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 VI.

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT.

"AND JOSHUA SAID UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, COME HITHER, AND HEAR THE WORDS OF THE LORD YOUR GOD. AND JOSHUA SAID, HEREBY YE SHALL KNOW THAT THE LIVING GOD IS AMONG YOU, AND THAT HE WILL WITHOUT FAIL DRIVE OUT FROM BEFORE YOU THE CANAANITES, AND THE HITTITES, AND THE HIVITES, AND THE PERIZZITES, AND THE GIRGASHITES, AND THE AMORITES, AND THE JEBUSITES. BEHOLD, THE ARK OF THE COVENANT OF THE LORD OF ALL THE EARTH PASSETH OVER BEFORE YOU INTO JORDAN."--(Josh. iii. 9-11.)

This it was that was to stay the waters--"THE Ark Of The Covenant Of The Lord Of ALL THE EARTH." Not till all the people had passed over, was the Ark of the Lord to pass over. The priests who bore it stood firm on dry ground, in the midst of Jordan, till all had passed.

The Ark here assumed its proper prominence. Hitherto a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire, by night, hovering over the Tabernacle, had guided them. Now the Ark itself was to go visibly before them, as the immediate symbol of the Living God, and the pledge of His presence and power in their midst. It was the most sacred portion, by far, of the hallowed structure. More fully than all else it represented Christ. Especially was it adapted to suggest His Person, and Presence, and to show forth His work, as living, as dying, and as alive forevermore.

In common with those other portions of the Tabernacle which represented Christ, the Ark was made of shittim-wood, and overlaid with gold. For everywhere the same blessed lesson is repeated--the union of the human and the Divine--the very man and very God. And yet it is the human nature that is overlaid and glorified by the Divine--taken into it and shielded by it, and so preserved and ennobled.

The Ark held also, in security, the Tables of the Law. This was, indeed, the office for which it was appointed; and nothing could so establish the high nature of Law, and so prove its essence to be the very mind of God, as to assign it a home in the most sacred spot of all, as the very regalia of His realm.

This same Law, as at first given, was broken by the people, before Moses could reach them with the written Tables in his hand--his own breaking of the Stones Only representing their breaking of the Covenant itself. The second set of Tables was not entrusted to the hands of men, but was placed at once in the Ark, which was prepared before he went up into the mount. [1] Thus, till Christ came, every man who touched the Law broke it; and though it were the least of the Commandments, yet was he "guilty of all." That is to say, it mattered not through which line of the Law the fracture ran, or whether its fragments were small or large, broken anywhere it ceased to be a whole. It was dishonored throughout. But Jesus came and fulfilled all righteousness. He so hid the Law in His heart, that there was never the slightest fracture of either Tablet--never a sin against God or against man. In Christ first, was exhibited that new Covenant, in which the Law should be put into the mind, and written in the heart. It was so written in the mind of Christ, that He had perfect knowledge of the Law (an aspect of obedience often greatly overlooked), and it was so put into His heart, that He had perfect love of it. He came, saying, "I delight to do thy will, O my God!" This was His life-work through all its phases of waiting, and working, and suffering.

But the Mercy-seat rested upon, and covered the Ark. Mercy could find a basis where the Law was fully kept. Mercy and Truth there met together He who was first the antitype of the Ark, in fulfilling the Law in His life, became then the antitype of the Mercy-seat as set forth in His death for a propitiation [2] for sins. He honored the Law by His own keeping of it, and then, as the far greater task, honored it by atoning for the sins of those who had broken it. The great truth taught by the Mercyseat, is exhibited in the sprinkling of the Blood upon it, on the great day of Atonement.

But still a further task remained--to provide for the keeping of this Law, by those who were forgiven their iniquities; and this glorious truth is exhibited in the two Cherubic figures, which formed the completion and crown of the Mercy-seat. "Beaten out of the matter of the mercy-seat" as a part of it, their signification must be kindred with its own. They plainly represent some provision of the great salvation from sin. In form and posture, they present as clearly as possible, the idea of living and reigning. Now the living, reigning Jesus has still this other work to do in honoring the Law, to enable His people to keep it, by writing it also in their minds and hearts. In this great office the Holy Spirit is His Co-worker. So we behold the upper portion of the Mercy-seat assume the form of two Cherubim, with outspread wings, and faces toward the Mercy-seat. Between them God dwelt. Thence He shone forth. And while we should tread softly amid such sanctities as these, of which even an Apostle did not see fit to "speak particularly," one can not but feel that any interpretation falls short, which fails to recognize the manifestation of Divine Natures--not in similitudes, but in symbols. They were a part of the Mercy-seat--they were enthroned--they stood in closest proximity to the Invisible God. They could not signify angels, for angels have no share in the high office of Salvation; to angels God has not put in subjection the world to come. But in these immediate supporters of the Most High--these Indicators of the Invisible--we can recognize no lower beings than the very Sharers of His own Being--Christ and the Spirit.

We are not for a moment to think of these Cherubim, as suggesting any likeness of their persons, but simply set forth as symbols of their offices, as was everything else in this structure. And so they stand erect, as full of life. They spread out their wings, for they are full of all holy activity. Their faces look one to another, and toward the Mercyseat; for in their holy fellowship, their one aim is to develop this work of atonement to its richest results of righteousness. It is the Risen Jesus, and it is His Holy Spirit, who have now to carry out the Covenant in the hearts of men. They alone can write it there. They alone can give true knowledge of what it is. They alone can incline the heart to heed it. Those who are redeemed from the curse of a broken law, find their refuge here. They come under the protection of Christ and the Spirit. Their Power and their Presence are the wings that overshadow them; as their Lord Himself has promised, "All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth;" and, "Lo I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the world."

In the Ark of the Covenant, then, we behold the entirety of Christ's relation to the Law, as developed in three great parts. We see at once a LIFE which is our perfect pattern; a Death which is our perfect propitiation; and a Living Forevermore, which is our perfect provision for living also; even the twofold might of an Advocate with the Father, and another Comforter with us. [3] Under those outspread wings, our human life expands to meet the measures of things divine. This is the security that we have now in Christ; and hereby we know that the Living God is among us, and will, without fail, drive out every enemy before us.

In this same Ark, as placed afterwards in the Temple, we find some significant changes, at which it may be well to glance. The Cherubim are there made of , olive-wood, overlaid with gold, instead of being as in the Tabernacle, all of gold. As man, Christ does not yet reign; but when He so reigns, we shall reign also. The Temple sets forth the greater glory of His Kingdom, when firmly established. Redeemed man in that Kingdom, "when the Son of Man shall come in His glory," is to be even enthroned. [4] They that have part in the first resurrection, ar,e to "live and reign with Christ." Upon the right hand of the King is to stand "the Queen in gold of Ophir." [5] Christ, the Bridegroom, is to present unto Himself "a glorious Church," as His chosen Bride. [6] Now, it is Christ and His Spirit, who reign, by virtue of their Divinity, as shadowed in the temporary structure of the Tabernacle, where the Cherubim were all of gold. But then it will be the "olive-wood overlaid with gold." As the wood is the emblem of humanity, so the olive-wood symbolizes its interpenetration by the Spirit, which found one of its most appropriate figures in the oil-olive. Christ through the Holy Ghost taking our nature upon Him, and we through the Holy Ghost becoming partakers of His Divine nature--He, the only begotten, Eternal Son of the Father, born of woman, and we born again of God, are yet to be brought into that wondrous union, which is by preeminence the "great mystery" of the Gospel, as well as God's "eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord." Christ is yet to be all for His Church, and His Church all for Him. Few know this hope of their calling-- none unless God hath revealed it unto them by His Spirit. To all others it is as an idle tale, heard, but neither believed nor understood.

The Ark of the Covenant, then, that goes before us is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a glorious thing to have a Covenant embodied in a Person, to have the "exceeding great and precious promises" made secure to us in a still more precious Promiser.

But the Ark of the Covenant, borne on before all the people into the opening pathway, told not only of Jesus, but of Jesus as our Forerunner--the first to pass through the barriers that shut us out from our inheritance. He went down first of all, setting His feet in the brim of the waters, as our Priest, and the Prince of Faith. He passed on into the flood, that swelled for Him beyond all bounds, as it never swelled before or since, and never can again. For He touched the waters of sorrow, that they might henceforth be cut off, and our sorrow turned into joy. He touched the waves of Temptation, and they rolled away beneath His feet. He met the Tempter, only that He might depart from him, and that his works might be destroyed. He touched the billows of death, and they also rolled far away. He tasted death, only that through death, He might destroy him who held its power. Every high wave that was ready to overwhelm humanity, was stayed as the Son of man entered.

For while the Lord Jesus went before us as the Son of God, He went also as Man, and as the Representative of Man. It is therefore the Baptism of Humanity that we witness in His own. As the Son of man, He rested entirely upon the power of the Spirit. Conceived by the Holy Ghost, He could live a sinless human life. Baptized by the descent of the Spirit, at His baptism in Jordan, He went "in the power of the Spirit" to His ministry of words and works. And yet He had still another baptism to be baptized with, so emancipating, so glorious, that He could only say, "How am I straitened till it be accomplished." [7] Therefore, when through the Eternal Spirit, He offered Himself without spot unto God, then the Body also shared in the wondrous power. It could not be holden of death; it rose, passed into new freedom, was transfigured, spiritualized. For forty days on earth, and ten in heaven, the work went on. And now, as soon as the rich anointing oil that was poured forth, had covered the head of the great High Priest, then it began to flow down to the skirts of the garments. So when Jesus was glorified, the Holy Ghost was given.

