The Book of Joshua

8. The Digression Continued.

"The Lord … is become my salvation."

"Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance." — Ex. 15:2, 17.

We must continue our digression through another chapter, before returning to the subjects opened up to us in the book of Joshua. Though free from judgment by having passed out of the land of bondage under their blood-stained lintels, Israel was by no means as yet in Canaan, indeed they were not yet out of Pharaoh's reach, nor delivered from his power.

In the deliverance of His people, Jehovah proved to them His strength in a peculiar way. All His wonders which they had seen in the land of Egypt had not taught them to sing, "The Lord is my strength" (Ex. 15:2). To sing this song, "the salvation of the Lord," must be known in the soul. However, before manifesting to Israel His strength, Jehovah made evident to Israel their own weakness. No one really knows the power of God's salvation until he knows himself as being "without strength," and God has His own way of teaching believers this needful lesson. True, every believer has God for his salvation, though each one may not know in his soul the wondrous reality of it.

God taught Israel after this wise: He said to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea" (Ex. 14:2). They were thus hemmed in a valley, the sea in front of them, the enemy behind them. This emergency was pre-arranged by Jehovah to teach His people the never-to-be-forgotten lesson of His salvation, which they could not effectually learn save by realizing in themselves that they had no strength.

Thus encamped, Israel saw the dust of the enemy's approaching army rolling up, and they cried out in despair. To their eye their position meant certain death. The Red Sea lay before them like an open grave; Pharaoh and his host drew near to drive them to destruction. Their helplessness became the occasion for their learning the majesty of the God of their salvation. In their extremity the searching question was: "What could, or would, Jehovah do for them?" And so it is with us; reading about God and proving Him in the soul are widely different.

We listen to their cry "Because there were no graves in Egypt" — in that land, emphatically the land of graves — "hast Thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (ver. 11). In this their terror, Israel presents a vivid picture of a soul, saved indeed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, but suddenly brought by a sight of Satan's power to despair, and thereby to learn man's utter helplessness in the great question of salvation. Now God instructs the trembling saint, as He did Israel, to trust in Himself; and teach this blessed lesson He will, yes, "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (ver. 14).

Israel did not dream of facing about and attacking Pharaoh, though they had come out of the land of Egypt "by their armies!" The first great principle in strength is gained when God's people know that in their helplessness the Lord fights for them. In Canaan, Israel were Jehovah's effective soldiers, but at the Egypt side of the Red Sea, God taught them their deliverance was not through the sword of the Captain of the Lord's host, but through Moses' outstretched rod. By the rod of judgment a pathway through death was made in God's sovereignty for them. Let no believer be disappointed because he does not all at once prove himself to be an efficient soldier for Christ. Rather let the concern be to get on day by day in the things of God, for thus He makes us apt soldiers for His Son Who is risen.

Israel, brought out of slavery, was about to go through what, to the human eye, appeared the grave itself, in order that they might truly know the strength and the salvation of God. The way of Jehovah for them from the enemy was the sea. Never in this world's history did men make a march so glorious and so wonderful! It was a wonder unheard of, that men should march right into the waves and then "go on dry ground through the midst of the sea" (ver. 16). And, as the fiery cloud "stood behind them," casting its brightness right and left on the walls of protecting water, and as the path rolled out before the advancing host, the glorious power of the Lord was visible to all His people. Jehovah's cleft pathway for His redeemed people was seen in the beacon-light of the glory of His pillar of fire. That light was His standard, uplifted on behalf of His army. What a sight for our rapt, adoring admiration! It speaks to us of the way through death that Christ has made for us. This shining way, cut by the arm of Jehovah clean through the grave of waters, bright in His light, was the only path for His people out of the enemy's hand. And thus the Lord, who did not purpose that His people should yet "see war" (Ex. 13:17), ordered that they should see the strength of His right arm, and by that wondrous sight be constrained to sing, "The Lord hath triumphed gloriously."

"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" (14:29-30). The believer is saved according to the perfect salvation of God, Who has "raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:24-25); thus God has saved us. Christ's own blood has answered for our offences, and He Himself, raised from the dead, is the Witness that our sins have been atoned for. Christ risen has made for His people by His resurrection, the pathway through death. God has done the work for us; we are alive from the dead in Christ.

God has raised up His Christ out of death, and has established His people through His work in perfect security on the far side of death. Israel might say, in the language of figure, "Pharaoh's host has died, and we are alive from the dead, having gone through death by Jehovah's pathway." They passed through death into life. They were buried, as it were, in the sea. And as we look back on the work of God for us, we own that we have been buried with Christ. Not only has Christ our Passover been slain for us, not only has He been our Substitute, but we have died with Him, and now we are "alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:11) — our risen Saviour.

"Christ died for our sins," but "if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17); for then the weight of our sins would be still on Him, and in a dead Saviour there could be no salvation. But now is Christ risen from among the dead. "The Lord hath triumphed gloriously," the adverse powers are overthrown, "Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power."

There is only one way of practical entrance into the blessing of this grace wherein we stand, this grace of absolute salvation and redemption, and that is by faith — faith in God, Who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. God's pathway of power for our feet is our treading by faith the very path He declares to be the one He has made for us. And He is surely leading many to take it by faith. There was only one way of going through the Red Sea, and that was by obeying the word of Jehovah — "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." The step of faith had to be taken, and as the word to move came, lo! the path God had made was seen: "Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it." God has spoken to us; He has said, "Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over Him," and "eternal life [is] in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:9, 23). Here is the divinely stated fact. Do we believe God? Each believer stands in the grace of this freedom, because the grace is of God. May faith in our God be established!

The joy of Jehovah's salvation filled Israel when they knew they were saved — it could not fill them before; and when by grace we believe God, we cannot but rejoice in His salvation and in Him our Saviour-God. As we by the Spirit consider this favour wherein we stand, so we are in spirit firmly established on the far side of death, as were Israel when across the Red Sea. We become, like them, a praising people, and look forward to the future — we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). Israel, when over the sea, looked upon the wilderness they had to traverse as already crossed; they sang their victories before their battles. In the joy of God's salvation they saw all their path accomplished in His strength, and they shouted, "Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed: Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitation" (Ex. 15:13), while Miriam and the women answered with timbrels and dances. It was the grand chorus of a redeemed people, rejoicing in Jehovah's salvation.

Blessed praise-song! All of it concerns Jehovah, His mercy, His strength, His habitation; and this song is sung in spirit by God's people on earth this day, as His mercy, His redeeming love, and His power fill their hearts. Would that it were more boldly and openly sung, not by an isolated Christian here and there, but in full chorus by all the redeemed; is it not written, "Shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart"? (Ps. 32:11).

The early verses of the fifth of Romans are the words of our salvation-song. Standing in his sure place of favour divinely made, having access thereto by Christ Who died and rose again, the Christian not only rejoices in the hope of God's glory, but considers this lifetime, its difficulties and its trials, surveys the wilderness he must traverse, and triumphantly sings, "We glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."