We have pointed out
that the whole of the New Testament is the spiritual and
present-time counterpart of the book of Joshua. Beginning
with the setting aside of one nation, and its loss of the
inheritance through unbelief, we are shown the bringing
into being, by resurrection out from that nation, of a
new people, a new nation, by way of the Jordan - that is,
the Cross - and the absolute government of the Holy
Spirit, as represented by the "man with his sword
drawn in his hand" - the "Captain of the host
of the Lord". The object of it all? The bringing of
the people of God into their full inheritance in Christ.
The New Testament is concerned with that in a spiritual
way. Those are but aspects of this one great truth: that
God, from eternity, has had in mind an elect people, to
bring into the fulness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now we can find this
first chapter of the book of Joshua condensed into two or
three verses in the New Testament. Those verses are in
the letter to the Colossians, chapter 2, verses 1 to 3:
"I would have
you know..." Let us give due emphasis to every
part of this statement. "I would have you
know". It is easy to see that this is a
dominant feature in the first chapter of the book of
Joshua - the leaving of people in no doubt in no
uncertain position. "I would have you know how
greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea, and
for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that
their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together
in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of
understanding, that they may know the mystery of God,
even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and
Those three verses tell
us what the beginning of the book of Joshua is all about.
The emphasis of the Apostle is upon 'standing fully
assured' (Col. 4:12): having absolute assurance,
certainty, and confidence, as to that to which we are
called - both as to that which the Lord really wants, and
as to all that the Lord really wants - standing
fully assured about that. If, after reading that first
chapter of Joshua, you stand back and consider, you have
to say: 'There is no doubt about what the Lord means
there!' You are left entirely without any question. You
are fully assured as to the Lord's mind on the matter,
from His side.
"Unto all riches
of the full assurance of understanding".
Understanding is a great factor in assurance. If you have
not understanding, you have not got assurance.
"Understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph.
5:17). It is a tremendous thing for assurance and
confidence, really to understand what the will of the
Lord is. That is the first, the primary thing, that we
need to understand.
I trust that you are
set wholly and strongly upon that understanding - that it
is no mere passive interest with you. For, you see, when
you begin this book of Joshua, you find yourself in the
atmosphere of a tremendous energy: there is nothing
passive in this whole book. And the whole book is
represented in this first chapter. Things are positive,
definite, strong; there is nothing weak here; it is all
emphatic and imperative. That is a necessary state of
heart and mind for coming into the full inheritance. Make
no mistake about it - we do not drift into all God's
will. We come there by a very definite concern to know
what the will of the Lord is.
I am not speaking of
day-to-day affairs, either privately or in business; I am
not speaking about knowing the will of God in this and
that in the make-up of life: I am speaking about that
whole will of God lying behind our being called by His
grace into fellowship with His Son (1 Cor. 1:9). When
that is settled, everything else will fall into line,
will be given by God its meaning and value, and all
things will work together for good when we are in line
with His purpose (Rom. 8:28). 'I would have you know,
understand, what the will of the Lord is.'
And then, as we have
already seen, in relation to that full and entire will of
God, there is a great warfare. The atmosphere
becomes charged with conflict, as the book of Joshua
shows. It is the book of warfare all along. We therefore
need to be fully assured, and have clear understanding,
as to why it is that the enemy contests this thing so
bitterly. There is no doubt that he does; it is perfectly
clear, as we have said, that, immediately you go beyond a
certain point in the Christian life, and seek to move on
with God in the greater fulnesses of His purpose, then
you come into a new realm of spiritual opposition and
antagonism, arising from every quarter, and coming along
every line and by every means. Why is that so?
It is most important that we should be filled with
understanding on that matter.
Well, you have only to
read that letter to the Colossians throughout, and its
twin-letter to the Ephesians, and you will soon discover
why the conflict. It is no less a conflict than that into
which the Lord Jesus, under the anointing and government
of the same Holy Spirit, was immediately launched in the
wilderness. It came out full and clear at last. The enemy
had been trying to get at Him in different ways, but at
last the whole thing is dragged out - "the kingdoms
of the world, and the glory of them" (Matt. 4:8).
