Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Joshua 3:3Joshua 3:3. At this decisive moment, when the people of Israel were about to enter on the great conflict which was to secure the possession of the land of promise, the command was given to gather themselves together around the ark of the covenant, as their banner. This indicates the great central truth of the history of Israel. The focus of its national life is the law of its God. It is for this it is to fight and overcome, and not merely that it may gain possession of a rich country and develop its material resources. In its fidelity to the ark of the covenant, lies moreover the secret of its success. This sacred memorial of its religious faith must be its great rallying point in the day of battle. This is a principle applicable to the people of God in all ages, and equally true of their individual or collective life.
I. For mankind at large, as for Israel, there are two aspects of all the great phases of its history. ONE DIRECT, TEMPORAL, TERRESTRIAL, LIKE THE CONQUEST OF A FRUITFUL LAND for Israel; the other higher, more comprehensive, more Divine - THE FULFILMENT OF A DIVINE PURPOSE ENTERING INTO THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION. Such was the double significance to the descendants of Abraham, of the conquest of the land of promise, the land in which their religious destinies were to be fulfilled, where the ark of the covenant was to find its resting place, and to become the centre of the theocracy. So is it in all our lives. Everything that befals us in our private and domestic life has a twofold bearing. It has an earthward aspect; and marriage, the birth of children, the acquisition or loss of property, affect primarily our temporal estate. But these same results have also a heavenward side; they tell upon the higher life within, and help to work out our eternal destinies. Their true intention is to develop our higher life, and to establish within us the reign of righteousness, of which the ark of the covenant was the emblem to the Israelites.
II. It is not enough that we believe in this realisation of our higher destiny through the events of life; WE MUST OURSELVES DIRECTLY AID IN ITS FULFILMENT. We must make this our first consideration, and rally round the ark of the covenant in order to fight the battles of the Lord. This is our duty, as members, or, to speak more truly, as soldiers of the Church. The same obligation rests upon us in our individual life. Through all its varied phases it should be our aim to hold high our sacred banner, and to conduct ourselves valiantly under all circumstances as the soldiers of Christ. Let us carry into all our life the thought of immortality. Let us be ever watching, ever fighting, and let the ark of the covenant be that around which centres all our public and private life. - E. DE P.
I. SANCTIFICATION WOULD FIT THEM TO BEHOLD THE MANIFESTED PRESENCE OF GOD. Emblem, ritual, and precept were unceasingly employed to remind the Israelites of the holiness of God. They were to observe the sanitary regulations, because "the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of the camp." Before their offerings could be accepted they must purify themselves with ablutions. And, above all, they were excluded from the tabernacle where God's dwelling was, and into the Holiest only the high priest could enter once a year. Now every prodigy was the special coming of Jehovah into the midst of Israel. Whilst really present in the unceasing operations of nature, nevertheless it was on the occasion of the miraculous that God seemed to put aside the veil and to draw nigh in person. Hence the need that the Israelites should be sanctified. Holiness consumes impurity as light destroys darkness. The people must prepare themselves to stand in the glory of God's presence. So was it required at the appearance of the Almighty on Sinai, and before the wondrous shower of quails, and so afterwards for the battle of Ai; otherwise would "the Lord break forth upon them." Whilst we are not under the terrors of the law, yet reverence beseemeth us in our approach to the "Father of our spirits." We would not rush heedlessly to communion with Him, nor fall into levity while upon our knees. With us, too, there are times when we must sanctify ourselves for the special manifestation of the Divine. Sin amongst Christians is a chief obstacle to the accomplishment of signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.
