Substance of an Address on Joshua 6-7

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Listen from:
1 Chronicles 13, 15
There are two portions of scripture we may turn to in which we shall see the blessedness of obedience, and the sorrows of disobedience or neglect. Paul committed the dear ones he was about to leave (he had told them who the apostolic successors would be) to God, and the word of His grace. Oh, that we knew more of real subjection to that word—subjection of heart, and mind, and will! In Josh. 3 we see that when the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, that the waters which came down from above were stayed back, and rose up upon a heap, and the waters below failed. The waters of judgment were stayed back by the ark of the covenant till all the people passed over. On the resurrection side they encamp at Gilgal, where they are circumcised; natural defense given up, the flesh judged, and their whole confidence set in Him whose power had stayed back the Jordan and brought them into the land. There was a great contrast between the land they were now in and the land of Egypt, out of which they had been redeemed.
In Num. 11 we are told that they lusted for six things which they had fed upon in Egypt (they forgot the hard bondage)— “fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlick.” Egypt’s prosperity depended on the Nile, but they were in ignorance as to its source. The land of Canaan drank water of the rain of heaven, and produced seven things that were gathered without stooping—wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, oil olive, and honey (Deut. 8). When they were circumcised the manna ceased; and the old corn of the land took its place—the risen Christ.
In Josh. 1 They were told what should be the extent of their coast— “From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun.” In its typical teaching, the mountain would be the world in its power, the great river the world in its prosperity, the wilderness the world in its sterility, and the great sea the world in its lawlessness. This goodly land flowing with milk and honey, is a type of the place we are brought to as given in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but there are always contrasts between type and antitype. It was said to Abram when the land was given to him, “Arise, and walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” But we have “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” to explore and possess as “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
In the second of the prayers of the apostle for the saints at Ephesus, the words, “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Eph. 3:1818May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (Ephesians 3:18)), are frequently applied to “the love,” but I believe wrongly. Strengthened “according to the riches of his glory” (not from it), we are to apprehend (not comprehend) all this blessing, and to know the love of Christ which has made it all certain for us.
The land of Canaan was given by Jehovah to Israel for an inheritance, but there were those who opposed their possession, and the Israelites were required to be warriors to fight Jehovah’s battles. They had foes of flesh and blood to contend with; but, we have far mightier enemies to face, for we wrestle against principalities, against powers, against the world—rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)). We are no match for them in ourselves, for we are weakness itself, but there is divine and adequate equipment for the warfare provided. Never is anything lacking on God’s side. Has He not given us all things that pertain to life and godliness? We can always praise Him though we have always so much to deplore in ourselves. In this armor there is nothing for the back, clearly indicating there must be something wrong in ourselves if we turn our back to the foe. Our confidence must be exclusively in the Lord—strong in Him and in the power of His might.
The girdle of truth—let us become acquainted with it, let us hold it tighter. It imparts strength to us when we have it tight about ourselves. The breastplate is practical righteousness; and we are called upon to have (as Paul himself had) “a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man.” The shield that Paul would be familiar with would be the large Roman shield which covered the whole body. We must never lower it for only with it shall we be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. In ver. 10 we are called to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, which corresponds to the “according to the working of the might of His strength” of chap. 1:19 (New Trans.), which He wrought in the Christ in raising Him from among the dead. So in the type the power that stayed the Jordan back was for Israel to use in their battles with their enemies. The city of Jericho, with its high and mighty walls, they meet first. The ark goes with them, they are (in New Testament language) “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” In obedience and dependence they march silently around for seven days. On the seventh day the circuit is made seven times, and it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto all the people, Shout; for Jehovah hath given you the city; and the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up and took the city (Josh. 6). They were more than conquerors, for they took the spoil for Jehovah. When obedient and dependent, who could stand before them?
Their next battle was to take place at Ai, an insignificant place in human estimation as compared with Jericho; and here we have an exceedingly solemn lesson, for they went in their own strength and were defeated. They had not the presence of the Lord with them, for there was sin unjudged in their midst (unjudged sin deprives us of our breastplate of righteousness). Achan’s sin affected the whole camp of Israel. They made their own plans instead of getting God’s mind, and being obedient to it. They went in their own strength, instead of being dependent and strong in the Lord, with the inevitable result—disaster, sorrow and dismay. Jehovah, in His Mercy, discovered to them the secret cause, and gave them to know that He is holy as well as merciful and gracious and powerful. This surely is an object lesson for us.
Now in 1 Chron. 13 the order is reversed. For in this scripture we have a scene of sorrow and dismay succeeded by recovery to obedience, with its accompanying blessing and joy. It is quite clear that David makes more of the ark than Solomon does. Solomon makes more of the brazen altar than of the ark; but David is on a higher level, and has a deeper acquaintance with the heart of God, to whom he always turns. In the darkest hour “David encouraged himself in Jehovah his God.” Fail he does, but he always recovers, being blessed with a nimbleness of faith to which God in grace responds. One thing we may well lay to heart from David’s experience, viz., that declension always begins in the heart, and may rapidly follow a time of very bright testimony. His confidence in Jehovah’s care when persecuted by Saul was very sweet, but how soon after do we find David saying in his heart, “I shall one day perish!” We all need that word, “Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
David began wrong by consulting with “the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader.” These were put first, and the Lord last (ver. 2). It is due to the Lord that we should put Him first and last too. It was doubtless right for David to desire to bring up the ark. But it is possible to do a right thing in a wrong way. We read in ver. 7, “They carried the ark of God on a new cart out of the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart.” All knew how the Philistines had adopted this course, and had sent the ark by a new cart. It was all very well for the Philistines, for God had given them no instructions. Let us beware of human reason. Do not let us be imitators of others because of apparent success. Let us be subject to the word of God in all things. We get on broad, dangerous, sinful ground if we get away from it. Often the question is raised, “What is the harm” of doing this or that? or, Do the Scriptures condemn? Whereas the question should be, What do the Scriptures teach? What do they enjoin? What is the Lord’s will? Read vers. 8, 9 and 10. How could this have occurred had they not had the “new cart”? David was afraid.
What a contrast between the experience of Obed-edom and of David! Now we find David being recovered and trained. In chap. 14:9 we find him in a place of trial, but instead of consulting with his captains, he inquired of God, and got His mind and His instructions, with the result that there was a breach upon David’s enemies instead of a breach upon a Levite. Then in ver. 13 we find him in a trial very similar to the previous one. But instead of falling back on his own previous experience, he again inquires of God, and again learns the blessedness of knowing God’s will and doing it. God is ever ready to teach us and instruct us, to guide us with His eye; and it is to our shame when we fail to get His guidance. Chap. 15:2 tells of David’s recovery, for he had got God’s mind about the ark and the right way of carrying it from God’s own word. Now was God’s due order (ver. 13) observed, now was the obedience of faith and love, with its attendant blessings (ver. 26). We may sometimes shun that which is not easy for us, by slipping aside from the path of obedience, but what a blessing for them to have had His help and power! It led to worship (ver. 29). That may be our portion too, but to be despised by the world, when meeting the Lord’s mind, surely is no cause for regret. May we be “wise, understanding what the will of the Lord is,” and be doing that will from the heart!
J. A. T.