"This is what the LORD of Hosts says: 'If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, then you will both govern My house and have charge of My courts; and I will give you a place among these standing here.'
I. THE BIBLE DIRECTS US TO THE SPHERE OF TRUE GREATNESS. The promise made to Joshua here is, "Thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts." The words convey this idea: Great authority. By the house of God is here probably meant the people of Israel; and the keeping of God's courts, the regulation of the temple. The literal meaning here is that Joshua's piety should be rewarded by the long continuance of his exalted office of. High Priest. Godliness raises:
(1) To dignified positions. It makes us "kings and priests unto God."
(2) To high fellowship. "I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. With the general consent of commentators, the angels of God are meant by these that stand by. The angels of God minister in his house. They are ministering servants." We are come "to an innumerable company of angels." Good men are brought by religion into fellowship with those lofty intelligences.
II. THE BIBLE PRESENTS TO US THE PATH OF TRUE GREATNESS. "If thou wilt walk in my ways," etc. Two things are stated here as the conditions of elevation.
1. Obedience. "If thou wilt walk in my ways." God has ways for men to walk in. His ways are his laws. "Blessed are they who walk in the Law of the Lord." Walking in his ways implies:
(1) The abandonment of our own ways. "Let the wicked forsake his way."
(2) The entrance on God's ways. Walking in them implies that we are on them, and the way into them is by faith in Christ. He is the "Door."
(3) Progress in God's ways. We must add to our faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge, etc. (2 Peter 1:5).
2. Fidelity. "Keep my charge." We have all a trust committed to us. Our time, talents, and possessions are all given in trust. We are not owners of them, but stewards. "It is required of a steward that he be found faithful." Paul felt, as he was leaving the world, that he had finished his course, and kept the faith. Such is the path to greatness - the only path, the sure path.
III. THE BIBLE GIVES US A GUARANTEE FOR TRUE GREATNESS. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts." The word of God is the pledge.
1. His word has been fulfilled in the experience of the good in all ages. All who have walked in God's ways and kept his charge have reached this sublime elevation. They are the illustrious heroes of the ages; and they have high authority in the empire of God.
2. His word can never fail of its accomplishment. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," etc. Brother, art thou walking in the ways of God? If so, grand distinctions await thee. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." - D.T.
I will give thee places to walk among those that stand by.
I. WHAT A CHRISTIAN LIFE MAY BE. There are two images blended together in the great words of my text: the one is that of a king's court, the other is that of a temple. With regard to the former, it is a privilege given to the highest nobles of a kingdom — or it was in old days — to have the right of entree, at all moments and in all circumstances, to the monarch. With regard to the latter the prerogative of the high priest, who is the recipient of this promise as to access to the Temple, was a very restricted one. Once a year, with the blood that prevented his annihilation by the brightness of the Presence into which he ventured, he passed within the veil, and stood before that mysterious Light that coruscated in the darkness of the Holy of Holies. But this High Priest is promised an access on all days and at all times; and that He may stand there, beside and like the seraphim. This Priest passes within the veil when He will. Or, to put away the two metaphors, and to come to the reality far greater than either of them, we can, whensoever we please, pass into the Presence before which the splendours of an earthly monarch's court shrink into vulgarity, and attain to a real reception of the light that irradiates the true Holy Place, before which that which shone in the earthly shrine dwindles and darkens into a shadow. Our lives may on the outside thus be largely amongst the things seen and temporal, and yet all the while penetrating through these, and laying hold with their true roots on the Eternal. Our Master is the great Example of this, of whom it is said, not only in reference to His mysterious and unique union of nature with the Father in His Divinity, but in reference to the humanity which He had in common with us all, yet without sin, that the Son of Man came down from heaven, and even in the act of coming, and when He had come was yet the Son of Man which is in heaven. Such a conversation in heaven, and such association with the bands of the blessed, is possible even for a life upon earth.
II. Let us consider this promise as a PATTERN FOR US OF WHAT CHRISTIAN LIFE SHOULD BE, and, alas! so seldom is. There is no greater sin than living beneath the possibilities of our lives, in any region, whether religious or other it matters not. Sin is not only going contrary to the known law of God, but also a falling beneath a Divine ideal which is capable of realisation. And in regard to our Christian life, if God has flung open His temple gates and said to us, "Come in, My child, and dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide there under the shadow of the Almighty, finding protection and communion and companionship in My worship," there can be nothing more insulting to Him, and nothing more fatally indicative of the alienation of our hearts from Him, than that we should refuse to obey the merciful invitation. What should we say of a son or a daughter, living in the same city with their parents, who never crossed the threshold of the father's house, but that they had lost the spirit of the child, and that if there was no desire to be near there could be no love! So, if we will ask ourselves: "How often do I use this possibility of communion with God, which might irradiate all my daily life?"
III. Again, my text suggests to us what EVERY CHRISTIAN LIFE WILL HEREAFTER PERFECTLY BE. Some commentators take the words of my text to refer only to the communion of saints from the earth, with the glorified angels, in and after the resurrection. That is a poor interpretation, for heaven is here today. All that here has been imperfect, fragmentary, occasional, interrupted, and marred in our communion with God, shall one day be complete. And then, oh! then, who can tell what undreamed of depths and sweetnesses of renewed communion and of intercourses begun, for the first time then, between "those that stand by," and have stood there for ages, will then be realised?
IV. Lastly, notice, not from my text, but from its context, HOW ANY LIFE MAY BECOME THUS PRIVILEGED. The promise is preceded by a condition: "If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then...I will give thee access among those that stand by." If we are keeping His commandments, then, and only then, shall we have access with free hearts into His presence. But to lay down that condition seems the same thing as slamming the door in every man's face. But let us remember what went before my text, the experience of the Priest to whom it was spoken in the vision. His filthy garments were stripped off him, and the pure white robes worn on the great Day of Atonement, the sacerdotal dress, was put upon him. It is the cleansed man that has access among "those that stand by,"
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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