The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

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The Creation Concept

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Contents

Introduction

I. The land of Promise

II. The failure of unbelief

III. Change of Leadership

IV. The Boundary Line

V. The Triple Preparation

VI. The Ark of the Covenant

VII. Memorial Stones

VIII. The Reproach of Egypt

IX. The Passover in Canaan

X. The New Corn And Fruit of the Land

XI. Seeing The Captain

XII. The Good Fight of Faith

XIII. Failure and Mistakes

XIV. Choice Possessions

XV. The Last Charge of Joshua

CHAPTER III.

CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP.

MOSES MY SERVANT IS DEAD. NOW, THEREFORE, ARISE, GO OVER THIS JORDAN, THOU AND ALL THIS PEOPLE."--(Joshua i. 2).

In the lessons which are drawn in Holy Scripture from various events, there seems little care to bring even the moral antecedents into unity with the one point which supplies the instruction. In reality, Moses was excluded from the promised land because he spake unadvisedly with his lips. But in accord with Christ's own manner of teaching, [1] we are at perfect liberty to draw a lesson from his removal to give place to Joshua, as though this cause had not existed. Unquestionably his death at this critical period, and the raising up of a new leader whose very name anticipated Jesus, [2] were designed to teach us the separate spheres of Law and Grace--"The Law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ." [3]

As they could not possibly enter Canaan until Moses had died, so the Law is in one sense a hindrance. It can never introduce us into the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. It must not only die, but be buried, and all the days of its mourning must be ended. It might be objected to such an application of these facts, that had the people entered Canaan from Kadesh-Barnea, Moses would in that case have been their leader. But the same exception might be taken to many an inspired comment. The bare event itself, apart from cause or circumstances, is counted sufficient for "the analogy of faith."

And this special lesson, though not drawn for us by any inspired writer, is in the fullest harmony with their teaching. The whole Epistle to the Galatians is an earnest adjustment of the relations of Law and Grace--Works and Faith--Moses and Christ. One of the most important sections of the Epistle to the Romans deals with the same subject, entering into some of its deepest difficulties. In both of these Epistles the truth that is taught has special reference, not to conversion, but to Christian life. It is, in fact, at some of the advancing stages of his course, that the disciple begins to find his need of such strong protests against the law. The usual tendency is to run well for a season, and then to be hindered. And while many other things may at first cause the failure of God's children to enter their glorious inheritance, there can be no doubt that subsequently, by far the greatest hindrance is their legality.

The moment that faith ceases to look unto Jesus, it loses all that heavenly vision that lies above the horizon; and as the eye is still lowered, and the glance shortened, there is only self for it to rest upon;--not always self in its indulgent forms, but self in its sufficiency; self even in its denials; self in all its solitary struggles. The history of many a Christian has for its chief data his so-called holy resolutions.

So blinded are the victims of this legality that they never dream of such a snare being set for them. They find themselves convicted of failure. Stirred up by the power of the Spirit, the will is aroused from its carelessness, and returns to its loyalty to God. And then it begins to act in its own strength. It says to itself, "It shall no longer be thus; I will from this moment lead a better and nobler life; I will put forth all my efforts, and surely God will help me." And so this poor, humbled will regains its own selfrespect. It begins to build up a reputation for itself It does not see that this is self-reliance and not Faith.

Greatly to its astonishment it finds that it does not sustain this purpose. And now to its solemn resolutions it adds its vows. It will bind itself to God's will so that it can not break away. And lo! the vow is vanity. Now it adds intenser effort--"I must wrestle--I must struggle--it can not be that I am to go down before the puny power of these petty passions--that the things which I despise should yet master me." It is confounded when it finds that all these efforts only seem to call out the strength of its foe. Seeing that the battle is, indeed, desperate, it betakes itself more earnestly to prayer, but not to the prayer of simple trust. It is only a varied exercise of its own energy. It is only fulfilling one more of the many works which it is told it must perform. Its reliance is really more upon prayer than upon God. It is in utter consternation when it finds that even yet its help cometh not. What further can it do? It catches a watchword, "Believe only!" Ah! surely it has found the secret now! and leaving all else it will do this alone. Yes, it will believe, and it puts forth its last tremendous energy in what it calls an act of trust, but still self-originated, self-centred.

