And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan…
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES AS CONNECTED WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL. It does not appear that any intimation was given to the Israelites before the morning of the day on which they crossed the river as to the manner in which their passage was to be effected. This would be a great trial of their faith; and the readiness which they showed to go on when the ark did move was a clear proof that their faith, through the grace of God, stood the trial; and that they were actuated by simple trust in God, believing that whatever He said should be done would surely come to pass, however impossible it might seem to the judgment of men. The fact is that Israel had become accustomed to the constant exhibition of the most amazing miracles. They had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt by a succession of wonders. As our minds dwell on this strange sight, one object stands forth pre-eminently conspicuous, and that is the ark borne by the priests. The ark was the point round which all the glory of the miracle was made to revolve. As the people passed and gazed at the wall of waters, they would feel, we owe our safety and our easy passage to the presence of the ark, the token of the presence of Jehovah Himself. It will not be without instruction if we notice the name by which the ark was called in connection with the transaction before us: "the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God." Here, then, was a pledge of God's truth and faithfulness. He who was showing their way was one on whom they could thoroughly depend, How would this serve to stimulate them, to stir up their hearts, to awaken faith, to strengthen hope! Thus conspicuous was the ark on this most notable day. And if you ask why, the answer is twofold. First, because the ark was to remind them of the presence of God. By it He made to His people that most welcome of announcements, ever fresh: "I will dwell in them and walk in them, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God." The ark was also a type of Christ; and though Israel might not see the lessons which all the typical economy taught, yet God would magnify His Son by exalting that which pre-eminently represented Him.
II. From the consideration of Israel LET US TURN TO OURSELVES, AND SEE WHAT IS TO BE GATHERED FROM THE HISTORY before us for instruction, comfort, and encouragement, as far as our own Christian life and practice are concerned. Is it not true that if we are among the spiritual Israel of God, experience of difficulty and trial is constantly falling to our lot? Now when we reflect on our necessities, east our eyes around to survey our individual position, look onwards to the Canaan which we love, and think what we must encounter before its shore is reached, must we not have a guide and a defence? Obstacles as great as Jordan with its overflowed banks and swollen stream meet us in our course; uncertainties in respect of which no calculation can, humanly speaking, be made, veil the future; intricacies which we cannot thread are constantly arising; enemies seem to stand upon the farther shore, and to threaten opposition and repulse even if we cross the stream. To-day all may be fair and smooth, to-morrow such a flood may arise of trouble, adversity, or temptation, as will be well-nigh sufficient to sweep us quite away. Well, let it be so. Believer, there is help for you which is all-sufficient. The ark is going before. Hear how the Lord speaks (Isaiah 42:15, 16; Isaiah 43:1, 2). Remember how you have been guided hitherto: how when you broke from the bondage of Satan and of sin, the Lord made a way through all that would have kept back your soul. If He of whom the ark was but a type, if Jesus be our guide, where may we not readily go? How precious is the word, "He goeth before them" (John 10:4). As we follow our heavenly Guide we may well believe that He leads us forth by the right way, that we may go unto a city of habitations. This is the glad portion of every one who lives the life of faith. He may thus individualise the covenant truth of God, and make it his own. But not only so, he can rest in the assurance that this covenant truth is the common heritage of all the saints, and so learn more and more to rejoice that all his brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus have the same guide, the same defence, the same refuge as himself. What a source of comfort is this; inexhaustible, overflowing, ever fresh and life-affording!
(C. D. Marston, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;