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NOW after the death of Moses . . . the Lord spake unto Joshua.
The death of the old lawgiver
I. The death of Moses was ushered in by no decay.
In this respect it was a striking exception to the rule. His mental vigour wan unimpaired when he passed away. We have evidence of this in that wonderful book of Deuteronomy, which Jesus loved to ponder and to quote. Witness also the grand swan-song into which he bursts before its close, pouring forth the sum and substance of all his warnings and exhortations in a flood of molten emotion. Witness the beatitudes that follow, wherein the seer pierces with prophetic eye the dark future and perceives the final consummation, when Jehovah shall remove all iniquity from Israel and write His law upon their hearts. Surely such exercises as these betoken a mind in a state of the highest vigour and activity. And as it was with the mind so was it with the body. Moses had no look of a dying man as he left the camp and climbed to Nebo’s brow; no painful and protracted illness, no decrepit old age. What a blessed exodus was this; more a translation than a death. An active, useful, holy life; a speedy death--could there be a greater blessing if we have to die?
II. The death of Moses was embittered by no regret. Moses was not dragged up that hill unwillingly, like a malefactor to his doom. There was no indulgence in rebellious sentiment and anxiety; no nervous and fearful activity in winding up the affairs of life; but contrariwise, there was profound, calm, and courageous submission to the Divine will. In good time let us honestly face all the possible sorrow and disappointment, and learn, like him, to overcome through faith, obedience, and humility.
III. His death was darkened by no dismay. Of all the multitude in Israel that loved him, not one was with him. Alone, alone, alone, he has passed into the presence of his Maker. Yes, and we too, whatever the circumstances of our end, however tender and unsleeping the ministry of loving hearts and gentle hands that soothes our dying moments, alone must enter death’s dark door and be ushered into the presence of our God. Alone, yet not unfriended, if we know Jesus who is there; alone, yet undismayed, if like Moses we trust in Him, for He has said, “I will be with thee.”
IV. The death of Moses was brightened by great consolation. (A. B. Mackay.)
Death enters into God’s plans
Joshua must succeed Moses and be God’s servant as he was. He must aim at this as the one distinction of his life; he must seek in every action to know what God would have him to do. Happy man if he can carry out this ideal of life! No conflicting interests or passions will distract his soul. The power that nerves his arm will not be more remarkable than the peace that dwells in his soul. He will show to all future generations the power of a “lost will,” not the suppression of all desire, according to the Buddhist’s idea of bliss, but all lawful natural desires in happy and harmonious action, because subject to the wise, holy, and loving guidance of the will of God. Thus we see among the other paradoxes of His government how God uses death to promote life. The death of the eminent, the aged, the men of brilliant gifts makes way for others, and stimulates their activity and growth. When the champion of the forest falls the younger trees around it are brought more into contact with the sunshine and fresh air, and push up into taller and more fully developed forms. In many ways death enters into God’s plans. Not only does it make way for the younger men, but it has a solemnizing and quickening effect on all who are not hardened and dulled by the wear and tear of life. What a memorable event in the spiritual history of families is the first sudden affliction, the first breach in the circle of loving hearts! First, the new experience of intense tender longing, baffled by the inexorable conditions of death; then the vivid vision of eternity, the reality of the unseen flashing on them with living and awful power, and giving an immeasurable importance to the question of salvation; then the drawing closer to one another, the forswearing of all animosities and jealousies, the cordial desire for unbroken peace and constant co-operation; and if it be the father or the mother that has been taken, the ambition to be useful--to be a help, not a burden, to the surviving parent, and to do what little they can of what used to be their father’s or their mother’s work. Death becomes actually a quickener of the vital energies; instead of a withering influence, it drops like the gentle dew, and becomes the minister of life. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Death makes room for others
And some great names must be removed to make way for lesser names that have growing sap in them and real capability of beneficent expansion. Some great trees must be cut down to make room for lesser trees that mean to be great ones in their time. We owe much to the cutting-down power of death, the clearing power of the cruel scythe or axe. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Onward, through, and over
Moses was dead. His work was done. It was rounded off so far as he was concerned, and so he went to his reward. There is a lesson of no small importance to you and me. Our business is to do the duty that lies next us. That duty may only seem to be a fragment of what we desire to accomplish, but it is all we are answerable for, and to do our portion well is to stand clear with conscience and with God. In the construction of a door, one man makes the panels, another makes the frame, another fits it together, and a fourth hangs it by its hinges. The panel maker has a very imperfect portion of the work to show as the result of his toil, but he has done his part and fulfilled his mission whether the door ever swings in its place or no. Your business and mine is to fulfil the injunction, whether in our daily toil, in the training of our children, in the work of the Church or whatever other duty may fall to us--“Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Our hearts may find to do a good deal more; if our hand cannot find the opportunity to work out the heart’s desire, we are accepted for what we have done and what we would do and cannot; and whatever and how-much soever remains undone, we shall ascend, like Moses, to our own Mount Nebo and die in a flood of rosy light with Canaan before our eyes and God’s “Well done” sounding in our ears. The man who carries the hod of mortar up the ladder does not lay a single brick, but in his measure his service is essential and as worthy as the architect that planned the building, or the mason that rears its walls. From this point of view, servant is a grander name than seraph or archangel, for what would these be if they did not serve or stand and wait? Their wings would droop and their celestial glory would be quenched in night. “Moses’ minister.” That is what Joshua is called. It is another word for servant. He ministered to, that is, he served Moses; and herein lies another lesson, for he was thereby a servant also of the Lord. He who well serves the Lord’s servant serves that servant’s Master, and He says, “Ye did it unto Me.” Oh for a full and perfect measure of this rich interchange, this interlinking of lives and sympathies, servants of each other, vying in a holy rivalry as to who shall be the lowliest, readiest, willingest servant of the servants of the Lord! “Spake to Joshua.” Joshua was born when Moses was an exile and a stranger hidden for his life among the wilds of Midian. There’s another lesson of great value in this. It did not seem likely then, did it? that Moses should ever be a leader of men, the emancipator of a nation. Providence sees and plans for a long time ahead of our to-day, and holds in reserve agents and forces that we cannot see; and because we cannot see them we doubt and question and in the face of the unlikely we say, “It cannot be.” That solitary pale-faced and half starved monk in a German cell; how is he to shake all Europe and make the Pope tremble on his throne? There is nothing more unlikely: and yet Frederic, Prince of Saxony, is being placed by God upon his throne to be a ready and brave helper when the time came; and before Luther left his cell, Providence had sprung upon the world the printing press, which was to be Luther’s deadliest artillery. God’s plans are laid; His movements are in process, and for the fulfilment of every purpose that He cherisheth there shall come the hour and the man. Now mark, that this is true in our own individual history and experience. Every humble and trustful disciple of the Lord Jesus is the ward of Divine Providence. Listen: “The God of my mercy shall prevent me”; that is, shall go before me, You look forward with an anxious eye and heart to some possible contingency, and say, “It is sure to happen.” Time passes, and perhaps it does happen; but you find that meanwhile God hath stationed at that point something or somebody that acts as a buffer to the blow, and although your Moses may fail you at your need, some Joshua comes in to fill the gap and meet the need of the moment to the full. “Therefore arise.” There is an old saying that there is much virtue in an “if”; it appears to me that there is much virtue in this word “therefore.” Moses is dead, therefore arise. Remembering who Moses was and how entirely Moses was depended on, it would seem more natural to say, “Therefore lie still; this is a blow from which you cannot recover.” When he was alive you often asked him to take you back to Egypt for safety’s sake. Now that he is dead, you had better take yourselves back, for if you are not drowned in an attempt to pass the river, the Canaanites will dig your graves on the other side. Now is not that the kind of “therefore” with which the Church of God is sadly familiar, and with which those who have relationship with faint-hearted people have a saddening acquaintance? A stay and pillar of the Church dies or removes, “therefore nothing can be done; what can we do without him?” Here is a man who starts in business. Things do not advance as he wishes. He therefore must shut up his shop, be content to collapse. Surely that logic will be laughed at. Well, do not let us hear it in the Church; do not let us say it in presence of our obstacles. If the axe is blunt, grip it with both hands and put more strength into the blow. No fretting, no retreating, no conferring with doubts and fears. Is Moses dead? Therefore arise! Cross hands over the dead hero’s coffin, and vow to Heaven to take his name as a new watchword, and to cross the Jordan while the earth is still fresh upon his grave. “Go over this Jordan.” In measuring the chances of doing a thing you must take into account who orders it. It was Napoleon who said to the French army, “Go over the Alps.” It would not have been done under anybody else’s guidance. It was God that said to Joshua, “Go over this Jordan.” Then though it be as deep as the sea, though it swirl like a whirlpool, though it rush like Niagara, he will go to yonder side. There is just one other lesson that I would fain gather from these suggestive words--“The land which I do give them.” First, God had said to them while in Egypt, “The land which I will give them.” Oh! what weary years of waiting followed! At last they had given it up. They said, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Then the lash of the taskmaster fell and silenced them. Now they are in sight of it, and He says, “The land which I do give them.” The promise is in the very act of being fulfilled. By and by the waters parted and let them through, and, as they stand on the plains of Sharon, or lie at rest under the shadow of the hills of Lebanon, God says, “The land which I have given them!’ Mark the tenses, how they change: “I will give, I do give, I have given.” Men and brethren, that is God’s order. He is faithful that promised. (J. J. Wray.)
Dignity of God’s service
The first graveyard which meets the eye in the Moravian cemetery of Herrnhut bears the inscription, “Christian David, the servant of the Lord.” This was in life the high distinction of the humble and apostolic colleague of Count Zinzendorf, and was even recognised by the Imperial Council of Russia when the Moravian carpenter had occasion to appear before it.
Moses and Joshua
Moses’ work ended at Jordan--Joshua’s began at Jordan. History is vested in the life of its representative men, and has in it no gaps. The mantle of Elijah falls on Elisha, and the next generation was provided for before Moses went up into Nebo. Moses wanted to go over Jordan. It seemed to him, most likely, that he died before his time. And yet his work, as we can see it now, was a completed and a nicely-rounded one. His commission was to bring the Hebrews to the Jordan; Joshua’s commission was to bring them over the Jordan and establish them in Canaan. We are to learn from such representative instances that when a man is interested in nothing but to do the work that God sets him, he will never die till the work is done thoroughly and successfully. Among the little servants of God there are no fallen buds, and among the adult servants of God no broken columns. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)
The new leader
It has been said, “Great men have no successors.” But if we mean by successor one who takes up the work where his predecessor has left it, and develops it according to the Divine ideal, then all men, great and small alike, have successors. As Pascal puts it, “You cannot produce the great man before his time, and you cannot make him die before his time; you cannot displace nor advance him, nor put him back; you cannot continue his existence, and replace him, for he existed only because he had his work to do; he exists no longer, because there is no longer anything for him to do; and to continue him is to continue a useless part.” A worthy successor to the great leader had been found. The Divine choice, a choice which had been revealed to Moses before his death, and which greatly gladdened his heart, had fallen upon Joshua. There were reasons for this choice of Joshua which we do well to consider; for if his preparation for this high place was not so romantic or so miraculous as that of Moses, it was none the less effective and Divine. His training was, like ours, of a more homely pattern.
I. It can scarcely be doubted that Joshua’s lineage had something to do with God’s choice. His parents were slaves, and though the bloody edict enacted in Moses’ infant days had long since been repealed, these serfs had felt to the full the bitterness of bondage. But notwithstanding all, they had not lost faith and hope in God; and we get a glimpse into their souls’ state through the significant name they gave their firstborn. They called him “Hoshea,” that is “Salvation.” Surely their infant’s name is the very echo of their father Jacob’s dying words to Dan, “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.” We can well believe that Joshua was brought up in an atmosphere of hope. It is more than likely, from what we know of the habits of the ancient Egyptians, that in a corner of his father’s lowly dwelling stood an object which often excited his childish wonder and curiosity. It was a mummy case, painted all over with strange devices and curious figures, which with its somewhat faded richness presented a strange contrast to the mean furniture of the dwelling. “Within it,” we can easily imagine his mother telling him, “are preserved the bones of Joseph.” “But why do you keep Joseph’s bones?” “Because when he lay dying he gave commandment concerning them,” &c. The child would listen and ponder, and look with new solemnity on that sacred trust; then he might ask, “Mother, was that true which Joseph said when he was dying?” “Yes, my boy.” “Then why do we not go at once--
“‘Mother, oh where is that blissful shore,
Shall we not seek it and weep no more’?”
“We must wait God’s time. We are His people, and He knows what is best.” “Will it be long till that day comes?” “I cannot tell, but I do not think it will be very long, for God said to our great father Abraham that we would go back to it in the fourth generation, and the time must be near.” Thus the influences that surrounded Joshua in his youth must have moulded his character and prepared him for the place he took, first as Moses’ lieutenant, then as leader of Israel; and the assurance of the truth of Joseph’s dying words must have mollified the bitterness of that cruel bondage. Every visitation of judgment would be a confirmation of his faith, and every trial a purifying furnace to remove his dross. He would hear from his father and grandfather, who were elders of the important tribe of Ephraim, the precise particulars of the Divine commission, and while they, with the other elders, were under Moses and Aaron attending to the more difficult and important matters in connection with the proposed Exodus, it is very likely that, following his natural bent of mind, he would be actively employed in attempting to organise the people and prepare them for a simultaneous movement. Thus while this champion first steps into the arena when Israel confronts Amalek, we may well suppose that he had done yeoman’s service before, and his fitness and aptness for his life’s work must have depended in great measure on home surroundings.
II. Joshua’s character had also to do with this choice. Its constituent elements were noble and simple, easily understood and readily appreciated. He was every inch a soldier, brave and manly, simple in habit, straightforward in speech, cool-headed, warm-hearted, energetic, swift in thought and action. He was firm as a rock, true as steel. Nothing could exceed his fidelity. How true was he, above all, to his God! So was he with his master. He never failed Moses. At all times he was jealous for his honour, and would tolerate nothing derogatory to his dignity and authority. He was even true to his enemies. He kept his word and carried out his engagements, in the spirit as well as the letter, though trapped by guile into the making of them. His courage also was of the loftiest kind. It could face not only enemies, but, harder far, misguided friends. Like all noble natures, Joshua was also unselfish, humble, and modest. He had learned to obey, and was therefore fit to command. His patience and hopefulness were also very marked, and much needed in the leader of such a people as Israel. He was able to endure the fatigues of the march as well as the rush of battle, not fainting under the hardships of the weary campaign, but ever on the alert to push every advantage to its utmost limit, and always, by his cheerful bearing and cheery words, keeping up the hearts of the people. He was a leader alert, circumspect, prudent, leaving nothing to chance or the chapter of happy accidents, but doing everything that foresight could suggest for the attainment of the end in view.