Thus every stepping-stone which God has furnished by which Faith may draw nigh to Him, Legality turns into a stone of stumbling. Its provided helps become its hindrances, and only by repeated defeat does it learn that the law is but a standard, and never strength. It brings with it no power to fulfil itself, and so becomes weak, indeed, through the flesh.

To say that it finds no ability in man to keep it, would be to deny all moral responsibility. To some extent it finds man able to observe in it its letter. But as the Law becomes Spiritual, as its significance unfolds, as the Law given at Sinai is expounded on the Mount, as it claims the thoughts and intents of the heart, it finds the utmost strength of man unequal to it. However meeting some of its requirements, yet in others failing, he is with all his care a transgressor.

And the wretchedness of this failure is that he does not do this evil thing of choice. To will the good is present with him, but how to perform it he finds not. It is another law warring within him, and bringing him into captivity. He is like the strong man upon whom insidious disease is creeping. His task is before him, and he applies himself without a misgiving of failure. A strange languor drags him down. He is not doing it as he ought, and again he bestirs himself. And as he still fails, he goads himself on even with violence. But at last the law of disease asserts its full might, and he falls powerless. Sin is a disease. It works through all our nature like a poison. The claims of the law were adjusted to health; and while under this disturbance there is the constant and inevitable failure to meet them all. The sick man must be healed before he can possibly fulfil the tasks of health.

Or, it is as when the frosts of winter still hold in their death-like grasp the trees of the forest and the seeds in the bosom of the earth. A law of growth has been given them. But this other law utterly opposes it. You place the perfect seed in the soil, and you ask it to fulfil the law of its being. It can not, until the soft showers have touched it, until the quickening rays of the sun have reached it. This law of growth is dependent upon powers that are to reach it from above. By itself it is a prisoner forever.

And so at last, man learns that the great law of his spiritual being is, that he shall live by Faith. He learns that his life is always derived, and always dependent. He learns that a power outside of himself, even the power of Christ, must be brought to bear steadily upon him, and so control him continually, if he ever fulfils his destiny. As he needed once a Justifier, so he always needs a Sanctifier.

When he sees at last that the help must be a Living Helper, when he ceases to ask, "What shall I do?" and cries instead, "Who shall deliver me?" he is very near his only possible answer--"Jesus Christ our Lord." He wages an unequal warfare till the law of sin and death is met by "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus." When this mighty Ally enters, the Usurper is mastered, and the soul is made free.

Henceforth weak as ever in itself, it learns what it is to be "strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man." Such words as, "Christ liveth in me," are now no vague and mystic speech, but the simplest expression of absolute truth. The death of Moses marked a new epoch. But it marks a more wondrous epoch in the history of our souls when we give up the law as our Leader, and are given over fully to the power of Jesus. In some respects it is a critical change, [4] for we need thoroughly to understand that thus we do "not make void the law," but ever "establish the law," till the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us.

Life is its own law. Lifeless things are fashioned from without. The Masterpiece of Architecture must be led slowly up--shaped with line and plummet, and squared and measured continually; and meanwhile, a tiny seed shall, without line or measure, or the touch of a human hand upon it, or the outward application of any law, shape itself into the perfect grace and symmetry of a forest tree. How it mocks all art! Art may copy its arching, interlacing boughs, Art may shape its lordly pillars also; but how shall it ever carve out those countless leaves, and keep them moving lightly in their airy dance! It is a thing of life. Its law was hidden in itself, and yet how true to law. The pattern once given by God to the parent stock is faithfully reproduced. Thousands of years ago God said, "Let the earth bring forth the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, and it was so." And it is still so. That which we watch with wonder is the continuous creation of God.

And such is the manner of that inward law by which fallen man comes to be "renewed after the image of Him that created him." Born again of incorruptible seed, it must develop in the likeness of that from which it is derived. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God." [5] It is a strong statement, but it is held to truthfulness by all the analogy of nature. It is the glorious law of the Spirit of Life. Wherever Christ is allowed to come, He comes with creative power, both killing and making alive. He comes in to be Himself all in all. He comes into our being with His Edict, "Behold, I make all things new!"