II. SANCTIFICATION WOULD PREPARE THEM TO APPRECIATE THE GREATNESS OF THE MIRACLE. As was the case with the "mighty works" of our Lord, these wonders of the Old Testament were not wrought simply to assist men in their straits and feebleness, but to exert an ethical influence upon them, teaching the power and love of God. Now that the Israelites were about to enter upon their inheritance, the time was fitting one for signal marks of Divine favour and might. But in order that the miracle have due weight, previous reflection and expectation were essential. The Israelites were as children whose curiosity must be aroused and excitement intensified by stimulating annunciations. Then, when the notable day dawned, attention would be drawn to every detail, every occurrence, and the more vivid and lasting would he the impressions produced. A miracle silently and suddenly performed would fail of the results intended. Preparation befits our solemn engagements, qualifying us the more quickly to hear the "still small voice," and to note the "way of God" amongst men. It is well for the passions to be quieted, and the common duties dismissed from the mind, as we near the sacred operations of God. Of what abiding influence would the services of the Lord's day he capable, if it were possible to spend the previous evening in preparing the mind to say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth"! Fully to reap benefit from witnessing a "sign," or from perusing an account thereof, demands of us the same sanctification of heart.
III. SANCTIFICATION WOULD AFFORD EVIDENCE OF FAITH IN THEIR LEADER AND IN GOD. What folly to trouble about purification unless they believed that the promise would be fulfilled. The miracle was to be eminently a proof of the love of God. His honour demanded that the people should show themselves to be in some degree worthy of His favour. Jesus inquired of the applicants for relief whether they had faith in His ability to heal them; and we read of places where "he did not many mighty works because of their unbelief." Unbelief is the great hindrance to the progress of religion, both in the individual and in the world. We block the only avenue by which heavenly blessings can come to us; we shut the gates, and wonder why our city is not thronged with angelic visitants. Faith in preparation would lead to augmented faith in the time of action. Soon was coming the hour of trial. How would the people venture between the dangerous heaps of water? Here would be reaped the advantage of previous thought. Faith grows by exercise. The conquest of one difficulty opens the way for subsequent victories. If the Church of Christ is paralysed by secret disbelief of the efficacy of God's Word and Spirit to convert men, how can she expect great awakenings? "According to our faith" is it unto us. And if there is not sufficient faith to lead to the making of the necessary arrangements, where shall be the faith to enable us to rejoice in the evident tokens of God's presence? Let us "lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting." - A.
I. GOD WILL DO WONDERS. This is a true description of all God's works of deliverance, and primarily of His great miracle of pardon. For, of all the marvellous things which He does, the most amazing is that He should have pity upon us, and should come back to us after we have forsaken Him. Grace is the crowning miracle. Never discouraged, it is perpetually triumphing over all obstacles, breaking down all that opposes its designs, bidding the mountain to become a plain, and magnifying itself in our infirmities. There are periods in the history of the race, and in that of individuals, when this miracle of constant recurrence is made yet more emphatic, as though to hasten on the purpose of eternal love. So was it at the time of the conflict between Israel and the Canaanitish nations. So was it at the birth of Christianity. So is it at the time of the beginning of the new life in the individual soul. The free and sovereign grace which does wonders is thus the necessary, antecedent Divine condition.
II. THE HUMAN CONDITION IS CLEARLY EXPRESSED IN THESE WORDS OF JOSHUA. Sanctify yourselves." We repeat, this condition cannot be fulfilled unless Divine grace have renewed our heart, and given us strength to sanctify ourselves. But our duty is none the less positive, imperative, sacred. God does not treat us as passive, inert beings, but as free agents made in His likeness. It behoves us, then, to respond to His grace. Hence the necessity to sanctify ourselves, in order that we may be partakers in the wonders He will work. This is all the more necessary since God will not work these wonders without us, but, by us and with us, calling us to be fellow workers with Him. Israel must prepare itself for victory by sanctifying itself. To sanctify ourselves is to put away all that is alien to the Divine life; to consecrate ourselves unreservedly to God; to give ourselves to Him; to bring Wire our heart that He may fill it. It is to yield ourselves to Him as wiring instruments in His hand; so that we are never better workers with Him than when we allow Him to work in us. To let Him work, this is our best way of serving. Do we desire that He should again "do wonders" in our age, in these days of final conflict between the gospel and antichrist? Let us, then, sanctify ourselves, like the children of Israel on the eve of battle with the Canaanites, and so will be fulfilled the twofold condition of all spiritual blessing so well set forth by St. Paul in the words: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12, 13). - E. DE P.
