NOTES ON JOSHUA.
JOSHUA SET IN OFFICE. (Chap. 1).
JOSHUAS ordination, as we speak, had taken place in
the time of Num. 27. In this chapter he receives his charge, or is set in his
office, to do the work for which he had been already ordained.
David also had been ordained long before he was put into office. The oil of Samuel had been poured on his head even before his troubles under the hand of Saul had begun. And as we may consider it as belonging to this book, I would look back for a little to Joshuas ordination; for there was great moral beauty in Moses conduct on that occasion, which it may profit the soul to consider.
To the deep grief of his heart, Moses was denied entrance into the land. He had forfeited that privilege, and forfeited blessing is never restored. The forfeiture may make way for a better thing; but the forfeited thing itself is never restored. Moses bows to the fixed purpose of the Lord, which denies him entrance on the land. He says no more about it; but concern for the flock of Israel which he had brought out of Egypt, and which he was now to leave in the wilderness, awakens in his heart very earnestly. He looks on them as with the eye of his divine Master in after days. Jesus saw Israel as sheep that had no shepherd, and He began to teach them, and to ordain others to go forth to the same service. Moses now sees Israel as sheep that were soon to have no shepherd, and he begins to plead for them. He asks the Lord to give them a shepherd. He turns from his own sorrow to the need of the people - and beautiful it always is, when we can think of the distresses of others in the day of our own calamity. The blessed Lord, illustrating all virtue as He did, having moral, as well as personal and official pre-eminence in all things, addressed the daughters of Jerusalem on His way to Calvary, and then His mother from the Cross. Moses now, in his way and measure. And, let me observe, Moses was a humbled as well as a heartbroken man at that time. Canaan is denied him, and he sees the hand of another and of a younger entrusted with that service and that dignity which were taken from him. But with holy, Christ-like, largeness of heart, he forgets everything, except the need of the people. This was beautiful - and the Lord answers it in great sweetness of grace. He at once tells Moses that He will give Israel a leader according to his desire; but more than that - and blessed it is to read of such grace - the Lord tells him that he shall ordain this leader of Israel, give him his charge in the presence of the congregation, and put some of his spirit upon him.
How exquisite in the way of grace all this is! Moses grief shall be relieved, and the desire of his heart for the flock he loved and was about to leave, shall be satisfied - and in the stead of being humbled, he shall be honoured. It shall be seen by all the people, the whole congregation of Israel, that he is the "better," and not the "less," blessing their future leader, and putting some, though not all, of his spirit, upon him!
This was indeed an occasion full of beauty; the considerateness of the grace in which the Lord dealt with His servant, and the unselfish love which filled the heart of that servant! Intercourses between the Lord and the saints are at times wonderful, in the tone of holy, gracious intimacy that marks them, and this is an instance. Upon this ordination, Joshua is now set in office, or at his work. His commission is then read to him, with encouragements, exhortations and promises.
The land in its length and breadth, and boundaries, is also described to him, and the people that dwelt there, that Joshua might know what business was now put upon him, and how it had now fallen upon him to put the redeemed Israel of God into possession of the inheritance promised to them as the seed and children of their fathers.
Joshua begins at once to act under his orders, and prepares the people for the passage of the Jordan; and here the recollection revives before the mind, that little things in Scripture are at times very full of meaning. "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you," is an instance of what I mean.
Such words convey the impression which was then on the and of the apostle respecting those two companions of his - and events which quickly followed, vindicated such impressions.
It is so here, at the close of our chapter. As to the tribes generally Joshua has but to say, "Prepare your victuals, for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you." They were unencumbered, in travelling order, and had but to know the hour of departure. Like Noah, they were ready for the voyage that was to land them in another world. All that had to be done was to get into the vessel. But the Reubenites and Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh were not so free, and Joshua feels towards them as towards a heavy piece of luggage in this hour of decamping. He has to challenge them; at least he felt that he had to remind them of their pledges to Moses, for they were not, in his sight, as if they had been altogether Israel themselves. In measure, he is to them what the angel who came to Sodom was to Lot. I do not say they were Lot, but they may, in some respects remind us of him. Like him, their history begins with their eying the well-watered plains that were good for cattle; and because they had cattle, they had taken up with the wilderness side of the Jordan. This may read us a lesson. Moses, on leading out from Egypt, had said nothing of Gilead and Bashan. They were not parts of "the mountain of the inheritance," of which he and the congregation had sung in their song, nor were they in that "place," to which he had told the Midianite he and Israel were on their journey. But Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had cattle, and in the plains on the eastern side of the river, cattle might feed to advantage. They had no thought of revolting or giving up their interest in the God of Israel; but they had cattle, and Gilead and Bashan suited them.
How common a case! This is a large generation. We know ourselves too well to wonder at this.
If we read the history of that occasion, we shall find that Moses had been made uneasy by this movement on the part of the two tribes and a half, and he expresses his uneasiness (Num. 32.). He tells them that their conduct had reminded him of the spies who had gone out, years and years before, from Kadesh-barnea, and whose way had occasioned the forty years pilgrimage in the wilderness. They explain themselves, and give pledges that they by no means purpose to separate themselves from the fellowship and interests of their brethren; and they do this with zeal and integrity, but Moses has his fears about them. And now Joshua holds this same people in like fear and suspicion. He calls them to him, and addresses them with a special word of exhortation and warning, now that the time of action in the camp of God was beginning.
But this is all painful. It is bad when this uneasiness is produced, when the first instinctive thought of a saint walking in the power of the resurrection of Christ, is that of alarm at what he sees in a brother, in one who like Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, while holding to the hope of the people of God, is not in the suited place of that hope. The garment of "linen and woollen," to use a Levitical figure, is on such, and the eye, the priestly eye, which discloses things that differ, is pained.
Again I say, How common! But we know ourselves and our heartlessness too well to add, How wonderful!
Again, however, they answer Joshua with zeal and integrity, as they had answered Moses, "According as we hearkened to Moses," they say to him now, "So will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as He was with Moses."
End of extract
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