The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

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The Creation Concept

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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




The most marked providence of the forty years in the wilderness, was the manna. It was the time of man's provocation--yet such was the compassion of God, that he "did eat angels' food." [2] For forty years, was God grieved with Israel, yet for forty years, day by day, He gave them their bread from heaven. But now occurs a great change. The promise of God is fulfilled, that in this land they should eat bread, without scarceness.

The lessons contained in this change, are not the least in value of the many which crowd the fifth chapter of Joshua--making it like the cluster of the grapes of Eshcol. Among those lessons, the most obvious upon the face of the history are these. The cessation of the manna, marks a return from correction to comfort--from the extraordinary to the ordinary--from the direct provision of God, to His blessing upon their own efforts--yet all in such a way, as to indicate not less, but more, of His goodness.

But to revert to the history of the manna. In Egypt it was the abuse of God's bounty, that they "sat by the flesh pots, and did eat bread to the full." [3] The satisfaction of the lower wants of our being, though a part of the Creator's design, is never to become an object in life. Very good as the means which it was appointed to be--as an end, it is very evil. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," is the lowest possible valuation of life. The tendency of such a full supply, unbalanced by higher pursuits, is always to degrade the soul, to animalize the being, and to give the body an ascendancy over the spirit, instead of keeping it in subjection. Hence excessive fertility nearly always proves a curse.

But the food of Egypt was not only abundant, but gross and stimulating. Bodily appetite had a fearful dominion over the childhood of Israel. The "leeks and cucumbers" seem to have left a stronger impression on their memories, than the ten plagues and the Red Sea. Their murmuring for bread was their first sin. In the provision which the Lord graciously made for their need, He introduced a wise discipline. He could still have given them fulness of bread; but it was far better for them for a time to be trained to abstinence, and to utmost moderation. He gave them, therefore, but one sort of food, and that the lightest. The deep design of this was explained to them by Moses:--"He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." [4] In a profound significance, stretching far beyond their earlier sense, Christ used the last of these words in His own hunger. His first temptation was Israel's first, as well as our first and lowest. But even their weak understanding must have grasped a part of the meaning of Moses--Bread was not the chief necessity of life, and hunger was comparatively a small evil. They must be trained to know the needs, and the supplies, of soul life, and spirit life.

When Israel came out of Egypt, their life was little more than such as fish, and onions, and garlic could feed--little more than an animal life. It was not the plan of God to lead His people into permanent distress and poverty. He had promised them a land, full of all good things, where they should eat bread without scarceness. But for the present, scarceness of bread was the needful corrective. How hard that discipline was for them, and how necessary, we see soon afterwards, when that whole camp forgot the dignity of freedom and of manhood, and like so many spoiled children, absolutely cried aloud, because they did not like the food which God had given them. [5] It was needful to subdue such lust before He could proceed with their moral culture.

And then He fed them by other words out of His mouth. All His commands, and all His ways, were such words, and by every one was their being nourished and developed. He fed them by the very sublimity of their mountain path, as they marched downward to Sinai. By each grand form, and by each lovely tint, He fed both the strength and the tenderness of their nature. By all the routine of the journey, by all the closer companionships of lives set free from servitude, He fed them. By all the awe and terror of Sinai, and most of all by His holy Law, He fed them, and made them live. And they grew. Mental and moral manhood were developed. Even in their wanderings, when He had to give them so largely the bread of adversity, and the waters of affliction, they still grew; and most of all, in readiness of soul, to receive more real blessing from God. And now over Jordan, life was another thing for them. They had been lifted up in the scale of being. The correction had wrought out its purpose, and they could again be trusted with the good things of earth. So the manna ceased, and the corn ,and all the fruitage of Canaan were theirs. They had learned their lesson, that the life was more than meat. And now that they were ready for it, God gave them all that was needed to sustain such a life.

How easily one can picture the gathering of the families of Israel to their first repast, the day after the manna ceased--to partake, with an almost childlike pleasure, of the good things so long promised. And yet how all greediness would be held in check, by their reverent sense of God's own gifts. What thanksgivings must have gone up that day from the tables in the Camp of Gilgal!

The training of His people of old in this manner, is the pattern from which God still works, in His loving correction. Our outward bread is the natural symbol of all that can be called food in a wider sense; of all that comes to nourish up the life of our complex being--to develop it, and to strengthen it--embracing all that in this outward creation yields support of any kind to our nature--all the manifold providences of God, and events of life--all the influences of our fellow beings, and all that descends to us from God out of heaven.

It is a primary law of all organic life that it must be fed; and the higher it is, from the more sources must its supplies be sought. He who fixed these laws in our being, has at the same time created their supplies, and given us the instincts to seek them. So long as these instincts are natural and healthy, all that they desire must be good.

We may apply this to the manifold blessings of life--Health is good; Wealth is good; Happiness is good; and on the contrary, disease, poverty, and grief, are all in themselves evils, and the derangements of God's highest plan. But even the best things, even things the most needful, are good for us only when we are prepared to use them rightly. And as we take away from the sick child much of the food which was previously good, and do not allow his appetite to have its way, so God is compelled to take away from the being disordered by sin, many of His best gifts, since they would only increase the evil.

In this process by which He restores us, we are bound to co-operate. We must accept, not only with submission, but with sweetness, the medicine instead of food, the little instead of the much. So blessings suffer for the time a reversal. Thus poverty may be the present blessing, and God choose the poor of this world, to make them only rich in faith now--but in the return to the true estimate of things, heirs of a kingdom hereafter. Adversity may thus be the present blessing, but not the highest and truest--Prosperity is that. Light food and scanty, are these limitations of our being, pressing us on every hand.

But while we accept this humbling, and suffering of hunger, which come if need be--and how common is that need--we ought not to be content with their continuance beyond it. We need to distinguish in the work of God upon us, very carefully, between that which is directly progressive, and that which is remedial. From a neglect of this, have sprung the evils of asceticism, and the extremes of Puritanism. The sick man, who has found his medicine and spare diet agree with his weakness, does well to recommend them to the weak; but it would be quite another thing, to persuade the healthy and strong to adopt the same regimen.

"The Giving God" desires ever to give us His best; but that best is something altogether relative to our state. It is not judgment, but mercy rejoicing against judgment, that when man has broken the commandments, makes the flaming sword turn every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. But it is Love, that, when man is so blessed as to keep these commandments, gives him again the "right to the tree of life." Until we have the grace to receive and use God's gifts aright, it is better for us to be without them; but far better to be so restored as to safely use them--better for us, and better for His glory. So, then, when He gives us for our bread a light thing, and gives it by measure, we do well to ask Him that we may be speedily "humbled," and "proved," and "taught," that so we may, like Israel, pass on to richer and truer blessings.

But to pass to another lesson. There was to be no more an infantile dependence upon the provision of God. That bread from heaven had needed no sowing, no tilling, no reaping: it only asked to be gathered. Yet He led them not backward, but forward in privilege, in ordering that henceforth their supplies should bear a proportion to their own energies. Such is ever our Father's way with His children--first to work for them, and then to make them co-workers with Him. In giving us some of His choicest things, He absolutely requires this co-operation; and even doubles the value of His gifts, by the training and development of all our powers.

It is an utter mistake, therefore, to regard the Lord as any less the Giver, for giving to us through our own selves, as instruments. He may be all the more working for us, and blessing us, when He sets His gifts at a little remove from us, and even with many intervening obstacles.

Again, another kindred lesson here shadowed forth is this. It may seem paradoxical, but it is simply a matter of experience, that as our lives become more spiritual, they also become more natural, and there is less seemingly of the extraordinary about them.

But in this we do indeed see only in part. For Law, and Order, are but names which we give to the ways of God's working, so far as they have become familiar to us. Probably all the works to which we give other names, calling them miraculous, and supernatural, are equally within the range of Law and Order, as seen by higher intelligences. Just as the native of the Tropics knows some of the laws of water; while the savage of another zone knows an added law, which completely sets aside the others, and the ice-bound river is his easy path, instead of a perilous flood. The man of science finds out yet another law, and bids this same element carry him swiftly over land and sea.

So, as our spiritual apprehension enlarges, we note this change--the ordinary works of God appear more extraordinary; and the extraordinary, more in accord with the ordinary. In the latter, the element of mere marvel and astonishment fades from our minds, as we consider those laws that lie beyond our world, and how easy and natural are all things to Omnipotence. And in the former case, we come to understand, that His simplest handiwork is so full of skill, as to demand His constant supervision. Such recognition of the power, and present working of God in all common things, prepares us in the most healthy manner for a further insight into His hidden ways. How can one who has really confessed his Creator, doubt the possibility of any miracle? How can one who has watched the daily unfolding of His providences, doubt His interposition at any needful point?

