On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.
In one sense Joshua is not a beginner. For forty years he has been at work for God. As spy, as general, as servant of Moses, during all these years he has wrought in the work, and with the help of God. Yet though eighty-five years of age, this crossing Jordan is his first act of leadership. In the sovereignty of Israel he is a beginner, with a beginner's fears, difficulties, burdens. And here we see a beautiful illustration of the fact - that with a beginner's cares comes a beginner's grace as well. A marvellous miracle stamps him as the leader sent by God. The "divinity that doth hedge a king" in an unusual degree invests him. And in his first enterprise he has such help as makes him secure of the future allegiance of all the people. Many are, and more ought to be, beginners in God's ways. Consider the testimony of this incident as it affects them, and first observe -
I. BEGINNERS NEED SPECIAL GRACE AND HELP. Evidently Joshua did. If Moses shrank, how much more might he, from this perilous enterprise, when the efforts of the people, after settlement, had no such stimulus as had been supplied by the oppression of their masters; when he was uncommended by the signs he carried of his Divine commission; when probably Eleazar would have been glad to have been chief ruler; when almost inevitably there would be critics who would oppose his plans and dispute the wisdom of his orders He had double work to do - to cross Jordan, and justify his own appointment. Nay, treble work to do - for his power of helping Israel in the future depended largely on what he would now do. Sufficient unto that day was its own troubles; but it had to carry the justification of the past and the assurance of the future with it. Even so all beginners find their work especially arduous. "It is the first step that costs;" the first step of the prodigal returning to his father; the leaving the nets to follow Christ; the first act of service to men. We are unaccustomed; and that force of habit which stands us in such good stead when we have had experience of well doing now operates the other way. All obstacles are enlarged by nervous apprehensions. In subsequent acts we may have society - the first act of right is apt to be profoundly solitary. Do not be staggered at the difficulties of beginning well. All beginners have had the same experience to contend with. But observe secondly -
II. BEGINNERS HAVE SPECIAL GRACE TO MEET THEIR SPECIAL DIFFICULTIES. As with Paul's "thorn," pity to remove which was asked, grace to endure which was granted; so here God does not take away the difficulty, but gives grace to surmount it. Over and above the usual grace He gives to all His saints, there is special grace given to them. Has Moses a task imposed on him specially arduous? Not one difficulty is removed, but miraculous signs invest him with a sacred inviolable dignity, and plagues of terrific power sanction his demands. Is David indicated as future king by the whispered call of God? In the challenge of Goliath and the pouring of a "patriotic tide through his undaunted heart" - the suggested daring, and the power to achieve what he dares to undertake - the beginning of his kingly service is made possible. Does it come to Daniel as a duty to keep himself pure from defiling meats? The beginning of his devotion is helped by a physical grace that keeps him strong and well. The beginning of Peter's consecration is helped by the miraculous draught of fishes. The beginning of the service of the seventy, by the miraculous powers so freely imparted to them. And so always there is special grace for those beginning. There is some fulness of gracious influence - clearness of light - some strengthening companionship of man - some closer presence of God - invigorating hopes - the energy which comes from the sacred calm of penitence - some clearing of the way before us - some moving of the pillar of fire and cloud, or of the Ark of God. And whenever any enterprise of Christian love is undertaken, there is always some help of a special kind. Enlargement of spirit - some power of prayer, or patience - some great strength of humility or steadfastness. As here, so always, special grace attends the beginnings of all great courses. And this is no light thing, for in all the forms of Christian life and service, "Well begun is half done." And the grace then given not merely makes the beginning possible, but all the subsequent career. "They feared Joshua as they feared Moses, all the days of his life." Always, the beginner gets special grace for the beginning of his work, and sufficient to exert an influence on all that follows after. If such is the case, consider lastly -
III. WHAT LESSONS ARE INVOLVED IN IT. There is this lesson first and foremost -
1. Shrink not from beginning the Christian life. It is difficult - nay, to naked human strength impossible. The beginning - the Jordan passage - will try you. But beginners' difficulties are more than matched by beginners' grace. You may not feel this grace: it may be "latent" grace, and not "sensible" grace; but it will be there, omnipotent enough to carry you over every hindrance.
2. Shrink not from undertaking any duty of service with which God charges you. Do not be evilly modest, folding your pound in some napkin of seeming humility. If it be the path of duty, let no obstacles deter; they will only prove the occasion for grander help from God than you ever dare to hope.
3. Have you just begun discipleship or service, and are you overwhelmed with . difficulty? "In your patience possess your soul," for even as a mother gives her finger to the little child just beginning to walk, so to us, who are but children of a larger growth, God lends His finger when we are beginning some great life task. - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.