Ah, it is out now; now we know what it is all about! That
is no small issue. "The god of this age" (2
Cor. 4:4), "the prince of this world" (John
12:31, etc.), "the prince of the power of the
air" (Eph. 2:2), the 'world ruler of this darkness'
(Eph. 6:12) - all these titles of the adversary indicate
that he has a mighty kingdom and a mighty range of
influence that he must preserve at all costs. But he
knows that Christ and His Church are destined to oust him
from his kingdom, to take it from him, and to supplant
him in it for the ages of the ages.
To have 'understanding'
on that is to bring some assurance, some confidence, some
strength. We need to realise that no less an issue than
that lies behind the conflict, which so often focuses
down on fragmentary things - what seem to be mere
incidents; but their object is the putting of us out,
instead of our putting him out. And so we need "full
assurance of understanding". There is nothing so
weakening and destructive as the lack of understanding.
We must ask the Lord to open our understanding.
A Vital Union
Now, this understanding
rests upon several things. First of all, it rests upon a
vital union with the Lord Himself; Here is this constant
reiteration and reemphasis: "I am with you" -
"I am with you" - indicating the union between
the Lord and His people. That is the simple but
fundamental beginning of this whole matter of the will of
God. Until a real, a living union is established between
you and the Lord Himself, you do not understand what the
will of the Lord is for your life and in your calling by
His grace. Again, this union and this oneness with the
Lord Himself is basic to an understanding of the whole
conflict in which we are found. It is only when that
union is established that the conflict begins.
Now note this. While
Jesus was the Divine Son of God before birth, and at
birth, and during the thirty years of His life, there was
something of a special character that happened after His
baptism at the age of thirty. That something was that God
the Holy Ghost came in a particular way and united
Himself with the Son of Man. And then the trouble began;
then the conflict started; then the enemy came out! It
was to get in between those two - the Father and the Son
- in some way that the enemy was making his assaults. I
cannot stay with the theology and the doctrine of that;
but there is no doubt about it that, all along, the
enemy's object was to get between Christ and His Father -
to drive a wedge in there, to separate them. That would
be his great triumph. If he can do that, he has captured
all - the whole battle is his. This union was essential
to all the purpose of God; this union was essential, as
it was basic, to the whole triumph in the conflict.
Do remember this, that
what the enemy is after is to get you away from the Lord
- to make a breach, create a gap, and then to widen it as
fully as he can, until you find that you are here, but
the Lord is there: the Lord is not with you here - He is
somewhere else. The enemy is always trying to do that, in
a thousand ways; because he knows that while you and the
Lord are together and continuing together, his hopes fade
and vanish. This assurance and understanding rests upon
our union with Christ, made and preserved.
Having the Spirit
That, of course, as I
have indicated, means our having the Spirit. A
Christianity without the Holy Spirit is something which
very much gratifies and serves the enemy. An unspiritual
Christianity - a Christianity which is not really the
Christianity of the Holy Ghost - the enemy loves that,
and he will sponsor that; he will seek to build that up.
And he has a great deal of success. Many who bear the
name of 'Christian' might well be challenged, as Paul
challenged those at Ephesus at the beginning: 'When you
believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?' (Acts 19:2).
Having the Holy Spirit is the basis of understanding what
the will of God is, of understanding the whole purpose of
our salvation, and of understanding all the wiles of the
devil and the fury of the oppressor.
Walking in the Spirit
But that is not enough.
This "full assurance of understanding", because
it is a progressive thing and not attained all at once,
can only become ours as we walk in the Spirit. Although
the day of the Spirit had not yet come, it is what the
Lord Jesus meant when He said so much about 'abiding':
"Abide in me, and I in you..." "If ye
abide in me..." (John 15:1-10). That is explained
later, in the epistles, as being the life of 'walking in
the Spirit' and 'by the Spirit' (Rom. 8; Gal. 5:16-25;
etc.). Our growing understanding, and therefore our
growing assurance, depends upon our abiding in, and
walking in and by, the Spirit. This is all implicit in
the book of Joshua.
The Power of His Resurrection
And then, one other
thing. It rests upon the knowing of 'the power of His
resurrection' (Phil. 3:10). What a large place the power
of resurrection has in this whole book of Joshua. This
people was a 'resurrection' people. They stood, in the
first place, over against the generation that died in the
wilderness. They lived while that died; they, went
through Jordan, the figure of death, and came out of
death triumphant on the other side. And there is more
than that in this book. But they came into the constant
experience of the power of His resurrection.