As a striking preparation for the removal of Moses, we find him in renewed authority. Deuteronomy is composed almost entirely of his words. There all God's dealings with His Chosen pass in solemn review. Then the Law is recapitulated, but with a significant change that may well be stamped in the title of the Book as a Second Law. It is given now not so much in threatening as in blessing. Richer promises cluster around it. It constantly anticipates the life of Israel in the Land of Promise. It is the Law less in its letter and more in its spirit; as, for instance, in the sixth chapter, where all the commandments are headed up in one that so wonderfully anticipates the Gospel: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." [6] The purpose of the Law stands out more clearly--"for thy good alway." And at length the Law clothes itself with the soft tints of the morning, and almost shines with the same glory that shines in the face of Jesus Christ, as God is spoken of as having a delight in them to love them, and as rejoicing over them for good.

And in this is prefigured the pathway by which the soul passes out into the fulness of Grace. A Deuteronomy is as needful a preparation as Sinai. The Disciple of the Law has not outgrown his tutelage till, from the mere use of rules, he passes to the deep principles that underlie them. The Law thus even revives in preparation for its passing, and with less of terror, and more of love, makes its claims to be more imperatively felt than ever.

And now it is almost ready to depart; and yet one thing remains to be done. There has come through all this discipline, this leading on and on, the most intense desire to reach the goal. Shall it have nc glimpse of all the grace it has been ministering unto? Even so Moses entreated the Lord-- "I pray thee let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon."

And so he stood upon the top of Pisgah, while the Lord, who stood beside him ready to give him burial, showed him all the land. The eye that was not dim received, doubtless, some new power as God bade him look-- "This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither." [7]

Not then, and not until his Lord summoned him from that valley sepulchre which none else knew, to climb another mountain, and appear there with a fellow-servant who had not tasted even death as he was taken up--both of them sharing now in their Lord's transfiguration; talking not of that mystic burial, not of that mysterious chariot of fire, but of that decease yet to be accomplished at Jerusalem. When Christ is glorified, Law and Prophecy appear with Him in glory; yet in such wise that their light is speedily absorbed in His, and the eyes that look see "JESUS ONLY," and the ears that hearken are bidden to "Hear Him."

In the first command that reaches Joshua after the death of Moses, we find an expression full of meaning--"Thou and all this people." Throughout the Book we never find the Lord speaking directly to the nation; but as the "Lord spake unto Joshua," so "he spake unto the people." It had been thus since they said unto Moses, "Speak thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us lest we die." [8] But not only is Joshua the mediator between the Lord and Israel, in the same manner that Moses was, but we find now a new identification between the Leader and People: He is included with them and they with him. "Go thou over this Jordan;"--"Be thou strong and very courageous;"--"I have given into thine hand Jericho." In all these charges the people also are signified, but as represented in him. And so the Record is fitly called, not the Acts of the Israelites, but the Book of Joshua. One person is pre-eminent.

The spiritual truth with which this is in harmony is of exceeding importance. Our Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not of any truth or blessing apart from Him. Standing as the Mediator between God and Man, not only has He entered into heaven for us, but also in every step of His pathway He took us with Him, saying evermore to His Father, "Behold I and the children whom thou hast given me!" [9]

And He did this not ideally, but in a sense as true as it is deep. That which was true of the parent tree, is true of its branches. We do not assign one age to its trunk and another to its twigs. We speak of it as a unit. This same continuity of life belongs to mankind. Thus St. Paul speaks of Levi paying tithes in Abraham. So, also, he says, "I HAVE BEEN crucified with Christ." So he reasons that if "One died for all, therefore all died." So he teaches us to reckon our rising into newness of life from His resurrection--"Ye were also raised again WITH Him." [10]

To Jesus was given the glorious work of conquering a possession for all His people. As the Prince of Faith, He passed through death to life, and took and held for us the heavenly heights of all spiritual blessing. Putting Himself as one of us, and speaking as the Head of the whole Body, He declared, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." [11]

So, then, the work of sanctification is primarily to be regarded as that which Jesus has already done, not as that which we have yet to do. The completion of it is simply this, that we apprehend that for which we were apprehended by Jesus Christ.

Thus, in Christ, Christian experience is no longer problematical. It is only the corollary of faith following from the truth which He has demonstrated.

The intellectual apprehension of this truth, however easy to some, appears to be extremely difficult to others. Yet its spiritual apprehension makes it simple to all. Let it once be clearly recognized by faith, and we stand forthwith upon new ground. No longer on the shifting sands of our narrow selfhood, we tread the Rock of Ages in all its breadth and strength.

