And they commanded the people, saying, When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God…
Joshua 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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.