would plead ignorance in vain. When Nelson shut his eye against his admiral's signal, he was none the less guilty of disobedience. Men may neglect to read the Scriptures, and then say, "I knew not that I transgressed," but the very ignorance which they plead is an aggravated form of guilt. God complains of Ephraim, "I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing."
V. There can be no satisfactory meditation which does not centre in God Himself. (Jos .) "Have not I commanded thee?" We must look through the written word up to God, whom it is meant to reveal. We must look through all revelation on to Him. The Bible is light on God. The miracles of Christ are not recorded to excite wonder, they are to reveal God. It is possible to make Gethsemane, the Lord's Supper, and even the Cross so many superstitions. The brazen serpent became a relic at which men stopped, rather than a memory through which they went on to God. Hezekiah did holy work, then, to break it in pieces, and to call it "Nehushtan." If Christ be not risen again, even Calvary is worthless; "Your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." Gethsemane, the Supper, the Cross, are only good as they reveal the finished atonement and love of the living Saviour, and through Him the pardon and love of God. Riddling all superstitions of mere Bible-reading and formal religion through and through, the living Son of God looks down from heaven, and says to Saul of Tarsus, "That they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified BY FAITH THAT IS IN ME." (Act 26:18.) Faith is to be in the living Christ, not in cold duties and dead things. Trench has somewhere said, "Our blessedness is that Christ does not declare to us a system, and say, ‘This is the truth;' so doing He might have established a school: but He points to a person, even to Himself, and says, ‘I am the Truth;' and thus He founded, not a school, but a Church, a fellowship which stands in its faith upon a person, not in its tenure of a doctrine, or at least upon this only in a sense which is mediate and secondary."
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Jos . GOD'S SUFFICIENT PROMISES.
I. They reveal their value only as far as we use them. Where men tread, there shall they inherit. This can only be known by going on in the strength of them. Each says, like its Divine Author, "Prove me now herewith."
II. They have respect to all preceding promises. "As I said unto Moses." "Vested interests." No one promise ignores the property which men may have in another. Christ destroyed nothing of the O.T. Scriptures; He fulfilled them. Nowhere so much as on and around the cross do we read the words, "That the Scripture might be fulfilled."
III. They have regard to all that which might weaken and limit them from without. (Jos .) The boundary had military fitness. Strasbourg and Metz. God loves to give so that we can hold. A Christian with only penitence, only humility, only zeal, must ever be weak,—too weak to stand. He who sets foot on the whole circle of the graces, and inherits them all, has not only a broader and richer possession, but a more secure.
IV. They are not merely general, but personal. "Before thee." They are each for all the people, all for each of the people, and most for him who most needs them.
V. They are as continuous as human want. "All the days of thy life." As good on weekdays as on Sundays; and on sad days as on days of song. Good for all kinds of days, to the end of our days.
VI. They are made clear by illustration, and thrice blessed by precedent. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." So of all in the Scriptures. Somebody has tried and proved each of them. The increasing value of the Scriptures. The interest of man's experience is ever accumulating on the capital of the written word. The Bible is richer today than it ever was before.
VII. They have their foundation and worth in the Divine character. "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
I. God's presence gives perpetual and unvarying victory. Any man may conquer, who fights with the Lord on his side. Victory is then as sure in one place as in another. Pharaoh, Red Sea, Wilderness, or Canaanites,—it matters not which, nor when.
II. God's presence is given irrespective of everything but sin.
1. Irrespective of ability, disposition, or temperament. Men choose their companions in view of traits of character. God walks with all who fear Him. Variety in O.T. prophets. So the apostles.
2. Irrespective of social condition and particular circumstances. The various instances under which this same promise was given: To Jacob, the outcast (Gen ); to "the church in the wilderness" (Deu 31:6); to Joshua as well as Moses; to Solomon, the king, in his work of building the temple (1Ch 28:20); to "the poor and needy" (Isa 41:17); to the persecuted Hebrew Christians (Heb 13:5).
III. God's presence once given is intended to be given for ever. The doctrine is full of consolation—should be as fully received as it is absolutely stated—must be carefully guarded from presumption. He who reverently listens to the cry of Saul, "The Lord is departed from me," or marks with Christian spirit the pitiable weakness of Samson, who "wist not" that he was in like manner left to himself in his deliberate sinfulness, will not rashly blindfold himself with a creed.
"To be forsaken of God implies utter loneliness, utter helplessness, utter friendlessness, utter hopelessness, and unutterable agony."—Met, Tab. Pulpit, Jos ., pp. 603-605.
"Joshua was sensible how far he came short of Moses in wisdom and grace; but what Moses did was done by virtue of the presence of God with him. Joshua, though he had not always the same presence of mind that Moses had, yet if he had always the same presence of God, would do well enough." "What Joshua had himself encouraged the people with long ago (Num ), God here encourageth him with."
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos
THE CHARACTER AND SPHERE OF COURAGE
These words are principally about courage. Joshua would both need it, and need to shew it, in leading the Israelites into the land of their inheritance. God graciously braces men where they are most liable to fail. It was in this matter of courage that the people had given way already. (Num ; Num 14:1-10.) So Jehovah mercifully strengthens them in their weak place. It is thus that our Father deals with us all through the Bible. He does not fortify us where we are strong, but on the side where our strength is small. Thus Christ dealt with Peter. An earthly parent warns his child of what he knows to be dangers. So God speaks to us. Wherever we come, then, to a warning in the Scriptures, let us remember that it indicates a weakness. It is no mere spiritual talk. Danger lies there. The warning comes from Him whose eye sees farther down the line of our life than we can; and to go heedlessly on means collision, disaster, wounding, and possibly death. God has regard to the bearing of men personally. Napoleon's oversight of men in battle is said to have been remarkable. It is with the infinite discernment of omniscience that the King of kings watches His people, and says to them individually, "I will be with thee." God specially marks the leaders of His people. No officer must fail. Faint-heartedness in them would be doubly a sin.
