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Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible Kelly Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Joshua 3". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wkc/ joshua-3.html. 1860-1890.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Joshua 3". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
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The book of Joshua naturally follows the five books of Moses, and indeed is connected more manifestly with those that go before it than might appear to an ordinary reader. It opens not with a mere particle of time nor of transition but of connection. This is not expressed in the English version, but it is the fact in the Hebrew text. Undoubtedly it was the Holy Spirit writing by another servant of the Lord; but He was carrying on the same testimony, and a testimony too for which the book of Deuteronomy more particularly prepares us; for all that book was uttered by Moses when the children of Israel were upon the eve, as it were, of entering the promised land. Here, as elsewhere, it is of great importance that we should clearly apprehend the special object of the Spirit of God in the book. I shall make a few remarks therefore of a general nature in order to present it as clearly as the Lord enables me.
No spiritual person who considers the matter can doubt that what the Spirit of God has been pleased to give us in Joshua, if we take it as typical of blessing to us, is not our passing out of the world into heaven. We are all familiar with the usual way of representing the Jordan as death, and the crossing of the Jordan as the leaving the world for heaven at death. But this is not its true force, though it is a matter of immense importance practically for the soul. If you thus assign its import for heaven after death, you miss the prime object of God in giving it to us for the earth. If you put it off till the future state, present application of its meaning can evidently have no direct place. Not of course but that there may be blessing gathered from particular passages here and there. We know that even those who apply the crossing of Jordan to our departure to be with Christ do not scruple to use the deliverance of Rahab in Joshua 2:6, as they would seek to glean moral profit from every chapter. But I am not now speaking of an application or use in which we all agree, but of what some of us, it may be, have to learn, of what we all, I am sure, have had to learn at one time or another.
On the face of the book there is one plain fact which shows us its real nature or bearing, and that is what the children of Israel did when they crossed the Jordan. Did they enjoy rest? Not so; it was still labour; nay, further, it was conflict with the enemy, and not only the patience of faith in which they had been tried as they passed through the wilderness. There was a beautiful moral order in God putting the hearts of His people to the test where there was nothing around them but the barren sands and Himself. In the desert God was there alone to teach them themselves as well as Himself. This was the great lesson for forty years of pilgrimage; but it is clear that it was, as far as the circumstances were concerned, by no means the place where direct positive blessing was displayed. God was there and then turning every circumstance into blessing by His own grace, by what He said, by what He did, and by what He was to His people. This is most true of the earlier time and scene; but in the book of Joshua we enter upon actual and distinct blessing the bestowal of His gifts in love to Israel according to His promise to the fathers, though as yet on the tenure of their fidelity to the covenant of the law. Thus, it was not merely taking them out of what was evil, neither was it the lesson of God in the wilderness His proving of and dealings with His people: God was giving what He had promised to give them; and now He was accomplishing it in His power; He was bringing them into the goodly land of Canaan. But all the while in the book of Joshua we hear of the wars of the people. Now this simple fact shows us its true character. Certainly when we leave the world to be actually with the Lord, we shall not have wars. Plainly therefore the crossing of the Jordan does not answer to the quitting the world for rest in the presence of God; but applies to the full change of position for Christians while they are still in the world. How can they be said to cross the Jordan? This is what one desires to bring out simply according to the light furnished by the New Testament, at least as far as God gives ability. We shall find that divine light is abundant, so that we may see the mind of God distinctly.
It is obvious to every thoughtful Christian that a strong link of connection exists between the crossing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan. It is found in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus; but there are two effects sensibly different and of great importance that we should distinguish. Regarded in the type of the Red Sea it is simply setting us apart to God from the world, making us pilgrims while we are passing through it; crossing the Jordan, or the death and resurrection of Christ in this point of view, does far more. It is the power of that mighty work as bringing us into the possession of our heavenly blessings before we go there. We are made consciously of heaven; we have still to fight before the time is come to rest. In both cases it is not that merely is Christ dead and risen, but this applied to us by the Spirit.
On the one hand the passage of the Red Sea is our being dead with Christ and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord as a question of righteousness. We are thus justified from sin, and effectually delivered from Satan's power. There is no longer a question of dread as to the judgment of God. On the other hand the crossing of the Jordan means our introduction according to the fulness of Christ's title, even now, into heavenly places. On this basis the Spirit would familiarize us with heavenly things.
Accordingly we are called to set our affection on things above, filled with that which is no doubt altogether a matter of faith, but is none the less real because it is so. There is no more grave error than to suppose that the things of sense are substantial, and that the things of faith are not. There is nothing so true as faith; nor does anything so endure as what rests on God's word. Grace has given us in Jesus Christ our Lord a kingdom which cannot be moved. I grant you we have to trust Him; we have nothing to show. Are we the poorer for that? Incomparably richer! It is a blessed thing when we learn to trust God's eyes and not our own, and this is what faith always does. Instead of faith abridging our vision, it enlarges our range infinitely. We may be feeble in seeing, according to such a measure, and undoubtedly we are; but there is such a thing as growth carried on by the Spirit, revealing more of Christ in the scriptures. Having in the word as in Christ that which is divine, there is infinite fulness to grow up into. This is what Christ introduces us to, not when we die as a literal fact, but when we know the power of His death and resurrection, not merely from Satan but from self. Such is the line of truth shadowed in the crossing of the Jordan. It is not deliverance from Egypt: the Red Sea has this import. There in type the world, the scene of Satan's slavery, is left behind; but across the Jordan is the entrance into the heavenly land.
We shall find therefore by and by another most important difference, which can be merely touched on passingly now. Here circumcision comes in, expressly contrasted with the previous state of things. Whilst they marched through the wilderness there was no such practice. Not a single person was circumcised that was born in the wilderness: no doubt some were there who had been circumcised before. But when they crossed the Jordan, they must not delay; it was imperative then to be circumcised. Clearly therefore it became a question of death to self by Christ, who is gone on high and united us to Himself there; and this is just the point that is meant by it. Thus the person is free to enter into what God gives above; and there is nothing that hinders this more than self unsubdued and unmortified. Circumcision therefore takes place directly the Jordan is passed. However I am now somewhat anticipating; nevertheless it seemed to me necessary to give these few words of a more general nature in order that there might be a simple and clear impression of the exact difference between the two.
Plainly then we have common ground in the Red Sea and the Jordan, but each has that which is special. All is found in Christ our Lord. Only it becomes us that we should not be content with the vague and general thought that we have it all. God means that we should know what we have received as His children, as it is what He has given us. Here the energy of faith comes in; that we be not content with the recognition of the truth that all things are ours, but that we diligently learn of Him what they are. God keeps back no good thing from us. We slight His love if we do not press on to learn and enjoy everything He has revealed. The Spirit that elates, and the conflicts in order to possession.
This then is one of the distinctive points of the Book of .Joshua; that Israel is here seen brought into the promised inheritance, and not merely out of the house of bondage into a waste howling wilderness. What mercy to have God in that waste as their companion! It was God leading them into the land where His eyes rested, and in which He could take pleasure He did not in the wilderness; He took pleasure in His people there. And He was surely showing them what He was, and that He would eventually bring them into the good land; but it was not then a question of entering into the given blessings of Emmanuel's land. This we shall find in the Book of Joshua.
Let us now look a little more particularly into some details of the chapters I shall glance over tonight.
Moses is dead, and Joshua takes his place; that is, Christ is represented both by him who was dead and by him who is alive. Thus it was Christ whether bringing out of the world or conducting through the wilderness, and now Christ in a new type the captain of salvation who is at the head of Israel in the land of Canaan. But, as we know, it is the self-same Christ in another point of view who was about to lead the people of God into the better country. We must carefully remember, as indeed involved in the truth I have already shown, that here we have not the death of the body and the separation of the spirit from it: still less is it the resurrection condition. Such is not at all the point in the Book of Joshua. For the same reason it is not Christ returning in glory: Joshua does not represent Christ coming again. It is Christ now in Spirit leading the people into the land, that is, the power of the Spirit of God who thus, answering to Christ's glory, enables the Christians now to appropriate and know their place in heaven where He is. In short then Joshua represents Christ not as coming in person by and by, but acting in spirit now, and giving us therefore to receive and to realize our heavenly blessedness.
Again we shall find in this book, that there is first the reception of what God gives, and next that the people have to make the gift their own. These two distinct truths divide the Book of Joshua into two parts. The first twelve chapters are simply the question of our recognition of the grand truth that, having the heavenly land in title, we have to fight for it. The last portion of the book shows us the duty of grappling with the difficulties when we have received the truth, and puts us on our guard against the various ways by which Satan would enfeeble our sense of the blessing, and hinder its being made truly our own practically. It must not remain only an objective fact: we must make our title available and respected.
This divides the book, accordingly, into its earlier and its later parts.
In chapter 1 there is another thing to which I would call attention: Jehovah, after stating the new form in which Christ's power was to be shown in Joshua, says, "Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses." The land was given of God, but had to be won; the country over Jordan was open to the people of God. The book being devoted to this as its special aim, there is given at the starting-point a general notice of the extent of the land "From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates." Strictly speaking, this stretched much beyond Canaan. So we find what remarkably answers to it in that Epistle of the New Testament where the proper heavenly portion of the saints is brought before us. There is nothing more evident in the Epistle to the Ephesians than the two features I am about to state.
First, God has given us heavenly blessings in and with our Lord Jesus, and this now; only without doubt, it is for this reason a matter of faith as far as we are concerned till Jesus come. We are on the earth, but "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." And secondly, the very same chapter shows us not our Canaan only, but "from the wilderness and this Lebanon to the great river, the river Euphrates." So God gives us a measure of outreaching blessing far beyond that which is proper to us. In short, inasmuch as it is not merely the type of Christ but Christ Himself, so too the blessing is equally enlarged. "All things," and no measure short of all things, must be put under Christ; and if Christ be head universally, He is given head over all to the church. He, in connection with the church, does not take anything less than the whole universe of God. Thus we see what is special the heavenly things answering to Canaan; but along with this a great extent of territory, stretching from Lebanon on the north to the river Euphrates which was in the east beyond. Does it not bring before us that God, if He gives at all, must give as God? He will make good His promises, but He cannot act below Himself. And how this will be verified in the day for which we wait! We shall have our own (Luke 16:12); but we shall have Christ's own, and God keeps nothing back from the rejected but glorified man, His own Son.
Further we find for the difficulties in the way, which in truth are immense, that God gives proportionate comfort and assurance. "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage." The last words one sees are very emphatic, and even in the first chapter repeated over and over again. Let me ask my brethren whether they have really understood that this is what they are called to, what we are called to now. Not a few sincere Christians err greatly here. They confound good courage with presumption; that assurance in the Lord with the lowest, basest, proudest feeling of the flesh; mere thoughtless audacity without an atom of believing confidence in God. From presumption may every child of God be kept! On the other hand, God forbid that a child of His should be cheated out of the good courage and single-eyed confidence due to God by that which defames them. No, my brethren; we are called to be strong and of a good courage.
What is presumption then as distinguished from the courage of faith; and how are we to discern the difference? Is it not important to avoid mistake in so grave a matter? Presumption is man's courage founded on self on the first man. The strength and good courage of the Christian is founded only on Christ. The difference therefore is complete. We cannot be too great-hearted if Christ be the one source of our courage: we owe it to Him. If it be a question of standing against the enemy or withstanding his wiles, we need indeed to be watchful. If it be a question of cherishing calm trust in what Christ is, and what He has given us, we cannot abate one jot of the full exhortation conveyed by these words to Joshua on that day. Was it for Joshua alone? It was for Joshua, who bound himself indissolubly with the people of God; it was to cheer the leader and those led by him. But so, beloved brethren, it should be with the children of God; for He does not, could not, complete a mere fraction of them. The best blessings we have got are those God designed for the church for every member of Christ's body.
Alas! we find ourselves in a state and day when but few members of Christ believe in their own blessing. If God has recalled our souls to faith in His grace, let us thank Him; but when we think of the infinite mercy which has caused us to see that God is for us, and what Christ is to us, and working too by the Spirit in us, let us adore Him that all is for all that are His. This will deepen our sense of the ruin of Christendom where their lack of faith refuses the good things God is giving, where flesh feebly judged mixes what is of self and the world without rebuke. At least we shall see what God is towards all saints, though we shall feel the more what they are towards Him in spite of all His love. First of all do we owe our freshest feelings to Himself; but also it becomes us, if we desire the blessing of others, that we should humbly yet at the same time courageously seek to enter in and possess the blessings ourselves. There is nothing that more conduces to the blessing of another than enjoying what His grace gives in our own souls. "Be strong then," says He, "and of a good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous." We know that He whom Joshua set forth cannot fail us. There were moments when even Joshua quailed; time was to be when Joshua would sink into the dust, when Jehovah would bid him rise with a measure of reproof too. Our Joshua never needs a check more than a stimulus; and all power is given Him in heaven and on earth. May His power rest on us in our weakness! We shall learn where the hindrances are and what.
But there is another point also in the preliminary chapter. "This book of the law," says Jehovah, "shall not depart out of thy mouth." Along with the entrance of the people, through the power of the Spirit of Christ, into their heavenly blessing, comes increased need of the word of God. The value of every word is not so felt when souls are content with barely receiving Jesus as a Saviour, when they want no more than to be assured that they will not come into judgment. Then a vague and general hold of the word of God suffices for the need. But when we are awakened to see the truth which sets forth Christ on high and the heavenly place of the saints of God, and for desire to have a positive and definite hold of our own proper portion in Christ before entering there in person by and by, then indeed we need, and the Spirit of God does not fail to give us, the value in principle of every word. We feel we want it all; we know that it is good for us too that we should be searched and tried, and that we should not be shut up only to that which ministers direct comfort to us. We can bear that word which makes us conquerors over Satan by making nothing of self; and indeed it is particularly this which it is the object of the book of Joshua (typically viewed at any rate) to bring before us. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for Jehovah thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
Here is another point of immense importance. We have not only the word but God Himself. Granted that in principle the same thing was true while Israel were passing through the wilderness. But it is good to have the sense of the presence of God with us in the introduction of our souls into our own proper inheritance. This then is afresh assured to the people; and need I say how truly we need to be under such a safeguard even in joy, and how good it is always! The time comes when the fresh bloom of truth is apt to pass. If it be no longer a new thing, what is to sustain a soul then? God Himself in the sense that He is with us in the sense of His will as alone wise and good and holy. Then it is that, even though there may be trial, difficulty, and a thousand things exceedingly repulsive to our nature, yet the consciousness of His presence supplies what is lacking, and outweighs every seeming drawback. What can be wanting when God is with us, and in perfect love?
It is evident then that the distinct assurance of the presence of God with His people, put as it is here with the entrance of the people into Canaan, is full of instruction as well as of consolation for our souls, which have it guaranteed in terms no less precise than full. We shall need it too, my brethren; and we do need it. Nothing else endures.
Then we have Joshua acting upon it; so do the Reubenites also, while choosing to dwell on this side of death and resurrection. It might have been thought that it was not for them to speak. They had been eager to seize the good land for their flocks and herds on the other side; but even so, remarkably enough, they cross the Jordan with the rest. There may be and are saints that stop short of their proper blessing; but God's mind is that all His people should enter in. Hence therefore there is particular care to single out these Reubenites and Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh, whom we find so impressed with the word of God, and with the task in which Joshua was just about to engage, that they themselves now take the place of exhorting him: "Only be strong and of a good courage." Such is the first chapter.