III. Joshua’s training had also to do with this choice. When he was put at the head of the people he was no novice. Joshua was the oldest man in the camp with the single exception of Caleb; therefore he was a man of experience and ripened wisdom. We have already spoken about that home school, in which his parents were the teachers. This was the granitic foundation of all his subsequent greatness. He was also taught in the grand and stirring school of the Exodus. Here God Himself was Joshua’s teacher. Great national events have a high educational value. The stimulus of stirring times is deep, formative, and all pervasive. Still another school furnished Joshua with valuable instruction, and that was the camp of Israel. If by the wonders of the Exodus he was taught to know God, by the conduct of Israel he would learn to know man. Day by day he would be learning how to command and lead. Find without doubt the crowning lessons in this long preparatory course would be imparted in the tent of Moses. Moses’ tent was Joshua’s college. And the very fact that he had been associated so long with Moses as his lieutenant would not only prepare himself but also the minds of the people for this change.
IV. This choice of Joshua had also reference to the character of the work that had to be done. The great work now before Israel is to conquer and divide the land. This was a kind of work most congenial to Joshua, and for which he had received special preparation. He is the right man for the present work, as Moses was the right man for the past.
V. Also, this significant choice had reference to the great plan of god in the economy of redemption. “Moses My servant is dead.” Thus said Jehovah. Therefore Moses brought no one into the inheritance. Israel lost sight of him for ever, before they put down a foot in Canaan. If they are to pass over that Jordan, and possess the land, it cannot be under Moses. This act of leadership is deliberately taken out of his hands by God Himself. Surely the lesson is plain to all who know the essence of the gospel. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” The law brings no one into God’s heritage. But what Moses could not do Joshua was raised up to accomplish. If we would enter into God’s inheritance we must turn from Moses and look to Joshua. Who was he? A man in all points made like his brethren; not nurtured in Pharaoh’s palace like Moses, but born with them in Goshen, sharing their burdens, labouring side by side with them, afflicted in all their afflictions, bearing their griefs and carrying their sorrows. Who cannot see here a picture of God’s own Son, “made of a woman, made under the law”? Turn from the law to the gospel. What is your hope of glory, Moses or Jesus? Yet we must never dream that Moses and Joshua are antagonistic. There is no quarrel in God’s economies. Just as Moses and Joshua wrought together for the same great end, so is it with the law and the gospel. (A. B. Mackay.)
Whom do I succeed?
Every age succeeds an age marked by greatness peculiarly its own. We are born now into a grand civilisation; it admits of no indolence, or reluctance as to work, and it cannot be satisfied by what is petty, perfunctory, and inexpensive as to the strength which is laid out upon it. History brings its responsibilities. To be born immediately after such and such leaders have played their part in the world’s theatre is itself to have a cross of no mean weight laid upon the shoulder. We may close our eyes and think nothing about these things, but we do not thereby make them the less realities, nor do we thereby destroy the standard of judgment which they force upon us and by which our life will be tested. Every man should say, “Whom do I succeed? Whose are these footprints near the place whereon I stand? Has a giant been here--a great leader, a noble sufferer, a patient student, a father great in love, a mother greater still?--then my responsibility begins with their greatness and goodness; what I have to do,” the soliloquist should say, “is to go on: where they have been great, I must try to be greater still--or if not along their line, along some line of my own--so that the ages may not stagger backwards, but with steadiness and majesty of strength advance from one degree to another as the light increases to the perfect day.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
When a merchant has a vacancy in his establishment, he promotes to it that one of his servants who in the post which he has been occupying has displayed the greatest measure of fidelity and perseverance; and, when a youth applies for a situation, the success of his application will depend on the report which his former employer gives regarding him or on the record which he has written for himself in school. But it is not otherwise in the providence of God. Those who fill best the spheres in which they have been placed are, in general, those who are in the long run advanced to higher positions; while they who despise the small things of their present duties are left to sink into still deeper obscurity. (Christian World Pulpit.)
Death and its lessons
The man to whom the charge is addressed is the inferior, in every way, of his master. A good man, a brave soldier, a disinterested head of the State--this he is. But the zest and the sparkle has gone out of the history with Moses; the passage of the river is a feeble repetition of the passage of the sea; and the scene to which it admits Israel is one, for the most part, of comparatively “common day”--alternations of fighting and resting, victories imperfectly followed up, acquiescences, languid and faithless, in a virtual partition of Canaan between Israel and Israel’s foe. It is the more lifelike as a picture of the fortunes of our race. It is thus that earth’s history is written, it is thus that the stream of time flows on. The Moses is followed by the Joshua, the morning of promise by the noonday of disappointment, both alike pointing onward, onward still, to a sunset long delayed, and an evening time which shall at last be light. The hero of strategy or prowess--the genius of discovery or imagination--the prophet of earth or heaven--lives not to reap, leaves the harvest to another, looks abroad from his Pisgah upon worlds unconquered, feels at last that he rather stops the onward march of a generation whose turn is come. It is well. Man must be little if he would be great--must see himself but an atom in the universe of life if he would do anything that is real in the work which is all God’s. And he has his reward. The man that “knows the blessedness of being little” is disembarrassed of the self-consciousness which is battling to be great. That energy is all free for action which loses no time in contemplating itself. That “ability” grows apace in vigour which remembers that it is of “God’s giving.” It was so with Moses. His one prayer was, “Let the God of the spirits of all flesh set a man over His congregation.” Upon him, when he was found, he laid his hand, presented him instantly to the congregation as the man of the future, and “put some of his own honour at once upon him, that the congregation might understand and be obedient.” He has his reward. This it is which eases life of its carefulness. This it is which makes greatness endurable as well as possible--the thought that God has no need of it, can raise up even from the stones a workman and a patriot, metes not with man’s measure and reckons not by man’s years. “I am the Lord, I change not”; therefore ye sons of men can both quietly serve and peacefully fall on sleep. “Moses My servant is dead.” Yes, “My servant,” though he once “spake unadvisedly”; yes, “My servant,” though he was refused his heart’s prayer; yes, “My servant,” though he might not go over Jordan. “Moses My servant is dead”: even when we are judged, we are but chastened; yea, if we not only suffer for our sins, but even sleep! “Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan.” The work of God is not ended. Rather are we always on the brink of a river that must be crossed, and in sight of a land that has to be conquered. Who can look around him on the face of this earth, and so much as dream that Jordan is crossed, that Canaan is occupied? Who could live this life if he did not feel and know that effort, that progress, is its law? What we look forth upon, from the spot which is “this present,” is a work, and it is a warfare. With our guides or without them, it is quite evident that there rolls a deep and a rapid river between us and rest, between us and a land of promise, which is that new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. We cannot pretend to say that intelligence such as we possess, that civilisation such as we have attained, that religion such as a Christendom realises, is satisfactory, is successful, is victorious, whether in the aspect of happiness or in the aspect of good. Everything is in conflict, everything is in struggle, everything is (at best) in a condition of movement and in a condition of hope. The plain of Moab is our world--a cold, broad stream divides us from any thing that we can call rest, from anything that we can call possession. “My servant is dead, now therefore arise, and go over.” There is a vacancy, which you must fill. That is one lesson of death. It is a summons to the living. God has lost a workman--will you take his place? Terrible would it be for this nation if either growing luxury or spreading vice should diminish the supply of strong men for the carrying on of the work of God in England. It is not the decay of genius which is formidable--it is the decay of strength. Joshua was (in many senses) the inferior of Moses, but that inferiority was no loss, on the whole, to his country; he had his work, as Moses had his--and, like Moses, he did it. “My servant is dead; therefore arise and go over,” If there is a call in death, there is also an encouragement. See, it says to us, what life is. See the blessedness of God’s service. Hear Him say of the departed, “My servant” still. The man who has served God in his generation shall never die. He is in the hands of God, though it be out of the sight of the living. “My servant is dead; arise therefore, and go over,” whither he, we trust, is gone. In the words of the historic parable of Ascension Day, “Take ye up the mantle that fell from him, and with it smite the waters--that, like him, and after him, you in your turn may pass over dryshod.” (Dean Vaughan.)
Arise, go over this Jordan.
The campaign commenced
I. What the Lord spake unto joshua; or, the issue of the order. Never was a mightier task assigned to any man than to Joshua; and yet never did any man start forth better equipped than he, for observe, the Lord gives him--
(1) An express warrant;
(2) glorious and gracious promises;
(3) hearty encouragement;
(4) clear directions.
II. What Joshua commanded the people; or, his proclamation of the lord’s order.
1. His obedience is prompt and unquestioning. No “wherewith” is interposed; no sign asked. He does not pause or procrastinate, but “then” (verse 10) and there, like a man of activity, he issues the order to the tribes through their officers, bidding the people at once prepare them victuals for the journey; yea, strong in faith, and full of the Holy Ghost, he announces that “within three days” they are to cross the Jordan.
2. As Joshua’s obedience was prompt, so was it thorough. He will not do God’s work by halves, nor go to war without all the army.
III. What the people answered Joshua; or, their acceptance of the lord’s order. “Only be strong, and of good courage”! They indicate that Joshua had rehearsed in their ears the charge that God had given him. The key to their import is found in the clause, “thou and all this people” (verse 2). They recognise their union with their captain. Thus their exhortation may be regarded as an echo, and an acceptance of the call to effort and endurance.
1. There is great encouragement here for all who, like Joshua, are called to occupy posts of authority, responsibility, or difficulty.
2. The same consolation belongs to every Christian. We all have a warfare to accomplish, a Jordan to pass over, an inheritance to seek. The call of God, the promises of God, and the presence of God are our warrant.
3. A deeper lesson remains, respecting the office of Jesus. He is the Captain of the Lord’s host. (G. W. Butler, M. A.)
Joshua successor, to Moses
1. Every man who is doing anything worth working at is some one’s successor, and in time must be succeeded by some one. Alas for the man who succeeds only to a place to occupy, and not to a work to do! Joshua was successor to a grand man in wonderful work.
2. Every man’s work is a continuation. “The workmen die, but the work goes on.”
3. Every man’s work is his own. It differs from that of him who went before, and of him who will come after. Moses had been trained in Pharaoh’s court and among Jethro’s flock; Joshua in the brickyards of Egypt and in the army of Israel. Each had been fitted for the work he was to do. And every man’s work is shaped by that of his predecessor.
I. God gives men definite work to do. It is important that you know your vocation. God has called you to His likeness and His service; to be as Christ was in the world, with His mind in you and His work upon your hands; to manifest the Father to men, and to lead men to the Father. It is your definite work, your one great aim as Christians, as God’s children, whether you accept it or not--your only worthy aim.
II. A definite work demands an equally definite law. If the work be given, the law for its prosecution must be given also from the same source. God has been good to His people in perpetuating for them the written Word, enlarged and modified for their changing conditions. The object-lessons, which were needed in the childhood of the race, gave way to the precepts which might better guide its youth; and these in turn yielded to the statement of the great principles of all right feeling and conduct, with the declaration of which the canon is closed, and which need no addition, because they are adaptable to every variety of condition and culture.
III. A divine helper. When the Lord gives a man a work to do which is beyond his power, He always promises the needed aid. “Go over this Jordan, and divide this land among My people,” says the Lord; but God says also, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” But, beside the promise of a Divine Helper, Joshua had both the vision of His person and the experience of His aid. We, too, may listen, and hear the promise coupled with the command. We also may look up and see, not in vision, but in the mirror of His Word, the Captain of our salvation, the Lord of war and righteousness, armed for our defence, at hand for our deliverance. No life is worth the living unless it sets before itself a work worthy to be done. No life tan do a worthy work save as it recognises the Divine law, and avails itself of the Divine Helper. With these three outward conditions of his success, there needed one quality on Joshua’s part to make it sure, and that was--
IV. A brave heart. But the courage came from his confidence in the Divine mission, the Divine law, and the Divine Helper. So, too, may it be for us all. If we know that the Lord our God is with us, we shall not be afraid nor dismayed; but we too shall be prospered, and shall have good success. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)
The commission of Joshua
I. The divine commission is given to men who are peculiarly fitted for the work. In one respect all men are weak; but in their weakness they must not be weaklings. God can use all men; but He never calls one to a burden that is beyond his ability to carry. Man must become worthy or willing before God will commission him to any work. God cannot make much of any man who does not make much of himself. We too often speak as if God gives man his character; it is all wrong. By Divine help every man makes himself and develops his own powers, for the exercise or misuse of which he alone is responsible. It is every man’s privilege to be worthy of receiving the Divine call.
II. The source of all strength is God.
1. God wants strong men. There is no strength without symmetry. Samson’s strength was counterbalanced by his moral weakness. Benedict Arnold ranked among the nation’s heroes at Ticonderoga, but the lurking perfidy of his heart betrayed the traitor at last. The intellectual brilliancy of an Aaron Burr could not raise him to any greatness so long as his moral nature was corrupt. Washington was as great a power in national affairs on account of his moral nature as from his civic deeds; so of Lincoln and Grant.
2. All strength springs from within. You cannot make any man stronger than he is. Place him in favouring circumstances, but these cannot control him, except as they mark his weakness. You may bolster men, but this gives no manhood; may extol them above their deserts, but all the puffs of adulation make them no stronger. The whole world cannot make any man to be worth more than he is in himself. This strength is possible to all. Take away bodily fear, or timidity as to others’ opinions, and every man can be strong. There is no sight more sublime than man enduring the flames that scorch him in the path of duty; mightier than the mighty rebukes of millions as he walks alone; undismayed, as Christlike he stands with some repentant child of sin, for Christ’s sake. The “image of God” can surpass in sublimity and divinity all else the world has ever seen, because the measure of the obstacles he overcomes marks the heroism of his own soul.
3. God promises help in thus gaining strength. What power in the words: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee,” &c. Stronger yet the promise: “The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” There is no strength without God. Power comes only when the watchward is “Immanuel.” “I can do all things,” &c. There is no truly great man who is ungodly. It takes a great hope to give great courage.
III. They whose strength is in God are invincible. There is no such bulwark as the truth; no such power as comes from the consciousness of doing right. There is no such strength as the man possesses whose conscience is clear. One such man can chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. It is not necessary for men with truth on their side to take up the world’s methods in their plans and plottings. Men in whom God dwells are as truly unharmed by evil as they are by the storms that can do no more than wet their cheeks. The world cannot crush God’s children; it can crown with thorns, but it cannot, with all its might, cast off from memory the crown of the just. It can build bonfires, make dungeons, and sharpen sabres, but it cannot weaken the joys that count all these only as symbols of their swift entrance upon a better life.
IV. The bounds of all successful service are in the written word. So far as history has a voice, God has never left Himself without a witness of His truth. Sinai’s law was but the expression of principles long before partially known. Twice in the record of this commission of Joshua the condition of prosperity is given as obedience “to all the law” made known through Moses: “Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left,” &c. It was this same law that should never depart out of his mouth; day and night he should meditate upon its precepts, and watch closely “to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous,” &c. The truth of this grand principle has been stamped upon the world wherever civilisation has gained a hold. (David O. Mears.)