Among the designs of miracles, a chief one seems to have been to call the attention of men to God. When they fell on their faces and cried, "The Lord He is the God," the end was sufficiently answered. A good example of this is the gift of tongues. It was all-important to bring the early Church to a clear recognition of the power and presence of the Spirit. This accomplished, their service ceased, except as they might be needed to produce a like effect on others. So St. Paul presents the case--"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not." [6]

But again, there are other signs to "follow them that believe," in which the object is to restore the order disarranged by sin. [7] The miracles of Christ were very largely of this class; as, for instance, all His works of healing. For this there was needed the momentary exercise of some new law, after which there would be an immediate return to the old laws, which had sufficed for their work.

In the case of the manna, both the above objects appear. That barren desert was an abnormal thing, not at all in the original perfection of God's works. For obvious reasons, He did not give it permanent fertility; but for the time, He made good the supply it should have yielded. Then, also, the other purpose was accomplished, that they clearly recognized God as the Giver of daily bread. And to those who had learned this, the gift of the manna would seem a simple thing, by the side of that munificence, which year after year brought forth from the rain of heaven, and the dust of the earth, the nutritious grain--the figs and pomegranates--the olive, with its golden soothing oil--the vine, with its purple kindling juice--and working on through the mysterious chemistry of animal life, made the land flow with milk and honey. But for the manna, they might have seen no miracle in all this--might have taken it as from Nature, and not from God. "There is not, indeed," as has been well said, "a miracle on record, that can compete with the miracles of Creation and Providence."

Moreover, it is most mischievous to become absorbed with the extraordinary--as happened in the Corinthian Church--and to prefer what is striking, to the simple and serviceable. Man, as a rule, can bear very little of the extraordinary. He is very apt to abuse it for some display.

And now to make these considerations more practical. Few persons, probably, pass through a full Christian experience, without some special display of the Lord's power. Most frequently this occurs at an early stage, or else at some subsequent marked period of growth, and anxiety is often felt at its withdrawal. Perhaps the soul was fed by some word of God, that fell clear as a Voice speaking from heaven. Perhaps some wondrous vision was spread out before the eye. But when this manna ceases, has God's bounty ceased? No, the new corn of the land, and all its fruits, are theirs. Only now He would have them search the Scriptures. He would have them meditate in His law. He would have them even wait for the precious fruit of the earth. And if they accept this ordering of their lives, they will find their souls led on to really richer blessings, for which the extraordinary visitation was only meant to prepare them. They become more simple, and more spiritual, at once.

Thus does the Master keep His disciples from straining their life to an unnatural pitch, where, unable to sustain it, they are nearly sure to break down altogether. There are lines of thought and experience which it is well for us to be trained to touch at times, but to be fastened there, would be the destruction of the soul.

And the Master Himself is our example here. Look at the life of the Lord Jesus. There were great crises in it--hours and days that were most extraordinary. Witness His Baptism, the Temptation, the Transfiguration. But as soon as the high occasion passes, His life moves on again, simply, and sweetly, without any strain. Indeed, notwithstanding all that so widely separates it from other lives, the intense naturalness of Jesus, is one of His chief human attractions.

We see this also in the life of Paul. There is no assumption, no cant, no attempt to act a part. He is real, throughout all the constant changes of his career. How cheerfully he comes down from his third heaven, to his thorn in the flesh. How humbly he owns his danger of getting exalted above measure.

It was a choice tribute that was lately rendered to a noble Christian woman, that "her natural life was so completely Christian, that her Christian life became completely natural." In truth, simplicity is a vital element in all greatness, most of all in that which is spiritual. It measures also very closely that which is lovable. Sanctimoniousness is a widely different thing from sanctity. The effort needed to support it in all its conventional proprieties, exhausts the resources of life. The nature is so spent in seeming, that it has no strength for being.

In eating the new corn of the land, there was a return to simple, natural ways. They turned from the Paschal feast to find their common life crowned with bounty. When once Christ has lifted us up to sit in the heavenlies, to eat His body, and to drink His blood, then He returns to sup also with us. When we have seen the slain Lamb in the midst of the Throne, we see Christ in all things. He fills and hallows the whole sphere of our humanity, so that henceforth we can call nothing unclean. In the most common things of life, "sanctified by the word of God and prayer," man may eat more than angels' food; and life in loving loyalty to Jesus, may become one long blessed sacrament. Of more than the broken bread may it be said, "Do this in remembrance of Me."

Every service which He appoints, every pursuit which He sanctions, every pleasure which He provides--all of these as we take them in His name, and for His sake, shall be to us like the corn and fruits of Canaan--more abundant and more luscious for all our care--and yet His own daily gifts, strengthening and refreshing us, and helping us to grow up into Him in all things. Bread without scarceness, food in richest variety, even the fat of the Land, shall the willing and obedient eat; for it is a high and complex being that is to be thus fed.

Such a view of our ultimate liberty will keep us, even in the midst of much present sacrifice and self-denial, free from all narrowness of spirit, and especially from its worst form, censoriousness. We can not always tell, who still needs to be fed with manna, and who may eat the fruit of Canaan. The correction and training of His children, rest with God alone; and few things are more difficult, than to judge the liberty or restraint of others. "Every creature of God is good"--This is the broad, true ground of liberty claimed by an Apostle. Yet practically--for inexpediency, for present necessity, for the weakness of others--who so ready as he, to "eat no meat while the world standeth."

"He who is weak eateth herbs." We may pity, but not despise him for it. Nor may this herb-eater, as is very common, judge him who believeth that he may eat all things. He is safe, while "he eateth to the Lord, and giveth God thanks."

Go, then, ye that are hungering, and gather the bread of the land. Feed first on Christ, and then on all He gives you. "Sow your fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase." Let even the fallow ground be made to bring forth your sustenance. Consecrate the wide field of life to Christ, and He will command His blessing upon it all. Give your all to Him, and then out of the hundred fold which He returns to you, let every faculty which you possess--your every power--your whole character and being--be built up, as becomes the noblest workmanship of God upon this earth.

But we come now to the deepest lesson to be drawn from this ceasing of the manna, and eating of the fruit of the land. Any view of it would be incomplete which overlooked Christ's own reference to it. "He that eateth me even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live forever." [8] Jesus Himself, then, is the true Antitype of the manna. To believe that Jesus is the Christ, to confess that He has come in the flesh, this is to have life. No soul that accepts Him in His life and death shall ever perish.

But Christ came not merely to give us life, but "life more abundantly." And as we follow on to know the Lord, we know Him not only as He that lived and died for us, but as the Living One--alive forevermore. And if His life and death were the very bread of heaven, and the stricken Rock, that saved us when we were ready to perish in our hunger and thirst, so also His resurrection life in Heaven, is as the rich and abundant fruit of Canaan. All of His life that lies upon this side Jordan is the manna, but the full fruition is Christ glorified. Yet only to one who has well learned the saving truth--"It is Christ that died," can there possibly be a greater--"Yea rather that is risen again." The manna had ceased for Paul, and he was feasting on the richer portion, when he said--"Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." [9]

It is impossible to receive the full knowledge of Christ, through what He was on earth. For He "humbled Himself"--"emptied Himself"--"had no form nor comeliness"--was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." All this was to cease--all power, all glory, all loveliness, all joy, all unsearchable riches, are in Him as our Lord in Glory.

Every one must have felt at times, that Christ's life did not, after all, touch our life at many points. We see why it could not be, but this does not quiet the longing that it might have been. How widely removed from our lives, for instance, as we know that God Himself orders them, in close family affection and dependence, and in all innocent pleasures, was the life of Jesus. We take our fill of the joy of social converse--we smile, and laugh,--and it almost startles us as we turn to our Great Example, to remember that no such record is given of Him. Nay further, there are many things which we do daily, which we do not like to think of Him as also doing. We would rather have it written that "Jesus wept," than that He smiled; and yet our very smiles are sad, unless they can somehow claim His sympathy.

