- Part 1
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." ( Rom. 15: 4) These few words furnish a title, distinct and unquestionable, for the Christian to range through the wide and magnificent field of Old Testament scripture, and gather therein instruction and comfort, according to the measure of his capacity, and the character or depth of his spiritual need. And, were any further warrant needed, we have it with equal clearness in the words of another inspired epistle: "Now all these things happened unto them (Israel) for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Corinthians 10: 11
No doubt, in reading the Old Testament, as in reading the New, there is constant need of watchfulness; need of self-emptiness, of dependence upon the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit, by whom all scripture has been indicted. The imagination must be checked, lest it lead us into crude notions and fanciful interpretations, which tend to no profit, but rather to the weakening of the power of scripture over the soul, and hindering our growth in the divine life.
Still, we must never lose sight of the divine charter made out for us, in Romans 15: 4-never forget for a single moment, that "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning." It is in the strength of these words that we invite the reader to accompany us back to the opening of the Book of Joshua, that we may together contemplate the striking and instructive scenes presented there, and seek to gather up some of the precious "learning" there unfolded. If we mistake not, we shall learn some fine lessons on the banks of the Jordan, and find the air of Gilgal most healthful and bracing for the spiritual constitution.
We have all been accustomed to look at Jordan as the figure of death-the death of the believer-his leaving this world, and going to heaven. Doubtless, the reader has often read and heard these lines-
"Could we but stand where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o'er,
Not Jordan's stream, or death's cold flood,
Could fright us from the shore."
But all this line of thought, feeling, and experience, is very far below the mark of true Christianity. A moment's reflection, in the true light which scripture pours upon our souls, would be sufficient to show how utterly deficient is the popular religious thought as to Jordan. For instance, when a believer dies and goes to heaven, is he called to fight? Surely not. All is rest and peace up yonder-ineffable, eternal peace. Not a ripple on that ocean. No sound of alarm throughout that pure and holy region. No conflict there. No need of armour. We shall want no girdle, because our garments may flow loosely around us. We shall not need a breastplate of righteousness, for divine righteousness shall there have its eternal abode. We shall have no want of sandals, for there will be no rough or thorny places in that fair and blissful region. No shield called for there, inasmuch as there will be no fiery darts flying; no helmet of salvation, for the divine and eternal results of God's salvation shall then be reached. No sword, inasmuch as there will be neither enemy nor evil occurrent throughout all that blissful, sunny region.
Hence, therefore, Jordan cannot mean the death of the believer and his going to heaven, for the simplest of all reasons that it was when Israel crossed the Jordan that their fighting, properly speaking, began. True they had fought with Amalek in the wilderness; but it was in Canaan that their real war commenced. A child can understand this.
But does not Jordan represent death? Most surely it does. And may not the believer have to cross it? True; but if he has, he finds it dry, because the Prince of Life has gone down into its deepest depths, and opened up a pathway for His people by the which they pass over into their eternal inheritance.
There is no such idea in the word of God-in the gospel of Christ, or in the entire range of our heavenly Christianity-as a Christian standing where Moses stood, when, from Pisgah's top, he looked forth over the promised land. Moses, in the governmental dealings of God, was prevented going over Jordan. And, looking at Moses officially, we know that the law could not possibly bring the people into Canaan.
But Christ, the true Joshua, has crossed the Jordan, and not only crossed it, but turned it into a pathway by which the ransomed host can pass over dryshod into the heavenly Canaan. The Christian is not called to stand shivering on the brink of the river of death, as one in doubt as to how it may go with him. That river is dried up for faith. Its power is gone. Our adorable Lord "has abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light by the gospel."
Glorious, enfranchising fact! Let us praise Him for it. Let all our ransomed powers adore Him. Let our whole moral being be stirred up to chant the praises of Him who has taken the sting from death, and destroyed him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and conducted us into a sphere which is pervaded throughout with life, light, incorruptibility, and glory. May our entire practical career be to His glory!
We shall now proceed to examine, more particularly, the teaching of scripture on this great subject, and may the Holy Spirit Himself be our immediate instructor!
"And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there, before they passed over. And it came to pass, after three days, that the officers went through the host; and they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure; come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go; for ye have not passed this way heretofore." Joshua 3: 1- 4.