I. THE SIGN OF GOD'S PRESENCE WITH ISRAEL IS TEMPORARY, BUT THE PRESENCE ITSELF IS PERMANENT. This lesson arises at once from the fact that the pillar of cloud which hitherto had led them does not precede them now. To its guidance hitherto they had marched, and under its shadow rested. And the sign of God's presence had been a sweet assurance and a constant augury of success. Now it disappears altogether from the history of Israel. They will cross Jordan under the guidance of the ark, and of that alone. God's presence remains with them, but the sign of it is withdrawn. There were doubtless many who regarded such a loss as an omen of sinister significance; and many who, mixing devotion and superstition, would deplore that when the great crisis of the enterprise was come, their usual assurance of God's presence failed them. But there were some that had looked net to but through the sign, and built their hopes on the living God. And they, Joshua leading them, trusting in the love and faithfulness which they felt must be His character, were ready to venture without their sign. And venturing, they found God there, though the cloud of His presence had been withdrawn, and they got a notable lesson in walking by faith rather than by sight. We need few lessons more than this: That God's presence or absence is not to be concluded from the presence or absence of the sign of it. We are all Jewish enough to "require a sign." We want some assurance of acceptance over and beyond what gospel words convey. We want some "leading of Providence" in addition to the sense of duty before we feel comfortable in starting on any course. Raptures, mystic whisperings of God's consolation, special experiences not granted to others - these are apt in the regard of all of us to assume too much importance. We are apt to make the same mistake concerning these which some in Israel doubtless made concerning the pillar of cloud and fire; namely, to imagine them a special crown, a testimony to our unusual sanctity, instead of a gracious condescension to our weaknesses and to the fears which mark our setting out on a pilgrimage. Just escaping from slavery, Israel needed signs; now, maturer in experience and stronger in faith, the signs are no longer needed. Probably. in all cases it will be found that signs belong to the earlier stages of the experience either of the community or the individual. When experience and faith are strong, they are withdrawn. Put not a dark construction on any mere want of signs, for while the sign of the presence is temporary, the presence itself is permanent with all God's people. Growing out of this a second lesson suggests itself, viz.:
II. THEY ARE WELL LED WHO ARE ARK LED. Israel no longer had the pillar of cloud and fire, but they had the ark of God, and, as the event proved, the ark led them just as wisely as the pillar; and in following it they found just the same help of miraculous power. What was this ark of the covenant? A wonderful piece of sacred symbolism. Over it - in fact, forming the lid of it - was what was named the mercy seat, God's earthly throne. Within it were the ten commandments, written on two tables of stone. This combination of symbols of law and mercy belonged to no religion but that of Israel. The gods of other nations required but little duty, and were hardly expected to show mercy. But the symbolism of the ark and the whole Mosaic economy projected these thoughts before the minds of Israel: The true God is a God of mercy. But at the same time He insists on duty. The ark proclaimed Him the God of mercy and of law; of gracious promise, of ennobling precept; delivering men by the grace He gave, dignifying them by the duty He exacted. This was the God of Israel. And now, in lieu of signs, the symbol of mercy and of duty was to lead the way. Not eagles, symbols of victorious power, but tables of stone led them, and "marshalled them the way that they were going." And their successful following of this lead suggests that when any one marches to the lead of the ten commandments, or of the promises of God, he is as well led and as grandly succoured as when some cloudy pillar moves before him. There is importance in this. Often our signs are withdrawn; as with the community of Israel so with us, it is probably the case that signs grow fewer and that special experiences grow more rare as character matures. Then comes a time, more or less clearly definite, when, instead of mysterious movings felt to be Divine, the guidance of the Lord is given, through a testimony of mercy and of duty. Before you goes the symbol of heavenly love and of earthly duty. And you have to march, coldly as it may seem, to the lead of tables of stone and verbal assurances only of God's care. Murmur not at this; a hope and a duty are guides sublime. The ark is just as good as the cloud. If you had the choice of an enlightened conscience or a special angel to be your guide, you would do wisely