Taking possession of our inheritance
I. Take a survey of the inheritance.
1. I would say of this inheritance which God has prepared for His saints, and has given to them by a covenant of salt, that it is exceeding broad. All that we can think or desire is ours in the covenant of grace. There are immeasurable breadths and lengths, but we confine ourselves to close quarters. Truly “there is very much land yet to be possessed”! Some graces you must have, or you are not saved; some sins must at once be driven out of your life at the sword’s point, or you are not the Lord’s. As for the choicer graces, you are foolish indeed if you think of doing without them; and as for the less violent sins, you err greatly if you spare one of them.
2. This heritage is exceedingly desirable. When sin is driven out, and we come to live in God’s own land, then we find precious treasure; we dig, and we are enriched. We have all things in Christ; yea, in Him we have all that our utmost want can require.
3. This heritage, upon which we are now looking down from the summit of our faith, is full of variety. Here are Hermons of experience, Tabors of communion, Jabboks of prevailing prayer, and Cheriths of Divine providence. The revelation of God is a blessed country, full of all manner of delights. They that live in Christ dwell in spiritual realms, which for light and joy are as heaven below. Above all things, it is “Thy land, O Immanuel”!
II. Glance at the title deeds of our inheritance. I would not mind exhibiting our title before the whole bench of judges, for it has no flaw in it, and will stand in the highest court.
1. First, notice its covenant character: “I have given it to you.” You will find the full conveyance in Genesis 15:18-21. Each believer may say, “He hath in Christ Jesus made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and therefore do I possess all spiritual blessings, and shall possess them world without end.”
2. Observe, next, that this deed of gift is notable for its graciousness. How does it run? Which I do “sell” to them? Ah, no! It is no sale, but a free gift.
3. Note well the righteousness of our title: “Which I do give to them.” The Lord God has a right to give what He pleases, for “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” Of His own has He given unto us. In the great sacrifice of His dear Son He has satisfied all claims of justice, and He acts justly when He blesses largely those for whom Jesus died.
4. Do not fail to see its sureness: “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” “I do give,” saith He, and thus He stands to His act and deed. Oh, children of God, what do you think of your title-deeds? You stand possessed of your kingdom by the gift of Him who has a right to give what He pleases. The kingdom is given you because it is your Father’s good pleasure to give it to you. Not only was it His good pleasure, but it remains so. What great simpletons we are if we do not take possession of the brave country which is ceded to us!
III. Let us make a move towards our possessions. There is your land, but Jordan rolls between.
1. The first thing to do in this matter is to go over this Jordan. Come out from the world, and be separate. The land of gracious experience is meant for you to dwell in, so that you may be recognised as the Lord’s peculiar people, separated unto the Most High. Oh, for that decisive step by which, like Abraham, you conic out from your father’s house that you may be a sojourner with God in the land which His grace will show you!
2. Having decided for the Lord, you are next to take possession by an act of simple faith. Every place in the grace country upon which the sole of your foot shall tread is yours. You will remember that the Red Indians agreed to sell to William Penn as much land as a man could walk round in a day; and I do not wonder that at the end of the day they complained that the white brother had made a big walk. I think I should have put my best leg foremost if whatever I could put my foot upon would be mine; would not you? Why, then, do you not hurry up in spiritual matters? Do you value earthly things more than spiritual? Mark, then, that if you put your foot down upon a blessing, and say, “This is mine,” it is yours. What a very simple operation is the claim of faith! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.--
The commission for the conquest
I. It was divine. It is important to bear this in mind, otherwise we shall misunderstand not only the whole teaching of this book, but the whole history of Israel as a nation. “Deus vult” is written on every page, however stained with blood. Joshua was no bandit or freebooter, eager for plunder; no Alexander or Napoleon, consumed by the lust of power and the greed of empire. He was simply a servant, carrying out the commands of a superior. And in truth there was a Divine necessity for this commission. If the Divine purposes are to be carried out, if He is to keep His place as the Judge of all the earth, some such commission was a necessity. Is there anything analogous to this in the spiritual sphere? There is. God does not in these days call the Christian to any war such as that to which He called Joshua; yet there is a holy war, a glorious crusade, in which He would have us all warriors. Before every one of us He places a double battlefield. There is an outer fight, and the field of battle is the whole world, according to the gospel commission, “Go ye into all the world,” &c. There is also an inner fight, and the field of battle is the heart, according to that holy exhortation which urges us to bring every thought into subjection to the Lord Jesus.
III. It was clear in its terms. No doubt could arise in the mind of Joshua as to what God desired him to do. “Arise”! The wilderness journey is at an end; the time to take possession has come. Arise from these weary disciplinary wanderings to high and heroic achievements. Even so our commission as Christians for our twofold fight is clear as day, and as emphatic as the Divine lips could make it. Therefore the removal of every valiant soldier of the Cross should be a mighty stimulus to those left behind. We best revere the memory of the good and great who have passed away by giving all diligence to the work which was so dear to them.
III. It was difficult to carry out. “Go over this Jordan.” Joshua is here put in as great extremity as was Moses at the Red Sea. Aye, and the crossing of the Jordan is only the first great difficulty among many. Often, in like manner, obedience to the gospel commission implies the facing of difficulties which to the eye of sense are insuperable. The fight of faith is never easy.
IV. It was terrible in its consequences. When we think of its bearing on these Canaanites, we can conceive nothing more appalling. These nations were like the grass of the field, and Israel was God’s scythe to cut them down. What a contrast to all this have we in the commission of the gospel and the present work of the Lord Jesus. When on earth He said, “I came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them,” and the work He has given His followers now to do is a work of salvation. Surely, then, we should be all the more eager to carry it out.
V. It was also righteous. In this case nothing was done in undue haste. The Divine patience that had borne with these evil tenants for four hundred years was marvellous; and they grew worse and worse all the time. The gracious pause of forty years, after He had made bare His mighty arm before all flesh, by the wonders done in Loan’s field, and proclaimed that the time had come when He was to give this land to Israel, should have won submission. If now they resist His action, it is at their peril. If the war in which Joshua was engaged was righteous, how holy is that war by which righteousness and peace, joy and goodwill, are multiplied on the earth. The man who consecrates all his faculties to the downfall of evil, first within and then without, whose life is one long struggle against spiritual wickedness, acts according to the principles of eternal rectitude.
VI. It was beneficial in its results. He who reads history cannot fail to see that impure and enfeebled races and nations have been the prey of those who have been comparatively pure and strong; and thus, by conquest, take it all in all, civilisation has been advanced, and the state of the race as a whole ameliorated. Better a bad limb be cut off than the whole body mortify. Such national surgery may be terrible, but it is beneficial. In like manner, by unflinching valour in the fight of faith, the children of God become the world’s best benefactors. In conquering evil within and without, we not only do good to ourselves but to the whole human race. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Without this preserving salt of Christlike souls how soon would the carcase become corrupt and the eagles of judgment alight.
VII. It had also a wide reference and a narrow application. It spoke of the country which stretched “from the wilderness and this Lebanon.” Thus the inheritance of Israel embraced a territory of great richness, beauty, variety, and compactness. Yet while Joshua’s commission embraced the whole land, the land become the possession of Israel only as it was subdued acre by acre. These ancient warriors had not only to take the title-deeds, but also to enter into possession. To do the first was easy; to do the second was hard. Even so is it with the Christian. He has indeed a goodly heritage--a whole heaven of spiritual blessedness. “All things are yours.” “Blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” But we cannot enjoy one of these blessings apart from the conflict of faith. (A. B. Mackay.)
Ownership and possession
Here is a great promise with a sharp limitation: “Every place is yours--but every place only as you tread upon it, occupy, subdue, possess it.” A most instructive parallel might be drawn between the subjugation of Palestine by Israel and the settlement of America by the English. In both cases tyranny at home had much to do with the movement, for the Stuarts of England and the Pharaohs of Egypt held essentially the same views of royal prerogative, In both cases the country was already occupied by aborigines, and the free, wild life of the Jebusites and the Amorites was not unlike that of the Iroquois and Sioux Indians. In both cases the land was parcelled out before it was actually possessed. In both cases possession was achieved only through long and obstinate struggle with an enemy continually defeated, but stubbornly refusing to submit. According to the royal grants, Massachusetts and Virginia reached through to the Pacific Ocean. It required five minutes to draw the long parallels on the royal map; it needed two centuries actually to push civilisation across the continent, and the work is not yet finished. Ownership comes before possession, and is useless without it. The Divine giving is always done along this line. In dealing with the fields and the forests, God pours out sunshine and rain unasked, and the earth can only lie helpless, now flooded and now parched with heat. But in dealing with men made in His image, God’s giving is a far finer and more subtle process. There is in it a wondrous delicacy that seems to fear refusal, that is busied chiefly with finding a place in which the gift is wanted. He gives us the title-deed, the motive-power, the strength, the gladness, and then says, “Enter and possess.” We are all familiar with this in the intellectual realm. You put into your son’s hand a Virgil or a Shakespeare. “Now,” you say, “he has the works of Shakespeare, or Virgil.” Has them?--he has the possibility, the opportunity! It is a great thing to have that; thousands have remained ignorant for want of that. But when you possess an author, the book in the hand will be only a subordinate affair. You will know the man himself; lines will flash out upon you at your toil, great sweet thoughts will recur in dreams, passages will intertwine with all your daily task, and when you possess Shakespeare, he will possess you. You give your son teachers and schools--there your power stops. You seat your daughter at the piano, but for musical power, culture, achievement--she must enter into and possess these, or she will for ever stand outside. You buy a home. The papers are signed, the deed is recorded; instantaneously the house is yours. But then comes the process of moving into it. Every season you move a little further in; through days of birth and bridal when the joy bells ring, through days of grief when all the bells are muffled, you are growing into that house, and when men ask, “Why don’t you move up town?” you say, “My heart is here; this place I love.” So Jesus Christ comes to a man at the entrance of Christian life, and puts him into ownership. “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” He bestows upon us the title-deeds unencumbered. He spreads before us a great territory, and says, “That is yours.” Forgiveness for sins that are past, an inner quietness which naught can ruffle, a balm for life’s hurts and bruises, a daily strength for daily needs, a courage that rises with obstacles and never knows defeat, all this is ours--if we will make it ours. Ours to possess, to enjoy, to experience. There is an old-fashioned phrase that had a deal of truth in it “experiencing religion.” A man has just as much religion as he has experienced; only when talking of our experience let us not go back twenty years--let us review the last twenty-four hours. How was it with me last evening? Was God last night in my soul, was I filled with serenity and courage and devotion to other souls, not twenty years ago, but last night? Our Bible is no larger than our reading of the Bible. Some men have a Bible consisting of a few Psalms and half a dozen chapters in the Gospels. Others have a Bible that is a patchwork of half-remembered texts, put together in childhood and now badly faded. A man with a rich, deep Christian experience cannot be content with a few threadbare chapters, he is ever reaching into new territory. So it is with the various great truths of the Christian religion--all are ours, but ours only as we possess them. The true use of a creed is not to set forth what men must believe, but to record what men do believe. And the man who is growing will find his creed growing too, growing indeed more simple, but growing stronger, and deeper, and broader. A grown man with a child’s religion is like a man trying to content himself with nursery toys--he is soon disgusted with his attempt. But when a man is constantly moving onward, then one truth after another will reveal its inner meaning to his soul. We cannot expect that all truths will be equally precious in any one day. There is a rotation of crops in the spiritual life, and everything is “beautiful in his time.” There is always one truth that shines brightest, as there is always one star on the meridian. Other stars will follow and culminate in their season. I think often with a strange awe of the first settlers of the Atlantic States, as they came across the sea, bearing the maps which gave them rights extending to the Pacific. This is just the conditions of some of us to-day. The boundless possibilities of Christianity lie before us Jesus Christ comes to us saying, “It is all yours--a Christian life, a Christian death, a Christian heaven, it is yours if you will take it.” And if we do not by voluntary act enter into what He offers, then the offer is to us absolutely worthless. The truth heard Sunday after Sunday is then only a genuine damage, making the heart each week less sensitive, less responsive--“it hardens all within and petrifies the feeling.” But let us return to the text again. “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon”--surely there is a hint here of the slow and toilsome process of spiritual acquisition. I do not hold out before any man a Christian life that is free from effort. Christianity at sight is always a delusion. At sight of Jesus we are indeed ushered into new relation and position. But then comes the path, sometimes winding through the shadow, sometimes leading straight uphill, always leading heavenward and always bright with an unseen Friend. So it is with the entire advance of the Church of Jesus Christ. Sometimes when we are impatient and fretful let us remember that here, too, walking is the normal movement. Why God doesn’t convert India to-day is to us a mystery. That great movements should pace so slowly, and the advance be so measured and unequal, seems to us incomprehensible. One other suggestion is here--a hint that the farther a man travels the richer he becomes. Mountain range or lowly valley, forest or verdant meadow, whatsoever experience of God’s love and grace we pass through, that is ours for ever. We learn more of man’s weakness but more of God’s power, and the more we truly know the gladder shall we really be. New experiences are to be ours, and the best is yet to come. (W. H. P. Faunce.)