There are three deeply important points in Israel's history, which the reader would do well to ponder. There is, first, the blood-stained lintel, in the land of Egypt; secondly, the Red Sea; thirdly, the river Jordan.
Now, in each of these we have a type of the death of Christ, in some one or other of its grand aspects-for, as we know, that precious death has many and various aspects, and nothing can be more profitable for the Christian, and nothing, surely, ought to be more attractive, than the study of the profound mystery of the death of Christ. There are depths and heights in that mystery which eternity alone will unfold; and it should be our delight, now, under the powerful ministry of the Holy Ghost, and in the perfect light of holy scripture, to search into these things for the strength, comfort, and refreshment of the inward man.
Looking, then, at the death of Christ, as typified by the blood of the paschal lamb, we see in it that which screens us from the judgement of God . "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement; I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." Exodus 12.
Now, we need hardly say, it is of the deepest moment for the exercised, consciously guilty, soul, to know that God has provided a shelter from wrath and judgement to come. No rightly instructed person would think, for a moment, of undervaluing such an aspect of the death of Christ. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." Israel's safety rested upon God's estimate of the blood. He does not say, "When you see the blood." The Judge saw the blood-knew its value, and passed over the house. Israel was screened by the blood of the lamb-by God's estimate of that blood, not by their own. Precious fact!
How prone we are to be occupied with our thoughts about the blood of Christ, instead of with God's thoughts! We feel we do not value that precious blood as we ought-who ever did or ever could? and then we begin to question if we are safe, seeing we so sadly fail in our estimate of Christ's work, and in our love to His Person.
Now, if our safety depends, in the smallest degree, upon our estimate of Christ's work, or our love to His Person, we are in more imminent danger than if it depended upon our keeping the law. True it is-most true-who could think of denying it?-we ought to value Christ's work, and we ought to love Himself. But if all this be put upon the footing of a righteous claim, and if our safety rests upon our answering to that claim, then are we in greater danger, and more justly condemned than if we stood on the ground of a broken law. for, just in proportion as the claims of Christ are higher than the claims of Moses, and in proportion as Christianity is higher than the legal system, so are we worse off, in greater danger, further from peace, if our safety depends upon our response to those higher claims.
Mark, it is not that we ought not to answer to such claims; we most certainly ought. But we have not; and hence, so far as we are concerned, our ruin and guilt are only made more manifest, and our condemnation more righteous, if we stand upon the claims of Christ, because we have not answered to them. If we are to be saved by our estimate of Christ, by our response to His claims, by our appreciation of His love, we are worse off by far than if we were placed under the claims of the law of Moses.
But, blessed be God, it is not so. We are saved by grace-free, sovereign, divine, and eternal grace-not by our sense of grace. We are sheltered by the blood, not by our estimate of the blood. Jehovah did not say, on that awful night, "When you see the blood, and estimate it as you ought, I will pass over you." Nothing of the kind. This is not the way of our God. He wanted to shelter His people, and to let them know that they were sheltered-perfectly, because divinely sheltered-and therefore He places the matter wholly upon a divine basis; He takes it entirely out of their hands, by assuring them that their safety rested, simply and entirely, upon the blood, and upon His estimate thereof. He gives them to understand that they had nothing whatever to do with providing the shelter. It was His to provide. It was theirs to enjoy.
Thus it stood between Jehovah and His Israel, in that memorable night; and thus it stands between Him and the soul that simply trusts in Jesus now. We are not saved by our love, or our estimate, or our anything. We are saved by the blood, and by God's estimate of it. And just as Israel, within that bloodstained lintel, screened from judgement-safe from the sword of the destroyer-could feed upon the roasted lamb, so may the believer, perfectly sheltered from the wrath to come-sweetly secure from all danger-screened from judgement, feed upon Christ in all the preciousness of what He is.
But more of this by-and-by.
We are specially anxious that the reader should weigh the point on which we have been dwelling, if he be one who has not yet found peace, even as to the question of safety from judgement to come, which, as we shall see ( if God permit) ere we close this paper, is but a small part, though an ineffably precious part, of what the death of Christ has procured for us. We have very little idea indeed of how much of the leaven of self- righteousness cleaves to us, even after our conversion, and how immensely it interferes with our peace, and our enjoyment of grace. It may be we fancy we have got done with self-righteousness when we have given up all thoughts of being saved by our works; but, alas! it is not so, for the evil takes a thousand shapes, and of all these, none is more subtle than that at which we have glanced, namely, the feeling that we do not value the blood as we ought, and the doubting our safety on that ground. All this is the fruit of self-righteousness. We have not got done with self. True, we are not, it may be, making a saviour of our doings, but we are of our feelings. We are seeking, unknown to ourselves perhaps, to find some sort of title in our love to God, or our appreciation of Christ.