to choose the conscience in preference to the angel. You may mistake the reading of your signs - you rarely will your duty. Next to His redeeming grace, the richest mercy He gives us is a "word behind us," or within us, "saying, this is the way, walk ye in it." And the grandest spirits of mankind - in their pilgrimage from victory to victory - have marched under the lead of nothing grander than some ark, something that whispered hope and demanded duty. Thus led, did Israel lose? Nay, as before the cloudy pillar the sea divided, so before the sacred ark did Jordan. If you have something like what the ark embodied - a promise and a precept - ask no more; where the tables of the covenant lead you, there follow. Few get more, and none get anything better, than these. God guides through enlightenment of conscience, or Bible precept, or the devout example which you instinctively perceive is a pattern to be followed. Seek not any sign; God's presence will ever be with all those that keep His precepts. If the ark of God, as replacing the pillar of cloud, has such suggestions, observe thirdly -
III. GOD'S HYDRAULICS ARE NEVER FAULTY. In the West of England just now there is considerable discussion about" dockising" the river Avon, i.e., so throwing a dam across the mouth that all the river up to Bristol would be converted into one huge dock. And in the discussion the strength of such a dam, its cost, its leakage, the right place for it, how to provide for the outlet of all water above a certain level, are canvassed by all. Here we have the "dockising" for a day or two of the river Jordan, a very much larger river than the Avon, one whose very name suggests the swiftness of its current. And the dam that effects this great collection of the waters is "the ark of God," set down in the midst of the Jordan bed, with the priests grouped on either side. How would the philosophers of that day criticise that dam, and express with assumed anxiety their fears that the law of gravitation and the law that governs the flow of liquids would prove too much for the legs of the priests, and even for the weight of the tables of stone. But whatever fear might be entertained by the people before the ark entered Jordan, and whatever misgivings by the priests when they were standing in its pebbly bed, there was a power which operated from that ark which dammed the fiver as no engineer could have done it. So that instead of reading of struggling with the water, of multitudes carried down the stream, of hairbreadth escapes, of multitudes left behind, all got safely across. And here, I think, we have a specimen of what is everywhere to be seen; the efficiency of spiritual barriers against all assailing forces. We see them on all hands; we dread lest they be overborne by some strong current bearing down against them. But lo! they stand against all force that threatens them. God's truth is such a barrier. With error like a huge river rushing down upon it, it seems as slender and insufficient as was the barrier of the ark. Science is so arrogant and captious, chronology so sure, metaphysics so disputatious, error so agreeable to the natural man, that it seems as if there could be no standing. But the Jordan of all the philosophies and all the heresies threaten in vain, and God's ark of truth is sufficient to withstand them. God's grace in the heart is such a dam; nothing seemingly more feeble, nothing really more strong, against the swelling tides of inward corruption and outward temptation that assail the character. Sometimes prayer shields a distant boy, an erring friend, and protects them with a guard as really omnipotent as it appears feeble. Judge not by the outward appearance. The clock is not about to go backward, nor error usurp the place of truth. Don't tremble for the ark of God, as did Eli. Whatever God wants guarded, it is omnipotent to guard. So that, amongst other lessons, this sweet one comes to us that we are guarded better than we think. And what seems God's weakness is mightier than the strongest strength which can come against us. - G.
Exodus 14:15). But here, apparently, all is tranquillity and order. The territory on which they stand has been subdued and is their possession, and they move deliberately, under the direction of Joshua, down to the brink of the river, waiting in calm expectancy for the salvation of the Lord. In the former case, the region beyond the sea was a dread mystery to them. It was a waste, howling wilderness, towards which they could not look without sad forebodings. But here the hills, and forests, and fertile plains of the land of promise axe actually in sight, and though they know that they are not destined to enter at once into peaceable possession of it, the vision gives such stimulus to their faith that it is as if the inheritance were already theirs. Let us look at this event -
(1) as a revelation of God;
(2) as a chapter in the moral education of the people.