I. God would have courage to occupy a large place in our characters and lives. It is to cover all the ground, whithersoever we go.
1. Courage is to lead us up to all conflicts that are duties. Joshua is to go against Jericho, whose people have shut themselves within their walls, in fear; against the five confederate kings, to rescue the Gibeonites; against each of the remaining kings. But courage is not to run to foolhardiness; it is to march only in the path of duty. It had nothing to do with revenging itself on old foes in Egypt, or in anticipating future enemies on the other side of the Euphrates.
"A valiant man
Ought not to undergo or tempt a danger,
But worthily, and by selected ways."—B. Jonson.
It is folly that braves the field to which duty makes no call. True courage—courage that said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished," said also, "When ye pray, say.… Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Yet courage never falters before work which ought to be done. Hougomont or Alma, Abyssinia or Ashantee, it matters not which. 2. Courage is to help us to endure when reverses and suffering come. When, through Achan's sin, the Israelites were driven back at Ai, "the hearts of the people melted, and became as water." There are many places in life where soldiers of the cross must be tried by defeat as well as by difficulties. The struggle for maintenance. Family and social reverses. The moral conflict, in which we are to be found "striving against sin." The spiritual warfare, in which, in holy communion, we are to seek to win our way into the presence and mind of Christ.
II. God would see us courageous, because no courage is the same thing as no faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please Him." Almost all who profess religion have the faith of a creed. They believe in certain doctrines. They have, more or less fully outlined, a theological idea of the way to heaven. It is well; but all this is a very small part of what God requires when He asks for our faith. The faith which He seeks is faith in Himself, as always being with His servants to help them; it is faith in His watchfulness, His presence, His love, His purpose, His power; it is faith in victory everywhere through Himself. That is the faith which Jehovah asks, as He sends the Israelites forward to inherit. Probably many will be surprised by-and-by to discern how little God cares for the faith which strives after some particular definition of a creed, rather than after what an apostle calls "the faith of Him." It is against poor trust, not against bad definitions, that the Bible is full of such urgent remonstrance. Does not the Lord allow as much room for definitions as for dispositions? Caleb and Joshua might differ in their understanding of the Passover, or the exact meaning of the service on the Great Day of Atonement; I do not think God would much mind, providing the creed of neither shewed distrust of Him. The Holy Spirit inspires Paul, and also James. No man would care much if, when his child grew up, she differed from him in his views of gardening or poetry; but it would be real pain to him should she doubt his word. There are some creeds which must dishonour God. The denial of the Saviour's divinity shews distrust of God simply on a point of difficulty in comprehension. Praying to images, or to dead Christians through them, is as though a child were to fear failure if it should ask a favour of its parent in person, and were to get a servant to make the entreaty instead. It is the distrust which wounds. There are places where creeds may become fatal, yet not fatal as a matter of discernment and definition, but fatal in their utter want of trust in the Lord. They present the most astounding of all paradoxes—doubt of God formulated into a religion, and then offered as worship. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." When we are tempted to do wrong by the promise of great gain, can we remember God and dare to be true? When temptation promises present pleasure, can we remember our Father's warnings and better promises, and be firm to deny ourselves? When called to lose our best-loved friends or children, can we look into the awful darkness, and rest in His words about their happiness and our own profit? When bidden to teach, or preach, or live the Gospel in the face of bitter enemies who far outnumber us, can we hear Him say, "Lo, I am with you alway," and dare to go on as in the company of that overwhelming majority into which His presence ever multiplies even our solitude? That is the kind of creed about which God so incessantly enquires in the Scriptures. He says almost nothing—perhaps nothing at all—about definitions which touch the judgment without necessarily involving the heart. Instead of always translating "trust" into "faith," as we go forward to inherit, it may be well if we sometimes render it in this old thought of "courage." "Have courage in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "Repent ye, and have courage in the gospel." "Lord, increase our courage." "Have courage in God."
III. Though God desires courage in us all, fear has its proper sphere, and often does holy work.
"The brave man is not he who feels no fear,
For that were stupid and irrational;
But he whose noble soul its fear subdues,
And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from,
As for your youth whom blood and blows delight,
Away with them! there is not in their crew
One valiant spirit."—Joanna Baillie.
God never intended that we should feel no fear. We are to fear and distrust ourselves. We are to fear danger as something beyond our own strength. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." And we are to "work out our own salvation in fear and trembling." But all fear, as we look within, is to be stayed in courage as we look up to God. The sin is in giving way when we have omnipotence and infinite love for a defence. No man, then, should say, "I fear," and let that drive him to fear which is yet deeper.
IV. Courage, to bring honour to God, must always be courage for the right and the true.
1. Men admire courage in the abstract. Prize-fighting has drawn multitudes. The mere soldier is sometimes not distinguished from the lofty patriot. Thus, perhaps, the mistake concerning Milton's Satan, in "Paradise Lost." Some critics have complained that Satan is the hero of the work. That is to forget that courage, in itself, is not truly worthy of admiration. Fowls, sheep, bulls, wild beasts, also have courage, and fight unto death.
2. God loves courage only when it is prompted by truth and righteousness. Such courage He always has honoured, and will honour: Daniel; the apostles before the Sanhedrim; Paul. It is said that the King of France summoned the Prince de Conde before him, giving him his choice of three things: "Go to mass, die, or be imprisoned for life." Said the Prince, "With regard to the first, I am fully determined never to go to mass; as to the other two, I am so perfectly indifferent that I leave the choice to your Majesty." We are not called to martyrdom, nor even to imprisonment for the truth's sake; possibly if our apprehension of sin were always what it should be, we should find that whatever courage death might need, life requires even more.