But all that we miss in Him, in that short wilderness journey, we can surely claim as His, now that He has entered into His rest. His whole life was a losing of life for the Gospel's sake; and yet surely, as He said it should be with us, He kept it unto Life eternal. The Man Christ Jesus, mediating between God and man, walked this earth with the vow of a Nazarite upon Him--separated for His service sake from much of the very joy which He came to bring. The Nazarite, of old, might not drink the strong wine, nor even the juice of the grape, nor eat the moist grape itself, nor yet the dry; nor even so much as taste husk or kernel. [10] But this was only for "all the days of his separation;" "and after that, the Nazarite may drink wine." So also he might not shave his beard, and the long hair must mark neglect and subjection;--"Until the days be fulfilled, he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow." [11]

The days of Jesus' vow were the days of His life on earth, marked by the renunciation of social joys, and human honor. But His vow was ended when He cried, "It is finished." And now we may not think of the risen Lord as still a man of sorrows, nor count our Pattern, to be no more than the homely web of a Galilean life. His humanity has been glorified with the same glory, which already as to His divinity, He had with the Father before the world was. And far more glorious than the cunning work upon the veil of the Temple of old, is the work now wrought upon what was once His flesh. "The Glory Man" has risen infinitely above all that the highest culture of this world ever reached. All that God ever gave our human nature, has found its full and pure development in Him. And being all this Himself, we may not limit His sympathies with us, by what He once did, and was, on earth. He would have us even in this sense "through His poverty become rich."

The beginning of His miracles was not to remove human sorrow, or to heal disease; nor was it to meet a necessity of life, but to add to its festive joy. He who so late, would not so much as turn stones into bread, to satisfy the hunger of His long fast, turned water into wine, for those who had before "well drunk." Even so He waits to supply all our need, "according to His riches in Glory."

"Thou drawest all things to an Order fair;
The things we treasure most, with those our haste
Doth count for nought, alike in Thee are graced
With beauty past compare.

"For all grows sweet in Thee,
Since Thou didst gather us in One, and bring
This fading flower of our humanity
To perfect blossoming!" [12]

Let none for a moment think, that by turning thus to the glorified Christ we slight His life, much less His death. It is the manna first; next the Passover; then, all the fruit of the land: and the manna ceased not until they kept their Passover. Only through the gate of His death, can we pass to His joyful resurrection.

And let it not be forgotten that our Lord may call us also, for an appointed season, or even for a whole life, to the vow of a Nazarite. We may be keenly alive to the stimulus and delight of a high-toned social circle, and yet put this exhilarating draught aside--to go down the ranks of society, and give a cup of cold water to some little one. And beholding Art in her manifold attractions, conscious of some of her creative power, we may yet hasten from her temple--to make like Dorcas, garments for the widow, and to be "full of good works and alms-deeds."

And if God so call us, it shall only be our greater gain. It shall be no slighting, no wasting, of any gift He has given us. Many a seed of sacrifice bears its hundred-fold in this life: and those which can not, sown in Christ's grave, shall when we are glorified with Him, receive a life everlasting.

Faint shadow, then, of the fulness of our Lord, wert thou, O Land of Judea, in those days of thy bounty. Thy cool springs from the depths beneath, thy showers in their season, thy early and thy latter rain, thy fields of waving corn and the joy of thy harvest, thy trees with all their goodly-laden boughs, thy vines and the gladness of thy vintage, the excellency of thy Carmel and the glory of thy Lebanon--faint shadows in all ye gave of old, of what He gives, in whose Risen Life "WE LIVE, AND MOVE, And HAVE OUR BEING."


1. "The produce of the same year; i. e., the new corn."--Keil and Delitzsch.

2. Ps. Ixxviii. 25.

3. Exodus xvi. 3.

4. Deut. viii. 3.

5. See Numbers xi. 4.

6. 1 Cor. xiv. 22.

7. Christlieb, in his admirable volume on "Modern Doubt and Christian Belief," after showing that miracles belonged especially to "the epoch in which the Church was first founded," claims that in the work of missions "miracles should not be entirely wanting--nor are they. We can not, therefore, fully admit the proposition that no more miracles are performed in our day. In the history of modern missions, we find many wonderful occurrences which unmistakably remind us of the apostolic age" He goes on to give several pages of instances--See Lecture v., iii.

8. John vi. 58.

9. 2 Cor. v. 16.

10. Num. vi. 3, 4.

11. Num. vi. 5.

12. Poems, by the Author of "The Patience of Hope."