I. AS A REVELATION OF GOD. The miraculous, supernatural character of the event we take to be beyond all reasonable doubt. It is impossible to explain it on mere natural grounds. The spies, like David's "mighty men" at a later period (1 Chronicles 12:15), probably swam the flood. But, considering the condition of the river at the time (ver. 15), it is incredible that so vast a host, with women and children, should have passed over except by a miraculous division of the waters. In the passage of the Red Sea an intermediate agent was employed to bring about the result. "The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind" (Exodus 14:21). But there is no indication of anything of this kind here. It is a direct exercise of the wonder working hand of God. In the one case a natural agent is used supernaturally; in the other nothing intervenes between the supernatural cause and the visible effect. Note -
1. God's control over nature. All miracles in the physical realm are an assertion of the absolute sovereignty of God over the things He has made and the laws He has ordained. The possibility of miracles springs naturally from the fact of the existence of a "living God," who is "Lord of all the earth." Whether any particular miracle is credible must depend on the force of evidence, and in this evidence the moral end to be answered plays an important part. But to deny its possibility is to deny the Divine sovereignty. It is absurd to suppose that the order of nature which God Himself has established limits His own freedom. The power that created it must ever be Lord over it. Consider how this truth of the supremacy of the living God is the basis of our faith in a controlling Providence and in the efficacy of prayer. How the Divine will may work freely within the bounds of natural order we know not. But once grasp the principle that the forces and laws of nature are not fetters imposed on the freedom of Divine power, but instruments by which that power may accomplish the purposes of love as it pleases, and you have no longer any difficulty in believing in a fatherly Providence in which you can trust and to which you can appeal in time of need.
2. God's control over the nations. This miracle is to the people a prophecy and pledge of victory in their conflict with the Canaanites. "Hereby ye shall know," etc. (ver. 10). The power that rolled back the waters of the rushing river could roll back the force of the barbarous tribes beyond it. The opening for the chosen people of a pathway across the stream would be a doubtful benefit unless they could take it as the pledge of the presence of that power with them afterwards. Moreover, shall not He who planted the nations be able to uproot them? Shall not He who "determined for them the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation," etc., be able to change their boundaries as He pleases, and to destroy them when they fail to fulfil the ends for which He gave them their local habitation? This is a very different thing from saying that the strong have license to oppress and exterminate the weak. It may be perfectly true that there is a process ever going on among the peoples of the earth, by virtue of which those that have risen higher in the scale of humanity thrust out the lower, a "survival of the fittest." But this in no way overrides the law that the oppressor and the spoiler must, sooner or later, suffer a righteous retribution. "Woe to thee that spoilest," etc. (Isaiah 33:1). God may use one nation as the scourge of another, and the avenger of His own abused authority. But let none think to move in this path without a very distinct and definite Divine call. "Vengeance is mine," etc. (Romans 12:19). This violent seizure of the land of Canaan by the Israelites can be justified only on the ground of a direct Divine commission, and of that commission the miraculous passage of Jordan was the seal and proof.
II. A CHAPTER IN THE MORAL EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE. AN EDUCATION IN FAITH, AND IN THE COURAGE THAT SPRINGS FROM FAITH. Their whole career in the wilderness had been marked by signal Divine interpositions. "The Lord alone did lead them, and there was no strange God with them" (Deuteronomy 32:12). They specially needed to have this impressed on them now, entering as they were on a new stage in their national history, new situations, new responsibilities; coming as an organised commonwealth into contact with the corruptions of Phoenician idolatry. This miracle was intended also to give them confidence in their leader: "This day will I begin to magnify thee," etc. (ver. 7). And the calm strength of Joshua's faith was fitted to inspire them with the same spirit. Lessons suggested:
(1) Life to most of us is a succession of trials of faith and fortitude. "Ye have not passed this way before." We are continually entering on new ground, new phases of experience, unknown difficulties and dangers. Our only security is the consciousness of the Divine presence, the faith that lays hold on the strength of God.
(2) The inspiring effect of a noble example. "It does a wrestling man good to be surrounded by tried wrestlers." He is most honoured of God who has most power to awaken in his fellows faith in God.
(3) The conditions of victory in the last emergency of life. Though there may be nothing in Scripture teaching to warrant it, it is not without reason that, in hymns and allegories, the Jordan is regarded as a symbol of death. The dark river rolls between us and the land of promise; how shall we cross it in safety? "Yea, though I walk through the valley," etc. (Psalm 23:4). Let us hear the voice of the Captain of our salvation, and we shall not be afraid. The ark of the covenant will open for us a sure pathway through the deep. - W.