Henceforth, there was a new mold for man--the Son of Man glorified. Whatsoever He was, or will be as man, that He would have us also become. And wheresoever He goes, there it is His will that we should follow. The exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe, is only to be measured by what "He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places." Nor let our faith falter, as this measure reaches on and on--"far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; "--and still on--for "He hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." [8]

These are not the words of ecstatic song, but "the words of truth and soberness." And yet, how shall the Christian be persuaded of them, and embrace them? --for there are multitudes who miss them. In their narrow thought, and in feeble faith, they see not the great object of God in drawing nigh unto us in the flesh. They put Him back again far from them. They receive the blessing of His humanity, so far as to claim in Him the friend of sinners; but they do not let Him come nigh enough to be truly their brother--much less are they looking for Him, and making ready for Him, as the Bridegroom. [9] They still measure their risen life by their old life, and forget that Christ leads us on to that true ideal of man which first appeared in Him. It is a new path to a new glory. None of us has "gone this way heretofore;" for man was not created thus, nor has he ever been able, nor will he ever be of himself, to reach such a height. It is the calling of the Church, even to be FOR Christ, IN Christ, LIKE Christ, and WITH Christ forever.

Yet, let it never be forgotten, that a reverent space was to be left between the people and the Ark. The Ark was to stand in its solitary majesty, upheld so high upon the shoulders of the Priests, that while supporting it, they should not screen it. And then, two thousand cubits intervened between it and their pathway. "Come not near unto it," was the charge, "that ye may know the way by which ye must go." [10] In all our drawing nigh unto God, we are never to lay aside the "reverence and godly fear." Whenever mysticism, in her extreme forms, has forgotten this, there has invariably followed, first, the indulgence of self, and then, that which Neander has so aptly called "The gulf of pantheistic self-deification." [11]

A vast space must ever lie between our derived and dependent life, and His life and glory, who is God over all, and never will the life which is so closely united with His, become identical.

But while the Ark upborne in Jordan teaches us such wondrous truth, another touch of power is given to the picture, in its tarrying till all was accomplished. "For the priests, which bare the Ark, stood in the midst of Jordan, until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua; and the people hasted and passed over." [12] All these glorious provisions of the Gospel stand secure, till all the ransomed have learned the power of Christ's resurrection. Not only has the Lord Jesus gone before us to prepare our way, but He sits at the right hand of God, "waiting until His enemies be made His foot-stool." [13] How majestically calm and patient those waiting years of Christ, because so confident. When He purposed to crown His Temple with this High Tower of the Church, He counted the cost, and found that He had sufficient to finish it.

The looker-on, knowing little of Divine Art, may "despise the day of small things," and often question if the Gospel has not failed in the accomplishment of its full design. But a word has been spoken more sure than that of any earthly builder: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, his hands shall also finish it." [14] Those blessed hands have never laid down the work. Whether it be a day, or a thousand years, it is all one in His sight. He waits, while to so many His "long-suffering is salvation;" He waits, and as the long procession of His followers files on, He ever reassures their hearts, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the world!" He waits, until "everything be finished." The great Architect will eventually suffer no blemish, and no lack, in His great work. And as once when He laid the foundation, upon His cross in Sacrifice, He cried aloud that it was finished, so will He yet cry louder with the shout of exceeding joy, when the whole Salvation is finished. "He shall bring forth the head-stone thereof'with shoutings, ciying, Grace, grace, unto it." [15] And that which is true for the Church which is His body, is true for each member of it. The Apostle Paul might well say to his beloved Philippians, "I am confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it, even until the day of Jesus Christ." He has learned very little of the character of Christ, who can think of Him as possibly forsaking the works of His own hands. The prayer of David that He would not do it, was one of full confidence, for it is preceded by these words of trust, "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy Mercy, O Lord, endureth forever." [16] And yet, while this is absolutely true, it is possible upon the other hand, to "frustrate the Grace of God" in our individual growth, and so even while saved, to suffer loss; and possible also, to delay His coming for His Church. [17] Blessed are all who can say in sincerity, "I do not frustrate the Grace of God."