And where is the peculiar beauty of the second chapter? and why have we the story of Rahab here? Can we not at once discern? Possibly more may when a few words are added. Why did we not see a Rahab when the Red Sea was passed? Why here more than there? Is it not here that, along with the bringing of the people of God into their proper heavenly relationship, God must give a fresh sign that the distinctions of flesh and blood are worthless? that it is precisely when the saints of God are called heavenly that the fulness of the Gentiles must come in? There was nothing of the sort at the coming out of Egypt no particular witness of grace to the Gentiles then as now. Undoubtedly all is ordered aright; and there was no such propriety, no such special force, in that witness of a Gentile being called then. Now there is. Therefore I conceive that, as we have in the book of Joshua a general resemblance to the Ephesian epistle, so we may say thatJoshua 2:1-24; Joshua 2:1-24 answers toEphesians 2:1-22; Ephesians 2:1-22 or the latter part of it. Indeed the same principle runs through both, the one typically, the other in plain reality. For, after the new people who are called the church are shown as put into relationship with Christ at the right hand of God, then we have the bringing in of the Gentile particularly and expressly. Of the Jew it was not so requisite to say much. It was perfectly plain that the 'dew was brought out of his Judaism; but the Gentile who had not a single religious privilege is declared to be the object of the fullest divine favour now in Christ. Without Christ, without hope, without God in the world, without promise even, a stranger to the covenants, spite of all their spiritual destitution and their actual degradation, the Gentiles are now brought nigh, and this with a wholly new kind of nearness unknown to Israel of old. Hence therefore it appears to me that we cannot doubt of the truly admirable wisdom of God in bringing in such an one as Rahab. Not merely was she a Gentile, but chosen by grace from the ranks of the fallen; she was avowedly, what is most degrading to a woman, a harlot. I know there are those who have by small points of philology endeavoured to argue that this was not necessarily the fact, and that the designation may have imported no more than that she kept a kind of public lodging. Men have thus sought to save the character not of Rahab only but of God's word. But they need not take the trouble. It is better to accept the Bible with simplicity. Flesh, all flesh, is grass. Indeed there is beauty in the humbling fact just as it is. For if God is going out in the might of His own grace, and showing what He is for His people, why should He not take up one that might seem to human eyes too far steeped in depravity for His blessing, more particularly at such a time? So mistake greater in truth could be made about it. When God raises up His own to the highest, it is the very time when grace goes down to the lowest. Therefore, far from finding a difficulty in that which was the character of Rahab, it appears to me that a great deal of the moral weight of divine truth, and of the beauty of the tale of grace here introduced, is lost by those who wish to make her a more respectable person than she really was. My brethren, it is not what we were, but what grace makes us, that is everything to the believer now; and so Rahab proved then.
We need not dwell upon that which would have the deepest interest for an evangelist's appeal. Nor is it my present aim to pass all in minute review, more especially such a part of the subject. Suffice it to say that Rahab shows us a faith strikingly in keeping with what God was now doing. Indeed this being always true must be more or less manifest. Faith is never a mere repetition in any case. There are hardly two souls whose conversion is exactly alike. Even though they may be converted at the same time, under the same discourse of the same preacher, still each has a speciality; and the more they are understood, the more anyone really gets into the heart of those who are converted, the more decided is the difference seen to be. But this is just what it should be; as it also gives a more living interest to those who really love souls and the ways of God with individuals. Assuredly it is worth learning what a soul is to God, and the manner of God's grace with every soul He brings to Himself. So there was distinctive character in Rahab's conversion. Who would mean to say that everything was as it should be with the object of His mercy? Far from it. The soul that is saved is not the Saviour; nor can it ever rise up to the Saviour, though we all shall be like Him. Unquestionably there is a mighty chasm which grace crosses; and the results are not small in those who believe even now. Still we may see in Rahab what appears to be connected with her old habits; for even at the very time when the truth had told powerfully on her, she lets out a little of what was, I suppose, her old character in her ways and words. There is no doubt she judged that it was all for a good cause; but can one deny that there was a spice of deceit along with the shelter she afforded the spies? Now I do not believe anybody is ever called or allowed of God to deceive in the smallest degree or for any end whatever. We sometimes meet the fact, even in saints of the Old Testament; but never the least justification of it. In short we may find as here the drawback of flesh at the very time when God's grace is blessing in the Spirit. We find it in others who ought to have known better than the Gentile harlot of Jericho. If we hear of such a fault in Rahab, there was at least as great in an Abraham even, none less in Isaac, and yet more. in Jacob. If they after their knowledge of God could so fail, we must not wonder that, when this poor heathen was in but the transition state of coming to the Lord, she betrays what she was in herself, as truly as her faith shows what she had received from God. But this at least she was certain of, that God was with that people. This she saw clearly, that she was in the midst of the enemies of God; and in spirit she had done with them. Faith made her turn her back on her oldest associations of nature. Her heart now was with God and with God's people; and it is a good thing, be assured, that one should have one's heart set upon being not only with Him but with them, and this more particularly considering the world through which we are passing.
