The Book of Joshua

14. Keeping the Feast.

Joshua 5:10.

"Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." — 1 Cor. 5:7-8.

In God's ways there is neither chance nor accident. Exactly forty years before the children of Israel encamped at Gilgal they were slaves in Egypt. God had so arranged their journeys, and the date of their entrance into the promised land, that the first feast kept there was the remembrance of their deliverance. "The children of Israel encamped at Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho."

The passover and "the feast of the passover" are distinct. One is the deliverance itself, which was wrought in Egypt, and the other is the memorial of the deliverance. There was but one passover; while the feast of the passover was annual. The passover was once for all; the feast of it, as frequent as the years of freedom. Christ's blood has been shed once and for ever, and our redemption by His precious blood is complete, but the memorial, the feast of remembrance, is continuous.

In the passover, Israel were occupied with their expected escape in the feast, rejoicing in obtained freedom, they meditated upon the means by which God had brought them out of bondage. The very attitude of the partakers of the passover itself differed from that of those who partook of the feast. In the former case, they ate standing, with loins girded ready for departure, with shoes on their feet and staff in hand, and in haste in the latter, they ate at leisure, reclining, with all outward indication of being at rest, and of being blessed in fulfilled promises. They were in the land, and their hopes were realized, and with joy they partook of their portion. The character given to the feast of the passover was emphatically that of a redeemed people in the enjoyment of their rest. Such at least was the character of the feast, according to the custom of Israel in Canaan in later times; and we may well learn our lesson therefrom.

There was no destroying angel from whom protection was needed, no sprinkling with blood of door-posts and lintel, for that work had been done once for all, no thought of being redeemed in the future, or of redemption being a progressive work in accomplishment; but instead, there was the enjoyment of the blessing of being in the land of promise by virtue of an accomplished redemption. Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, and let us keep it as becomes those who are in the fulness of the blessing in Christ in the heavenly places.

Previous to keeping the feast in the plains of Jericho, Israel had kept it in the second year of their wilderness wanderings, "they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel" (Num. 9:5). This was the only passover mentioned in the wilderness; of none other is there any record. And, indeed, when we consider the constant unbelief of the people, we are not surprised, for of what moral value would a memorial of deliverance be, if that deliverance were doubted? A deliverance from one form of death to another would be a mockery; but deliverance from Egypt, in order that they should be slain in the wilderness, was, according to Israel's murmurings, that which Jehovah had wrought for His people.

We cannot remember that which to us is not known. We cannot remember Christ in His death for us, unless we know that He died for us. If we are doubting that He died for us, and questioning the benefits of His death, remembrance of Him, and keeping the feast, are impossible. Israel disbelieved God, they said He could not bring them into Canaan. Had such been the case, the passover in Egypt would have been ineffectual, for He brought them out of Egypt in order to bring them into Canaan, even as the song at the Red Sea witnessed, "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). Hence with their unbelief upon them, Israel could not keep the feast; and they did not do so until in Canaan, where their unbelief as to being brought home was dispelled by being at home.

A believer who merely believes that the blood of Christ has redeemed him from the world, and stops there, saying, "I shall never get to glory," or "I shall require a fresh passover in order to do so," is questioning the value of the blood of Christ, and the efficacy of the offering once offered, and the mighty result of that work. Christ "died, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God," not that we might perish by the way.

In the passover kept in the wilderness, and in the passover kept in Canaan, we have a twofold witness to our joy in Christ, whose blood has redeemed us. We can say, "We are redeemed from wrath and shall reach glory," or, "We are blessed with all spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." God's love is the source, and the precious blood the foundation, of our every good. Whichever way we regard ourselves, either as in the wilderness or as in the heavenly places, our feast is the love of Christ in dying for us. His death is, and ever will be, the opening of our songs of praise.

His sacrifice is the basis of every blessing. God laid the foundation in love, and the love that led Jesus to the cross is the spring of the song of redemption. Brought consciously into, and happily experiencing through the Spirit the fulness of blessing in Christ, the first and eternal occupation of our hearts is the love of Christ.

Viewing ourselves in the position presented by the part of the Book of Joshua which is before us, we are in the presence of our enemies in the plains of Jericho, and conflict for the risen Christ is before us. Now our vigour of soul arises from the sense of the love of the Lord Jesus in His dying for us. The more Spirit-taught we are as to the truth of God respecting our heavenly blessing in Christ, the more deeply shall we value His death for us. Thus the feast of the passover is the first feast in Canaan in every sense. It is first, and it is everlasting. It comes first in the soul of the saint, and it should ever be the feast of his soul. Israel's entrance into Canaan, being timed by Jehovah on the fourteenth day of Abib, in order that they might keep the passover in the land on that evening, appeals to us to delight more and more in our redemption and our Redeemer. In truly keeping this feast lies our preparedness of soul for going up against Jericho. May feasting on Christ's dying love be the portion of us all.