Now, all this must be given up. We must rest simply on the blood of Christ, and upon God's testimony to that blood. He sees the blood. He values it as it deserves. He is satisfied. This ought to satisfy us. He did not say to Israel, When I see how you be have yourselves; when I see the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the girded loins, the shod feet, I will pass over you.
No doubt all these things had their proper place; but that proper place was not as the ground of safety, but as the secret of communion. They were called to behave themselves-called to keep the feast; but it was as being, not in order to be, a sheltered people. This made all the difference. It was because they were divinely screened from judgement that they could keep the feast. They had the authority of the word of God to assure them that there was no judgement for them; and if they believed that word they could celebrate the feast in peace and safety. "Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them." Heb. 11: 28.
Here lies the deep and precious secret of the whole matter. It was by faith he kept the Passover. God had said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you," and He could not deny Himself. It would have been a denial of His very nature and character, and an ignoring of His own blessed remedy, had a single hair of an Israelite's head been touched, on that deeply solemn night. It was not, we repeat, in anywise a question of Israel's state or Israel's deservings. It was simply and entirely a question of the value of the blood in God's sight, and of the truth and authority of His own word.
What stability is here! What peace and rest! What a solid ground of confidence! The blood of Christ, and the word of God! True-divinely true;- let it never be forgotten or lost sight of; it is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit that the word of God can be received, or the blood of Christ relied upon. Still, it is the word of God and the blood of Christ, and nothing else, which give peace to the heart, as regards all question of coming judgement. There can be no judgement for the believer. And why? Because the blood is on the mercy-seat, as the perfect proof that judgement has been already executed.
"He bore on the tree the sentence for me,
And now both the Surety and sinner are free."
Yes, all praise to His name, thus it stands as to every soul that simply takes God at His word, and rests in the precious blood of Christ. It is as impossible that such an one can come into judgement, as that Christ Himself can. All who are sheltered by the blood are as safe as God can make them-as safe as Christ Himself. It seems perfectly wonderful, for any poor sinful mortal to be able to pen such words; but the blessed fact is, it is either this or nothing. If there is any question as to the believer's safety, then the blood of Christ is not on the mercy-seat, or it is of no account in the judgement of God. If it be a question of the believer's state, of his worthiness, of his feelings, of his experience, of his walk, of his love, of his devotedness, of his appreciation of Christ, then would there be no force, no value, no truth in that glorious sentence, "When I see the blood, I will pass over ;" for, in that case, the form of speech should be entirely changed, and a dark and chilling shade be cast over its heavenly lustre. It should then be, "When I see the blood, and . . . ."
But no, beloved anxious reader, it is not, and it never can be, thus. Nothing must ever be added-not the weight of a feather, the breadth of a hair, or the movement of an eyelash-to that precious blood which has perfectly satisfied God as a Judge, and which perfectly shelters every soul that simply believes what God says because He says it. If the righteous Judge has declared Himself satisfied, surely the guilty culprit may well be satisfied also. God is satisfied with the blood of Jesus; and when the soul is satisfied likewise, all is settled, and there is peace, as regards the question of judgement. "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." How can there be, seeing He has borne the condemnation in their stead? To doubt the believer's exemption from judgement is to make God a liar, and to make the blood of Christ of none effect.
The reader will note that, thus far, we have been occupied only with the question of deliverance from judgement-a most weighty question surely. But, as we shall see in the course of this series of papers, there is far more secured for us by the death of Christ than freedom from judgement and wrath, blessed as that is. That peerless sacrifice does a great deal more for us than keep God out as a Judge.
But, for the present, we pause, and shall close this paper with a solemn and earnest question to the reader-Art thou sheltered by the blood of Jesus? Do not rest, beloved, until you can answer with a clear and unhesitating "Yes." Remember, you are either sheltered by the blood, or exposed to the horrors of eternal judgement.