To have confidence in the link that is between God and His people is of great practical moment. To many perhaps it might sound and pass muster as more spiritual to say, "I am content with God only: as for His people, I am content to be apart from them. So grave are their faults, so many ways and words that are unworthy, that I must be excused if I seek them not. Do not talk about the people of God: God Himself alone for me." This, I say, was not Rahab's feeling; nor is it God's, who loves them, as we should also. He loves them, spite of what they are; and if we are led of His Spirit, if we have communion with Him, we love them too, and their faults will not alienate our hearts from them: who would put value on the love that could be turned away by a failure? Besides, who and what are we, so ready to criticise the failings of brethren? Have we none to confess of our own? Does it never occur to us that we may be a trial and grief to others, if not a stumbling-block by this very haste to judge? Let us rather learn to judge ourselves more, and to esteem others better than ourselves. I do not say this to make light of evil: God forbid! But assuredly true love labours and loves spite of faults, and seeks to get its object free. Indeed, sometimes we may rather rivet a fault by our own foolish way of dealing with it; but if we are truly led of God, we shall love those whom He loves. Rahab understood this very simply when she identified not God only but herself with the spies she hid in the flax. And this expressed a better, stronger, more real faith, than any words could have done in the circumstances. She proved her faith by her good works, and this in loving not merely the God of Israel but the Israel of God. Was not this its character and meaning? Because of what she had heard (faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God), she connected by a true and single instinct Israel with God; and she was right.
Hence, if even the king of Jericho came before Rahab's mind with a claim that would otherwise have been paramount, faith changed everything. No doubt it had its risk. She carried her life in her hand. It is for God to see to that. He did then as He always does; He acted for His own glory, magnifying Himself whether by our life or by our death for His name's sake. She at any rate had her mind made up. She might be put to death for what the king would call an act of treason; and an act of treason undoubtedly it was after the flesh, judged by its rules. It must have seemed to the men of Jericho selling her country and her king; but she measured every thing by God. This is faith's reckoning. Not only are there cases where one must take one's side thus, but the principle extends to the most ordinary occasions. It is really incumbent on every one who is brought to God. In that most solemn change for the soul, what is every body else in the world as standing between us and God? And what is the effect of faith? That the more you are brought out simply into confidence in God's mind toward His people, the more you must love those whom God loves. Rahab in a striking and practical way apprehended this. Hence she risked her own life in giving effect to this divine conviction; for faith is most real, and can stake everything on God and His way. So she counted it no foolish speculation to risk the loss of life and all things for the spies, because they were the spies of ,Jehovah's people, whose success to her mind was a certainty; and faith assures itself of His mercy in that day.