I. THE CRISES OF LIFE. - Our life is built up of acts, every one of them important. They, made by our character, react on our character and make it. And in the sense that it contributes to an enduring result in character, no act is little. But there are times specially solemn in our life, when the roads which invite us diverge at a large angle, and are such that each step we take on the one makes return to the other more difficult. And if a man is made by his ordinary acts, much more is he made by his crisis acts. If a nation's character is moulded by its acts, much more by its crisis acts. Here there is a crisis reached in Israel's history very analogous to the first great crisis, when they passed the Red Sea. Shall they or shall they not commit then selves to the struggle with the seven nations of Canaan - some with what seemed impregnable fastnesses, some with chariots of iron, some conspicuous for gigantic stature? Jordan accentuates the question. To cross it is to commit themselves to a course condemned by ten out of twelve of the spies sent out forty years before, is to hazard everything on the chance of battle, is to have no retreat, is to win or lose all things. It was a crisis on which their national future hung. It needed crisis virtue. Let them hang back and their enthusiasm would evaporate, their unity break up; they would fall off into a number of nomadic tribes, and probably degenerate into a people like the Ishmaelites, without any of that consecutive progress and self-contained strength that constitutes a history. Let them go forward, and to remotest ages and countries mankind is blessed by the national history that takes a forward stride and reaches a stouter solidity by their new departure. Happily, they had crisis virtue; at least, a sufficient amount of faith to let them venture - to make them obedient to faithful leaders, and united in their purpose to obey the guidance of their God. And meeting the crisis, they accepted its duty, with results of perpetual usefulness, and left us a testimony as to the solemnity of all such junctures and the blessedness of meeting them aright. The kind of juncture that comes to us you will recognise from your own experience. They vary in their kind, but all have this in common, that they summon a man to some higher duty, some better life, some bolder enterprise, and put before him "an open door;" that to decline them is to degenerate into a poorer character and more sordid life, while to accept them is to rise to "newness of life." Their variety, indeed, is striking. Sometimes it is a great mercy that comes to a man, meant to wake him to a sense of the fatherliness of God, and to win him by the gentle constraints of gratitude to filial duty; to cure grumbling or to destroy despair. If he meets this crisis well, he passes to a higher level of gentler, kinder, gracious thoughts and purposes; and a sense of debtorship to man and an overflowing gratitude to God are the abiding results of the crisis of a great mercy. Sometimes the crisis is the revelation of a duty. Some sudden turn in our experience devolves on us a duty hitherto discharged by others; or some new duty arising from a fresh contingency. It may be a duty of Christian mercy to some overtaken in calamity. It may be that a slumbering conscience or an indolent mind has been awaked to the discernment of God's requirements. It may be that with some growth of years or development of thought and feeling we see we owe some duty to our Saviour and our fellow men hitherto not due from us or not known to us. This is a crisis not to be overlooked. Hitherto there was comparative unimportance in the neglect of this duty. It was a" time of ignorance God winked at." But to neglect it now, when it stands out eminent and clear, would be to cast off the Divine Master, and to be guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord that bought us; while to do this would strengthen the bond that binds you to God and man, would result in enlargement of heart, ennoblement of purpose, strengthening of conscience, and enjoyment of peace. Sometimes the crisis is a temptation, pressing on the spirit on every side, and by guile, clamor, terrors, and allurements compelling its divergence from the path of duty. I need not enumerate other kinds of crises. Let me only urge that, in whatever way the crisis come, we meet it manfully. When you come to Jordan see that you cross over it. God will not fail you if you do not fail yourself.
II. I ask you to observe, secondly, THE CREED FOR A CRISIS. It is given us here: one of those beautiful instances of faith in which noble hearts find at once their expression and their sustenance. Here is one couched in a name of God. Here are two significant titles, neither of them in common use previously: He calls God "the living God," and "the God of the whole earth." Once only is the former of these names retold in Scripture before this use of it, and the other is not found in use until long after. They are, therefore, not traditional words a parrot might have used, but great original words which register the truth Joshua had conquered for himself. And if we would meet our crisis, when it comes, as nobly and grandly as Joshua met his, we must try and get his creed of two articles.
1. We must believe God is the living God, for all do not believe that; not that they would formulate the idea that on such a day God died, and has not been heard of since. But the general feeling is, He is as good as dead. A distant God, without living eye to mark our necessities, without living hand to help us, without a living heart to feel for our distresses. And if Joshua had been of that creed there would have probably been no passage of the Jordan, and no victory of Jericho, and no conquest of the land. But by the ever extending obedience or experiences of his life he had learned this mighty secret - that God is alive, is here, gives their bias to all events, can hear a prayer, can save a soul, can cleave a passage through sea or river.
2. And the second was like to it. He deemed God "the Lord of all the earth." No local deity, like those heathen deities whose sovereignty was often as limited as a German duchy; no limited being; but master of all powers of nature, master of all tribes of men, with the government upon His shoulder of all things; able to open a path where all passage seemed denied; so that his and Israel's future would not depend on their own wisdom, strength, or fortunes, but would depend supremely on. the favour of God. Aye, and that is the sort of creed which we all need for the crises we have to face. God living and reigning; earth alive with His presence and His work; all events dependent on His will. Oh, let us catch from heroic souls at least their creed. Their faith, which works such wonders, must be the true faith. God IS living, His heart is alive with tenderness. He is not the great grave into which all things fall, but the great fount of life from which all things live. So alive that He could become incarnate and take infinite trouble to redeem us. So alive He is here today, ready to help us. If you suspect the creed of priests, here is a layman, a soldier, a hero; this is the first article of His creed. Have you that creed? If not, pray for a large enough heart to hold it. And especially if you are in any crisis of your life; for if in any crisis of our life we assume in our despair that, so far as we are concerned, God is dead, or unable to control the elements of nature, the fair results of all opportunity are lost because it passes unused. If you have come to Jordan, cross over it; and if you want strength to do it, find it in this creed: God is the living God, and the Lord of all the earth. And observe lastly -
III. CRISIS GRACE comes wherever there is crisis faith and obedience. It is a strange story, in its circumstantiality, that of the dividing of the Jordan. The baring of the bed of the river, the water gathering for thirty miles up by the sudden arrestment of its flow into a lake like Loch Lomond in size and form, while below the point of transit it flows away as if its career was ended. There is interest in all explanations that are suggested; in that, for instance, which, combining the destruction of the walls of Jericho with this dividing of the river, and both with the numerous traces of volcanic action in the neighbourhood, and demonstrable changes in the river bed, sees here the action of an earthquake, upheaving the bed, and thus for a day or so making of all the deep valley of the Jordan above it a temporary lake. But there is more importance in our marking the fact and its lessons than in our being able to explain the mode. Does Joshua believe God to be the living God? "According to his faith it is Him." And with all Divine energy of love He comes nigh to help them that trust in Him, laws of nature and forces of nature notwithstanding. Such faith never goes dishonoured; and we ought to mark it for our comfort in life. God is not dead; lie is living still, as fresh for working miracles as when He divided Jordan, and as sure to open up our way, and to lend supernatural aid to simple faith, as when Israel halted before Jordan. Our hope must not be limited within the sphere of what is obviously possible according to laws of nature. I should think God never in any miracle broke the usual laws, but only employed unusual forces. And He does the impossible still - making weakness strong, despair victorious; healing the sick, saving the lost, giving victory and success. The supernatural is not contranatural, but blends kindly with nature; and whenever in the crises of our life there is the obedience which honours God and the faith that trusts Him, there is specifically supernatural help and grace making the grandest deliverance and achievements possible. Our lives might be perpetual miracles, and every day behold the impossible achieved, and the insurmountable surmounted with blessed ease. Is there some stern crisis on you now? Do not faint. There is crisis grace for all who have faith enough to admit and act on it. Let it in, and even though Jordan be at the flood you will pass over as on dry land. - G.