Instead of discoursing on the topic of the passage, the verses may be taken as shewing—
THE HONOUR, THE INFLUENCE, AND THE SOURCE OF TRUE COURAGE
I. The honour which is put upon courage by God.
1. He makes the servant who has courage in Himself His own constant companion. "The Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."
2. He makes the servant who has courage the subject of His peculiar teaching. The entire passage is a special instruction to the man who has already so valiantly, before his fellows, shewn himself afraid to distrust God. Thus "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him."
3. He makes the servant who has courage the instrument of fulfilling His covenant. "The land which I sware unto their fathers, thou shalt divide."
4. He makes the servant who has courage a blessing and a joy to his fellows. Joshua should lead them into the land: instrumentally, their homes and future possessions should come to them from his bravery and his fidelity to God.
II. The influence which is conceded to courage by men. All men own its power.
1. Courage loses no favourable opportunity to begin warfare; fear would miss many an opening.
2. Courage appals its foes before it smites them: it thus needs only half the strength of timidity. The arm which resists it is already feeble by reason of fear.
3. Courage seizes all advantages which are offered in the conflict. Fear is blind, and, till too late, overlooks them.
4. Courage gives no opportunity to the defeated foe to rally. Fear happens to win the day, and sits down surprised and contented, talking of valour. The conflict has to be fought over afresh, and it may be that the battle is then lost.
5. Courage is imperial in itself, and must reign However it may be with the Graces of the ancient classics, the Scripture graces were all "born in purple." Love conquers everywhere. Patience presently wins the day. Humility may seem of lowlier mien, but "The meek shall inherit the earth," and "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Hope, always aspiring, enters already "within the veil." As to courage, "To him that believeth, all things are possible."
III. The strength which courage draws from the Scriptures.
1. To neglect the Bible is to prepare the way for fear and trembling. (a) There can be no sufficient courage without light, and the Bible is "a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path." The awe which comes from darkness. (b) There can be no sufficient courage without confidence of being right, and the Bible assures the just man. The hesitation which comes from uncertainty. (c) There can be no sufficient courage without love, and our love is born of knowing the love of God. (d) There can be no sufficient courage without hope, and he who neglects the Bible can have no satisfactory ground of hope.
2. It is not enough to have the Bible, it must be used. (a) The courage that comes from speaking the truth to others: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth." (b) The courage that comes from meditation in the truth: "Thou shalt meditate therein day and night." (c.) The courage that comes from doing the truth: "That thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein."
THE THREEFOLD ALLIANCE—GOD, LAW, MAN.—Jos only
I. The law of the Scriptures is one with physical law, and he who obeys the Scriptures has physical law for an ally. All life is against that man who is against the Bible; all life is for the man who is obedient to the Bible. Suppose the laws which touch our health worked just the other way; what a curse law would be! Think of drunkenness, lust, crime, and all manner of debauchery as contributing to physical health and gladness; what a world this would become! But law is on the side of godliness, and he who walks with the Bible may sing with Paul, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."
II. The law of the Scriptures is in harmony with the law of conscience, and he who obeys the Scriptures, in that proportion maintains his self-respect, and ultimately wins the regard of men.
1. The relation of conscious integrity to individual bearing. (a) No man can respect himself, who is continually giving the lie to his own sense of right. (b) No man can lose his conscious integrity without proportionately suffering in moral dignity. By so much as he is dishonest to the distinctive feature of his manhood, by so much does he become a mere animal. He cannot stand in the same moral dignity before his fellows. He feels his humiliation.
2. The relation of an honest life to individual influence. Not only does the man who is dishonest to himself feel less before his fellows, but they see him for what he is. The weakness may be too successfully concealed by artifice or habit to awaken reflection, but the measure of every man's moral worth is more or less accurately comprehended by his companions. They may not reason on it; they must apprehend it. Moral life is so much moral light, and the heart of our neighbour feels whether or not it is illuminated in our presence. The earth never mistakes the moon for the sun by shewing daylight at night-time. If the light in us be darkness or merely artifice, our fellow-men cannot be much or long deceived by the imposition. Thus, human sin notwithstanding, the world has ever owned her worthiest sons most proudly. The Pope may do as he will; the world, in her general conscience, and in her history, seldom canonises any but her saints. It is the good man who has "good success." He may not be placed in the Calendar till after his death, but society seldom fails ultimately to correct her temporary errors. Socrates may live thinking that he has only earned hemlock, he may write never a chapter to perpetuate his name, men will be true to his manhood for all that.
Conscience, however, needs the light and encouragement of God's law to keep it in activity. Scripture is the only fireproof in which conscience can enwrap itself to prevent being seared into unfeeling callousness by the burnings of surrounding and inward sin. Thus law and conscience, together, make way for good success in the inheritance which is moral and social.
III. The law of the Scriptures is the mind of God, and he who keeps ever with the law is always where God stoops to whisper, "I am with thee." When God established His commandments in the earth, He bade law, both in the physical and moral worlds, be on the side of goodness. From that day to this, law has never sided with the sinner. But though much of God's help of His children is through law, this is by no means His only method. He adds His direct blessings, and gives His direct help to the obedient. Nothing is written more emphatically in Scripture than this. The deliverance from Egypt, the miracles of the wilderness, the walls of Jericho falling without any cause in ordinary law; the histories given by Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and other prophets, are full of incidents of Jehovah's direct interposition. The Psalms tell us of the angels that encamp about them that fear the Lord, and both the Old and New Testaments often shew them coming to the guidance, or comfort, or help of the godly. The cross, most emphatically of all, tells of help other than by the automatic method of law, to which modern scientists would tie us. True discipleship not only finds Christ, and cries with Nathanael, "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God;" it hears Christ reply of the earthly future, "Hereafter thou shalt see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." The eyes of the obedient see an open heaven even while yet on earth, and life everywhere becomes all but sentient with God. "If God" so "be for us, who can be against us?" Thus does our Father guarantee "good success."