We learn much, you
know, along that line; we come to a great deal of
understanding and a great deal of assurance in that way.
In this battle with death, and in our being allowed, from
time to time, to go into, if not in our being taken into,
experiences where the circumstances seem more powerful
than the life of God in us - where we are really having
an experience of death, where the sentence of death seems
to have been passed, and we, like Paul, despair even of
life (2 Cor. 1:8-10) - it is there that we learn, as Paul
did, something about the power of His resurrection. We
are thus brought to a greater measure of the full
assurance of understanding; and by this understanding we
are made strong.
Yes, there is something
to learn in those death experiences. We need, when we are
in them, to be more 'on the spot' (if I may put it like
that), and to say: 'There is something in this experience
of death that I must wring out of it - something that is
going to be, as it were, 'stock in trade' or 'ammunition'
against the enemy. I am going to learn something. I am
coming out of this, by the power of His resurrection, and
it is going to count in the matter of the inheritance.'
The enemy would overwhelm us in those deep hours - carry
the whole thing too far, and swamp us. Blessed be God,
the Spirit is with us, and He brings us into a thousand
This is the fourfold
basis of the "full assurance of understanding",
and the Apostle calls that the "riches". We are
wringing them out of the Land; we are digging them out of
these mines, out of these hills, of the Heavenly country.
"In whom are all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge hidden". That is a great phrase, is it
not? Remember the word to the people: "A land whose
stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig
brass" (Deut. 8:9b). There were hidden resources,
but they have got to be dug out, and it is real
spade-work to get hold of the values of a deep and dark
place in spiritual experience.
Now, that sounds all
very good and right and inspiring. But you will notice in
Joshua chapter 3, something took place which is very
rose up early in the morning, and they removed front
Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of
Israel; and they lodged there before they passed over.
And it came to pass after three days, that the officers
went through the midst of the camp; and they commanded
the people..." (Josh. 3:1-3).
They lodged before the
Jordan three days, before going over it. This is not
something to be rushed into; this is not something to be
done just as the result of impulse. We may feel that it
is a great idea - 'the fulness of Christ', 'the
inheritance', these 'treasures of wisdom and knowledge'
-wonderful! wonderful! most entrancing! But stay, stay;
you are in for a big and a long fight. You are not going
to come into this inheritance without real cost and real
conflict. Stay! Many a Christian life would have been
saved from wreckage if there had been, at the beginning,
a little deeper and fuller consideration of what it all
What is it that we are
called to? Are we called to a 'religious picnic'? a life
of 'spiritual joviality'? What are we called to? The Lord
Jesus left no one in the dark about the cost of
discipleship. But - but - how different is the appeal
today! You would think that it was all going to be just
one unbroken joy-ride - that it was going to conform to
the idea of the man who was very fond of skiing, who
said: 'My idea of Heaven is one eternal swish downward
and no walking back!' You would think that that is the
Christian life, from a lot of the things that you hear.
The result is, many do not go very far; they either stop
too soon, or they just lose out altogether.
So here at the Jordan,
before taking the plunge (if I may put it that way),
before committing themselves, before going into the
river, there were three days' pause, while they weighed
it up. 'Do you mean this?' We must be faithful with one
another. While we so strongly emphasize the will of God
in all this: while we make the appeal to go on, to go on;
while we speak of the riches and the glory of the
inheritance, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge - we
must be faithful, and so we say: Take time to face the
whole thing. Lay a sound foundation, so that you will be
able to say, when the difficulties come afterward, and
the enemy comes in like a flood: 'Yes, but I weighed it
up; I weighed it up; I faced what it would involve; I
calculated. I am not where I am on a flimsy impulse. Mine
is a soundly considered position; I know why I am where I
am.' It is very important, for the whole campaign, to
pause for 'three days' before you make your advance. Now,
of course, that need not be taken literally; but it does
represent a state of the heart, a facing of things with
God, a reckoning up in His presence.
There was another
aspect of this, as you notice. During the three days they
'prepared the victuals': "Prepare ye victuals",
said the officers of Joshua to the people (1:10,11). It
is only another aspect of the same thing. You have got to
have something to move on; you have got to have some
support for this. You really need to have resources for
this movement. Presently, when the manna ceases, and the
old corn of the Land is fed upon, the situation may
change. But here is a crisis; here is a turning point.
And, to carry you through this crisis, you must have some
real spiritual foundation, some substance.
