And Joshua said to the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
With what longing eyes must the Israelites have looked upon the river which they were soon to cross. Hope had been deferred for years. The promised land, fertile and beautiful, seemed to disappear from their sight, as did the fruit and water from the eager hands and parched lips of Tantalus. Could it, then, be really true that on the morrow the boundary line would separate them from their inheritance no more? By the Jordan the Israelites were encamped, and the command of the text sounded in their ears, "Sanctify yourselves." This was to be THE PEOPLE'S PREPARATION FOR GOD'S WORE AMONGST THEM. Probably the injunction respected rather the hearts than the dress and bodies of the people. It invoked a seriousness of deportment befitting the solemn ceremony of the coming day, an examination of themselves, a recalling of the facts of their past history, a mourning over their numerous transgressions, and a resolve henceforth to serve the Lord. We believe that in endeavouring to ascertain the reasons which dictated the advice of the text, we shall be meditating on truths profitable to our own souls.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.