There are many curious legends regarding the way in which land grants were given in former times. We read of one man who got from his king as much land as he could ride round while the king slept; of another who was granted as much land as could be covered by a bull’s hide, which he cut into a continuous narrow strip, capable of enclosing a large area; of a third who was promised as much land as a bushel of barley would sow, which he was careful to sow as sparsely as possible, so that it might extend the borders of his farm to the utmost limits. At an annual fair, held in August, at the village of Carnwath, in Scotland, a foot-race is run as the tenure by which the property in the neighbourhood is held by the Lockhart family. The prize is a pair of red hose or stockings, and the proprietor used to have a messenger ready whenever the race was run to tell the result to the Lord Advocate of Scotland. In conformity with these ancient methods of land-measuring, God promised to Moses first, and renewed His promise to Joshua after the death of Moses, that He would give the Israelites every place that the sole of their foot should tread upon. It was a primitive custom to measure out the land that was to be cultivated or built upon by the foot; and a foot is still one of the terms of measurement among us derived from the human member. By primitive people the footprint was regarded as the symbol of possession, denoting that the land had been marked out by the foot of the individual, and so acquired as his own property. Some scholars derive the origin of the word “possession” itself from pedis positio, the position of the foot; and it was a maxim of the ancient jurists that whatever a person’s foot touched was his. On the tombs of the ancient Romans, Christians and pagans alike, is often sculptured the symbol of a foot, to indicate that these tombs were the property of the persons who reposed in them. This primitive ceremony will also explain the allusion in Psalms 108:1-13., where God speaks of dividing Shechem and meting out the valley of Succoth, casting His shoe over Edom, and triumphing over Philistia, and in this way taking possession for His people of the whole land of Canaan, while the Book of Ruth informs us that taking off the shoe from the foot signified the transfer or renunciation of property or of rights. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Something to be done to gain possession
In all primitive methods of allotting land--strange as some of them may appear to the modern legal mind--there was something to be done by the possessor himself in order to get possession. His tenure was made valid only by some personal act in connection with the property. He could not own a tract of land which he had not seen, as you might do in Australia, or New Zealand, or in the backwoods of America, although you were never there. It was necessary, in order that the land should become his, that he should do something in connection with it which implied a personal appropriation on the spot. This is the true significance of the curious antique rites by which persons got possession of land. They measured it with their feet, not only in marking it off, but also by passing frequently to and fro over its surface in ploughing and sowing, and all the other labours required for its cultivation, and thus literally obtained a foothold in it. And the same principle holds good still, although these quaint archaic customs have long been discontinued. As regards the new lands in the colonies bestowed upon emigrants by Government, it is absolutely necessary that the persons to whom they are allotted should cultivate the ground and erect buildings on it in order to secure their right of possession. They cannot hold their lands merely upon paper, without ever coming near them, or doing anything to reclaim them from the wilderness. It is thus a universally recognised principle that the right of ownership of the earth is acquired by human labour, man bringing himself in some form or other into direct personal contact with the soil. This is the ultimate ground of ownership to which all can appeal. God gave Abraham the promise of possessing the Holy Land, but Abraham did not get the fulfilment of that promise by remaining in Ur of the Chaldees. He had to leave his home, journey over the wide intervening desert, and traverse on foot the land of promise from end to end. God intended the Israelites to measure out with their feet, and so take possession, according to immemorial custom, of the whole region from Lebanon to the desert, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. But they stayed their feet, and actually measured only a little strip of land, which was parcelled out among the twelve tribes; while the Canaanites, the Philistines, and the Syrians, and all the desert tribes, were allowed, by the easy terms which the Israelites made with them, to possess in peace by far the largest part of the heritage of the chosen people. Even in the palmiest days of David and Solomon, when the possessions of the Israelites were most extensive, they never reached the limits which God had intended for them. The great lesson, then, which the text conveys to us is that the Israelites owned only as much of the land of promise as they actually trod with the sole of their foot. They had a large promise, but it was to be made good by their own exertions. It is God’s law, true of your spiritual inheritance as of the ancient literal inheritance of Israel, that only as much as you measure out with the sole of your foot is truly your own. You have the Bible, and you think you know it well; and yet of this vast religious literature you only really know a mere fragment. You confine your reading to your favourite passages, while you leave the rest unstudied; and yet it is in these neglected parts that new truth is most often to be found. Then you have the privileges and blessings of grace! They are great and extensive, but they are conditioned by the same law that only what you live up to, appropriate, and realise of them is your own. God’s superabounding grace is limited by the bounds you yourselves put upon it. If you are made straitly, God’s blessing must needs straiten to you. Your salvation is just as much as, and no more than, you yourselves experience of it. Christ says to you m every case, “According to your faith be it unto you.” Then there is your own individual Christian life. What a vast, unclaimed, untrodden land of promise it is l You have each a boundless capacity; “you are made to seek, to long for the infinite truth, the infinite good, the infinite love.” How little have the greatest saints been able to fill up the grand outline which God sketched out at first when He made man in His own image! How far short have you all come of God’s design for you, and even of your own ideal! You have contracted the bounds of your being and the bounds of your world to the smallest dimensions by your devotion to the petty and passing things of earth. And then there is the heavenly Canaan, the true land of promise, towards which you profess to be walking day by day as pilgrims and strangers on earth. God has given it to all His true Israel; but they shall only possess as much of it as they shall tread with the sole of their foot. You will only get as much of heaven as you are fit for; and in the case of many I fear that will be but a very small bit. (H Macmillan, D. D.)
All the land of the Hittites.--
The land of the Hittites
One geographical expression, in the delimitation of the country, demands a brief explanation. While the country is defined as embracing the whole territory from Lebanon to the Euphrates, it is also defined as consisting in that direction of “all the land of the Hittites.” But were not the Hittites one of the seven nations whose land was promised to Abraham and the fathers, and not even the first in the enumeration of these? Why should this great north-eastern section of the promised domain be designated “the land of the Hittites”? The time was when it was a charge against the accuracy of the Scripture record that it ascribed to the Hittites this extensive dominion. That time has passed away, inasmuch as, within quite recent years, the discovery has been made that in those distant times a great Hittite empire did exist in the very region specified, between Lebanon and the Euphrates. The discovery is based on twofold data: references in the Egyptian and other monuments to a powerful people, called the Khita (Hittites), with whom even the great kings of Egypt had long and bloody wars; and inscriptions in the Hittite language found in Hamah, Aleppo, and other places in Syria. There is still much obscurity resting on the history of this people. That the Hittites proper prevailed so extensively has been doubted by some; a Hittite confederacy has been supposed, and sometimes a Hittite aristocracy exercising control over a great empire. The only point which it is necessary to dwell on here is, that in representing the tract between Lebanon and Euphrates as equivalent to “all the land of the Hittites,” the author of the Book of Joshua made a statement which has been abundantly verified by recent research. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee.--
Joshua on the march
“There shall not any man be able,” &c. “Well,” you say, “it does not require any great courage to go out with a backing like that.” I reply, God promised Joshua no more than He promises you and me in our conflicts. The framer of the universe, the chieftain of all eternity, has pledged all His resources to see us through, and He promised no more than that to Joshua. His first undertaking was to cross the river Jordan in a spring freshet. You might as well talk of wading across the Hudson river at Yonken as to think of wading the river Jordan at the season of which I am speaking. The Canaanites on the other side felt perfectly secure. But one day Joshua orders out his troops, and tells them to fall into line. “Forward: march!” They pass on towards the river, and it seems as if the light armed troops, and the spearmen, and the archers, and all their leaders, must be swept down in the fearful flood. Let them prepare, you say, for a watery grave. March on. Come to the other bank. They reach the bank, and they pull themselves up its steep, thirty or forty feet in height--they pull themselves up the bank by the oleanders, and the tamarisks, and the willows, until they reach the top. No sooner have they climbed up this high bank than with dash, and roar, and terrific rush, the waters of the Jordan break loose from their strange anchorage. God never makes any provision for the Christian’s retreat. He clears the path to Canaan if we go ahead; if we go back we die. Victory ahead! Darkness, flood, ruin, and death behind! You say: “Why didn’t those Canaanites destroy Joshua and his troops while they had a chance? Here they were, on a bank thirty or forty feel high. There were the Israelites under Joshua down in the bed of the stream. Why didn’t the Canaanites fight back these invaders?” The promise had been given, and the Lord God keeps His promise. “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life.” But we cannot stop here. It is no place for Joshua’s troops to stay. What is that in the distance? At the end of a grove of palms eight miles long is the chief city Jericho, the great metropolis. Take it Joshua must. “Take it Joshua can’t,” say the unbelievers. Joshua rises up to his full stature, and he gives the command. He feels the right moment has come, and he says: “Shout! for the Lord hath given you the city,” and the command is heard, and the people all together cry: “Down, Jericho! down, Jericho!” and that long line of solid masonry begins to quiver, and then crash go the walls, the temples, the palaces, until the earth quakes, and the heavens are blackened with the dust, and the shriek of the crushed city and the huzza of the victorious Israelites commingle. This is no place to stop. “Forward: march!” There is city of Ai to be taken. “Oh!” says a scouting party just come back from that city, “you can take that very easily. Joshua, you need not go; you stay, and few of us will go and take that city.” They started out in pompous order to take the city of Ai. The men of Ai came out and gave one yell, and away ran the Israelites like reindeer. Our northern troops, at Bull Run, made slow time compared with those Israelites with the men of Ai after them. We have no right to go into the Lord’s conflict having only half our force. Body, mind, soul, reputation, property--everything--must be marshalled, equipped, launched for God, and against our enemies. And soon the retreating army come up. They say: “Oh! general, we are all cut to pieces. Those men of Ai are awful people. We are all cut to pieces.” Joshua falls down on his face in chagrin. But how did God arouse Joshua? Did He address him in some complimentary apostrophe? No. He says: “Get thee up. Why liest thou thus on thy face?” Joshua arose, I suppose, looking mortified; but his old courage came back again. He marshals all the Israelites, and he says: “We will go up en masse, and we will take the city of Ai.” And as I see the smoke of the burning city curling in the sky, and as I hear the groans of the defeated men of Ai, and the victorious shout of the Israelites, Joshua hears something better than that: “There shall not any man be able,” &c. Joshua’s troops cannot stop yet. “Forward: march!” says Joshua; for there is the city of Gibeon; it has put itself under the wing of Joshua’s protection, and Joshua must defend it. Joshua makes a three days’ march in one night. Prepare now to see the Gettysburgh, the Waterloo, the Sedan of the ancients. It is not yet quite sundown in Joshua’s day, and we will have time for five royal funerals. Who will preach their funeral sermon? Massillon preached the funeral sermon of Louis XIX. Dr. Robert South preached a sermon commemorative of Charles
I. Who will preach the funeral sermon of these five bad kings? Joshua. And what shall be his text? “There shall not any man be able,” &c. “Oh,” you say, “it is a pity to bury these five kings so ignominiously.” No, sir; before that rock is sealed up I want to put in five more beings, first having them beheaded--King Alcohol, King Fraud, King Lust, King Superstition, King Bigotry. Have them all in. Cover them over with a mound of broken decanters and the debris of their miserable doings. Roll a rock against that cave so they never can get out. Then chisel for these last five kings the same epitaph you had for the other five kings; and let all the Christian reformers and philanthropists, before the sun of their protracted day of usefulness is ended, come up and read it. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
There is no foe to your growth in grace, no enemy in your Christian work, no dreaded form of evil dominating and cursing the souls of men, which was not included in your Saviour’s conquests. You need not be afraid of them. When you touch them, they will flee before you. God has promised to deliver them up before you. There shall no man of them be able to stand before you. Neither Anakim nor fenced cities need daunt you. You are one of the conquering legion. Claim your share in the Saviour’s victory. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.--
A great promise
I. The import of the promise.
1. It includes in it more than that natural and essential presence of God which surrounds all beings and all things; for the essence of God is diffused through the trackless path of immensity.
2. It refers to God’s special and gracious presence.
3. A more than ordinary communication of God’s presence is vouchsafed to those who are called out to services of peculiar difficulty, to offices of high responsibility.
II. The certainty of the fulfilment of this promise. I feel assured of its fulfilment when I reflect--
1. On the Author of this promise. “I will be with thee. I will not leave thee,” &c. “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the Son of man that He should repent.”
2. The terms in which the promise is couched. Repetition, but no tautology.
3. Experience. Was not God with Moses?
III. The advantages which the fulfilment of this promise will throw over your whole life. Oh, let but this be fulfilled, and you are safe for both worlds, for time and for eternity! Mark its influence--
1. On the hours of solitude. Every real Christian will wish to be alone: he will say, “I am never less alone than when alone.”
2. On your intercourse with society. Others will take knowledge of you, that you have been with Jesus.
3. On your conduct. Prudence; benevolence; sanctity.
4. On afflictions and distresses. If God be with us, no weapon shall prosper against us, no trap shall catch us, no pit shall ensnare us.
5. On the days of life’s decline, and in the immediate prospect of its conclusion. All earthly attachments are doomed to be dissolved; but God is ever with His servants, especially when most needed.
1. Admire the astonishing condescension and grace of God, that He should thus address Himself to worms of the earth, to sinful worms, to such as you and I are!
2. Let me ask you if you have an interest in this promise.
3. Be very thankful for any measure of the fulfilment of this promise which you may have enjoyed. (G. Clayton, M. A.)
God with us through life
I. The interest which God takes in men’s lives.
1. Every event is closely observed by Him.
2. He often comes unsolicited and unthought of. Like the mother who, while attending to the duties of her household, still keeps her eye on the little one at play, that she may interpose in time of danger.
II. God appeals to his past conduct to encourage his servant to trust in him.
1. We are influenced more by the past conduct of a friend than by his promises.
2. There are degrees of manifested interest, care, and love. God was with Moses--
(1) Continuously, from beginning to end.
(2) Notwithstanding a variation of conduct on the part of His servant.
(3) Under circumstances of great provocation.
(4) As a Friend of infinite resources.
(5) As an unerring Guide.
(6) To uphold his position against any usurpation on the part of others.
III. The bestowal of the blessings included in this declaration was made dependent upon Joshua’s obedience. He who will not keep God’s law cannot have the presence of God with him. (A London Clergyman.)
A great promise
I. It is a great promise. For it includes everything. God’s presence can supply wisdom, can give strength, and will insure success.
II. It was to a great man.
1. He was humble.
2. He was trained had followed the Jews from Egypt.
3. He was good. Not one notorious sin or evil habit is recorded of him as there is of nearly every other noted character in Scripture. He was the only one who withstood the test of the wilderness journey.
III. It was in reference to a great work.
1. The conquering the promised land.
2. The organising the people.
3. The vindicating the power and glory of God. (Homilist.)
Strengthening medicine for God’s servants
I. The suitability of the consolation which these words gave to Joshua. “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
1. This must have been very cheering to him in reference to himself. Joshua may possibly have been somewhat despondent under a very pressing sense of his own deficiencies; and this cheering assurance would meet his case. If God be with our weakness it waxes strong; if He be with our folly it rises into wisdom; if He be with our timidity it gathers courage.
2. The consolation given to Joshua would be exceedingly suitable in the presence of his enemies. Surely, in the presence of God, Anakim become dwarfs, strongholds become as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and chariots of iron are as thistledown upon the hillside driven before the blast. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” They that be with us are more than they that be against us, when once the Lord of hosts is seen in our ranks.
3. This consolation, too, was sufficient for all supplies. Perhaps Joshua knew that the manna was no longer to fall. “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” was a supply which would meet all the demands of the commissariat. When the Lord opens all His granaries none shall lack for bread, and when He unlocks His wardrobes none shall go bare.
4. Surely this word must often have brought consolation to the heart of Joshua when he saw the people failing him. Oh, what a blessed thing it is in a false and fickle world, where he that eats bread with us lifts up his heel against us, where the favourite counsellor becomes an Ahithophel, and turns his wisdom into crafty hate, to know that “there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” one who is faithful and gives us sure tokens of a love which many waters cannot quench!
II. At what times may we consider this promise to be spoken to ourselves?
1. Surely it is when we are called to do God’s work. Joshua’s work was the Lord’s work. Do you know that God has put you where you are, and called you to do the work to which your life is dedicated? Then go on in God’s name, for, as surely as He called you to His work, you may be sure that to you also He says, as indeed to all His servants, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
2. But I hear some of you say, “We are not engaged in work of such a kind that we could precisely call it ‘ work for God.’“ Well, but are you engaged in a work which you endeavour to perform to God’s glory? Is your ordinary trade one which is lawful--one concerning which you have no doubt as to its honest propriety; and in carrying it on do you follow right principles only?
3. We must, if we are to have this promise, take God into our calculations. A great many persons go about their supposed lifework without thinking about God. You must walk by faith if you are to enjoy the privileges of the faithful.
4. We must also be careful that we walk in God’s ways. Observe that the next verse to the text runs thus, “Be strong and of a good courage,” and then the seventh verse is a singular one, “Only be thou strong,” &c. What for? To obey! Does it want courage and strength to obey? Why, nowadays, that man is thought to be courageous who will have no laws of God to bind him; and he is thought to be strong-minded who ridicules revelation. But let us rest assured that he is truly strong of mind and heart who is content to be thought a fool, and sticks to the good old truth, and keeps the good old way.
III. What this promise does not preclude.
1. This promise does not exclude effort. If you want to succeed, use every faculty you have, and put forth all your strength; and if it is a right cause you may then fall back on this promise.
2. Neither does this promise preclude occasional disaster. Yes, and without the violation of any law, the best man in the world must expect in the most successful enterprise that there will be some discouragements. Look at the sea: it is rolling in, it will rise to full tide before long, but every wave that comes up dies upon the shore; and after two or three great waves which seem to capture the shingle there comes a feebler one which sucks back. Very well, but the sea will win, and reach its fulness. So in every good work for God there is a back-drawing wave every now and then. God will certainly test you, but He will not fail you, nor forsake you.
3. Nor, again, does this promise preclude frequent tribulations and testings of faith. In the autobiography of the famous Francke of Halle, who built, and, in the hand of God, provided for, the orphan-house of Halle, he says, “I thought when I committed myself and my work to God by faith, that I had only to pray when I had need, and that the supplies would come; but I found that I had sometimes to wait and pray for a long time.” The supplies did come, but not at once. The pinch never went so far as absolute want; but there were intervals of severe pressure. There was nothing to spare. Every spoonful of meal had to be scraped from the bottom of the barrel, and every drop of oil that oozed out seemed as if it must be the last; but still it never did come to the last drop, and there was always just a little meal left. God has not promised to take any of you to heaven without trying your faith.
4. This promise does not preclude our suffering very greatly, and our dying, and perhaps dying a very sad and terrible death, as men judge. God never left Paul, but I have seen the spot where Paul’s head was smitten off by the headsman. The Lord never left Peter, but Peter, like his Master, had to die by crucifixion. The Lord never left the martyrs, but they had to ride to heaven in chariots of fire.
IV. What, then, does the text mean, if we may have all this trial happening to us?
1. Your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. Press on. We have heard of a minister who added only one to his Church through a long year of very earnest ministry--only one, a sad thing for him; but that one happened to be Robert Moffatt, and he was worth a thousand of most of us. Go on. If you bring but one to Christ, who shall estimate the value of the one?
2. And then there shall be no desertion as to yourself, for your heavenly Friend has said, “I will not forsake thee.” You will not be left alone or without a helper. You are thinking of what you will do in old age. Do not think of that: think of what God will do for you in old age. Oh, but your great need and long illness will wear out your friends, you say. Perhaps you may wear out your friends, but you will not wear out your God, and He can raise up new helpers if the old ones fail. Oh, but your infirmities are many, and will soon crush you down: you cannot live long in such circumstances. Very well, then you will be in heaven; and that is far better. But you dread pining sickness. It may never come; and suppose it should come, remember what will come with it--“I will make all thy bed in thy sickness.” “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”--so runs the promise. “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.”
V. Why may we be quite sure that this promise will re fulfilled to us?
1. I answer, first, we may be quite sure because it is God’s promise. Did ever any promise of God fall to the ground yet?
2. Rent ye well assured that if a man be called to do God’s work God will not fail him, because it is not after the manner of the Lord to desert His servants. He will not push His servants into severe conflicts and then fail them.
3. Besides, remember that should God’s servants fail, if they are really God’s servants, the enemy would exult and boast against the Lord Himself. This was a great point with Joshua in after-days (Joshua 7:9). If the Lord raises up Luther, and does not help Luther, then it is not Luther that fails; it is God that fails, in the estimation of the world.
4. Besides, if God has raised you up to accomplish a purpose by you, do you think He will be defeated? Were ever any of His designs frustrated?
5. Besides, if we trust God, and live for God, He loves us much too well to leave us. It is not to be imagined that He will ever put a load upon His own children’s shoulders without giving them strength to bear the burden, or send them to labours for which He will not give them adequate resources. Oh, rest in the Lord, ye faithful. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Be strong and of a good courage.--
A great -promise and a stirring exhortation
What the heathen gods are fabled to have done with some of their favourite warriors, God here and now does to this His first soldier-saint, sending him forth to the fray invulnerable, invincible. By faith in this great promise, Joshua is more than conqueror. Poor and tame in comparison is the “Veni, vidi, vici!” of Rome’s great hero. God’s presence is pledged to Joshua unconditionally and unalterably. Oh, highly favoured Joshua! Yes, and also highly favoured saints, for even with a like great and precious promise do we go a warfare against evil. In regard to both the outer and the inner conflict in which we are engaged we should always remember that we are on the winning side. The battle is the Lord’s. “Forward” is the Divine command. We are not to make up our minds for defeat, but to march in the assurance of victory. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” This promise gives us power as we face error of every kind. The enemies of the gospel in these days are proud and boastful. If we were to judge by their shouts, we should think that the whole fabric of Christianity was falling to pieces. Have we anything to pit against these enemies? Most assuredly. The Divine presence, as in the case of Joshua, is pledged to be with us. This great promise given to Joshua was followed up by a stirring exhortation. Courage! this peal of bells rings out in all its changes. Why? Because Joshua was a coward? Nay, he had the heart of a lion, but because courage is the fundamental virtue in every saint of God, in every soldier of righteousness, in every witness for the truth. One of the great wants of the day is courage, courage to confess Christ in every company and on all occasions; courage to hold fast to His every word; courage to do all His will; courage to follow wherever He leads. It is called a good courage, and no virtue better deserves the epithet, for it is good whether we consider its qualities or its achievements, the throne on which it sits or the crown with which it is adorned. It is good courage because it is obedient, not self-willed, obstinate, headstrong. Again and again the greatest exploits of courage have been summed up in the words, “I must obey God.” Such courage is of the highest quality. It can never quail, because conscious of eternal rectitude. It is a good courage also because it is studious and humble. Its aim being to obey all God’s will, in the spirit as well as in the letter, it gives all diligence to know God’s will. Accordingly, the hero of Jehovah meditates in God’s law day and night; takes counsel not with flesh and blood, but with the living oracles, and finds therein all his comfort, strength, and light. This good courage, being obedient and studious, is also intelligent. It observes with watchful care the hints of Providence and the checks of conscience. It learns better every day what God’s will is in all things. Remember that such courage is the great secret of success. This above all things frightens our great adversary the devil. Satan has no dread of learning, or wisdom, or riches, but he does fear tile courage of a soul resting in communion with God. And well he may, for this courage arms the soul with Divine might. (A. B. Mackay.)
The sources of Joshua’s strength
I. A faithful past The aloe blooms but once in a hundred years, but every hour of all that century is needed to produce the delicate texture and resplendent beauty of the flower. The deed of a Grace Darling is not the sudden outburst of the moment that gives it birth, but the result of long years of self-discipline, courage, and ministry to others. And this summons of Joshua to the leader’s place in Israel was the guerdon of more than eighty years of faithful service. None of us can tell for what God is educating us. We fret and murmur at the narrow round and daily task of ordinary life, not realising that it is only thus that we can be prepared for the high and holy office which awaits us. We must descend before we can ascend. God’s will comes to thee and me in daily circumstances, in little things equally as in great; meet them bravely; be at your best always, though the occasion be one of the very least; dignify the smallest summons by the greatness of your response; so the call will come to you as to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister.
II. A distinct call The supreme inquiry for each of us, when summoned to a new work, is not whether we possess sufficient strength or qualification for it, but if we have been called to it of God; and when that is so there is no further cause for anxiety. If it is in His plan that we should march through a river, or attack a walled town, or turn to flight an army, we have simply to go forward. Rivers will dry up, walls will fall down, armies shall be scattered as snow in summer. There is no such thing as impossibility when God says, “Forward, soul, arise, go over this Jordan!”
III. The sense of the presence of God. There have been generals whose presence on the field of battle has been the presage and guarantee of victory. Not only have they inspired the soldiers with a sense of confidence in their leadership, but they have encouraged them by their personal prowess and bravery. There is a marvellous sense of security and courage when a Christiana, a Mr. Fearing, or a Miss Much-Afraid is assured of the presence of a Greatheart, who has never turned his back on a foe. And a lonely, trembling soul dares to step bravely across the margin of life into the unknown beyond: to go down unabashed into the chill waters of death, because it can sing, “Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”
IV. The indwelling of the word of God. Coal contains within its texture the strength absorbed from the sun in bygone ages; so words will pass on to men the heroic thoughts which thrilled the souls of those who spake them first. There are words, as there are strains of music, which cannot be uttered without nerving men to dare and do, to attempt and achieve. A woman will be strong to wait and suffer for long years in the strength of a sentence spoken by her lover as he parted from her: An army has before now forgot sleepless nights and hungry marches in the stirring harangue of its general. And is not this what the prophet meant, when he said, “Thy words were found and I did eat them, and Thy words were unto me a joy, and the rejoicing of my heart”? and what Jesus meant when He said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life “? We can do all things when Christ is in us in unthwarted power. The only limit lies in our faith and capacity, or, in other words, in our absolute submission to His indwelling. Little children can overcome when there is within them a Stronger than their foes. Weaklings may do exploits when the Mighty Conqueror who travels in the greatness of His strength makes them the vehicle of His progress. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The strength and courage needed for common life
“Be thou strong and very courageous.” What to do? To lead the army? To batter down strong walls and enter into the imminent, deadly breach? Nay, all this is left out of sight; the exhortation to be “strong and very courageous” is given solely with a moral application. A man shows himself more brave in an inflexible adherence to the law of God as the the rule of his life in all things than in any feats of arms or deeds of daring.
I. A sufficient rule of guidance for life. Joshua had; we have. Our law is the whole gospel, as requiring from us a practical and loving and continuous obedience. To be “strong” is to make endeavour to go forward and grasp something in the Divine life; it is to take up a certain position in practical obedience, and say (not ostentatiously yet clearly), “I am here, I stand by this.” To be “of good courage” is to maintain that position against the force of temptation and opposition of every kind; is to say firmly, “Here I shall abide, I cannot go back from this.” Well, but a life that consists of gaining new positions, and grasping new things, and defending all that is thus attained, is of necessity a life of enterprise and progress. And such a life, in this world, will certainly meet with a great deal of opposition, silent and declared, and will require a great deal of strength and courage in those who seek to lead it.
1. Indeed, we might truly say that strength and courage are needed at home, and with ourselves, before we meet the world at all. The critical point of the struggle is within. Let me be strong, then, against my inferior self! Let me grip him hard, and wrestle with him, until he is overthrown! Let me be very courageous against his withering and insidious suggestions.
2. Then also, strength and courage are needed constantly and much in the Church, i.e., among Christian people. One Christian needs to be strong against other Christians--in this way as well as in others--that every Christian has his own inner thought of what he ought to be and do; his own ideal, as we call it.
3. Then still more is courage needed, and strength, when you go more fully out into the world. Here are certain principles in the law of Christ, as the regulative system of a Christian’s life, principles of honour and-honesty, of purity, sobriety, love, and self-denial, of humility and gentleness, which are clearly different from the principles that obtain in the world generally. Not that contrary principles are professed openly in the world except by a few; but that contrary, or at any rate far inferior, principles are acted upon, through the world, in its different spheres, commercial, political, literary, social, is just as certain as it is that there is a world at all. One great point of duty with Christians just now, I think, ought to be the endeavour to live simple lives, so as, if possible, to pull back this drifting society of ours towards the simplicity it has lost.
4. Again, it is sometimes necessary to speak frankly and boldly in condemnation of the action or in opposition to the speaking of others.
II. How we may attain this temper and habit of Christian courage. It is fed by truth, by the law, or the revealed truth of God. What men call “spirit,” the mere clash and effervescence of nature, will soon evaporate; but when the soul has found the flowing fountains of strength, and drinks of the same day by day, her courage will be day by day renewed. Again, not only must we take the Word of God into our daily thought and meditation, but believing the wonderful assurance it gives us of the actual presence of the speaker, the Lord, with those who serve Him, we must make room for Him in our daily life, and lean upon the almighty arm, and even in the darkest and most unsuccessful moments sit silent to hear the great reviving words, “The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (A. Raleigh,D. D.)
The charge to the soldier of the Lord
I. The duty of courageous strength. Christianity has altered the perspective of human virtues, has thrown the gentler ones into prominence altogether unknown before, and has dimmed the brilliancy of the old heroic type of character; but it has not struck those virtues out of its list. Still, there is as much need in the lowliest Christian life for the loftiest heroism as ever there was. All Christian progress is conflict, and we have to fight, not only with the evils that are within, but if we would be true to the obligations of our profession and loyal to the commands of our Master, we have to take our part in the great campaign which He has inaugurated and is ever carrying on against every abuse and oppression, iniquity and sin, that grinds down the world and makes our brethren miserable and servile. Be strong! Then strength is a duty; then weakness is a sin. Then the amount of strength that we possess and wield is regulated by ourselves. We have our hands on the sluice. We may open it to let the whole full tide run in, or we may close it till a mere dribble reaches us. For the strength which is strength, and not merely weakness in a fever, is a strength derived. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Let Christ’s strength in. Open the heart wide that it may come. Keep yourself in continual touch with God, the fountain of all power. Trust is strength, because trust touches the Rock of Ages. But courage is duty, too, as well as strength. Power and the consciousness of power do not always go together. In regard of the strength of nature, courage and might are quite separable. There may be a strong coward and a weak hero. But in the spiritual region, strength and courage do go together. The consciousness of the Divine power with us, and that alone, will make us bold with a boldness that has no taint of levity and presumption mingled with it, and never will overestimate its own strength.
II. The duty of implicit obedience to the word of command. Courage and strength come first, and on them follows the command to do all according to the law, to keep it without deflection to right or left, and to meditate on it day and night. These two virtues make the perfect soldier--courage and obedience. But the connection between these two is not merely that they must co-exist, but that courage and strength are needed for, and are to find their noblest field of exercise in, absolute acceptance of, and unhesitating, swift, complete, unmurmuring obedience to, everything that is discerned to be God’s will and our duty. For the Christian soldier, then, God’s law is his marching orders. The written Word, and especially the Incarnate Word, are our law of conduct. Christ has given us Him self, and therein has given a sufficient directory for conduct and conflict which fits close to all our needs, and will prove definite and practical enough if we honestly try to apply it. The application of Christ’s law to daily life takes some courage, and is the proper field for the exercise of Christian strength. If you are not a bold Christian you will very soon get frightened out of obedience to your Master’s commandments. Courage, springing from the realisation of God’s helping strength, is indispensable to make any man, in any age, live out, thoroughly and consistently, the principles of the the law of Jesus Christ. No man in this generation will work out a punctual obedience to what he knows to be the will of God, without finding out that all the Canaanites are not dead yet, but that there are enough of them left to make a very thorny life for the consistent follower of Jesus Christ. And not only is there courage needed for the application of the principles of conduct which God has given us, but you will never have them handy for swift application unless, in many a quiet hour of silent, solitary, patient meditation, you have become familiar with them.
