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<060401>JOSHUA 4:1-24 TYPICAL APPLICATION That which is recorded in the book of Joshua fully maintains the Truth presented in the Pentateuch, yet its typical teaching carries us considerably beyond what is there set forth. This is to be expected, especially when we bear in mind (as we must do continually while pondering its contents) that it was the new generation of Israel which is here in view. The lesson taught at the supernatural crossing of the Jordan conducts us farther in the unfolding of the Gospel than what was signified at the Red Sea. There, it was the might of God put forth on behalf of His covenant people in the total destruction of that antagonistic power which had held them captive so long and had refused to let them go. Here, it was His vanquishing of that obstacle which barred the way into their inheritance. When Satan’s captives are freed at the miracle of regeneration, he does not henceforth ignore them and leave them in peace: though he cannot prevent their entrance into the “purchased possession,” yet he is ever assailing them in one form or other as he seeks to keep them from a present enjoyment of the same. What is required from us in order to thwart those designs of our Enemy, we are seeking to show in the course of this series of articles.
But it was the Divine side of things, the provisions God made for Israel’s entrance into and occupation of the land of Canaan with which we were more concerned in our last. Those provisions were, first, the appointing and qualifying of Joshua to be the leader of Israel, the typical captain of their salvation.” Second, the ark of the covenant, which (we repeat) was both the witness of Jehovah’s presence in Israel’s midst and the symbol of His relations to them. And third, the priesthood, culminating in their service in “the tabernacle which was pitched in Shiloh.” Thus, as we hope to yet show, not only are we required to turn unto the epistles of Paul to the Romans, the Ephesians and the Colossians, in order to find the antitypical truths of what was spiritually adumbrated of us by Israel in the book of Joshua, but also to his epistle to the Hebrews. We know of only one other writer who has called attention to that fact, in an article written before we were born, and which appeared in a magazine (The Bible Treasury) under the title of “The Book of Joshua and the Epistle to the Hebrews,” unto which we gladly acknowledge our indebtedness and of which we made flee use.
We are now to take notice of the Divine command which Joshua received, to take twelve stones from the bed of the Jordan, “out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm” ( Joshua 4:3), which were made a “memorial” unto future generations, and in addition, the setting up of “twelve stones in the midst of Jordan” ( Joshua 5:9). At the Red Sea Israel neither left twelve stones in its bed, nor took twelve with them unto the other side. Instead, Pharaoh and his chosen captains, his chariots and his host, God drowned therein, so that Israel sang “The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone” ( Exodus 15:4,5). “But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians” ( Exodus 14:29,30), and put the song of redemption into their mouths, saying, “The Lord hath triumphed gloriously” ( Exodus 15:1,13). At the Red Sea Jehovah showed Himself strong on the behalf of that people who had previously found shelter under “the blood of the lamb,” and whom He now brought nigh unto Himself — “unto Thy holy habitation” ( Exodus 15:13,17).
But at the Jordan a further and grander lesson was taught Israel, something which went beyond the truth of redemption by blood and by power, even that of resurrection. Fundamental and blessed as is the truth taught us by the cross of Christ, there is something further which is even more vital and glorious, and that is our Lord’s victory over the grave. When the apostle throws out that irrefutable challenge, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” his triumphant answer is, “It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again” ( Romans 8:33,34).
It is abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 15 (see especially verses 3 and 4, 14, 17) that the resurrection of Christ is not only an integral part of the Gospel but its distinctive and outstanding feature; and those evangelists who go no farther than the cross are preaching only half of the Gospel. But more, the saints themselves are greatly the losers if their faith and spiritual apprehensions stop short at the atoning death of Christ, for unspeakably precious as it is to recognize our death unto sin in the death of the Surety, still more blessed is it to perceive our federal union with Him and our title to the inheritance in His triumph over death.
At the Jordan the redeemed of God were shown their own passage through death and resurrection by the figure of the twelve stones placed in the Jordan and the twelve stones taken out of it. It was at this point that Israel entered upon a new stage in their history, yet perpetuating all the essential features which had previously marked them as the peculiar people of the Lord — as will be seen when we examine (D.V.) into the new circumcising at Gilgal, the celebration of the Passover, and the appearing of the Captain of the Lord’s host with drawn sword (chapter 5). Nevertheless, as said above, that which characterized the crossing of the Jordan is in sharp contrast with what took place at the Red Sea. There, instead of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant being seen, it was Israel’s enemies which lay there, consumed as stubble by the wrath of the Lord. On the other hand, no Canaanites were in Jordan, not a single foe was overthrown there; yet it was sanctified to the Lord and to Israel by the priests and the ark of the covenant for glory and victory as truly as were the waters of the Red Sea when they returned and engulfed the host of Pharaoh in terrible judgment — that glory and victory quickly appears in the sequel.