It happens with this truth more often, perhaps, than with others, that we think ourselves perfectly familiar with it, while knowing very little of it. In its real revelation to our souls there can be no mistaking it. It is no longer a theory at which we look, but a Power that, like the living Creature in the wheels, lifts us up and bears us ever onward.

"Thou, and all this people."--"Christ first, afterwards they that are Christ's." And so our career is already certified, being only this, to follow Him whithersoever He goeth. God's promise links togethei the Leader and his followers when He declares, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you." [12] The feet of Jesus have outstripped our feet; but every place whereon His blessed feet have rested, is already conquered, and is ours as well as His. Life, death, things present, things to come, all are ours, for we are Christ's. Far above us, up the heights we slowly climb, we see His standard set already. "We see not yet all things put under us, but we see JESUS crowned with glory and honor." Since He is seated there, our place is there--at Sion, not at Sinai.

We set at naught all this work of Christ, when we go back to Moses, and with him exceedingly fear and quake before the terrible sight, and the trumpet of the Law. How has our Captain charged us,--"See that ye refuse not Him that now speaketh from Heaven." See that ye believe His truth and grace. See that ye trust Him, and let the exceeding fear give place to the exceeding joy of ever looking unto Jesus, the Prince and Perfecter of Faith.

Notes

1. See, for instance, the Parables of the Friend at Midnight, and the Unjust Judge.

2. "Instead of Hosea, i. e., help, which he was already called as the delegate of his tribe, Moses named him, with little change of the sound, but with an important addition to the sense, Jehoshua, i. e., God help."--Ewald.

"Such a union of mildness with strength, of simplicity with prudence, of humility with magnanimity, has in it something evangelical. This peculiarity of his character, together with the peculiarity of the period in the kingdom of God in which he lived, and of the position which he took, makes him and his work a rich type of Him that was to come."--F. R. Fay:-- Lange's Com.

3. John i. 17.

4. Olshausen's clear spiritual insight becomes especially powerful in his treatment of this subject--as, for instance, in these few detached passages: "The lofty aim of man, the dixaioavvri Oeov, is to be obtained without law through faith in Christ. By the ***, however, as is self-evident, it is not intended to express a renunciation of the law, for the law is holy and good, and necessary for all phases of life, but to designate the altered position in which man stands to the law The condition in which man is thoroughly one with the law, even as our Lord tells us God Himself is, constitutes exactly that ***, to which faith brings us, because through faith man receives the being of God into the depths of his soul."

"That which is new in the Gospel does not consist in a more excellent system of morality, but in this, that the Gospel opens a new source of strength, by means of which true morality is attainable."

"The death of the faithful in the old man is connected with the death of the Redeemer, so that His death was their death, and did not merely prefigure it As little as the wife may wantonly separate from her husband, since his death is requisite for her liberation : so little may the "I" free itself from the law as long as the old man is living. If this is done, therefore, as is always the case where a mere seeming laith prevails, it is a spiritual adultery, the lust after false freedom, that is, licentiousness, lawlessness. The liberation from the law rightly takes place only where the new man arose in the stead of the old, where, therefore, Christ is truly living in the man. There is no licentiousness, for Christ brings with Him the strictest law wheresoever He works; but the yoke of the law is removed by that love which is shed into the hearts. This love urges to do more than the law requires, and to fulfil every act with purer intention than the most threatening law can demand. For love is insatiable. She never satisfies herself and the Beloved; she burns on till with her fire she glows through the whole heart and being, and has sacrificed her all to the Beloved. After this manner works the Gospel all in man without law, although it exacts nothing from him, but only promises, and gives to him."--Olshausen on the Romans (Clark's Edition), pp. 143-231.

5. 1 John iii. 9.

6. Deut. vi. 5.

7. Deut. xxxiv. 4.

8. Ex. xx. 19.

9. Heb. 2:13

10. "If Christ took our nature upon Him by an act of love, it was not that of one, but of all. He was not one man only among men, but in Him all humanity was gathered up. And thus now, as at all time, mankind are, so to speak, organically united with Him. His acts are in a true sense our acts, so far as we realize the union; His death is our death, His resurrection our resurrection."--Westcott's Gospel of the Resurrection.

11. John xvii. 19.

12. Josh. i. 3.