III. The sure victory of such bold obedience: “thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest”; “thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then shalt thou have good success,” or, as the last word might be rendered, “then shalt thou ‘act wisely.’” You may not get victory from an earthly point of view, for many a man that lives strong and courageous and joyfully obeying God’s law as far as he knows it, and because he loves the Lawgiver, goes through life, and finds that, as far as the world’s estimate is concerned, there is nothing but failure as his portion. The success which my text means is the carrying out of conscientious convictions of God’s will into practice. That is the only success that is worth talking about or looking for. The man that succeeds in obeying and translating God’s will into conduct is the victor, whatever be the outward fruits of his life. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Strength and courage
Joshua must be strong and very courageous. But are strength and courage really within our own power? Is strength not absolutely a Divine gift, and as dependent on God in its ordinary degrees as it was in the case of Samson in its highest degree? No doubt in a sense it is so; and yet the amount even of our bodily strength is not wholly beyond our own control. As bodily strength is undoubtedly weakened by careless living, by excess of eating and drinking, by all irregular habits, by the breathing of foul air, by indolence and self-indulgence of every kind, so undoubtedly it is increased and promoted by attention to the simple laws of health, by activity and exercise, by sleep and sabbatic rest, by the moderate use of wholesome food, as well as by abstinence from hurtful drinks and drugs. And surely the duty of being strong, in so far as such things can give strength, is of far more importance than many think; for if we can thus maintain and increase our strength we shall be able to serve both God and man much better and longer than we could otherwise have done. But in Joshua’s ease it was no doubt strength and courage of soul that was mainly meant. Even that is not wholly independent of the ordinary conditions of the body. On the other hand, there are no doubt memorable cases where the elasticity and power of the spirit have been in the very inverse ratio to the strength of the body. By cheerful views of life and duty, natural depression has been counteracted, and the soul filled with hope and joy. “The joy of the Lord,” said Nehemiah, “is the strength of His people.” Fellowship with God, as our reconciled God and Father in Christ, is a source of perpetual strength. Who does not know the strengthening and animating influence of the presence even of a friend, when we find his fresh and joyous temperament playing on us in some season of depression? The radiance of his face, the cheeriness of his voice, the elasticity of his movements seem to infuse new hope and courage into the jaded soul. When he is gone we try to shake off the despondent feeling that has seized us, and gird ourselves anew for the battle of life. And if such an effect can be produced by fellowship with a fellow-creature, how much more by fellowship with the infinite God!--especially when it is His work we are trying to do, and when we have all His promises of help to rest on. “God is near thee, therefore cheer thee,” is a perpetual solace and stimulus to the Christian soul. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
1. Fortitude in bearing.
2. Fortitude in attempting or assailing. (D. Featley, D. D.)
God’s strength made perfect in human weakness
What f must all they whom God uses be strong? Is it essential that there should be strength of limb and muscle in the physical and moral constitution of those who are called to do the Divine biddings in the world? Because, if that be so, we who are like Ehud, left-handed, like Gideon, least in our father’s house, or like Saul of Tarsus, painfully conscious of weakness, can never get beyond the rank and file in the army of the Lord. And yet, may not this reiterated appeal indicate that the heart of Joshua misgave him, and that he was conscious of his utter inadequacy to fulfil the great commission that was thrust upon him? Probably he had never dreamt of so high an honour, so vast a responsibility. When, therefore, the call came to him to assume the office which Moses was vacating, his heart failed him, and he needed every kind of encouragement and stimulus, both from God and man. “Be strong” means that he felt weak; “Be of good courage” means that he was affrighted; “Be not thou dismayed” means that he seriously considered whether he would not have to give up the task. He was a worm and no man; how should he deliver Israel? It is when men are in this condition that God approaches them with the summons to undertake vast and overwhelming responsibilities. Most of us are too strong for Him to use us, too full of our own schemes and plans and ways of doing things. He must empty us, and humble us, and bring us down to the dust of death, so low that we need every straw of encouragement, every leaf of help; and then He will raise us up, and make us as the rod of His strength. The world talks of the survival of the fittest. But God gives power to the faint, and increases might to them that have no strength; He perfects His strength in weakness, and uses things that are not to bring to nought things that are. (F. B. Meyer, B. A. )
It is said of Cromwell that when he had gathered some raw troops, being much in doubt about their courage, he determined to put it to the test before employing them in active service. He therefore placed a number of soldiers in ambush, in a wood through which he had occasion to lead his new regiment, and when these rushed out suddenly upon the new levies all the timid among them turned and fled. These Cromwell sent to their homes as unfit for his service, and so commenced the training of the men who became known to history as his “ Ironsides.”
A dauntless spirit
Pleopidas hearing that his enemy was coming to give him battle with double the number that he possessed himself, replied to his informant, “So much the better for us: we shall beat so many the more.” So should the Christian view the trials and sorrows of this life, be they never so many. Through Christ they may all be overcome. (Handbook of Illustration.)
Unto this people shalt thou divide . . . the land.--
The right people for the land
First of all, the land had to be conquered; and there is no difficulty in seeing how necessary it was for one who had this task on hand to be strong and of a good courage, and to meditate on God’s law. Then the land had to be divided, and the people settled in their new life, and Joshua had to initiate them, as it were, in that life; he had to bind on their consciences the conditions on which the land was to be enjoyed, and start them in the performance of the duties, moral, social, and religious, which the Divine constitution required. Here lay the most difficult part of his task. They had not only to be planted physically in groups over the country, but they had to be married to it morally, otherwise they had no security of tenure, but were liable to summary eviction. It was no land of rest for idolaters; all depended on the character they attained: loyally to God was the one condition of a happy settlement. Thus we see the connection between Joshua’s devotion to the book of the law and success in the great work of his life--“then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” No doubt he would have the appearance of success if he simply cleared out the inhabitants who were so degraded by sin that God was compelled to sweep them off, and settled His people in their room. But that, after all, was but a small matter unless accompanied by something more. It would not secure the people from at last sharing the fate of the old inhabitants; so far at least that though they should not he exterminated, yet they would be scattered over the face of the globe. And so at all times, in dealing with human beings, we can obtain no adequate and satisfying success unless their hearts are turned to God. Your children may be great scholars, or successful merchants, or distinguished authors, or brilliant artists, or even statesmen; what does it come to if they are dead to God, and have no living fellowship with Jesus Christ? (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Turn not . . . to the right hand or to the left.--
I. Obedience is the highest practical courage. The world counts obedience to be a mean-spirited thing, and speaks of rebellion as freedom. We have heard men say, “I will be my own master; I shall follow my own will.” To be a free thinker and a free liver seems to be the worldling’s glory. Take the world’s own martial rule. Who is accounted to be the boldest and the best soldier but the man who is most thoroughly obedient to the captain’s command? There is a story told of the old French wars which has been repeated hundreds of times. A sentinel is set to keep a certain position, and at nightfall, as he is pacing to and fro, the emperor himself comes by. He does not know the password. Straightway the soldier stops him. “You cannot pass,” says he. “But I must pass,” says the emperor. “No,” replies the man, “if you were the little corporal in grey himself you should not go by,” by which, of course, he meant the emperor. Thus the autocrat himself was held in check by order. The vigilant soldier was afterwards handsomely rewarded, and all the world said that he was a brave fellow. Then surely it is not a mean and sneaking thing for a man to be obedient to Him who is the Commander-in-chief of the universe, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
II. The exactness of obedience is the essence of obedience. The world saith, “We must not be too precise.” As one said to an old Puritan once, “Many people have rent their consciences in halves; could not you just make a little nick in yours?” “No,” he said, “I cannot, for my conscience belongs to God.” “We must live, you know,” said a money-loving shopkeeper, as his excuse for doing what he could not otherwise defend. “Yes, but we must die,” was the reply, “and therefore we must do no such thing.” We are probably better dead if we cannot live without doing wrong. The very essence of obedience lies in exactness. Probably your child, if sometimes disobedient, would still, as a general rule, do what you told him. It would be in the little things that thoroughgoing and commendable obedience would appear. Let the world judge of this for itself. Here is an honest man. Do people say of him, “He is such an honest man that he would not steal a horse”? No, that would not prove him to be very honest; but they say, “He would not even take a pin that did not belong to him.” That is the world’s own description of honesty, and surely when it comes to obedience to God it ought to be the same. If I profess to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, the crucial test will not be in great actions, but in little ones.
III. The path of obedience is generally a middle path. There is sure to be a right bond, there is sure to be a left hand, and both are probably wrong. There wilt be extremes on either side. I believe that this is true in ten thousand things in ordinary life, and also true in spiritual things in very many respects. With regard, for instance, to our words; the course of speech generally is, on the one hand to say too much, or on the other hand to say too little; to be silent when the wicked are before us, or else to be rash with our lips and betray a good cause through our rashness in defending it. There is a time to speak, and there is a time to be silent, and he that judgeth well will mark his opportunities and take the middle course. He will neither be garrulous with advice that is not required, nor will he be cowardly and dumb when he ought to bear testimony, for his Master. The same holds good with regard to zeal. We have some abroad nowadays whoso heads are very hot. They talk as if they would turn the world upside down, whilst it is their own brains that need first to be turned into a right condition. Theirs is a fire which burns down the house instead of burning in the grate and warming the household. But shall we therefore not be zealous? God forbid! There is a middle course of true, sensible, prudent zeal--adhering to the truth, and never believing that people can be converted by lies, however earnestly bawled into their ears; walking within the bounds of God’s truth, and being persuaded that the best seed to sow is that which God puts into the basket of His Word, and that sinners are not to be saved by rash statements nor by extravagant declamation, but that they are brought to Christ, as they were of old, by the simple telling out of the story of the Cross affectionately, and by the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Here, again, “turn neither to the right hand nor to the left.”
IV. The path of right is the path of true prosperity. God does not invariably make the doing of the right to be the means of pecuniary gain to us. On the contrary, it frequently happens that for a time men are great losers by their obedience to Christ. But the Scripture always speaks as to the long run; it sums up the whole of life--there it promises true riches. If thou wouldst prosper, keep close to the Word of God, and to thy conscience, and thou shalt have the best prosperity. The thief, though he takes a short way to get rich, yet takes such a dangerous way that it does not pay; but he who walks straight along the narrow road shall find it to be the shortest way to the best kind of prosperity, both in this world and in that which is to come. If not, if we get no outward prosperity here, I trust you and I, if we love Christ, and are filled with His Spirit, can do without it. Well, if we must be poor, it will soon be over, and in heaven there shall be no poverty. Let us, then, run all risks for Christ. He is no soldier who cannot die for his country; he is no Christian who cannot lose life itself for Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Obedience the condition of victory
Yes, the Lord will be with us in our holy war, but He demands of us that we strictly follow His rules.
1. Our victories will very much depend upon our obeying Him with all our heart, throwing strength and courage into the actions of our faith. If we are half-hearted, we cannot expect more than half a blessing.
2. We must obey the Lord with care and thoughtfulness.
3. We must obey with universal readiness. We may not pick and choose, but must take all the Lord’s commands as they come.
4. In all this we must go on with exactness and constancy. Ours is to be a straightforward courage, which bends neither to the right nor to the left. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein.--
A good working Bible
Rare botanical specimens are found by diligent searching. It is by earnest and prayerful study of the Bible theft we discover truths that we may call our own. We have a brother who has been working in the gold mines of California for many years. He has a watch-chain that he greatly values because the gold in it is what he searched and dug out of the mountain himself by hard labour and much sacrifice. Truths discovered as the result of hard study are very precious to us. The Bible should be an every-day book to us. A very handsome and expensive Bible on the parlour stand, covered with a bric-a-brac, is of little value as compared with a good working Bible. A well-known Sunday-school worker tells of going into a house in North Wales. As he sat by a table talking with a little girl, he picked up a Bible, when she instantly said, “That’s my mother’s every-day Bible, sir; I’ll give you the Sunday Bible if you want to read.” We all need an every-day Bible, one that can be handled easily and conveniently--a Bible with every precious promise and every verse that has been especially helpful to us marked. The Jews were commanded to read the Scripture all the time, to write it upon the door-posts; to have it as frontiers between their eyes; to talk of it by the way, and teach it to their children and children’s children. (Home Messenger.)
God’s revealed wilt the only safe rule for all individual guidance, and the only legitimate foundation for all national law
I. It is of the utmost importance that every man should have a sure guide for the direction of his steps.
1. If you consider the character and condition of man, the truth before us must claim universal acknowledgment. Man is the creature of God. His being, powers, and blessings are all derived from his Maker. He is therefore bound to please Him in all his ways and works. But how is this to be done? By what measure, so to speak, or after what manner, is this love to be expressed, and this obedience to be rendered?
2. If you consider man not only as the mere creature of God, but as a creature endued with an immortal soul, the truth before us will be still more apparent.
3. If you consider man as a sinner before God, exposed to all the dreadful consequences of his rebellion, and utterly without ability to help himself, the truth of this position must still more strikingly appear.
4. If you consider man as exposed to all the vicissitudes of this life--as subject to sorrow, suffering, and pain, as liable to sickness, affliction, and all the other evils incident to our present existence--the truth of this position must claim the approbation of all.
5. If you consider man in reference to death, judgment, and eternity, no voice can ever be lifted up in opposition to this truth.
II. Where is this sure guide to be met with?
1. Is man capable of furnishing himself with such a rule? Evidently not; and that not merely as the negative applies to him as he now is, but even supposing him to be what he once was.
2. Consider the greatness and importance of the matters at stake, and it must be confessed that it would not be safe to trust in any provision coming from such a human source, even supposing it possible that it could be provided.
3. A provision of this kind, coming from any human source, would fall below the circumstances and condition in which we are placed, and therefore could never meet the exigencies of our case, nor, consequently, answer the end proposed.
4. The law, or revealed will of God, is the only safe rule for all individual guidance, as well as the only legitimate foundation for all national law. No man’s ways or works can be acceptable in the sight of God who throws aside that rule and walks by the light of his own fire.