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Jos . God never tells us to be strong without helping us to be strong. To encourage His servant to begin this vast work and dreadful war, God shews him how all should end. "Thou shalt divide the land."
Jos . No man's dignity, however great, frees him in any measure from absolute obedience to the Scriptures. Joshua must obey in all things, turning neither "to the right hand nor to the left." Error and sin do not lie merely on one side of the way of truth, but on both: the path of holy obedience is the via media.
"As the soldier of an earthly leader is to act in all things according to certain rules laid down in a code drawn up for the purpose, so the Christian soldier has his code drawn up for him by God Himself, and revealed to him in the oracles of truth. This code he is to study with diligence, that he may conform himself to it in every particular. This will require all the courage that any man can possess."
Jos . "Thou shalt have thy heart so constantly imbued with the letter and spirit of the law, that thy mouth shall, as it were, overflow with its rich contents, as ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.' The same phrase occurs but once elsewhere in the Scriptures."
"The Heb. term for ‘meditate' implies that mental kind of rumination which is apt to vent itself in an audible sound of voice." [Bush.]
Jos . The interrogative form of the first clause, so far from suggesting doubt, is expressive of the strongest possible emphasis.
Our Lord continually assured Himself that He had kept the word and followed the will of the Father (cf. Joh ; Joh 6:38). He may even be said to encourage Himself in the thought of His obedience to the will of God. The prayer in John 17 seems full of the comfort of conscious obedience. If the Saviour found this thought grateful and refreshing to Him, how needful is it that we in our weakness shall never stand where we cannot strengthen ourselves by saying, "Has not God commanded me in this thing? Is not the Father with me in His will, as well as by His presence?"
"The Lord never demands anything of men without giving them a promise in return." [Keil.]
Jos . Prepare you victuals] Herein speaks both the prophet and the soldier. As God's prophet, Joshua anticipates the cessation of the manna, and prepares the people for the new phase of life on which they must soon enter (chap. Jos 5:12). As a soldier, he looks with his keen military forecast to the busy hours of the march, and to that closer massing of the people, which would be unfavourable for gathering their usual food. Within three days] Perhaps the best solution is indicated by Knobel, "The three days mentioned in chap. Jos 3:2, are identical with the three days here in Jos 1:11." The march from Shittim to Jordan would, in this case, have been made during the absence of the spies, the events of chap. 2, on the one hand, and of chap. Jos 3:1, on the other, being concurrent. Thus taken, the spies would rejoin the host, not at Shittim, from whence they went out, but immediately before Jordan.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos
THE GIFTS OF GOD
Some gifts we possess already, as the Israelites did the manna; how are they to influence us? Some gifts are as yet only promised, as the land of Canaan was to Israel; how are we to regard them? Some gifts are not promised at all, excepting by implication, as strength and help to cross the Jordan in the face of a warlike foe. How far may we go onward, depending on promises which are not written, but merely implied? In a word, what influence are the gifts of God which we do possess, the gifts which through promise we hope to possess, and the gifts which though not specified in any promise we absolutely require, to exert on us in our daily life? How far may we relax personal efforts, and rest in mercies which we have, because we have them? How far may we look on promised mercies, and go on in the strength of them, as though they were in hand already? Yet again, in what measure may we reckon that our very necessities guarantee to us the help of our heavenly Father, even where no actual promise defines some visible emergency before us? These are some aspects of a great question, about which, and through Joshua, God is here seen impressing His mind on the early and plastic life of this young nation. The principles of the teaching are deep, and important, and wide-reaching.
I. The gifts of God are to be held with a wise regard to the surroundings of our life. "Prepare you victuals." But the manna was yet falling (chap. Jos ): probably the people had gathered of it that very morning. Here they are told to prepare other food, perhaps of the corn and cattle already taken as spoil in the border-land. Would not the manna do for the next three days? No. Joshua the soldier looks on, and sees that in the marching and closer massing of the people, their enemies moreover being near at hand, there will be no opportunity and no time for this usual occupation. Joshua the prophet may know that the manna is soon to cease, and be preparing the people for their new form of life. Joshua the godly man sees that other supplies can be obtained now, and seems to be emphatically saying, "Do not depend idly on food from heaven, now that you are where your own arms can serve you in gathering the supplies of earth. In the wilderness your own toil could do nothing; here it can. ‘Prepare you victuals.' "Prepare, for you must, on account of the marching order necessary in front of your foes; prepare, for you can, as you have spoil by you; prepare, for you ought to, God's gifts being never bestowed to supersede your own efforts.
1. When we rest on God's help, we should know for what times and for what places in our life that help has been promised. Even God has no manna for fat lands. Some food and some kinds of help are only for life in the desert. Christian people sometimes try their faith by praying for things and by expecting things that God will probably never give them, (a) Sometimes men stand in fertile places, and plead promises which were meant only for help in a wilderness. Think of a man free from trial pleading Isa ; Isa 41:13; Isa 41:17-18, and saying, "I want to feel that, to hear God's voice thus, and to see such wonders of His love and power." Men pray in fruitful lands for help which is good only for the desert, and then, when prayer is unanswered, think the promises are vague. It is we who are vague. The martyrs, the reformers, the very poor, the terribly tempted, may ask and get help that would curse other Christians. Our expectation of God's gifts should be appropriate. (b) Sometimes earnest men cry out for visible interpositions of God. They want some unmistakable manifestation, and "they seek after a sign." So long as their outcry is after God, they think it must be scriptural. But God gives visions only in the night-time; the old prophets had them, but think of the terrible times in which they lived. The man who cries, "I only am left," may have an angel to speak with him in his despair; probably none will ever come to us, pray earnestly and long as we may. The cessation of miracles and signs must not be taken as an arbitrary arrangement which can no longer happen because prophets are gone and apostles are no more; the visible signs are gone because of increased light, and not because of extinct apostles. What we can bear, it is best we should bear. It is to Mary Magdalene in her simple, ardent, absorbing love, and her unquestioning faith, that the Saviour says, "Touch me not." The other women in the same hour may hold Him by the feet, and worship Him; to the timid ten Christ will say, the same evening, "Handle me and see;" to the doubter the same pitying compassion will say, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands," etc.; to Mary, whose greater love is as greater light, Christ virtually says, "Future contact with me is to be spiritual, and you can best bear to first learn this hard lesson." It is as our day is that we may look for our strength to be. Thus we should "Rejoice in the Lord always," whether the signs of His presence with us are great or not. Suppose Israel had said in the days of Gideon, "God cannot be with us as He was with our fathers; manna does not fall for us as it did for them;" the answer would have been, "You are not in the wilderness." It does not follow that God is not with us, because we cannot see so much of Him as some one else has seen, or does see. Spurgeon, and Mller, the heavily bereaved, and the very poor, need a measure of help which might hinder many.