As previously pointed out, the river Jordan was not only the emblem of death, but of judgment also, as the word itself signifies — “jor,” literally, “spread,” and “dan” which means “judging” ( Genesis 30:6). The use made of this river in New Testament times supplies clear confirmation, for the Jordan was where the Lord’s forerunner exercised his ministry, of whom it was foretold “prepare ye the way of the Lord.” And how did he do so? By preparing a people to receive Him. In what manner? By preaching “Repent ye,” i.e., judge yourselves; and those who did so were (most appropriately) baptized of him in the Jordan confessing their sins” ( Matthew 3:8); and by that “baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins” ( Mark 1:4) they acknowledged that death was their due, and therefore were they (symbolically) placed in a watery grave. There too, the Lord Jesus as the Surety and Sin-bearer of His people identified Himself with them by being placed beneath its waters, thereby pledging Himself unto that “baptism” of death ( Luke 12:50) wherein He met the needs of all who truly repent or adjudge themselves worthy of death, when all “the waves and billows” of God’s wrath ( Psalm 42:6) passed over Him.
The good Shepherd entered the river of judgment on behalf of His sheep, making for them a new covenant by His atoning death, delivering thereby from judgment all who follow Him: “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” ( Matthew 26:28) He declared only a few hours before the crucifixion, when He instituted the memorial of His death. That was typified by the entrance into Jordan of the ark of the covenant “borne by the priests” and at once the flow of its waters was stayed, so that the people who followed it passed over dryshod, though the ark itself did not come out of the Jordan until it had secured a passage for all the people ( Joshua 3:17). Profoundly suggestive and significant are those words For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan until every thing was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua ( Joshua 4:10).
How that reminds us of “Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst... when Jesus therefore had received the vinegar He said, It is finished, and He bowed His head and gave up the spirit” ( John 19:28,30).
All that the justice of God demanded, all that the Law required (“ Moses commanded”) had been rendered by the antitypical Joshua. “And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, Take ye twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, and command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them there in the lodging place where ye shall lodge this night” ( Joshua 4:1-3), i.e., in Gilgal (verse 19). That those stones were large ones is evident from the fact that they were to be carried upon the “shoulder.” The men who carried them had been selected beforehand ( Joshua 3:13), ready for this task, that there might be no delay in connection with what lay immediately before the nation — the encamping of that vast multitude for the night in a suitable place, namely, at one which was afterwards called Gilgal, and which some inform us was about mid-way between the river Jordan and the city of Jericho. In the light of Joshua 4:4, “then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had prepared of the children of Israel,” we personally regard that as a foreshadowing of the antitypical Joshua, who at an early stage of His ministry “called unto Him the twelve” ( Mark 6:7). “And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of Israel: That they may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord: when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off; and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever” (verses 5-7).
The two words we have italicized call attention to the double design which those stones were intended to serve, which will be more intelligible to the reader when he bears in mind that those twelve stones “did Joshua pitch in Gilgal” (verse 20). They were not left flat on the ground but orderly formed into a cairn or monument. The Hebrew word for “pitch” there, Young’s Concordance defines as “To cause to stand, raise.” Twenty times this verb is rendered “set up” in the Authorized Version. It is the same word which is used in connection with the erection of the Tabernacle when it was complete ( Exodus 40:2, etc.). Thus, those large stones were arranged in such a manner, possibly placed one on top of another monolithlike, so as to attract the attention and invoke the inquiry of those who should afterwards behold them.
That monument of stones was designed first as a “sign” unto Israel. It was a message for their hearts via their eyes rather than ears. It was an enduring sermon in stone. It spoke of the goodness and power of God exercised on their behalf at the Jordan. That word “sign” is a very full one — our Lord’s miracles are termed “signs” ( John 20:30; Acts 2:22). The two wonders which Moses was empowered to work before his brethren were called “signs” ( Exodus 4:1-9), they authenticated him as their Divinelyappointed leader and signified that the power of the Almighty was with him. In Deuteronomy 11:18, and Judges 6:17, “sign” has the force of token or representation — of Israel’s being regulated by God’s Word, and of the Lord’s granting success to the commission He had committed to Gideon. In other passages a “sign” was a portent or pledge of something concerning the future — 1 Samuel 10:1-9; 2 Kings 19:29. In each of those senses may “sign” be understood in Joshua 4:6. That cairn of stones was to signify that Israel had not crossed the Jordan by their own ability, but because of the miracle-working power of God. It was a representation unto them that they had passed through the river’s bed dryshod.
More especially, it was an earnest and pledge of what God would yet do for them.
Second, that monument was designed as a “memorial” that Israel had passed through the river of death, that they were now (typically) on resurrection ground, that judgment lay behind them. Israel upon the Canaan side of Jordan adumbrated that blessed truth expressed by our Redeemer in John 5:24, where He so definitely assures His people that each soul who hears His word and believes on the One who sent Him “hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” The reason why he shall not “come into condemnation” is because in the person of his Surety he has already been condemned and suffered the full judgment of God upon all his sins, and therefore, judicially, as federally united to Christ, he “is passed from death [that death which is the wages of sin] unto life” — that “life” which is the award of the Law, as it was “magnified” by the Savior and “made honorable” ( Isaiah 42:21).
As the ark of the covenant entered the river of death and judgment the flow of its waters was stopped until the ark had secured a safe passage for all who followed it; so Christ endured the unsparing wrath of God that by His atoning death those who were legally one with Him, and who are made voluntary followers of Him, shall be delivered from all future judgment.
In addition to the monument erected on the Canaan side of the river we are told that “Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there unto this day” ( Joshua 4:9).
Thus there was a double monument to perpetually commemorate Israel’s passing through the place of judgment: the one in the midst of the Jordan, the other in their new camping-ground at Gilgal. What anointed eye can fail to see in them the two signs and memorials which Christ has instituted to symbolize that, as the result of their faith in His atoning death, His people have not only passed through death and judgment, but are now united to a risen Christ and are “alive unto God”! The meaning of the two ordinances appointed by Christ dearly confirms this, for each of them speaks of both death and resurrection. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” ( Romans 6:4,5; and cf. Colossians 2:12). Christian baptism is designed to symbolize the believer’s union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, as well as being his personal profession that he is dead to the world and has resolved to walk in newness of life.
The Lord’s Supper also, while it celebrates our passage with Christ through death, yet it is with the added blessedness and triumph of being now on the resurrection side of judgment. Just as the twelve stones which had been in Jordan were formed into a single cairn in the camp at Gilgal — type of “the Israel of God” ( Galatians 6:16) in its entirety, made into “one body” — was a testimony that the twelve tribes had passed through the unfordable river; so the Lord’s supper, partaken of by those who were once lost sinners under condemnation, is a testimony that they have passed over, and being on resurrection ground can look forward not to judgment but to the consummation of their hope and bliss. This is clear from Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” The Lord’s supper not only looks back to the cross but forward to Christ’s return in glory, and therefore is it designated a “feast” ( 1 Corinthians 5:8) and not a fast, and instead of “bitter herbs” ( Exodus 12:8) being eaten, the “wine” of gladness is drunk.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION The very fact that God saw fit to devote two whole chapters of His Word unto a description of Israel’s crossing of the Jordan is more than a hint that the narration of that memorable incident embodies teaching of much importance and value for His people in succeeding generations. Christians are greatly the losers if they concentrate their attention chiefly upon the New Testament and regard the Old Testament as containing little of vital moment for their souls. If on the one hand the New Testament often illuminates and explains the Old, yet on the other hand there is not a little in the New Testament which cannot be properly understood apart from the Old. In the last two or three articles we sought to indicate the typical and spiritual significance of Israel’s passage through the river of death and judgment; on this occasion we propose to point out some of the practical lessons to be learned from the things there recorded. We shall not give a complete exposition of chapter 4: but single out various details for comment, and intimate the many useful truths inculcated by the memorial erected in Gilgal. “For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over” (verse 10).
There are three things here which are worthy of our observation and admiration.
First , the implicit obedience and patient fortitude of the priests. They were the ones who occupied the place both of honor and of danger. They were the ones who bore the ark, before whose presence the waters had “rose up like a heap,” held by an invisible Hand. Advancing to “the midst of Jordan,” they remained stationary for many hours, until all the vast host of Israel had crossed to the far shore. It was a severe test both of their courage and patience. Therein an example is left the ministers of the Gospel to continue steadfast in their duty, to be a model unto their people of uncompromising fidelity, of undaunted courage, of patient endurance.
Second , we see again how that Joshua closely followed the orders he had received from Moses, doing nothing without a Divine command; while the priests, in turn, were required to be regulated by Joshua’s orders — the ministers of the Gospel are to be governed solely by Christ.
Third , the deportment of “the people” on this occasion exemplified that which should ever characterize the rank and file of the saints in connection with those who minister unto them in spiritual things. We are told that they “hasted and passed over.” That denoted their thoughtful consideration of the priests, so that they would not be put to unnecessary delay and strain through their dilatoriness — the slower their movement, the longer the priests would have to stand bearing the ark! The practical lesson is that God’s people should do everything in their power to make the spiritual lot of God’s servants easier. That can be done by promptly responding to their instructions, by supporting them through earnest prayer, and by being thoughtful of their comfort. That is something which particularly needs to be laid to heart in this day of selfishness and lack of concern for the comfort of others. It is both solemn and blessed to note how God took note of this detail, that the Holy Spirit has specifically recorded this thoughtful “haste” of the people. The Lord not only marks what we do, but how we do it: as in “his princes gave willingly” ( 2 Chronicles 35:8), “their nobles put their necks to the work of the Lord... Zabbi earnestly repaired the other piece” ( Nehemiah 3:5,20). “And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them: About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho” (verses 12, 13).
Here is a case in point how that one part of Scripture is dependent upon another for its explanation and interpretation. We have to go back to Numbers to discover why these particular ones constituted the fighting force of the nation. Those two and a half tribes, who were rich in cattle, desired to have for their portion the fertile lands of Jazer and Gilead, rather than any part of Canaan (verses 1-5). When Moses demurred, they agreed to build sheepfolds for their cattle and fenced cities for their little ones, and then they would go armed before the children of Israel until the remaining tribes had secured their inheritance (verses 16, 17). Moses agreed to their proposal, and they ratified that arrangement; and Moses then gave command to Eleazar and Joshua to see that their promise was made good.
Here in Joshua 4 we are shown the fulfillment of the same. Those two and a half tribes were the only ones unencumbered with their families and flocks, and thus we see how suited they were to be the fighting force, and how graciously God made all things work together for good unto His people. “On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (verse 14).
Therein we may see how the Lord made good unto Joshua the word He gave him in Joshua 3:7. “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:24). That detail has been placed upon imperishable record for the encouragement of every servant of the Lord.
Ministers of the Gospel may prosecute their labors with absolute confidence in the promises of their Master: not one of them shall fail. He has said of His Word, “it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” ( Isaiah 55:11); then he need not entertain the slightest doubt about the same. He has declared “all that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me,” that they “shall believe on Me through their [His ministers’] word” ( John 6:37; 17:20); then neither the perversity of the opposition of Satan can prevent it. He has promised human nature nor His servants, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world ( Matthew 28:20), then let them conduct themselves accordingly. Let them also learn from Joshua 4:14, and its context that the surest way. for them to gain the respect and observation of their people is to be diligent in personally honoring and obeying God, and caring for their welfare. “And the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.
Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan” (verses 15-17).
That is indeed striking: the priests did not take a step until they were Divinely authorized. There they stood hour after hour, and there they still remained after the vast concourse had passed through and reached the other side in safety! Patiently they waited until leave was given them to move. They did not act on their own impulse or initiative, but meekly waited God’s time. “The priests did not quit their station till Joshua, who had commanded them hitherto, ordered them from thence: nor did he thus order them till the Lord commanded him: so obedient were all parties to the Word of God, and so entirely confident of His protection” (Matthew Henry). It is ours to render unquestioning obedience to God, and leave the consequences with Him; nor need we have the least fear or hesitation in so doing — we shall not be the losers, but the gainers. “Them that honor Me, I will honor” ( 1 Samuel 2:30) is more certain than that night shall follow day, as the writer has often proved. “And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” (verse 18).
No sooner did the priests with the ark step upon the shore of Canaan than the Jordan resumed its normal flow, or rather its abnormal condition, for it was then in flood. That at once accentuated the miracle which had just been wrought, making it the more apparent that the stopping of its flow was not from any abnormal natural cause, but that it was the will of their Creator which had temporarily suspended the laws of nature, for the display of His glory and the fulfillment of His promise unto His people. As Israel beheld the upper waters which had been invisibly dammed and the lower ones that had stood up in a heap now suddenly acting as formerly, how apparent it would be unto them that it was the presence and power of their covenant God which had wrought so gloriously for them!
Bearing in mind the meaning of “Jordan,” the spiritual application of verse 18 is apparent. It was the presence in its midst of the priests who bore the ark which stayed its course: and it is the godly example and faithful ministry of God’s servants which, under the Divine blessing to His people, and through their moral influence upon others, which hold back His judgments upon the world. They are the salt of the earth, which prevents the carcass of the unregenerate mass turning into complete putrefaction.
But that “salt” has steadily diminished during the last two centuries. As the population of the world has increased, the proportion of the righteous — despite a widespread “profession” — has decreased, and therefore sin has abounded more and more; and so too have the judgments of God. As the entrance of righteous Noah and his family into the ark was the signal for the flood to commence, as the removal of just Lot from Sodom was at once followed lay the fire and brimstone from heaven, so the removal of God’s eminent servants and saints from the earth (the places of few being filled) has been followed by the Divine judgments which we have witnessed and are still witnessing. Dispensationally, Joshua 4:18, foreshadowed the awful fact that when the Day of grace is concluded, the world will be completely inundated by the storm of God’s wrath. “And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho” (verse 19).
There is nothing meaningless or valueless in the Scriptures. and we are the losers if we ignore or pass hurriedly over its time marks. The carnal critic would say, what interest is it unto me which particular day of the month this event occurred; but different far should be the spirit of the believer.
But how is he to ascertain the significance of this detail? By looking up the marginal references, and if they do not furnish what he needs, by consulting his concordance, where he will find that the first reference to “the tenth day” of the first month ( Exodus 12:2,3) supplies the key. It was the day when the paschal lamb was selected ! — to be slain on the fourteenth ( Exodus 12:6, and see Joshua 5:10). How wonderfully God times everything for His people! “He so ordered things here that Israel entered Canaan four days before the annual solenmity of the Passover, and on the very day when the preparation for it was begun, for He would have them enter into Canaan graced and sanctified with that religious feast, and would have them to be reminded of their deliverance from Egypt that, combining the two together, God might be glorified as the Alpha and Omega of their blessing” (Matthew Henry). “And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch [i.e. “erect”] in Gilgal” (verse 20).
Probably those large stones were placed on some eminence where there was none other, for they were to be “a monument unto the children of Israel forever” (verse 7). Some surmise, and we think with considerable probability; that when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John’s baptism and he said unto them “Think not to say within yourselves we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” ( Matthew 3:9) he pointed to the very cairn erected by Joshua. Confirmation of this appears to be furnished by John 1:28, which informs us that he baptized in “Bethabara beyond Jordan,” for “Bethabara” means “the house of passage.” i.e., the place where Israel passed over the river. “And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers, in time to come, saying, What meaneth these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up from before us, until we were gone over” (verses 21-23).
Normal children have inquiring minds and ought not to be snubbed or even discouraged when they ask their parents questions. Rather should parents seek to improve their curiosity as an opening for instruction, directing the same into profitable channels. The very inquisitiveness of little ones affords their elders an opportunity to make known unto them the wonderful works of God, that their minds may be informed and their hearts awed by His perfections. But note well, it is the father (the “head” of the home) upon whom the main responsibility devolves, to see to it that his children are taught by him the things of God ( Ephesians 6:4). Let him not pass on this task to his wife, still less to “Sunday-school teachers.” “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever” (verse 24).
God’s miraculous deliverances of His own people have a message for all the world, and when He is pleased to sanctify the same unto the unregenerate, they are deeply impressed thereby ( Daniel 3:29; 6:25-27).
The effects produced by the Jordan miracle are recorded in verse 1, which properly ends chapter iv: “Anal it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.” The Canaanites were completely dispirited and cowed, realizing their utter incompetence to successfully oppose a people who had the Almighty for their Friend and Benefactor.
First , the wonderful works of God are worthy of treasuring in our memories, and He requires that pains be taken by us to see that they are so.
It should be carefully noted that Joshua, even in the midst of a most exacting business, was not permitted to neglect the promotion of the Lord’s honor. While superintending the passage through the river’s bed of that vast concourse of people, with all their baggage (tents, etc.) and cattle, God bade him see to it that he took a man from each tribe and bid them select the twelve stones which were to be carried to Gilgal ( Joshua 4:2,3). Nor did he demur or ask for a more convenient season.
Second , God’s ordering of this memorial is a solemn reminder of how prone our hearts are to forget His past interpositions on our behalf. Of Israel we are told they “forgat His works and His wonders that He showed them “; and again, that “they soon forgat His works” ( Psalm 78:11; 106: 13). Alas, is not the same true of us? Even of the apostles Christ asked, “Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves ye took up?” ( Matthew 16:9).
Third , because of our proneness to forget, suitable means are to be used in assisting us. We are to make conscience of the fact that God has bidden us to “remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee” ( Deuteronomy 8:2), and that precept should be turned into earnest prayer that we may not be negligent therein. We should frequently call to mind our previous experiences of God’s faithfulness and tender care of us.
This will strengthen the spirit of thanksgiving and cause us to praise God anew. It will deepen our confidence in Him to count upon Him in present emergencies and trust Him for future deliverances. The more we do so, the less shall we fear the experience of death, assured that God will undertake for us as we are called upon to pass through the valley of the shadows, as certainly as He conducted Israel safely through the Jordan (see Corinthians 1:10)!
Fourth , not only God’s past deliverances of us are to be treasured up in our memories, but also His mercies unto His people in times gone by. Faith is to look back to what the arm of the Lord hath done “in the ancient days, in the generations of old,” and say, “Art not Thou He which hath dried the sea... that made the depths of the sea, a way for the ransomed to pass over.” And what will be the consequence of such exercise of believing memories? This: “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion” ( Isaiah 51:9-11).
Not only is “what was written aforetime written for our learning and comfort” ( Romans 15:4), but what God did aforetime is to teach us what He can and will now do for His own. “I remembered Thy judgments of old, O Lord, and have comforted myself” ( <19B952> Psalm 119:52).
Fifth , the monument erected at Gilgal teaches us that we should take thought of and seek to make provision for the rising generation. That cairn of stones was erected with the express desire of evoking inquiry from those who should later behold it. God would have the wonders of His power and mercy preserved for posterity. There was to be a permanent witness of what God had wrought for His people; that no impotency or weakness of theirs prevented them reaching the shores of Canaan. It was meant as a sure pledge that God would continue to show Himself strong in Israel’s behalf and would overthrow those then in occupation of the land. Thus, we rejoice when readers of this magazine purchase the bound volumes with this design before them. At least one is now thankfully reading those volumes which his mother (now in heaven) purchased from us twenty years ago, when he was unconverted. We cherish the hope that the bound volumes will be read by many long after we are called Home.
Sixth , in the nature or character of the two monuments which Joshua was instructed to set up, we see how different are the thoughts and ways of the Lord from those of men. No costly shrine, with useless ornamentations and affected splendor, was to mark the event, but only that which, though impressive, was simple and plain. “Never did triumphant column or arch, with all the magnificence of architecture, form so proper a monument of some celebrated victory as the twelve rude stones from Jordan’s channel recorded the miraculous passage of Israel into Canaan under the conduct of the ark of the Lord.” Equally true is this of the two signs and memorials which God has appointed for this dispensation. When divested of all priestly and parsonic trappings, how plain and simple, yet how significant and impressive, are the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. The same principle was exemplified by Christ in the choice of His ambassadors — for the most part unlettered fishermen.
Seventh , that monument teaches us that we should recognize and own the corporate unity of God’s people. It was comprised of twelve stones, taken up by one man from out of each tribe ( Joshua 4:2) and erected in Gilgal. That is the more noticeable since two and a half of the tribes had received their inheritance on the eastward side of the Jordan. Yet this cairn on the western shore must have in it not nine or ten, but twelve stones, to signify the oneness of Israel. We behold the same thing again in 1 Kings 18: when, centuries later, the division between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel obtained, and Elijah “took twelve stones according to the number of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name, and built with them an altar on Mount Carmel” (verses 31, 32), resting by faith on God’s Word when what was visible to sight clashed with the same. They were all the elect of God and brethren. So we should view God’s children, separated as they now are by party partitions and denominational walls, as members of the same Family, and sharing, a common interest. Let our hearts embrace and our prayers include the entire household of faith.