III. The benefit and advantages of following that rule and abiding thereby.
1. We shall have a sure guide for the direction of our steps.
2. We shall find everything plain before us.
3. We shall avoid the grievous mistakes and blunders into which others have fallen.
4. We shall find abundant provision for every emergency.
5. We shall be safe and prosperous here, and happy and blessed hereafter.
1. What an invaluable deposit are the sacred Scriptures as committed to any nation or people!
2. How widely have we departed from these sacred rules!
3. How needful it is that we should make these Holy Scriptures our constant study and daily counsellors! (R. Shittler.)
The Christian’s law
“This book of the law,” saith God to Joshua. And both in our text and in the verse preceding it is set forth as a rule claiming his observance and obedience, from which he may not swerve. In a peculiar sense we apply this term to the five books of Moses, and in a yet more limited one to the Decalogue. And since the New Testament contains so fully and so peculiarly the revelation of the gospel of the grace of God, and thus abounds with the language of invitation, promise, and privilege, it may seem as though to us the oracles of God had no other voice, and that the Bible is not to us the “book of the law” of God. But while we are jealous of God’s grace, let us beware of a dangerous error. The Bible does propound to us a law--the very law of the two tables is unrepealed. Not the Jewish law as our code of worship or practice, not any law as the means of our justification, but the laws of Christian holiness and virtue. Our Bibles must be our lamps, our light, of our counsellors- our oracles of duty no less than of comfort. And while the Cross furnishes the motive, while the Spirit is the Teacher, the Author and Giver alike of will and power, the precepts and prohibitions of the Bible must be our guide, as the by-paths of sin and ruin present themselves on the right hand and on the left. We are not to go to this book of God for our creed or system of theology alone, but for our code of morals and practice. For the Bible is neither all doctrine, nor all promise; it has its rules, its precepts, its prohibitions. Its precepts based upon its doctrine, yoked graciously with its promises, but precepts still. You are placed from day to day amid duties and temptations. Your God, your fellow-men have many claims upon you; you stand in many and varied relationships. You are a pilgrim in a road bestrewed with pitfalls and beset with by-paths of sin and error; a soldier amid many and subtle and mighty foes, with a hard field to fight; a voyager over a stormy sea, amid shoals and rocks and quicksands. Your Bible is your guide, O pilgrim--your sword, O soldier--your chart, O seaman l What else shall preserve you even in sound doctrine in these dangerous days but that ye be “mighty in the Scriptures,” and so reject another gospel, though its preachers wore the garb and semblance of angels, yea, though (were it possible) they were angels of light? Or what, in reference to your practice, shall secure you against the workings of sin’s deceitfulness--against the deep devices of your arch-enemy, the tempter--against the false and unscriptural principles of the world around, the spurious morality which passes current among men--what but “this book of the law”?--this book which in its revelations is pure, unerring, truth--which in its precepts is all pure in holiness, all perfect in virtue. But draw near to it ever as remembering that you are listening to the voice of God. Bow down to its revelations therefore as unerring, to its requirements as authoritative and supreme. (J. C. Miller, D. D.)
Meditation and obedience
Many devout Christians tell us that they find it profitable to take even a single verse and make it peculiarly the subject of their thoughts throughout each day--to make it the little vein in the mine which they more particularly work out. There can be no doubt that many of the vain and sinful thoughts which pass through our minds and grieve the devout Christian might thus be shut out were the thoughts and memory preoccupied with Divine truth. And if any particularly mourn that their thoughts, when left to themselves, are so discursive and unprofitable, that they know so little of religious meditation, it may be well for them thus to choose one verse of their daily portion and make it, so to say, the text of their day’s thoughts. Let them endeavour to fix its meaning, let them follow out the train of thought to which it leads, let them pray over it in a special manner. And all this with a view more particularly to self-application. But our duty ends not here. The seaman studies his chart and has his compasses on board, not for mere scientific experiments, but that he may voyage in safety to the haven whither he would go, amid the rocks and shoals and quicksands which beset his track. We may not then imagine that all is done when our verses or chapters, our portion, however long, is again punctually gone through. There is a danger of this, as there is a danger of a mere formal lip-service in our prayers. For, as to say prayers is not necessarily to pray, so there is a reading of the Word of God with the mind and the lip only. Our hearts must be the readers, as our hearts must be the petitioners. And then throughout the day the duties here enjoined must be practised, the sins denounced forsaken and shunned, the tempers here set forth as unchristian struggled with, the promises here given lived on, the heaven here proffered sought, the Saviour and the God of whom we read glorified. (J. C. Miller, D. D.)
When the impious King Antiochus entered the temple of Jerusalem to lay it waste, his first act was to remove the golden altar and the candlestick, which was also of gold. The devil acts in the same manner when he intends to deprive of spiritual good that soul which is the temple of the living God: he takes from it the altar that is, fervour of mind; he removes from it the candlestick that is, the light which makes known the eternal maxims.
Then thou shalt make thy way prosperous.--
The prosperous way
God’s blessing is ever upon His people, and lie will ever cause that the way of His commandments shall be found the way of happiness and good. Therefore it is true that His people’s way is a prosperous way, that they “have good success.” The Old Testament promise is--“whatsoever thou doest it shall prosper” the New, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Is not such a man prospering? All may be disappointment and failure to flesh and blood, and in the estimate of sense. He may not know or see or feel his prosperity at this moment, and while “all things” are working together. But when they have worked and their end is seen, that end shall be found an end of blessing and prosperity. For in the emphatic language of the Psalm, “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.” His path with them may be dark, and hard, and thorny, but it is right; for their path towards Him is obedience and holiness. In what but blessedness can that path issue “which the Lord approveth”? Would ye know, then, whether God’s blessing is at this moment upon your path? Is it a path in which you are guided by His Word, in which you are taking it as a lamp to your feet, as your counsellor and your delight? If so--let it be hard--it is blessed l Let it be tedious--your Father’s face of love is shining full upon it. Or if at this moment some cloud is casting over it its gloomy shadow, that cloud will soon be gone, having burst in mercy upon your head. (J. C. Miller, D. D.)
The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.--
God with the good
The Lord, whose command is universal; God, whose power is invincible; the Lord thy God, whose mercies are incomprehensible, is with thee whithersoever thou goest. If the Lord thy God be with thee, His wisdom is with thee to direct thee, His power to protect thee, His strength to support thee, His goodness to maintain thee, His bounty to reward thee, His word to encourage thee, and if thou die under His banner, His angels presently to carry thee into heaven. Where the Israelites lamentably deplore their ill success in war, they attribute it to God’s absence. “Thou goest not forth,” say they, “with our armies.” The Lacedaemonians, being overtaken by the Persian horse and overwhelmed with great flights of arrows, did notwithstanding quietly sit still, without making any resistance at all, or defence, till the sacrifices for victory were happily ended; yea, though many were sore hurt, and some slain outright before any good sign appeared in the entrails; but as soon as their general, Pausanias, had found good tokens of victory, and persuaded his soldiers of the Divine approbation of their war, they arose, and with excellent courage first received the charge of the barbarians, and after charged them afresh, and slew Mardonius, the Persian general, and many thousands of the rest, and got the day. If the conjectural hope of the aid and assistance of a sainted deity put such courage and resolution into the Lacedaemonians, shall not faith in the true God and confidence in His help breed better blood, and infuse nobler spirits into the hearts of God’s warriors and Christian soldiers? God can save His, and overcome the enemy as well with small forces as with great, but all the forces in the world without Him have no force at all. (D. Featley, D. D.)
An inspiring presence
When Napoleon first started to fight our country and Austria, do you know what our soldiers called him? It was “Wee One-hundred-thousand-men.” That was a fine name. It was a grand testimony to the power of the little Napoleon in the midst of his army. They asked one another, “Is ‘Wee One-hundred-thousand-men’ in the army to-day?” He was worth that number of men. Please tell me at what figure you rate the Son of God. Is He in the battle to-day? (J. Robertson.)
The presence of the Master
Bacon has well said, that a dog is brave and generous when he believes himself backed by his master, but timid and crouching, especially in a strange place, when he is alone and his master away; and a human master, says the philosopher, is as a god to the dog.
Within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan.
Three days’ pause
I. What this pause meant. “Three days” is a recognised period in Scripture for death and resurrection. But there was another and deeper reason for the delay, which closely touches one of the greatest principles of the inner life. When Israel reached its banks, the Jordan was in flood, and overflowing the low-lying lands on either side of its bed. Across the river stood Jericho, embosomed in palms and tamarisks, in a very paradise of exquisite vegetation, its aromatic shrubs and gardens scenting the air. But as the people beheld it, all their cherished hopes of taking it by their own energy or courage must have been utterly dissipated. What could they do in face of that broad expanse of rushing, foaming, turbulent waters? Multitudes have come to the brink of that river, and have been left there, waiting on its banks, that they might consider the meaning of those impassable waters, and carry away the sentence of death in themselves. Abraham waited there for more than twenty years face to face with the apparent impossibility of ever having a son. David waited there for almost as long, and it must have seemed that the kingdom foretold to him as a youth lay on the other side of insurmountable difficulties. Many a saint since then has been brought down to these same banks, and has stood to witness these flowing streams. What though the promise of God has offered all manner of blessedness and delight! That river! That flooded, fordless, bridgeless, boatless river! Are you there now? Do not hasten from it. Stand still and consider it until the energy and impetuosity of your self-life lies down. You can never reach the blessed life by resolutions, or pledges, or forms of covenant; your good self is as powerless now as your bad self was formerly; you must learn that your strength is to sit still, and that the rich blessings of God stored in Christ for you are an absolute gift to be received by the outstretched hand of faith.
II. How this pause was spent. During this space of three days events transpired which are both interesting and typical. Amongst other things Jericho was entered by the two spies.
1. Jericho may fitly stand for the world of men over which judgment is impending, but which goes on its way unheeding. Rahab, the poor outcast of Jericho, who had such strange faith in God, entered in with the people to possess the land that flowed with milk and honey. She is thus the type of Gentile-sinners who are permitted to share in the unsearchable riches of Christ, to sit with Him in the heavenlies, to form part of that new race which is gathering around the true Joshua, the Lord from heaven.
2. During this brief pause Joshua also had an opportunity of ascertaining the feelings of the two tribes and a half. Are not these the type of Christians to whom the land of promise is as freely open as to others, and who make an incursion into it with no thought of remaining? They are willing to meet and measure their strength with the seven nations of Canaan, but they are not prepared to abandon the strong facinations of the world, and to settle down to a life hidden with Christ in God. The end of such is but too clearly suggested by the fate of those Eastern tribes. They had their much grass, but they became gradually cut off from the corporate life of Israel. They gave few great names to the roll of saints and heroes emblazoned on Israel’s story. They fell first beneath the invasions of Assyria, and were swept into captivity, from which they never returned.
III. How the pause ended. On the third day the hosts seem to have come nearer the river’s brink, and their tents were pitched for the night within close proximity to the hurrying waters. It was then that Joshua said unto the people, “Sanctify yourselves,” &c. From which it would seem that the wonder-working power of God is dependent upon the sanctification of His people. “Why art Thou as a mighty man that cannot save?” “He could do no mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” We all want to see wonders wrought by God--in our own characters, that the fir-tree may replace the thorn and the myrtle the briar; in our homes, that the desert places may blossom with roses; in our Churches, that they may arise and put on their beautiful garments. Oh! for another Pentecost! Oh! to see converts fly as doves to their windows! And why is it that we strain our eyes for them in vain? Is it not because we have not sanctified ourselves? Sanctification means the cleansing of the soul, and the putting on of the white robes of purity and humility. We are not clean enough for God to use us. We are not humble enough to bear a great success. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Crossing the Jordan
Many good people daily pray against sudden death, and there are legitimate reasons for so doing; but to a child of God it is of small consequence, for death will never find him unprepared if he is living in communion with God. We will enter into the joy of our Lord, and be for ever with Him. When God’s children have their candle lighted for them, and they know that it is time to go upstairs, they feel glad to end their pilgrimage, and rest in Jesus. We are all of us much nearer home than we think. It will be greatly wise to talk with our last hours, and to anticipate that time when the message shall come, “Within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan.”
I. Observe the tenor of this notice. Notice that there are three leading words in it: “prepare,” “pass over,” “possess.” The first word that came to them was, “Prepare.” Be in journeying order. The soldier carries his rations with him when he has to make a quick march: “Prepare you victuals.” Children of God, be ready to go from this world. But inasmuch as he said, “Prepare you victuals” did he not mean “Begin to feed on food of that sort upon which you are henceforth to live”? The manna would cease in three days, and never fall again. After they crossed the Jordan, they would feed on the corn of the land. Feed on Christ, feed on spiritual food, feed on the pure truth of God’s Word, and feed your souls on nothing else. Know the taste of what you eat, and let it be as clear and definite as that of butter and honey, that so you may steadily refuse the evil and choose the good. Joshua meant--Stand ready, for the time is getting very short. There is not long to wait. Soon you will have traversed the stream, and landed on the hither shore. How would you feel if you knew that within three days you must die? The exhortation given in verse 13 is one which may be useful also to us: “Remember the word.” It is a grand help for going over Jordan if we will remember the word of the Lord. Our faith enables us both to live and to die on the promise of God. But then he said also, “Sanctify yourselves” (Joshua 3:5). If we knew we were to die in three days, should we not wish to put our hearts, our thoughts, our families, into a better state? Since we may die suddenly, let us purify ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit. The next word was, “Pass over this Jordan.” They were not called to linger on the brink, nor to sit with their feet in the stream, but to cross over it. Israel had been forty years in the wilderness, and surely that was long enough. He who hath served his God with all his heart will not wish to linger a moment after his life-work is done. You are not called to linger on the bed of sickness for ages, but to pass over to your rest. And notice, the call was not to go down into the Jordan to stop there. Blessed be God, we are not going down into the grave to be lost there; but we make use of it as an opened door to paradise. The third word was “possess.” They were to pass the river to possess the land which God had given them. We possess nothing here. Those goods which we think we possess melt away like an icicle from a hot hand. But we have on the other side of Jordan treasures worth owning. By a covenant of salt, God has given us in Christ Jesus everlasting rest, triumph, happiness, glory.