In the history of this crossing of Jordan, there is a beautiful conjunction of God's waiting, and of man's hastening. The Priests and the Ark stood still; but "the people hasted and passed over." Many commentators assume that they hastened from fear. But while the form of the verb does not in the least indicate this, it would also be out of all harmony with the history. Hastening for fear, when so many miles above them the bed of Jordan lay dry! Hastening for fear, when they saw the Ark of God and His Priests far nearer any possible danger than themselves! Hastening for fear over Jordan, when their fathers had marched through the flood of the Red Sea on foot, rejoicing in God! Such haste would have been both utterly unseemly, and an evil omen for the conquest. There were other reasons for making all possible haste. Were they not keeping the priests of God with their arms outstretched, to bear up their holy burden? And moreover, there, distinct before them, beautiful in the soft, rich light of the early morning, lay the homes, and vineyards, and fields, which they were to possess. It was but a little space to cross--they could see the very flowers bowing with the weight of the dew--a little space, and an open path. A few steps, and their feet would be in Canaan; a few moments, and the weary waiting of years would end. As the tired laborer hastes at the first glimpse of his home, so must they have hastened. There may have been, also, some innocent rivalry to be among the first to touch the further shore. All these motives, indeed, might easily combine as they hastened and passed over. And shall not the thought that Jesus waits, till all be gathered in--waits, without coming yet "in His power and great glory"--waits for His coming and His espousals--shall not this thought stir up His Church, not only to be looking for, but hastening His coming? By all the diligence we give to make our calling and election sure-- by all our diligence in adding to our faith the graces that complete it--by all our hastening to pass over and share the risen life of Christ, and receive the fulness of His blessing, do we at the same time render it possible for Him to hasten? The love of Christ constraining us, will urge us onward. And who that has had "the eyes of the understanding opened," to behold what are "the riches of the glory" of this inheritance in Christ Jesus, would not fain 'to his speed add wings,' that he might enter it, and at once possess it?

When Israel came out of Egypt, two opposite commands were given to them: the first, "Stand still and see the salvation of God;" the second, "Speak to my people that they go forward'' So again, upon the banks of Jordan, there were days of quiet resting, before they could hasten and pass over. No one can ever go forward in the strength of God, till he has first stood still in his own utter helplessness. But when the call is heard, and the promise given, then go forward he must, or forfeit all before him. All these gracious promises, so ancient, so often renewed--all the provision for the future in the land--all this patient preparation--all the stay of God's presence and power--all these are forfeited, if he fail to go forward in the obedience of faith. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

Most ruinous to faith, is that serious sentimentality which admires the truth, studies it, teaches it, and even thinks to hold it as its own; but does not after all suffer itself to be possessed by it. Truth asks for no patronizing. It calls for humble, submissive, loyal hearts. Its command is, "Go forward--Hasten." And, indeed, it is not enough that we go forward. We must also HASTEN, if the fulness of blessing is ever to be ours. We are solemnly told that only as we "give diligence," shall we make our calling and election sure; that only as we "show the same diligence" shall we have "the full assurance of hope unto the end." Respecting this very type we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Let us, therefore, hasten [18] to enter into this rest;" and again, we learn how it is that in "giving all diligence" "an entrance shall be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom." [19]

The Lord of the Covenant passing on before us at once our Ark, our Priest, our Leader, calls to His halting disciples, "Follow me--FOLLOW ME." And "he that believeth shall not make haste" [20] for any fear; but for the joy of following Him, whithersoever He goeth, "thy children shall make haste!" [21]

Notes

1. Deut. x. 1-5.

2. (Rom. iii. 25) Uaari/piov; i. e., Mercy-Seat. Compare Heb. ix. 5.

3. Cf. John xiv. 16, and I John ii. I--In both napcucAifroc.

4. Rev. iii. 21.

5. Ps. xlv. 9.

6. Eph. v.

7. See on this interpretation of Luke xii. 50, some extremely interesting thoughts on "the Glorification of Christ "in Chap. xv. of Jesus and the Coming Glory, by Joel Jones, LL.D.

8. Eph. i. 19-23.

9. Rev. xix. 7.

10. Josh. iii. 4.

11. The whole passage in which he traces "the very thin and subtle line which often separates truth from error," is a profound analysis of the tendency referred to. See his "Church History "(Clark's Ed.), Vol. IX., pp. 535-6.

12. Josh. iv. 10.

13. Heb. x. 13, Mexo/ievos.

14. Zech. iv. 9. "It must be remembered in reading these prophecies that as David is the type of Christ, and not only so, but Christ Himself is also called David by the Prophets, so Zerubbabel (the seed of David, and leader of the people from captivity, and builder of the Temple) is not only a type of Christ, but Christ is called Zerubbabel."--See Bishop Wordsworth's Minor Prophets.

15. Zech. iv. 7.

16. Ps. cxxxviii. 8.

17. Cf. 1 Cor. iii. 15, and 2 Peter iii. 12. See Dean Alford's Greek Testament upon onevdovros, in the latter passage, which he renders thus: "Hastening the advent of the day of God." If it be possible to hasten Christ's coming it is also possible to hinder it.

18. Heb. iv. Ii, Zizovddoutiev--elsewhere rendered, be diligent.

19. 2 Pet. i. 5-11.

20. Is. xxviii. 16.

21. Is. xlix. 17.