2. True piety will consider how far God's promises and gifts are practicable. The manna was a very elastic gift. It was always sufficient for necessity, would not bear accumulation in the week, and yet kept wholesome over the Sabbath. But even the manna was unsuitable for a march in front of an enemy. Do not Christians sometimes plead for gifts which in the very nature of things, they could not have?
3. Then the question of need comes up in this other light—How far CAN we do to-morrow without the things which we really need to-day? It will curse us to possess as a gift what we can get from our own labour. Manna in Canaan would have tended to make a fertile land not only as the wilderness, but worse. Think of decaying vegetation. In the miracles of the Saviour, Divine power never undertakes to do what human hands could accomplish. Men can fill the six waterpots with water; gather the loaves and fishes already in possession of some in the multitude; roll away the stone from the grave of Lazarus. That which men can do, Christ will not do for them. Superhuman help only begins where human power fails.
II. The gifts which God's people have had should assure them concerning all other gifts which they really need, whether these are promised or not. "In three days ye shall pass over this Jordan." It does not appear that at this time Joshua had received any specific promise of help for the passage. That came later; chap. Jos . How, then, was this mighty host to cross a deep and rapid river? They knew nothing of pontoon bridges, and had no engineers. How were they to cross if their warlike enemies should dispute the passage? Who could say that the Canaanites would not defend this watery pass? If they would fight anywhere, surely here, where "the swellings of Jordan" would help them. Spartans fight desperately at Thermopyl; and Britons off Dover go even into the sea to get vantage blows at the bearers of Csar's eagles. There seems to have been no promise yet about the passage of the Jordan. Faith reads enough of help in the very necessity, and says with unwavering words, "Ye shall pass over."
1. All our actual need is to be referred to the heart and character of God. God's heart and arm have each a history; the one, of gracious kindness, the other of invincible power. It is because of what God is, and because of being in the way of God's commandments, that Joshua is able to speak so confidently of making the other shore in so short a time.
2. To the godly man, not only the letter of the law, but the letter of the promises also, is ever superseded by the spirit. There seems to be no declaration that the manna shall cease, and yet Joshua says, "Prepare ye victuals." We read of no promise which certifies a passage within three days, nevertheless he says, "Ye shall pass over."
3. Our sweetest readings of God's love and of the Scriptures are often the outcome of our greatest emergencies. But for our wildernesses and rivers and enemies, our lives would have been without many a rich strain which we could have learned nowhere else. The Jews in Babylon cried, "How shall we sing the Lord's songs in a strange land? "They might not be able to do that, but they learned many a new one there which made sweet music for them and for others after their return home. Some one has said of our poets—
"They learn in suffering what they teach in song,"
and it is much the same with the Church of God. But for the wilderness, and the Jordan, and the Canaanites, we had never had this rich reading of trust and holy fear. Here is fear thinking of hunger, and saying, "Prepare you victuals; for although the manna falls now, you must not depend on God for food when you can get it yourselves;" and here, too, is faith, which says, "Though the river be wide and deep, and the enemy may be fierce and numerous, and no actual promise bridges the difficulty, within three days ye shall pass over." Let these God-taught men of the old world teach us. Let them cheer us with their unquestioning and yet suspicious trust.
"Mortal! they softly say,
Peace to thy heart.
We too, yes, mortal,
Have been as thou art:
Seeing in part;
Tried, troubled, tempted,
Sustained as thou art."
III. All our temporal gifts from God belong to us, at most, for this life only. The manna was not even for a lifetime, and the land was only given to them for as long as they could "possess it." When death took away the power of possessing this gift of God, it could be theirs no longer. That is the tenure of all our earthly holdings. Men try to hold and control their earthly estates for generations after they are gone. The law of entail and primogeniture; curious wills; trust deeds for charitable and religious purposes. The "pious founder" of the past is perpetually hampering the action of pious men in the present. Some trust-restrictions may be and must be made; but surely it is hardly right to tie down a future generation to matters of detail suggested to us by our probably poorer light. If a Christian man is subject to the accident of wealth during his life, is he therefore at liberty to provide a detailed creed for thousands for the next ten or twenty generations? In any case, our earthly holdings must soon be laid down. They are only ours while we can possess them. Are we holding them wisely, and for God? Have we any possession in Christ Jesus, who came into the world to save sinners? That inheritance only can we hold for ever.