Here, of course, we
meet with the whole necessity of soundly instructing
young converts, or young Christians, or those who want to
go on further with the Lord. They need to be instructed,
provided with the Word of the Lord in this matter. What a
sorry and sad situation may exist, of spiritual
immaturity, weakness and defeat because just there, at
the crisis, there was not an adequate basis of the Word.
Let us, then, lay a foundation, truly and surely, and see
that we have victuals, we have substance, we have
resource, something for our strengthening, to go upon.
"Now Joshua was
old and well stricken in years; and the Lord said unto
him, Thou art old and well stricken in years, and there
remaineth yet very much land to be possessed" (Josh.
said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack
to go in to possess the land, which the Lord, the God of
your fathers, hath given you?" (18:3).
Perhaps you are
thinking that the first of these quotations looks like a
contradiction of what I was saying previously about the
'young man' Joshua. If you think like that, you must
think a second time! There is a good deal of
encouragement for the old men here, not discouragement!
The main part of Joshua's work began at that point. Up to
that point, it is true he had led them in battle; he had
led them against the many enemies, and he had subdued the
country, but he had not yet brought them into their full
inheritance. From this point, you will notice, it is all
settling in the inheritance. Joshua does a very great
deal, after this, of consolidating everything. That is
the point. We must not stop until all that God intended
has been entered into. The tragedy, of course, of these
people was that they stopped too soon. For that very
reason we have the story related in the book of Judges -
the most tragic book of the Bible.
The Letter to the
Hebrews is one strong argument against stopping too soon.
'Having laid the foundation, let us not go over it again,
but let us go on - let us go on' (Heb. 6:1,2). 'Let us
fear lest, a promise being left to us of entering into
His rest, any one of us should be deemed to have come
short' (4:1). That is the great burden and object of that
letter, is it not? - to go right on! There are two sides
There is, of course,
the imperative. In Joshua 1 you have the imperatives:
"Arise, go over..." We must, because the
Lord wills it and calls us to it. Then there is the
perfect: "To you have I given it" - 'I have...
it is yours.' And there is the expressed purpose:
"Ye are to... go in to possess". It must
be. But if that 'must' should sound hard, should seem to
put an onus and a burden and a strain upon the Christian
life, remember - when God says it must be, He means it can
be. God's commandments are God's enablings. If He
says: 'Thou shalt', He means: 'Thou canst'. And because
it must be, and it can be, then it should be.
Those are the two sides - the imperative, and God's
provision for all that He wills. What He requires, He
makes possible, He provides for, indeed He commits
Himself to it.
Commands Are His Enablings
It is a wonderful thing
how - difficult, hard, painful and costly as may be this
way of the fullest purpose of God, and all the conflict
which is bound up and associated with it - it is just
marvellous how we do survive, and more than survive. If
there is any realm in which the miracle of His sovereign
grace and His sovereign power is manifested, it is in
this realm of the fuller purposes of God. A life in such
a realm is a life of the 'wonderful works of God'.
Perhaps that is why He allows it to be such a contested
and difficult way, that He might show His wonderful
works. That is how we must read the Word of God, that is
how we must read Abraham and Paul and others: as men
whose lives throughout were subjected to the most
terrible testings and tryings, sufferings and
adversities, sorrows and disappointments, in one realm,
and yet who, at last, triumphed so wonderfully; and we
have the record of their marvellous triumph.
You cannot read that
eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews without
marvelling every time. I say to myself: 'I could not do
it' - and we all know that we could not do it. Listen!
"These all died in faith, not having received the
promises" (v. 13). What are you going to do about
that? They died without receiving the promises! One
after another died without receiving the promises. And
yet it says: 'They died in faith'. They did not die
saying: 'God promised and He has not fulfilled; God is
not faithful to His promise. I give it all up; I cannot
believe God any longer.' "These all died in faith,
not having received..." - "in faith, not
having received..." I say, I could not do that.
But God can - the grace of God can. And it is a long list
that we have here.
And so, what God calls
to, He enables for. It can be, because, from God's
standpoint, it must be. I trust that you have
seen something of the clearly defined lines of God's will
and God's purpose for us, in having called us into
fellowship with His Son. You can see what it involves us
in, but you can see that God has committed Himself to
that. When we are on this line, He will say: 'I am with
thee whithersoever thou goest.'