But she lets us know a little too of the state of feeling in Jericho. Her reasoning was sound, according to faith. It was no mere sentiment, nor sudden feeling either. There were many that shared her fears; but who shared the faith of Rahab? The warriors of the city were not without the same apprehensions. But in her case, as often in ours, God's Spirit wrought where at first there was simply dread. This God followed up, replacing it by living faith in Himself and in His love for His people. "We have heard," says she, "how Jehovah dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when ye came out of Egypt." She at least attributed their crossing to no second cause; nor did the men of Jericho share the unbelief of moderns who feign that Moses knew and used a ford in passing the Red Sea. She understood the truth because she had faith. "I know," she said, "that Jehovah hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for Jehovah your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by Jehovah, since I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father's house." (Verses 9-12)
Again I do not believe that it was for her only a question of saving natural life, though of course lives were preserved according to the oath of the spies. But her faith rose above the mere outward circumstances. The comment of James supposes a higher character, as it seems to me. Hence she was not merely incorporated in the line of Israel generally; she was actually brought into the line of Messiah, and sat in the most honourable place into which a woman could be brought after the flesh. The basis is laid in the book that shows us death to flesh, but God acting according to His own grace and accomplishing salvation in the midst of judgment. Accordingly an appropriate sign was given her not only for her own sake but for her family. Salvation came to her house that day, though they were poor and guilty Gentiles. Their deliverance shines the more brightly in the destruction of all the rest. The executors of judgment on Jericho guarantee the safety of Rahab and all her house.
Then comes the new scene in Joshua 3:1-17. "And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; and they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of Jehovah your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it." It is plain that in this case there are some notable points that differ from those of the passing of the Red Sea. There was no such solemnity there as here. The ark of Jehovah had no place in that scene; nor any assertion of His right to all the earth the Lord of all the earth. There was no such order as the priests entering in with the ark first, and then the waters failing for the people to pass over. In the main substance there appears the same general truth: that is, God's power acts in grace, and His people enter into death and come victoriously out of it. But when this has been said, we have heard perhaps all that is common.
Let us now look a little at the differences which seem of chief moment. Jehovah there tells the people to sanctify themselves, "for tomorrow Jehovah will do wonders among you. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people. And Jehovah said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan." So Joshua tells them to come hither and hear the words of Jehovah their God, assuring them that "Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and, the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of Jehovah of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of Jehovah of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap." Such was to be the principle: God's ark was to go before; the people would follow, yet with a space intervening. (Verses 3, 4) Even in the deepest mercy or the richest conference of privilege as God cannot lose His reverence, so His people shall not make haste.
"And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; and as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest)," etc.; that is, the difficulties were greatest at this very time. Jordan was peculiarly full. Therefore it was rather harder, if anything, to have crossed then. How then was it that God met the difficulty? "The waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap, very far from the city Adam that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of Jehovah stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan." When the priests' feet bearing the ark touched, the waters shrank; and in the midst the priests abode till the people crossed. Faith was thus in lively exercise.
"And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that Jehovah spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, and command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night." (Joshua 4:1-3) Twelve stones were laid in the Jordan where the priests' feet stood, and twelve stones taken out of the Jordan; being, it is evident, the memorials one more particularly of death, as taken into the river, the other of resurrection, as taken out of the waters. They were the signs not only of Christ's death and resurrection, but of the connection of the people with Christ in it. The Adam life cannot enjoy Canaan, and must go down into death. Beyond the Jordan it must be the power of a better life. For this very reason therefore there were twelve. Wherever man is made prominent wherever his administrative place is found in Scripture it has been suggested that twelve is the number ordinarily employed. It is the regular number for completeness in that point of view; that is, where human agency as such is brought before us. Though a familiar truth, still it seems well to notice it by the way.
Such is the reason then why we find twelve stones on this occasion. It was the sign that the people had been there, but having passed through death they had come out of it to the other side. It was the association of the people with the risen Christ Himself. Hence in this place we have the full sign of the glory of the person of Christ as far as a type could convey it. There was none more complete than the ark. Here we do not read of a rod stretched over the waters. The rod was used at the Red Sea; for it was the sign of judicial authority, and so it appropriately appears on that occasion. Judgment fell upon Christ in order that we should be delivered. In the passing out of Egypt it was a question of God's power grounded on His righteous judgment. His judicial authority interfered there, as we see in the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts. But was not Israel both guilty and ruined? Have not we been also? Christ bore this completely for us, being delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.
But at the river Jordan there are new wants. Judicial authority has fully run its course. It is not merely a question of Christ bringing us out from the judgment of God by His own bearing it, but of what Christ going down into death entitles us to enter into according to the rights of His work and the glory of His person. Christ, dead and risen, having perfectly glorified God on the cross, could not be adequately glorified short of heavenly glory. Born the Son of David, He ever called Himself the Son of man. Undoubtedly He had therefore a title to both the kingdom of God in Israel and the still wider empire over all nations and tribes and tongues. But is this the full extent? Not so. There could be no measure. These are the boundless ways of God's glorifying Christ, not only in the highest seats of heaven but, as far as a creature could be a witness of it, in all creation put under Him. It is the same spirit we find here with the symbol of His person in death and resurrection as entering into that place which alone suits One so glorious. Where is it? Heaven alone suffices. Is there one part of the creation of God higher than another? It must be the place for Christ. If there be one sphere that could show exaltation more than another, Christ must be placed there. But Christ, if He goes there, will not be severed from us.
This is therefore what the ark represents. It is the fullest witness of the glory of Christ that could be found in Israel as a type. Hence therefore this is the way in which He is looked at. I repeat, it is not merely righteousness but glory. It is not entering into death to bring us out of what was wrong, but going into death by resurrection as a title to bring us into all that is good and glorious too. Into that connection, my brethren, we are brought now. The object of God's doing so is to deliver us from the false glory of the world, in order that all that is of man, all that occupies his heart, or that could be an object here, should be left behind us. How? By an effort? Exclusively by belief of the truth by Christ received and known by the attractive power of the grace and might of God which, in so giving and raising up and exalting Christ in glory, has bound us up with Him for ever, and has bound us up with Him now. This then is what I shall endeavour to bring out still more fully as we look at the book farther.
Let me only add a few words more now as to this. It is not pleasant to the flesh to die; yet in these things is the life of the Spirit. For man it is an impossibility, but with God all things are possible. "All the Israelites passed over on dry ground." "Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God," says the apostle to the Colossians for all Christians. We shall see that the attention of the people is particularly called to the event: "On that day Jehovah magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life. And Jehovah spake unto Joshua, saying, Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan. Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan. And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of Jehovah were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before. And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For Jehovah your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as Jehovah your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: that all the people of the earth might know the hand of Jehovah, that it is mighty: that ye might fear Jehovah your God for ever." (Ver. 14-24) It is not now judgment. There is no question of destroying Pharaoh or his hosts. It is not the dealing with what is evil; but the power of Christ's resurrection in bringing us into what is glorious and heavenly. And very certainly we need them both, and we need them in this order too. A person who looks at Christ simply as bringing into what is good is in danger of constantly allowing what is bad. It is not merely the gift of what is good that delivers the sinner. There must be the solemn sense in our own souls that we are evil ourselves, and are most righteously obnoxious to God's judgment, because of our sinful ways; and that nothing could deliver us, had not Christ Himself borne it, putting Himself under it and exhausting it for us, and that thus thus only could we be saved according to God.
Therefore, it was then a question of Israel being saved; but here it is God magnifying His own love for His people according to His counsels for His own glory. It is God giving the magnificent proof of what He is for His people in the face of Satan and his hosts. If I do not enter into this, I shall only be occupied with my personal salvation and my own blessing. This is all right at first: all else is but theory then. But having gone through, in my own soul, the sense of my guilt and ruin, and of my deliverance in Christ from both, then I am free in spirit to enter into the scene of glory before going there actually; for the blessed Saviour even now has brought me into His things, and not merely delivered me from mine of the first man.
This then is the double truth. This is what Christ has been for us and what God has given us in Him. May we value Him everywhere, delighting in all that grace has given us in the word! The same Israelite could not at the same time be a pilgrim in the wilderness and a conqueror of his Canaanitish enemies in the land. But we ought to know them both together; for in truth all things are ours, and we are now seated in heavenly places in Christ and in conflict with spiritual wickedness there, whilst we are journeying in patience through the desert.