Jos . All the mighty men] All of those selected for the campaign. About 40,000 passed over, leaving upwards of 70,000 effective men to guard the women and children. (Cf. chap. Jos 4:13; Num 26:7; Num 26:18; Num 26:34.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos
UNEQUAL POSSESSIONS AND CORRESPONDING OBLIGATIONS
Several religious writers recently have called attention to the "Gospel" in the O.T. Some books have been thought to shadow forth much of the doctrinal teachings of the Gospel, others, the glory of the Church. "Christ in Leviticus" is set forth typically; in other books, prophetically. The Gospel in Joshua is a Gospel of right feeling about daily life. It is a system of Christian ethics, and the teaching is the same in outline as the teaching of the Saviour and His apostles. Here are insisted on the same obedience towards God, and the same duty towards men, which are made so emphatic by Jesus Christ. One glory of the Bible is that all which is new is so old. Nothing of the O.T. is recalled in the New; nothing is amended, nothing is altered. Not a jot or a tittle of the old principles passes away. The clothing of them may change, but Christ says of the truths, "I came not to destroy, but to fulfil." The O.T. shews us a plant; in the N.T. we have the same plant developed amid the glories of the work of Christ into blossom and beauty; now and here the centuries are bearing fruits, and yonder these are being gathered home; but the plant has been ever the same. The Hindoos teach the doctrine of transmigration of souls. A man dies, and they say he may become an elephant, then a bird, then an alligator, then a tiger, then a serpent, and so on through various and endless forms of being; but with all these changes of body, they insist that the soul is always one and identical. Revelation may come now in one form, and now in another; it may be given now by this man, and now by that; the body may change,—the spirit of the Bible is ever the same. This paragraph speaks of the inequalities of human inheritances; of the obligation of opportunity; and of the duty of caring for the weak.
I. Men, by God's appointment, come into life's inheritance in differing measures and by various ways. The whole army of Israel had gone up against Sihon and Og. (Cf. Num ; Deu 2:24-37; Deu 3:1-17.) These marvellous victories thrilled the heart of the nation, and animated its songs for at least four centuries. (Cf. Psa 135:2; Psa 135:11-12; Psa 135:21; Psa 136:17-21.) Yet the two and a half tribes inherited the whole of the land on the east of Jordan. Reuben and Gad had a preponderance of cattle. (Cf Num 32:1.) How did that inequality of possession come about? Perhaps through greater industry, or more agricultural habits. This inequality of cattle led to the two and a half tribes inheriting this fat and fertile land, which all Israel had fought to conquer. Here was another irregularity. There were yet others. The number of men upwards of twenty years of age was in Reuben, 43,700, in Gad, 40,500; in half Manasseh, 26,350. Manasseh, though fewest by far in population, had an immensely larger territory than either of the others. Gad numbered less than Reuben, yet its territory was nearly double. Looking at the plan of the land in ordinary maps, the case, in rough figures, stands nearly as follows:—Where a Reubenite inherited one acre, a Gadite would possess two, while a member of the half-tribe of Manasseh would have nearly fifteen. How this brings abruptly into view our heavenly Father's method of disposing of His gifts. Men would say—at least, many poor men, and not a few others—"Let every man have things equally." Their panacea for the ills which afflict the world is an equal division of the world's substance. God does not even start His model nation on that plan. To one tribe He gives no territorial property whatever, and to this half-tribe, which is only as the fourth of the sons of Joseph, He gives by far the largest acreage of all. And why not? "Because of justice," men say. Well, if all things were equalised to-day, they would begin to get uneven again to-morrow. The industrious and able would gain; the idle and dissolute would lose. And why talk of justice where there are no rights? The parable of the labourers in the vineyard disposes for ever of this question. The rights of rebels and traitors are not usually thought large among men. Besides this, our life on earth is a system of training and discipline, and our God does not govern by a routine method of equal pleasures and equal pains.
1. Glance at the differing lots of different men now. (a) Look at men in their birth. Life is a race, and much depends on the start. Do men start equally? "Some men are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Some are born in mansions, and some in hovels; some of godly parents, and some in the midst of vice; some in civilised countries, and some of barbarians; some with good mental powers, and some idiots; some with a well-balanced emotional nature, and some with passions which might need an angel to control them. (b) There is the same diversity in providence. Some of even the slothful rise to riches, and some of even the industrious never know prosperity. One farmer's corn is blighted, or his cattle are carried off by an epidemic; another, of far less merit, succeeds. One merchant suffers continually by fires, or storms, or markets which seem always adverse; another, not nearly so worthy, is continually meeting with prosperity. You can only look at it all, and say, "The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich." (c) There is the same inequality in religious privileges. Some are so taught, and trained, and pleaded with, and prayed for, that they seem carried to heaven by the force of Divine grace in others; some are so taught, and tempted, and constrained, that they seem borne as on a flood tide to destruction. Some live long, and have many opportunities to repent; others do but get fairly into years of responsibility, and suddenly they die. These are not theories; life is shewing them daily as her own stern facts.
2. What are the reasons for these differing measures and lots in human life? We are not omniscient, and therefore cannot tell. Not a small part of the efficiency of life's teachings lies in the demand which they make on our absolute trust in God. But "we know in part." Ask why the earth is not one level plain, with no majestic hills and no pleasant valleys. What wondrous beauty would be lost in such a dismal monotony of arrangement! Ask why all climates are not equal? why the world was not made with no Borneo and no Iceland, no Sumatra and no Siberia, but with one dead level of temperature all over? How death would reign everywhere if this were the case! With no breezes, no currents of air, no purifying winds, earth would be a scene of perpetual pestilence, so long as any remained alive for victims. Ask why the world has not one eternal summer; why trees do not bear flower and fruit all the year round? How beautiful this would be; yes, but how enervating! What about moral health, moral strength, and moral beauty, if all men had an equal heritage and an even course in coming into possession? What, if among men, there were no hills and valleys? What if the moral climate were everywhere alike? What if perpetual summer reigned the wide world over? Oh, if there were no sore poverty and riches, no terrible bereavements and sicknesses, and no robust health, the currents of pity and charity would sink into a calm, putrid, and fatal selfishness, and compassion would stagnate and die. With some it seems already to be, "Every man for himself, and God for us all;" then it would be, "Every man for himself, and God for none of us." "No more pain and no more tears" may be well where there is "no more sin;" it could not be so here. If the heritage of all men were the same, the world's rich experiences and moral health and beauty would vanish and die for ever. Thank God for such inheritance as you have. It is an unmerited gift, to be used to His glory.
II. A common obligation rests on all men to whom God gives an easy inheritance, to help those whose lot is only won through hard work and stern conflict. The two and a half tribes had fertile lands, and had them through the service of all Israel: now, having rest, they were to fight the battles of their brethren. God teaches the young nation that men who have rest are to help men who are in unrest and conflict. How it all reads like a verse out of the N.T. What is it but saying, "We then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves"? It is God's early version of a later proclamation, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Do we use our rest to help our brother who is yet in stern anxiety and conflict? Some men take all they can get, but give nothing to their fellows. They are like the gluttons of whom the ancient Juvenal wrote:—
"Such whose sole bliss is eating, who can give
But that one brutal reason why they live."
Inequalities do but exist that we may give our rest for our brother's strife. Especially should he who has entered into the rest of faith, labour for the help of him who is borne down into sin by many temptations. Feltham well said, "Shew me the man who would go to heaven alone if he could, and I will shew you the man who will never be admitted to heaven." We are to be followers of Him who, "though He was rich, for our sakes became poor," etc.
III. The weak have always been God's care, and ought ever to be ours also. (Jos .) God would not have their women and children exposed to the strife. He impresses the gentleness of His own heart on His people from the very outset. How beautifully this feeling of interest in the weak comes out all through the ministry of the Saviour! Why should God be so gentle with weak men?
1. Think how useless weak people are for service. Dr. Livingstone told us in one of his indignant letters that twenty thousand slaves were annually exported from the East Coast of Africa, but that having to walk five hundred miles, not one in five of those captured ever lived to embark. Think of it; one hundred thousand people torn every year from home to furnish an exportation of twenty thousand! What became of the eighty thousand? They became weak and sick with marching, and were driven on till they fell down to die on the road Think of it; two hundred and twenty of the weak thus driven to death every day all the year round! Oh, how differently God deals with us; and how worthless many of us are in our weakness!
2. Remember the tendency of weakness to despondency. The way-worn Elijah cries out in his grief, "O Lord, take away my life."
3. Think on the tendency of men in weakness to reject their Saviour. Notwithstanding this, Christ still cares for such. Peter, in his weakness, denies Christ, yet Christ prays for him; Thomas doubts, and his Lord says, "Reach hither thy finger;" Judas betrays his Master, but how tenderly that Master pleads with him at the table; of the eleven Jesus prophesied, "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone," immediately He adds concerning the long discourse in which He had ministered to their coming feebleness, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace." It is said that during his youth Themistocles was very idle, and that when he suddenly turned to a life of industry, many asked his reason for the change; the answer was, "The glory of Miltiades will not suffer me to sleep." The glory of the Lord's compassion for us in our helplessness might well awaken our dormant sympathies, and quicken our still hands to holy efforts for others who are also weak.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Jos . THE PROMISE BETWEEN THE DEAD AND THE LIVING.
I. God ratifies, through Joshua, the covenant made between these tribes and Moses. He holds Himself bound by the word of His deceased servant, whom during his life He had so visibly recognised. The importance of the words of a man by whom the Lord is manifestly working. In a measure, God honours such words still.
II. God, "who keepeth covenant" on His side, demands faithfulness from men on their part also. These tribes had made a solemn promise which they are now called upon to fulfil. (Cf. Num .)
1. Vows which ought never to have been made, and which it would be sinful to perform, should be kept only with penitence and prayer, (e. g. Act .)
2. Vows which in themselves are neither evil nor good should be faithfully kept for conscience' sake.
3. Vows in which holy service is offered to God or man, God holds to be unquestionably sacred and imperatively binding. (Cf. Deu .) The death of one of the parties to this agreement in no measure cancels the obligation of the other. Num 32:23, which treats of this promise, does not so much assert that sin is self-revealing as that it is self-remunerating. It ensures its own penalties; and the penalty for this broken vow should be certain and heavy. Jos 1:12-16 may be otherwise treated, as indicating some
INCENTIVES TO GENEROSITY
I. Generous kindness towards others is the best policy towards ourselves. If the nine and a half tribes had been defeated, or had not made their victory sure, the two and a half tribes would speedily have suffered also. It was security for the eastern side of Jordan, that the western tribes should have rest. This is so throughout our own lives also. To help our brethren, is to lay up riches where, even for this life, "neither moth nor rust" can wholly destroy them.
II. Generous kindness towards others is invariably due to others. It may be due to them because of what they have done for us. This was the case here. It is always due because of what some have done for us. What we owe to men, should be judged in the light of that which we have received from men. Thus human kindness, while always graceful, is ever a debt.
III. Generous kindness towards others is due to God, and is well-pleasing in His sight. He from whom we have received all that we prize most in life, and all that we shall care for in death, graciously says about all our efforts to help needy brethren, "Ye have done it unto Me." Even Cicero could write, "Men resemble the gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their fellow creatures." Self-interest, as a motive for action, is allowable; self-denial for the good of others is noble. Wm. Jay well said—"To render good for good is human; to render evil for evil is brutish; to render evil for good is devilish; to render good for evil is divine."
Jos . These verses, at first sight, read like the reply of the two and a half tribes; probably they should be taken as the response of all Israel to Joshua's call to war. Two addresses had been given, of which the substance is recorded one to the "shoterim," or subordinate officers of all Israel, and the other probably to the similar officers of the two and a half tribes. The verses read like a declaration of fealty to Joshua, made on behalf of the whole of the twelve tribes, whose officers had "passed through the host," and gathered the mind of the people, which they here formally express.