II. Observe the sequel of this notice, or what followed upon the summons. The first thing that happened to Israel was this, a singular faith was bestowed. I can hardly believe that the people under Joshua were the children of those unbelieving Jews whose caresses fell in the wilderness; for throughout the early chapters of Joshua it is recorded that they believed Joshua, whatever he said to them. He had strange and strong things to utter, but they did not doubt or demur. Now, when the children of God come to die, those of them who have been poor, trembling things before, receive new courage and unwonted strength, and even minister comfort to those who are stronger than themselves. It is brave to see how Mr. Ready-to-halt puts his crutches away when he is going over Jordan. Mr. Feeble-mind bids them bury his feeble mind in a dunghill, for it would be of no use to anybody. The Lord will give us more grace, and we shall wonder at ourselves that we could have been aforetime so distrustful. “At eventide it shall be light.” Next, a special assurance was given: “To-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). The Lord is always working marvels; but when we come to cross the Jordan we shall see His wonders in the deep. Next, note that the people had with them a conquering leader. Joshua was at their head, to encourage and direct them. When you and I shall pass over Jordan we shall have Jesus with us. He says, “Be of good cheer. Because I live, ye shall live also.” But what next? The Israelites had a clear guidance afforded them (Joshua 3:4). You have been through many experiences, but to die will be a new one. Once for all, you must cross this Jordan, therefore the Divine presence shall go before you, and show you the way. Oh, yes, you shall have Divine direction when the darkness gathers about you! With Israel a forerunner led the way. So our great High Priest has tasted death for every man. Nor did the forerunner quit the scene, for the Divine presence remained. The priests went on till they came to the river-bed, and descended the hollow, going on to the very centre of it. There they stopped till all the host had passed over. The Lord Jesus will go before you as your great High Priest, your propitiation and your covenant; and He will abide with you in the last solemn article until you are safe landed on the shore of the land of promise. In consequence of the priests going down into the river the stream was dried up. Wonderful sight it must have been to behold the waters roll back, and stand in a congealed heap. Thus there was a broad passage-way for the multitudes of Israel to go marching through, and to effect the crossing rapidly. Suppose, when you come to die, the Jordan should turn out to be no river at all. What if you should go over dry-shod? Why should it not be so? Death is a pints prick to many. Death hath lost its terrors. “The sting of death is sin,” and that is forgiven. “The strength of sin is the law,” and that is fulfilled. The black waters have failed; we pass over Jordan dry-shod. Then notice, the people were very quick in crossing. Death is short work. After all, what is the act of death? “What!” cries one, “is there not a terrible amount of pain connected with death?” I answer, “No.” It is life that has the pain; death is the finis of all pain. You blame death for a disease of which he is the cure. You imagine a thing called death which does not really exist. In the twinkling of an eye we shall be up and away! Therefore, because you will haste to pass over, you need not be alarmed at so short a trial, which will actually turn out to be no trial at all. We read in (Joshua 4:9) that the Israelites in traversing the Jordan left a memorial behind. You also will bear your testimony in departing: you will set up your memorial for your children after you, and they shall say, “Our father died in sure and certain hope of being with Jesus.” Even if your death-bed should not be so bright as some, even its clouds may not be without their effect. A holy man had prayed much for his boys and girls, but never saw them converted, and this, with the troubles which grow out of their waywardness, made his last hours to be sadly clouded. But mark how the Lord wrought! They buried their father, and when they were met together, the eldest son turned to his brothers and remarked, “If our father, who was so good a man, was so troubled in death, what will become of us when we die?” This most reasonable remark was the means of the conversion of the brothers. I would like to die in the dark if it would bring all my people to the Saviour. Would not you? One thing more: they also raised a memorial on the other shore. They piled twelve stones upon each other in Canaan. You and I, when we get to heaven, shall take our memorials with us, and pile them up. We will make known to angels and principalities and powers the manifold wisdom and goodness of God to us in life and death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Jordan at hand
I. The first feeling excited by the announcement must have been that of joy and triumph. It was not alone on the contrast between its fountains and depths springing out of valleys and hills, and the arid desolation of the great howling wilderness, that the thoughts of the Hebrew rested, but on the contrast of its repose. The sorest trials of his life had not probably been the hunger and the thirst, the laborious journey and the tumult of the battle, but the ceaseless motion--the movement ever on and on. Rest, rest! rest anywhere, but, above all, in the land that flowed with milk and honey, must have been the innermost desire of his heart. Is not all this applicable to ourselves? It is not the great sorrows of our experience that constitute, after all, the weariness of life; but it is its change, its sense of uncertainty, the consciousness that we keep nothing, call nothing absolutely our own.
II. There must have blended with it a great trial of faith. The chosen land was indeed close at hand. It seemed as if they could almost touch the shore. Just beyond gleamed in the sunshine the towers of Jericho, and blue in the distance were the hills of Judaea. But, close as they seemed, Jordan rolled between, and they could not but ask how they were to cross it. What, then, of that other Jordan, which we all must cross? that death we must all die some time or other, and through which alone we can enter into our Canaan? Let us make sure that what awaits us beyond on the other shore is heaven, and not the darkness. With the act of dying we have nothing whatever to do. It is in God’s hands, not ours, and there we must leave it. Has not the ark gone before?
III. An act of preparation needed: “Prepare you victuals.” There is nothing actually corresponding to this in the experience of the Christian when he is called to cross into the better land. Special preparation for heaven, the Christian needs none. If he be in Christ, that is enough; he is safe. If he be a believer, he can have no less; and though he were the highest of saints that ever caught the light of the face of God, he could have no more than to be “found in Him, not having his own righteousness,” &c. For myself I can conceive nothing more blessed than for a saint to pass at once from the midst of his work for his Master into the enjoyment of his Master’s presence. Yet I admit that the near sight of so great a change could not but very solemnly affect us, were the warning given to ourselves. There would be an intense revival of faith and hope, and in that close sight of heaven a flinging away of all earthly and temporal ties. (E. Garbett, M. A.)
“Prepare you victuals”
Sometimes we have heard words like these fall from Christian workers: “I have faith to believe that God will provide the means necessary to carry on this work,” and straightway they assume liabilities and enter into engagements, and incur debts, in violation of the plain command, “Owe no man anything”; yea, they even sometimes accuse their brethren of lack of faith because they cannot do God’s work in this way. This is not good. To obey is better than to profess great faith; and to hearken than sentimental unthinking zeal. What would we have thought of Joshua if after he had received the Divine order to march forward he had said, “I have faith to believe that God will provide the food necessary for victualling the army all through the campaign; our commissariat is absolutely safe, for it is in Divine hands. God has promised to be with me as He was with Moses, I have no need to think of these things. All I have got to do is to hasten forward.” Nay, nay! Joshua manifested his faith in a much more Divine fashion. “Prepare you victuals,” he said; do not expect that miraculous supply which has been granted for forty years, now that you are in a position to do without it. You are no longer helpless children, but grown men able to provide for yourselves. The battle is the Lord’s, and He will not fail us nor forsake us, but we must use all reasonable foresight in carrying on His work. We dare do nothing, we dare omit nothing, out of harmony with His ways. (A. B. Mackay.)
Joshua reminds us of the famous order attributed to Cromwell, “Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.” His piety was very unlike that of a certain Duke of Parma, of whom it is written that, in a great crisis, “while he had been praying, and nothing more, the English had been praying, and something more.” He acted in the spirit of the proverb, “God helps those who help themselves.” (T. W. M. Lund, M. A.)
“Ye shall pass over”
“Oh,” but they might have said, “we cannot pass over Jordan, because there is Jericho right in front of us, and of course the inhabitants will call in the Jebusites, who are not far off, at Jerusalem, and these will fetch in the Hivites, and the Amorites, and all the other nations; and these will hotly dispute the passage of the river, and it will be out of the question to force our way through that torrent, and fight up the other bank against such foes.” Such a fear would be most natural. When Caesar tried to land in England, what did the Britons do? They rushed into the water off Dover to meet the Romans, and they fought with them in the surf of the sea. It was natural that brave men should fight the invaders in the water, and not suffer them to tread their soil. Do you suppose that the Canaanites were less brave than the ancient Britons? Had there not been a spell upon them, they would have pressed back Israel in the river itself, and would not have allowed them to enter the land. Yet Israel passed over Jordan at the appointed time. God had said, “Ye shall go over,” and they did go over; and no Canaanite, Hivite, or Jebusite dared to molest them. So the poor child of God sighs, “Alas! when I come to die, Satan will meet me, temptations and doubts and fears will rush upon me.” We read in chap. 3:16, “And the people passed over right against Jericho.” Fear not, O, trembling heart. God can so deal with evil spirits, and with the doubts of your own spirit, that they shall be still as a stone till you have passed over. No demon shall dare to peep or mutter. No doubt or fear shall venture near. We read, “All the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.” Not an arrow or a stone came from over the walls of Jericho. Glory be to the name of the Lord, He made the hearts of Israel’s enemies to melt, so that no more courage remained in them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Ye shall pass before your brethren armed.
Joshua’s demand for the services of the trans-Jordanic tribes
In making this demand he declares their duty plainly, supports it with reasons, and enforces it with firmness. The demand he made was authoritative. It was founded on a past transaction to which they had agreed. He showed that this was nothing more than the carrying out of an arrangement previously made. From this it would not be lawful to deviate, for the commandment of Moses in regard to this was the word of the Lord. The demand was also reasonable. The raw lads and the worn-out soldiers, as well as the inferior men, may stay at home to do garrison duty, the veterans must march with him. Surely this is sensible. It is always wise to put the best men to the most difficult work. In fulfilling this commission of the true Joshua, has the Church always acted with equal wisdom and fidelity? It did so in the purest and palmiest days of missionary effort, when, filled with the spirit of wisdom and love and power, it broke forth on the right and left and speedily overran the known world, Now it seems as if all the mighty men of valour should stay at home to nurse the feeble spark of the Church’s vitality, while the striplings go to the wars. Yea, are there not some who, instead of evangelising among the heathen, expend all their energy in proselytising among Christians? The demand made by Joshua on the pastoral tribes was also equitable. “You have rest,” he might have said; “your brethren have not. You got rest through their help, therefore you are bound to help them to the same blessing. The command of Moses in regard to this was acquiesced in by you, therefore truth and honour require its faithful carrying out.” Moreover, what an unseemly picture it would have presented, to have seen part of the nation fighting hard, while their brethren sat still and looked on in ignoble ease. And how shortsighted would this policy of idleness have been. Only by the speedy and thorough conquest of all the land could the heritage of any tribe be kept in pleasant and unquestioned possession. To march with Joshua was the wisest, as well as the most seemly thing these tribes could do. Surely the same arguments could be urged with equal force as incentives to the grand work of world-wide Christian testimony. (A. B. Mackay.)
All that thou commandest us we will do.
The response of the people was as noble in its way as that of their leader. There is a holy rivalry between Israel and Joshua. They stir each other up to the great work that has to be done. The outstanding feature in the response of the people is its enthusiasm. It is plain from their response that they are heart and soul in the work before them, that they are only waiting for their leader’s command to march forth a band of heroes. To say that their reply to Joshua was hearty would be to do them injustice; it was enthusiastic. Every soul in the camp was stirred to its utmost depth. This is plain from the readiness with which they replied. They did not hang back, waiting for each other to speak out. Much less did they hunt up excuses why they should not march. They did not modify or minimise their responsibilities. They were as eager to follow Joshua as Joshua was to follow Jehovah. This enthusiasm was also manifested by their cheerfulness. These men had not only promised to put their hands to this work, but also made if plain that they felt it their highest privilege to be able to do so. Oh! for such holy enthusiasm in the work of the Lord in these days! The best of us are but half-hearted at the best, and some, alas! seem utterly unable to get up the least spark of enthusiasm for holy things. If we profess to be Christians, if we profess to do God’s work, if we profess to respond to the call of the true Joshua, let us do it, not like galley-slaves, but like God’s freemen; let us do it as those who think His service our highest honour. Joshua’s followers were also unreserved in acknowledging their allegiance. They kept nothing back and made no reservation. They asked no questions and imposed no conditions. Is obedience, prompt and unquestioning, the first duty of a soldier? See how splendidly it was possessed by these Israelites. They declare that it is not for them to make reply, not for them to reason why, but simply, constantly, to do all that was commanded them. And if such glorious allegiance was due to Joshua, much more it is due to our great Captain of salvation, Jesus Christ. Whatsoever He commands in His Word we should do. Wheresoever He sends us in His providence we should go. The response of the people was also humble, sincere, earnest, and hopeful. A slight transformation in the opening words of verse 17 makes their meaning more clear. It should read thus: “According to all in which we hearkened to Moses so will we hearken unto thee.” They do not here brag of their obedience to Moses. Though better than their fathers, they had nothing to boast of, and conscious of their own weakness they merely said, “We will try to make our best obedience to Moses the model of our obedience to you.” And there is good hope that they will succeed in carrying out this promise, for it is plain that they make it in a prayerful spirit, inasmuch as they follow it up by saying, “Only the Lord be with thee as He was with Moses.” This is no impertinent limitation, qualifying their full allegiance as already given; but an earnest prayer that Joshua might constantly enjoy the Divine guidance, protection, and blessing vouchsafed to Moses. Then they finish their response by words vehement and uncompromising: “Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, let him be put to death.” What more could a leader desire than such a spontaneous manifestation of fidelity? How must this declaration have strengthened Joshua’s heart, showing so clearly as it did that his appointment to the leadership by Jehovah was so heartily ratified by all the people. (A. B Mackay.)
The moral advantages of good organisation
1. 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,” &c.
(3) Walking constantly in the Divine counsel, he shall achieve the most distinguished success. This is God’s promise.
2. Organisation is as much required in the Church as in the army. 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.
I. Such organisation would facilitate the development of individual talent. In the absence of wise organisation, 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 organisation 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 organisation 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!
IV. Such organi sation would promote a most healthful spiritual discipline, The organisation 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 organisation 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. (J. -Parker, D. D.)
Fidelity to engagements
There was no going back from their word, even though they might have found a loophole of escape. They might have said that as the conquest of Sihon and Og had been accomplished so easily, so the conquest of the western tribes would be equally simple. Or they might have said that the nine tribes and a half could furnish quite a large enough army to dispossess the Canaanites. Or they might have discovered that their wives and children were exposed to dangers they had not apprehended, and that it would be necessary for the entire body of the men to remain and protect them. But they fell back on no such afterthought. They kept their word at no small cost of toil and danger, and furnished thereby a perpetual lesson for those who, having made a promise under pressure, are tempted to retire from it when the pressure is removed. Fidelity to engagements is a noble quality, just as laxity in regard to them is a miserable sin. Even pagan Rome could boast of a Regulus who kept his oath by returning to Carthage, though it was to encounter a miserable death. In Psalms 15:1-5. it is a feature in the portrait of the man who is to abide in God’s tabernacle and dwell in His holy hill, that he “sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
The Lord thy God be with thee.
Prayers for men in public offices
Rulers who answer the end of their office as guardians of civil and religious liberty are pillars of a land. They uphold and support it, and keep it from tottering and sinking. We should pray for them--
1. That they may be endued with every grace and virtue which can animate to the faithful and diligent execution of the duties of their office. If piety, true patriotism, and zeal for the interests of religion are at present less conspicuous in many who hold civil or military offices than they have been in some former periods, there is the greater need to beseech Him, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, to pour out abundantly.
2. We should pray that all in offices, civil or military, may be endued with the gifts and talents necessary for the honourable discharge of their several offices. Capacity and genius, as well as good dispositions, are requisite for serving the public. It is from Divine influence that rulers diligently search what conduct is just and wise; hearken to salutary advice, from whatever quarter it comes; and have clear understandings to discern, and sound judgments to choose the right path, even in situations the most intricate and perplexed.
3. We should pray that, in consequence of good dispositions and eminent abilities, rulers may actually adopt the measures which best tend to promote the public good. It is not enough that a ruler avoids, in his own practice, whatever may embolden wickedness, and recommends, by an exemplary conduct, that righteousness which exalteth a nation. He must vigorously enforce and execute the laws already established for restraining wrong and wicked lewdness, and help forward the enacting of such new laws as may be needful for restraining them more effectually.
4. We should pray God to prosper the endeavours of all in civil and military offices for promoting the public good. (John Erskine, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Joshua 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent