The Untrodden Way

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, the waters of Jordan rolled between them and the object of their hope. Those waters were a type of death. But they speak of death in a-certain aspect, namely, as that which lay between the wilderness and the land, as the Red Sea typified death separating Egypt and the wilderness. The people passed through the sea into the wilderness. They passed through Jordan into the land of Canaan, in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan, we see the three distinct positions of the people of God. As to fact, we are in Egypt; in our experience, we are in the wilderness; by faith we are, in spirit and principle, in heaven. We are walking through the world which is morally a wilderness to the new nature; our home is on high where Jesus our Head and Forerunner is.
Now the river Jordan had to be crossed before the people could enter their promised inheritance. There stood that terrible barrier—never more terrible than at the very time in the which "the living God" was about to act on behalf of His people, "For Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest." Death was never more terrible, never more deathlike, never put on more awful forms, than when the Prince of Life destroyed its power on our behalf, and turned it into a pathway by which we pass into our heavenly home. The deep bed of Jordan was an untrodden way to Israel. They had therefore to wait until the ark of the living God, carried by the priests, went before them to open up their way. "And it came to pass, after three days, that the officers went through the host; 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. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore." "And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites," etc. "Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.”
Here, then, we have a very magnificent type of the Lord Jesus Christ overcoming the power of death for His people. He met death in its most appalling form. Jordan had put on its most forbidding aspect when the ark of God drove back its mighty flood and formed a highway for the ransomed of the Lord to pass over. "And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan." It was a complete victory of life over death. It was the power of the living God changing death itself into a pathway of life. The feet of God's redeemed were not allowed to touch death's dark waters. These waters looked dreadful in the distance. To nature's view they were truly appalling, but the moment the people approached, instead of an appalling flood, they found a dry pathway, God—the living God, was there—there in grace and truth, as expressed by the priests and the Ark of the Covenant. This changed the character of everything. Death is not death if God be there. Sin brought death into the world. Sin is the very sting of death, but grace has come in and altered everything, so that the believer can say, "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." Such is the moral triumph of that grace which reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Grace has so wrought for us in and by Christ, as to change death into a servant for the believer. Instead of being a dreadful foe, it is actually part of our property (see 1 Cor. 3:2222Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; (1 Corinthians 3:22)). Instead of being an insuperable barrier, it becomes a pathway.
Now, in John 12 we have the antitype of what we have been looking at in Joshua. Our blessed Lord there teaches His disciples that He must go before them through the Jordan of Death, and that there must be "a space" between Him and them, for they could not come near unto Him as He was treading that tremendous pathway. "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you." It was as impossible for the disciples as it was for the Jews to tread that way.
Jesus had to tread it alone. Who could accompany Him? Who could meet the terrific array of all the powers of darkness, the malice of Satan, the rage of hell, and, far beyond all, the wrath of God? Who could encounter these things? Who but Himself?
Peter did not understand this. He thought he could meet death. He would attempt to overleap the divinely appointed "space"—the mystic "two thousand cubits." Poor Peter! How little he thought that the distant sound of Jordan's dreaded flood would so terrify him as to cause him to curse and swear that he knew not his blessed Master! "Lord," he said, "whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterward." In other words, that gracious Savior tells His poor servant that He must go before, in order to open a dry pathway through death's dark waters, along which Peter, in common with all the redeemed, might pass unscathed to glory. What grace! He went alone—in profound and awful solitude. Single-handed He met death in all its power, and armed with all its terrors. There was not a single bank of the real Jordan that was not covered. It was all a dark, dreary waste without so much as a single ray of light. There was the malice of Satan, the enmity of man, the faithless desertion of His nearest friends. Finally, when men and devils had done their utmost, there lay before the Prince of life a region so dark and dreadful that no human or angelic mind could enter into it. In it He was called to drink "the cup" of God's righteous wrath against sin to bear, that we might never have to bear, the hiding of God's countenance.
All this should be entered into in order to answer Peter's question, "Whither goest thou?" Who could understand the reply? No one, and therefore Jesus does not give it, but simply says, "Thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterward." When the way was laid open, Peter should follow, for then he could. Gracious Lord and Master! He would meet all the terrors of death, that we might have the joys of immortality.
But still Peter is dull of comprehension. "Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice." So much for Peter. He neither knew himself, nor the path he so confidently undertook to tread. But Jesus knew both, blessed be His Name, and was going first to tread the path alone, and then conduct His poor servant in peace and victory by that self-same path up to glory. Then, in His own precious grace, He calls off the thoughts of Peter and the rest from everything that might chill or depress them, and speaks words of sweetest comfort to them, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Things New and Old