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The people having all passed over Jordan, the priests are commanded to come up out of Jordan with the ark of God, and pass over also. A memorial is commanded to be set up, both in Jordan, where the feet of the priests had rested, and also in the place where they lodged, of this great and miraculous event. Joshua is peculiarly magnified in the sight of Israel. These are the principal points recorded in this Chapter.
While the people were engaged no doubt in contemplating the mercy, and all without the loss of a single Israelite, were passed over, the Lord directs Joshua to a service every way suited to the mercy received: namely, to perpetuate the remembrance of this great event to all ages of the church.
Observe, it was not to be the work of every one, but special characters selected for this service. Oh! it is sweet to see our calling. And very sweet to run on Jesus's errands when sent by him. Isaiah 6:8 .
No doubt the choice of twelve stones was intended to manifest, that all the twelve tribes of Israel were equally interested in the memorial. And Jesus had his twelve apostles also. And the New Jerusalem, which this Canaan represented, had its twelve gates, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel upon them, as also the names of the apostles of the Lamb upon the foundations. Revelation 21:12-66.21.14 .
The erection of the memorial both on the river and on the land, might be intended to show the salvation of Jesus both by land and by water. Psalms 77:16-19.77.20 .
The distinction between the ark and the people is not noticed for nothing. No doubt much is couched under it. And it may, perhaps, be intended to show, that as the ark rested in the water until all the people were secured from danger, so Jesus, whom the ark represented, will remain with the hindmost of his redeemed ones until every hoof is in safety. Precious Jesus! as thou art first, so last in everything which concerns redemption-work, that in all things thou mightest have the pre-eminence. Colossians 1:17-51.1.18 .
It is pleasant to see the forwardness of those tribes to lead the people on to victory. They had obtained their settlement. And who so proper to stir up the Lord's people as those who have tasted of his grace, and can tell by happy experience what the Lord hath done for their soul. Oh! that you and I, Reader, may feel somewhat of the same spirit of constraint to speak for Jesus, which the Psalmist did: Psalms 66:16 .
Reader! is not our Almighty Joshua magnified in the sight of all Israel on that memorable day, when a soul is brought safe over Jordan? Is not Jesus glorified before the throne in the presence of all Israel now in glory, and before all the heavenly host, when a soul is brought home to heaven, or when a soul is recovered by Almighty grace upon earth? Luke 15:10 . I do not presume to say so much; but I would humbly ask: was not this magnifying of Joshua when the ark came up out of the river, a representation of the magnifying of Jesus when he came up out of the grave and ascended to glory? Romans 1:4 .
Nothing could be more demonstrative of the miraculous holding of the waters, than the sudden return of the flood, when the purpose, for which the Lord held those waters in the hollow of his hand, was accomplished. May we not make a spiritual application of this passage, and observe, that in whatever place the ark of God resteth, or in other words, wherever the presence of Jesus is with his people, all the floods of sin are restrained. But if he withdraws, and takes away the influences of his Spirit, the glory is departed, the deeps of sin are broken up, and the flood-gates of iniquity pour in upon that people. Lord! I would pray for myself, for my people, and for the nation to which I belong; Take not, Oh! take not, thine Holy Spirit from us. Psalms 51:11 .
The Holy Ghost is pleased to have the very day recorded for the information of the church in all ages, in which this grand event was accomplished. And if the Reader is curious to make the calculation, he will find that it was the exact time, (wanting only five days) of forty years, which the Lord had said Israel should wander in the wilderness. Reader! as we learn from hence that God records his mercies, ought not you and I to record them also? And can we look back to the time, have we the memorandum always to have recourse to, when the Lord brought us over the spiritual Jordan towards the conquest of the Canaanite yet in the land? If not, is the work yet not begun? These are solemn enquiries: Lord, by thy Holy Spirit write them on our hearts.
Who knows but that these very stones were remaining in the days of our Lord? And it is not improbable, but as all the words of Jesus were significant and full of grace, Jesus might point to them when he said to the people, when he stood at Bethabara near Jordan, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. For these twelve stones were monuments of the twelve tribes of the stock of Abraham. And Bethabara seems to have been the very spot in the house of passage, where Joshua and the people passed over. Matthew 3:9 ; John 1:28 .
We meet with many passages in the Bible, of the Lord's directing his people to gratify the enquiry of their children in all questions of divine things. And what can be more sweet or more suited to the situation of creatures such as we are, passing away one generation after another, than to hand down from father to son the gracious works of God. Exodus 12:26-2.12.27 ; Deuteronomy 6:19 . I only detain the Reader to remark, that the Lord hath appointed the memorandum of one mercy, to connect with it the remembrance of another. The drying up of Jordan was to be the introduction of rehearsing the drying up the Red Sea, though there was forty years distance between those events. Our God, our Jesus is the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever. As he was with our fathers so is he with us, for his mercy endureth forever.
HERE would I pause, and in the contemplation of Israel's passing over Jordan, look back upon that sacred stream, and cry out, What hath God wrought? Surely, not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord promised Israel. Well may they look forward to the sure conquest of Canaan, since God hath thus begun to magnify the riches of his grace towards them, and set up the pillars of remembrance to the divine glory.
My soul! hast thou no part in this history? Is not thy Joshua here beautifully represented? Was it not Jesus and his power over all the Jordans, which rolled to keep him and his people back which are here set forth? Fear not then. Set up thy Ebenezer in Gilgal. And when thy children ask thee in time to come, what mean these things? Point to Jesus. Direct them to the Red Sea in his blood. And let them know that all his people are more than conquerors through his grace helping them, that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor all the Jordans of sin and the grave, shall be able to separate from Christ Jesus our Lord.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany