The Book of Joshua

9. The Way into Canaan.

Joshua 3:9-17; Joshua 4.

"God … has quickened us together with Christ." — Eph. 2:4-5.

"The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ,when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:19-20).

We now return to the passage of the Jordan. The Passover speaks of Christ as the slain Lamb, the passage of the Red Sea of the power of His resurrection, the ark entering Canaan through the dry bed of the empty Jordan proclaims His glory in ascension; and whether it be in death or in resurrection, each speaks of blessings resulting therefrom to His redeemed people. The Lord was about to magnify Joshua by the passage of the Jordan, and thereby to bring Israel into Canaan. They had their ears open to Joshua's commands, and their eyes intent on the movement of the ark. Let us consider both.

"Come hither," said Joshua to Israel, "and hear the words of the Lord your God" (Joshua 3:9). The "living" God was among them, and would without fail drive out the nations who held the goodly land flowing with milk and honey, and the sign was this — that when the feet of the bearers of the ark of His covenant should touch the river, its waters would flee away.

The ark was declared to be His who is "the Lord of all the earth" (ver. 11), Jehovah thus expressing to His people His supreme power, His lordship and authority, where the heathen, who worshipped demons, had established themselves. After the Lord had risen from the dead, He said to His disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18); and this, His supremacy, should engage the heart, for His might and place in glory determine the heavenly position of His saints. And though the possession flows with precious things, it is God's way to make His people win those things practically in the strength of the Lord and in the power of His might.

Faith ever enters into, and acts upon, the divine word. Being bidden arise, Israel removed from their tents, and men of war, women and children, one and all fixed their eyes upon the ark. The blue mantle, covering the golden burden borne upon the shoulders of the white-robed priests, was visible to all. There was none other way into Canaan for the weak or the strong, save such as the ark should make. On rolled the Jordan, its waters deep and impetuous in the breadth of the April harvest-overflow, barring out the tens of thousands of Israel from the promised land. As the host descended from the higher ground towards the level of the river, to the right and to the left of them stretched the waters: but every eye was fixed on the ark, not on the broad waters running athwart its path. We look at Christ whom the ark figures, not on death, difficulties, or impossibilities.

The two thousand cubits were quickly traversed by the priests, that space occupied but a short time to cover, and then the moment appointed by Jehovah arrived — the moment fixed centuries before, for He had promised Canaan to the fathers. The feet of the priests touched the river's brim; and immediately the flow of its waters was arrested Jordan's swift stream rolled back and rose upon a heap, very far away by the city of Adam.

Adam, "the city which is beside Zaretan," where the waters of the Descender were rolled back, is nowhere else mentioned in the Bible, and its site has not yet been discovered. But the significance of the name of this city is evident, for by Adam sin entered into the world and death by sin, and now in the power of Christ, the Ark, the swift-descending current of death has been rolled back, as it were, to the first man, Death came to us through Adam, life from Christ.

The waters of the impetuous Jordan failed, and were cut off when the ark entered the river. They swept on and were swallowed up in the Dead Sea, in the Sea of Death the waters of the river of death found their grave. They were not; Israel saw them not. In the most emphatic way, there was no Jordan for Israel that day, when the people, old and young, weak and strong, passed over into the promised land.

At the passage of the Red Sea, the waves fled before Israel; at the passage of the Jordan, the flood was driven back out of Israel's sight. In the one case a path opened out before them, and they marched between two walls of water; in the other no water was visible, but to the right and left of them, as far as the vision could reach, a dry bed of the river. "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?" (Ps. 114:5). The power of God was present — His rod and His ark — and thus the millions of Israel entered the promised land.

The many miles of the empty bed of the river, with the people hasting (Joshua 4:10) over, seem to indicate that the passage was made in a very brief space of time, which by marching abreast, and in but a very few ranks, could very well be the case.

The Red Sea was God's way of power for bringing His people out from their slavery; the Jordan was His way of power for bringing them into the fulness of their blessings. In the one case, death, in figure, was passed through; in the other, death, in figure, was out of sight altogether. In the one case, resurrection power out of death is taught; in the other, Christ's passing through death, and His entry into heaven, and God's power in bringing the saints in Christ where Christ is.

The miracle was so wrought that that river, which is to all a familiar type of death, was banished from sight by the presence of the ark of the covenant of Jehovah. Now, when the soul is occupied with the second Man, the Lord from heaven, power from on high is granted, enabling the eye of faith to see the greatness of His work, His resurrection and His ascension glories, and the sight of Him prevents all barriers from being seen. The work of Christ for His people — the cross, the empty grave, the ascension on high, is one work, the benefits of which are for "all saints," and recognizing His ascension to heaven, the greatness of His work is apprehended. His place determines that of His people, who are seated in Him where He is. He has borne the judgment upon the cross; now He is risen, and in Him His people are a new creation.

We would say one to another, as Joshua said to Israel, "Come hither," look at Christ, see what He has done, and where He is. He went down into death, and God raised Him from the dead, and has set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. He is now above every principality, power, and dominion, all things being put under His feet. For who is He that ascended but He that descended first into the lower parts of the earth? And He that descended is the same as He that ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things. (See Eph. 1:20, 22, and Eph. 4:9-10.)

"Come hither, and hear," He has gone down into death, He has touched death with His feet; and by His death, death is thrust back for His people for ever. We look upon our ascended Lord, and exclaim, Truly there is no water in the Jordan for us.

Christianity arises out of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The new creation is for us who are in Christ now in heaven. The way into the heavenlies — our Canaan — is through Christ risen from the dead and ascended on high.

"And the priests, that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan," Jordan's bed was dry for all Israel. The power which arrested the waters was effectual for the least as well as for the chief of the host. Israel and the ark were identical in their position in the bed of the river. Great and small, all the people went over in the strength of the ark. Blessed consideration for ourselves! for it is not by our strength, nor by our degree of faith, but of God, through whom in Christ we enter the heavenly places. Every single believer in Christ is blessed alike with heavenly privileges. Canaan belongs to each, and all "in Christ" are there, and solely on account of what Christ has done, and what He is. Christ stood firm for His people, and His people are secure in His strength. These things are not too good, or too great, to be true for the least and the weakest believer; they are the common inheritance of all saints, even as Canaan was the legitimate home of all Israel. And as Israel came up out of Jordan, and into Canaan, by the ark, so are believers now quickened together with Christ; they have life together with Him, who went into death for them and who has come up out of death.

The exceeding greatness of God's power to usward who believe has its measure according to the working of His own mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. The measure of the might is divine. By attempting to gauge this work by our faith, or feeling, or intelligence, we never lay hold of it. The measure is outside ourselves.

Israel crossed through the Red Sea during the night. Their crossing was presaged by night in their souls, by fear and trembling; but the glory of Jehovah turned their forebodings to shouts of triumph. They crossed over the empty bed of Jordan in the full light of day, and after three days of expectation and preparation. We read of no shouts of victory, no timbrels, no dances, accompanying this passage. A solemn stillness seems to pervade the host, as they see the ark go down for them into the flood, and then behold the flood disappear. The spiritual instruction of the teachings of this part of our book are to be gained only by observing God's blessed Ark, Christ Jesus. When the soul is awakened as to its being in a world under wrath, God the Spirit makes sins to be felt; in the deliverance of the soul from legal bondage self has to be learned; but the heavenly things, new creation, life together with Christ risen from the dead, and blessings in Him in heaven, are learned only by looking on Christ who is risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Though there is no record of shouts of victory at the passage of the Jordan, the Christian has his theme of adoring praise for the heavenly favours of his God. These favours come not within the range of human ideas, they are new and divine, beyond and apart from man's thoughts or notions. We open the book characteristic of these blessings (the Epistle to the Ephesians) and sing this ceaseless song of praise, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3).

And as the great work of the new creation is discovered to us, our state in fallen nature, that of being dead in trespasses and sins, is made plain. So long as we have any hope of improving ourselves by our good works, and regard ourselves, in any way, as under probation, we are unable to recognize what God shows us is our marvellous position seated in Christ in the heavenly places! The period of Israel's probation came to its close, and the forty years of their wanderings terminated at the passage of the Jordan. Jehovah showed His people a new way, one which they had never before seen or traversed, and by the new way they entered Canaan. By the fact of Christ's death, the spiritually dead state of man in the flesh is demonstrated, "because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). With Christ's death the time of human probation has ended, and now through the infinite grace of God believers are in Christ, where He is across the waters of death.