The Book of Joshua

15. The Food of the Land.

Joshua 5:11.

"I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." — Gal. 2:20.

On Israel's exodus from Egypt, the Lord had commanded, in reference to the passover and its commemoration, "Remember this day … there shall no leavened bread be eaten. … When the Lord shall bring thee into the land … a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters" (Ex. 13:3-7). Thus, unleavened bread and the feast of the passover were intimately associated.

Leaven is in itself decay, and ever in Scripture an emblem of corruption. The Christian is thus exhorted: "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). As unleavened bread was the accompaniment of the passover feast, so is holiness the companion of dwelling in loving remembrance on Christ's death. Let our individual apprehension of His sufferings, and of the effect of them be ever so varied, no one can truly keep the feast and at the same time regard iniquity in his heart.

The old leaven of the gross sins of our unconverted days, and the more subtle sin of malice and wickedness that creeps even into the Christian's soul, must be purged out of the heart as the Jews purged out leaven from their houses. They searched for it high and low, and in like manner, spiritually speaking, we need to search and examine ourselves, for "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Cor. 5:6). Evil is an active principle corrupting continually; and, whether in our own breasts, or whether in our mutual associations as Christians, evil, when allowed to remain, must corrupt the whole association. A spot of decay in an apple will corrupt the whole, and thus does evil spread through that which is sound till the whole becomes corruption. Soundness does not change decay into health, but throws it off, and we are bidden purge out evil.

Literal leaven is easily sought, found, and cast away; to deal with that which it signifies, an eye of spiritual discernment, an honest heart for God, and holy zeal, which, at all cost, puts His great Name first, are requisite. Examining cupboards and corners for leaven, or exterior purification, is a work any one can engage in; but too few are they who are willing to examine themselves and search their own hearts in the light of God's word.

The accompaniments of the feast are sincerity and truth; and if we are careful to have these, the way of dealing with evil will be simple. Moreover, by the consideration of positive good, we are best fitted to meet evil. A false thing in the heart of him who would keep the holy feast of the remembrance of Christ's death is leaven. If the soul be sincere, the more the light shines upon its motives the purer the motives are proved to be. We cannot attain to sinlessness, but we can attain to sincerity, and be honest before God and man. Truth will not be far off when sincerity is present; truth reaches down into the depths of a man's being, and truth and the love of it cannot be separated. We cannot deceive God, but we may deceive one another; and if we omit the accompaniments of sincerity and truth, the feast in mutual love of the remembrance of Christ's death cannot be truly kept by us, as Israel could not keep the feast of their passover without partaking of the unleavened bread prescribed by Jehovah.

Let us also remember that ours is a perpetual celebration of the feast. We do not limit it to the moment we may be partaking of the memorials of Christ's death, nor to the hour when we may be engaged in public religious service. Israel's feast of unleavened bread was of seven days' duration, as if to teach us that the full week of our lives on earth is to be a keeping of the feast of our passover with sincerity and truth.

For the observing of the passover in Gilgal, unleavened cakes made of the corn of the land are spoken of. This was absolutely a new thing in Israel's history, for until in Canaan they could not partake of its harvest. They had entered the land at "the time of harvest" (Joshua 3:15), and the Lord gave them Canaan's food for their portion in the feast of unleavened bread — cakes baked in the fire, and parched corn.

The corn (rendered "old" corn) of the land was the produce of Canaan, the fruit of the harvest just ripe, not necessarily old corn stored anterior to the harvest. The day after the sheaf of the first-fruits was presented to the Lord (Lev. 23:9-14 ), this food became Israel's "When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof" — a harvest they had neither ploughed nor sown, and which aptly figures our resurrection-blessings — "ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God." The first-fruits had to be waved before the Lord, then the harvest became the people's, teaching us that our joy in our harvest of blessings in Christ risen, can only be spiritually fed upon, when Christ Himself has the pre-eminence in our thoughts. Christ first, then the fruits of the harvest for ourselves, is the divine order, and if we make our blessings the prime occupation of our souls and Christ the second, we shall grow self-occupied and weakness of spirit will ensue. Let us not forget this; for some become so occupied with their blessings as to neglect Christ from whom the blessings come.

"That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die" (1 Cor. 15:36), and the corn of the land that Israel ate, speaks to us of Christ risen from among the dead, and all the harvest of heavenly blessings in Him, which through grace are our portion. In the order of the verses before us, we see, in type, how God keeps Christ Himself before our souls, and how He has allied together the death and the resurrection of His Son for our soul's food. The passover came first, the next day came the feast of unleavened bread, and on the third, the day after the Sabbath, the feast of the first fruits. In the "feasts of the Lord," the first types presented to us are those of Rest through the blood of the Lamb, Holiness which becomes His house for ever, and the Resurrection of Christ.

Led now by God into the fulness of Christian blessing in Christ — across the Jordan — in the land — God's own free people — what have we before us? Christ Himself, the food of His people — Christ Himself, now risen from the dead! Let us, then, seek to have Him ever before our souls, and to feed continually upon Him, to remember Him in His dying love, and to know Himself alive to die no more. Let us not forget that leaven can never be mingled with Christ, the food of the believer's affections, and that holiness and truth cannot be separated from communion with Christ.

Feeding upon Christ Himself is a personal act. None can do this for another; we may learn about Christ from one another, we must feed on Him for ourselves; and precisely as we have communion with Him, our souls increase in true strength. According to our appetite for Christ Himself will be our spiritual force for Him in this world. We do not require superior wisdom to have our hearts occupied with Christ; the little children, as well as the men of war in Israel, ate the corn of the land; it is not knowledge, but love, that brings about a healthy spiritual state of soul.