Joshua's claims on the people were made not on his own behalf, but as the representative of the mind of Jehovah. The people had been led to regard him as the medium through which God declared His will. Taken in this light the verses shew us
THE SPIRIT OF TRUE OBEDIENCE
I. Obedience to the will of God should be prompt and complete.
1. True obedience will lead us to keep, not merely some, but all of the commandments. If we are really loyal to God, we shall need no exposition of that seemingly harsh word—"He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all." The spirit that can practise any one known disobedience sets itself up in opposition to God, who gave all the commandments, and who is therefore greater than them all put together. To break one command knowingly is to intentionally violate the will of God; and of what use is it to obey some of His words, and then to dare Him on the strength of having kept a part of His precepts? For His people there is only one thing to say—"All that Thou commandest us, directly or indirectly, we will do."
2. True obedience will lead us in all the ways of God. "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies." "Whithersoever Thou sendest us, we will go."
3. True obedience loves to refresh itself with helpful memories. The Israelites had hearkened unto Moses in some things, and therein had been their greatest happiness. Where they had murmured and rebelled, there they had suffered; where they had obeyed, therein had they been blessed. They did not mean to vaunt in their obedience to Moses as perfect, but express, in this general way, their desire in all things to obey Joshua. They knew by a deep experience that this was the path of happiness. "Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend them."
II. The spirit of obedience to God, and the spirit of prayer and holy desire for God's people, ever go together.
1. "The Lord be with thee, as He was with Moses." How constantly our Lord Himself shews us the close connection between the spirit of prayer and that of obedience. The key to the power of the prayer in John 17 is given in its own words, "I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do."
2. "Only be strong and of a good courage." The voice of obedience is the echo of the voice of God. These are the very words which the Lord had spoken in His charge to Joshua; here they are reiterated by the people. So God supplements His teachings by the common feeling of mankind.
III. He who best obeys God, most severely estimates the penalties due to transgression. The disobedient, they say, "shall be put to death." This was martial law, and was certainly as necessary in an army then as it is now. Through rebellion in the wilderness there had been forty years' delay already. This is no reckless statement made in a moment of excitement, neither is it unmerciful. Severity to the few would be mercy to the multitude. It is when in the spirit of obedience that the Israelites see this. Were we more holy, we should probably have far fewer discussions on the amount of punishment due to sin. It is when we live nearest to God that we most feel the guilt of sin and its dreadful deservings. It was Murray McCheyne who talked with such awful gentleness and love of the wrath of God. Probably no angel sees any reason for wonder, much less for complaint, when he "looks into" the word to guilty men—"The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Apart from disposition and desire, could it be otherwise?
"THE MORAL ADVANTAGES OF GOOD ORGANIZATION.—Society must have leadership, and leadership must be a question of competence. There are three things about the true leader which are most notable:
1. He must be directly called of God. Moses was; Joshua was.
2. Being directly called of God, he will walk constantly in the Divine counsel. ‘This book of the law shall not depart,' etc.
3. Walking constantly in the Divine counsel, he shall achieve the most distinguished success. This is God's promise.
"Organization is as much required in the Church as in the army. God is not the author of confusion, but of order. Every man has a place, and ought to keep it; and if he overstep it, he should be made uncomfortable until he return. The mature thinker, the new-born Christian, the untried youth, the undisciplined mind, and the cultivated intellect, cannot be equal, and ought not to have equal authority in the Church. There are chief seats for chief guests, and lower rooms for less conspicuous men; and society should exhibit displeasure towards the man who wantonly asserts a claim to a place above the merits of his character. When this principle is recognised, we shall get good organization, and such organization will secure the following advantages:—
I. Such organization would facilitate the development of individual talent. In the absence of wise organization, the modest man will be ignored or crushed. He will have no power and no disposition to cope with the self-asserting and blustering men who worship their own infallibility. For the moment insolence will vanquish genius, simply because genius disdains the rude weapons which insolence adopts, and cares not to fight where even victory would be disgrace.…
II. Such organization would consolidate the Christian society assembling in one place. The army is a compact confederacy. Its consolidation is its strength. Break up its wisely arranged gradations, and its power is paralysed. The same principle has its bearing upon the Church.…
III. Such organization would present the most formidable front to the enemy. Every man in his place, every man moving at the same word of command every man living for the common good—let that programme be carried out, and no power can withstand the united influence of Christ's believers. Disorder is weakness; disorder is waste! The Church is to-day torn by intestine strife. Every man's hand is lifted up against his brother, and through all the ranks this question is asked, Who shall be greatest? What wonder if the enemy be laughing at our impotence, and deriding our pretensions?
IV. Such organization would promote a most healthful spiritual discipline. The organization which God appoints is calculated to train men to habits of self-dominion.… The young man is held in check; the passionate man is subdued; the lethargic man is quickened; and each nature has the advantage of association with natures of a different type. The organization thus commended is not merely mechanical; it is the order which comes of a living love, which is willing to do the most good in the least time. It is quite possible to have a perfect mechanical outline, and yet to make no impression on the age. We want all the force of individuality combined with all the regulation of order; and this we can only have by living constantly in the spirit of Jesus Christ, without which we are none of His. It may be said that life will make its own order. This is a pleasant sophism, very gratifying to an indolent spirit; but the whole history of human training gives it emphatic contradiction. It is forgotten that we have to do, not with life in the abstract, but with fallen life; with life under the constant influence of Satanic appeal, and which is inclined to go down rather than to go up: so that life under such conditions cannot be trusted to make its own order; it must be brought under Divine discipline, as that may discover itself in human appointments, and by serving humbly must learn to rule benignantly." [Dr. Parker; Pulpit Analyst, vol. i. 626.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter