The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

+ Larger Font | - Smaller Font

The Creation Concept

Single file



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


Seeing The Captain.


The preparation of Israel for the Conquest has been traced step by step, but it is still incomplete until the Conqueror is seen. It would almost appear that Joshua stood by Jericho, lifting up his eyes, and looking in some expectancy. Certainly he had been prepared for this by all the previous revelations of the Law. He had learned of Him as Creator, by all His manifest mastery over His own works; he had learned of Him as Ruler, drawing very nigh to man in government, and judgment; he knew also of that holy Presence between the Cherubim; but the promises of God pointed to a still more personal manifestation.

It had been said to Moses at Sinai, "Behold I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him." [2] This promise which plainly indicated the Lord Himself, was withdrawn after the sin of the golden calf, and some angel of lower order substituted:--"I will send an Angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee." [3] The mourning of the people over these evil tidings, and the intercession of Moses, resulted in the restoration of this blessing;--"My Face shall go, and I will give thee rest." [4] It was as Isaiah tells us--"The Angel of His Face saved them. In His love and in His pity, He redeemed them: and He bare them and carried them all the days of old." [5]

When the Lord thus renewed this promise, it was in the cloudy pillar at the Tabernacle door, speaking unto Moses "face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend." Joshua, who remained always near at hand, must have heard the promise, and must, have known also of the vision which followed it in the Cleft of the Rock. That promise now belonged to him; for as given at first, it had made mention of these nations now before them, and declared that they should be thus cut off. Was not this the time of need? Was not the enemy within their very sight?--where was the Angel then? How the prayers of his heart must have been poured out, as he stood and looked. What sign would the Lord give him? If His Face was there, would He show it? Not in great glory, not even in angelic might, did the Lord appear; but so simply, so humanly, that Joshua saw only that He was a stranger. That sword in His hand meant warfare. But was it an enemy, or was it indeed some helper sent by God? And now he learns that it is no earthly captain, but the great Leader of all the heavenly hosts of God. Joshua may remain the Captain of Israel's forces, but meantime another Captain, and another army, are to fight their battles for them, and subdue the Land.

There had been previously no manifestation of Jehovah, which so mingled the human and the Divine. Never before had one with the form and voice of a man, called upon man to render him the honor given to God only.--Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and no voice restrained him, saying--"See thou do it not;" but, "the Captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so." [6] Moses had done this, when God called to him out of the midst of the burning bush; but now a man worships a seeming Man: this heralds the Incarnation and anticipates the Gospel. In the revelation of this Person--this Prince--the blessed preparation for possessing the land clearly culminates.

It is true that the eyes of one man only, saw this Captain; but in some sense he saw for all his people: he saw Him but for a few moments, and yet he saw for all those years of warfare. Never in any coming hour of battle, could he forget that there before them stood One, whose sword it was inconceivable that any foe could resist. Nor could he ever feel again, that further responsibility rested upon him, than faithfully to follow. Another led them on; Another gave command; Another always conquered. There are often sudden revelations to the soul, which contain the strength of years to come--which, like the lightning flash in the darkness, reveal the path, where the feet may tread safely, long afterward. To have seen the Lord, though for a moment, that is to be strong for a whole life.

In granting such a revelation to Joshua, as a personal privilege, the Lord recognized a very real need in our nature. The heart instinctively demands a Person, as the object of its trust, and the closest possible knowledge of that Person. You give to such a craving heart a creed; it may be well, but it is only another need that you have met. You give it doctrine; you give it the various relations of truth; it gathers up its treasure, and still is full of longing; for this human heart is all alive, and can find communion only in life. You go further still, and give it the clearest teaching of a Personal Christ, and of the absolute personality of the Spirit; but only all the more will it reach out beyond even this, and say-- "My heart and my flesh crieth out for The Living God!" "We would see Jesus" is the demand of the most distant, who have heard of Him afar off; and it is the one overmastering desire of those who have come the nearest.

In what way, then, and to what extent, has Christ provided for the satisfaction of this desire? The Incarnation has met it in part. The foundation for it was laid very solidly in that mystery--"God manifest in the flesh." Nor is the blessing of that manifestation at all limited to the brief period in which it was a present fact; it reaches back through all the time, in which Prophecy pointed expectantly to the Coming One, and forward through all the ages to which the testimony of His life is handed down. Apart from the basis of such a fact, a spiritual revelation could have little power: all would be vague and shadowy, and there could be little vividness of mental or spiritual apprehension. But this the Incarnation has secured; and the blessedness of it has been emphasized for us, by the one who knew it beyond all others, and yet sought to share it with all--"That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we looked upon, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life--(And the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness of it, and declare to you that Life which is eternal, the which was with the Father and was manifested to us) --that which we have heard and seen, we declare to you also, in order that ye also may have communion with us." [7] Such a reality, preserved by such testimony, may transmit to an unlimited future the fellowship of Christ. Jesus has lived upon this earth; and the simple- belief of this record by all those whose eyes never saw Him, brings a blessing not surpassed by theirs who because they saw, therefore believed. Bethlehem and Calvary share in the mysterious nature of Eternity, stretching backward and forward.

But the outward manifestation of Christ is not our sole need;--there is still a deeper, which not even the endless perpetuation of His life upon this earth, could have met. "It is expedient for you that I go away," said Jesus--expedient, because He must reveal Himself, both more intimately, and more universally, to His own. He must come in such away, that not only in Galilee and Judea, may great multitudes behold Him--but that over all the earth, without any intervening space for the foot to travel, wherever a longing eye is lifted, there it shall see Jesus. He must come, moreover, in such a way, that something more precious even than outward presence--His spirit, His inner life--may be revealed, and revealed also to that which is highest in us--our spirit. Even when outwardly manifested, there was no true perception of Him without this. When Peter confessed Him as Christ, the Son of the living God, it was the Father who revealed it unto him. So also no man was ever to be able to say that Jesus Christ was Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. It was an inestimable blessing to St. Paul, to be added as last of the many hundred witnesses who saw the Lord in His resurrection Body; [8] but it was a. blessing even beyond this to have Christ revealed in him. [9] Unquestionably the fullest revelation of all will be that which will combine both of these; and while we exult in the glorious manifestation of Christ through the Spirit, we may not forget that the true Apocalypse is yet to come. Not till He who has redeemed our Spirits, shall have redeemed our Bodies also, can we see Him as He is--"face to face." But being what we now are, the manifestation through the Spirit, is a richer blessing than was given in the days of His flesh. While we wait for His coming to receive us unto Himself, we know that He has said of that time of waiting--"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me." [10]

What then is the nature of this coming?--Is it to be a mere influence, reaching us from One who dwells afar off?--Is it only thinking of the Lord Jesus, and giving Him a place in our hearts--nay, enshrining Him in our deepest affections?--A strange question is this to ask, in the face of such promises; and yet this is the poor pittance that many gather from His blessed words! And they will tell you, how when a. beloved earthly friend goes far from you, your thoughts will follow still to the other side of the globe, and so bring the cherished presence back; that his image will abide in your heart; his life as you have known it still influence your life; so that still he seems ever with you;--and that even thus it is that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.

All this is true, but it is only a tithe of the great spiritual truth.--We see at once that were there nothing beyond this ideal presence, we could never claim for it a real personality. But this personality it was that Jesus promised, and so carefully reiterated--"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you:"--"He the spirit of truth shall come." It is not only our thought following Him into His heavenly home; it is not only His thought constantly fixed upon us in the midst of His glory--but it is a Power, it is a Presence--it is a Person who comes--"I will come"--"I will see you"--"I will manifest myself."

And in this last form of promise, He clearly gives us to understand that we should have perception of His presence. He would make His coming clear and satisfying to our souls--a substance, not a shadow. He would give an evidence which should appeal not indeed to bodily senses, but to spiritual: He implies that they also are trustworthy; that as the sight, and hearing, and touch, are accepted as soundest evidence, unless the witness be disqualified by bodily or mental disease--so a spiritual sense, more subtle, but not less sure, should attest the reality of spiritual things. Not only are we warranted in accepting such impressions as conclusive to ourselves, but there may be results which shall become appreciable evidence to others. The words of Jesus respecting our being born of the Spirit, may apply to every subsequent manifestation of His--"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:" Something shown, and something secret--concealing, even while revealing--this is for the present the manner of the Spirit, and the way of all Divine manifestations. The evidence is addressed to Faith; and while there will always be enough to meet its needs, the false demands of Reason will not be met. Such a manifestation can never be less than a mystery but it is one of the mysteries which Christ has said should be given to us to know. How clearly is such evidence contrasted by St. Paul with that of the senses, and yet claimed to be equally reliable--"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard"--"but God hath revealed by His Spirit;" and again we have the same contrast, and claim--"What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." To make this still clearer, it is added--"The natural (psychical) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he knew them, because they are spiritually discerned." [11] No words could well make it plainer, that both the revelation, and the perception, are God's gifts to the believer; that in receiving spiritual life, he receives new powers, and new senses;--in fact, an absolute enlargement and elevation of his being. Yet it is also shown to be necessary, that by reason of use these senses should be exercised. In the fact that they are so often neglected, lies the explanation of very much of the weakness and helplessness of those, who in these respects are babes, when they should be men of full age. Yet how difficult for one to describe what sight and hearing are, to the blind and deaf; and almost more difficult still to convey their nice discriminations, and most delicate perceptions, to untrained eyes and ears.

That the soul has such a perception, that such manifestations of Himself are given by Christ, has been in all ages the clear consciousness, and calm testimony, of those who have walked most closely with God. No one can call in question the fact, that under the old Dispensation, such knowledge of heavenly things was repeatedly given; -- that not only Prophets, but many a humbler servant of God, saw and heard far beyond the range of his natural senses. Surely that which was extraordinary and exceptional then, was never designed to utterly vanish with the personal coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ's own announcement to Nathaniel teaches us quite otherwise: His new follower marvelled because Jesus had seen him under the fig-tree; but the time had come, when His disciples should not only be seen, but see.--"Verily, verily, I say unto you, HENCEFORTH, ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." [12] Nor dare we limit these words to spiritual sight: the Body which is hallowed as a Temple by the indwelling Spirit may have its vision also; and- it is not for us to say, how soon it shall be given, or how far it shall be able to reach. One memorable instance we have of its power, when Stephen, "being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." [13] And if we may judge at all from wellavouched records in the past, and from the sacred scenes that are cherished in so many memories of the living, there must have been thousands upon thousands since Stephen fell asleep, who ready to depart and be with Christ, had not only spiritual vision of Him--but as if in pledge and foretaste of their resurrection, knew the Spirit so to quicken their mortal bodies, that the eye saw, and the ear heard. Cherished as such instances rightly are, as sacred secrets by the survivors, they can not be discredited by thousands of others that might be cited, of the hallucinations of unbalanced and unregulated minds; though even in these instances what may be the residuum of truth, and how far the Lord may condescend to great weakness and ignorance, it is not always safe for us to judge. [14]

But such questions lie beyond the subject properly before us, which is that of such a spiritual manifestation of Christ to our spirits as shall be both sensible and sure. The witnesses of this reality are beyond suspicion, and they are many, albeit not multitudes.

That the world at large knows nothing of all this, is in precise accordance with the limitations of the promise--"Whom the world can not receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him." Again that all the children of God are not conscious of such a presence, that with many it is rare or interrupted, and with others so faint as to bring little assurance, is also precisely what we might infer from the condition of the promise--"How is it," asked one of his Lord, "that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." [15] Once more--"He that followeth Me," said Jesus, "shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." [16] Will not those who love most, know most of the Holy Presence? Will not those who follow closely, see much; and those who follow afar off, see little? And yet there are instances of apparently close walking, where the Heavenly vision is not given: there are loving souls that can find no link between them and their Lord, more real and living than His Word which He has left them. Baffling as are some of these cases, yet in many of them--only He who searches the heart can know whether in all or not--there are visible hindrances. Such a hindrance, is the assertion of the natural powers beyond their proper province; for Reason, and keen Analysis are out of their sphere in this Presence. When they are even applied to the experience of others, the sensitive soul shrinks from them as from the horror of a vivisection. Especially is there a lack in many of that childlikeness of spirit, which is always foremost in privilege--the readiness and the receptivity of the guileless spirit, and the quick response to the least token of His presence;-- "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein." And if it must be so that he enters the kingdom, how otherwise shall he see the King?

"The childlike faith that asks not sight,
Waits not for wonder or for sign.
Believes, because it loves aright--
Shall see things greater, things divine."

Again, how often is the hindrance some slight reservation. The soul, half conscious of the difficulty, argues--But this is such a little thing; besides, it is a somewhat doubtful thing; it could not surely hinder my Lord from revealing Himself. But, remember, it is written, "If a man love Me," and has true love any reserve? Have you never known how a very little concealment may mar a human fellowship? Have you never noticed, also, how the extent to which you can speak of very little things to others, and seek their counsel in them, measures not only your confidence, but the mutual intimacy? We love to go often to that home where nothing is hidden from us, nothing changed for our coming; but where the whole life as it is, is lived out simply before us. Visits of ceremony are not pleasurable upon either side, and the Comforter never so comes.

Still another hindrance exists in the vague appre- . hension of the promise itself, so that many might answer, not wholly unlike the disciples at Ephesus: "We have not so much as heard that the Holy Spirit does so manifest Himself, and that we may enjoy the presence of the Lord Jesus." Faithful answers returned from all Christendom to this question--What is the Presence of Christ to your souls? -- would doubtless bring to light an astonishing sum of ignorance as to this great blessing. Finally, the position will be taken by many, that this is a treasure so choice as to be offered only to a few; and that while some are no doubt permitted to enjoy this richest of God's gifts, the majority must be content to walk by faith, and not by sight. They say, mournfully, "The Quest is not for me." But surely the promise of Christ is partial, only, in requiring a certain sort of receptivity which His grace makes possible to all believers. Not a hint is given of any other restriction. The gift of the Spirit implies every degree of privilege to which we will suffer Him to guide us, and that gift, the Apostle Peter declared to be "unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." [17]

As to the invidious distinction, drawn between walking by faith and walking by sight, it is quite irrelevant to the question. For what is Faith, if we accept the only direct definition of it which is given in the Scriptures? "Now, Faith is the substance (***) of things hoped for, the evidence (***) of things not seen." [18] Whatever may be the full force of these words, whether we choose to fritter away their grand objective solidity, to a mere subjective shadow or not--one thing it is certain, they can not mean;--a mere belief about the things hoped for and unseen. They suggest no possible contrast to sight, but even in their lowest significance, confirm the fact of an inner vision, of the most certain kind, enjoyed by Faith. When St. Paul spoke of walking "by faith and not by appearance" [19] he was dwelling upon the difference between this inner vision, and that more open one which awaits us in the Resurrection--so much more glorious and satisfying, that we can not cease from longing for it.

It is not easy to appreciate the knowledge of anything of which we are ignorant; and so the question has been asked--' Of what practical use can such a manifestation be? Does it secure anything beyond mere transient joy? May not one be as strong who" simply takes the Word of God, and walks by its light, trusting to the secret cooperation of the Spirit?'

No one who has ever known the Lord in the way which He has promised, could possibly assent to this. The higher knowledge of Jesus is absolutely incommunicable, through even the most precious of those words given by inspiration of God--"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee" marks a new mode of acquainting oneself with the Lord. It is as with the friends we love. We may have known much through hearing of them, much more through the frequent reading of their own best thoughts, and yet, when for the first time we meet, a few days of personal presence puts us in such possession of their inmost nature, of the character as a whole, and of our own share in their love, as it were hopeless to think of gaining in any other way. True, we have to wait for the full day-dawn, and the DayStar, to know even as we are known; but even in the light of the Morning Star, we do know in part. This knowledge of His blessed Presence, enriches and endears all other knowledge of Him. It is a constant illumination for His Word; for now, as we read, we see ever the expression of His eye; as we listen, we ever hear the intonation of His own voice; the word becomes a living Word, when Faith has seen the Lord. But, not only does the manifest presence of Jesus give fuller knowledge, and impart greater strength, but beyond anything else, it intensifies Love. It is the instinctive yearning of love to be near the beloved one. The richest part of its life is in that love. Is it not, then, because God is Love, that He so manifests Himself?--that He can not stay far off from the desire of His own eyes?--and that, therefore, if a man love Him and keep His words, the Father will love him, and they-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--will come and make their abode in him who so loves? He who has missed this presence of the Lord, has missed the joy of joys--"the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." He who has missed this Presence, has missed also one of the chief secrets of his sanctification. How can any one become like the Lord, without seeing Him? --since we are told that it is by beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord, that we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. When the heart turns to the Lord with the veil that hides this glory, He has said that it shall be taken away; He who heard the prayer of Moses will hear our prayer, "I beseech Thee, show me Thy Glory."

And only to such seeking souls, is there any security that they will find Him. Even His coming again in visible glory, is limited in its blessing, "unto them who look for Him." [20] So it is written also," The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His Temple." [21] And we may venture to apply to the coining of the Lord by His Spirit, that which was said of His glorious appearing, "Looking for and hastening His coming." Even now, the Lord whom ye seek, and whom ye delight in, is He who comes. Nor will any fitful seeking suffice: it must be the settled attitude of the soul. The Good Shepherd seeketh His lost sheep until He find it, and thus should we return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. It was when Joshua lifted up his eyes and looked, that he saw the Heavenly Captain:--How many may miss their Lord for want of this! We see quickly, and see often, whatever interests us most. The Naturalist will put to shame a common eye, by the ease with which he everywhere discovers his treasures: he has learned where to look and how to look. In this busy, bustling age, the Christian too often allows the hurry of the world to sweep away all repose of soul; so that he has no noontide hour when he can sit like Abraham in his tent-door, ready to call in the angels; with leisure enough to lift up his eyes and look, and with love enough to run to meet the heavenly Visitant, and constrain Him to tarry, saying--"My Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant." [22]

Blessed be God that seeing the Lord Jesus, we see Him as our Captain, not only commanding His army here on earth--but Prince of all principalities and powers. The whole host of heaven is at His command: He can send forth, as He pleases, the ministering spirits, "to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation." Having seen His Face as our light and our salvation, how calmly can we front the enemy. "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident." [23]

And blessed be God for the Sword that our Captain holds--that out of His mouth there goeth the sharp, two-edged sword: for He speaks and it is done; He utters His word, and out of weakness we are made strong; again He utters it and all our enemies melt away. Having seen Jesus, have we seen also the flashing of the sword of the Spirit? All Holy Scripture that has been written, still cometh out of His mouth in its fulfilment, quick and powerful to do its work, alike by the Blessing and the curse, the Promise and the woe.

Great Prince of Faith, going forth before Thine armies, let Thine "eyes as a flame of fire "kindle all our hearts with holy courage; and hold us by Thine own power, "looking unto Jesus"--till Thou comest "in the clouds of heaven," and we see Thee FACE TO FACE.


1. Keil and Delitzsch.

2. Ex. xxiii. 20, 21.

3. Ex. xxxiii. 2, 3.

4. Ex. xxxiii. 14.

5. Is. lxiii. 9. See Keil and Delitzsch, Com. on Pentateuch. Vol. II., p. 235.

6. Josh. v. 15.

7. 1 John i. 1-3. See Dean Alford's "Greek Testament."

8. 1 Cor. xv. 6, 8.

9. Gal. i. 16.

10. John xiv. 18, 19.

11. 1 Cor. ii. 9-14.

12. John i. 51.

13. Acts vii. 55, 56.

14. In this exception the writer has chiefly in mind, the large number of such statements which she has heard from the former slaves of the South--told with such sincerity that one could not slight them.

15. John xiv. 22, 23.

16. John viii. 12.

17. Acts ii. 39.

18. Heb. xi. i.

19. 2 Cor. v. 6-8.

20. Heb. ix. 28.

21. Mal. iii. 1.

22. Gen. xviii. 1-3.

23. See Ps. xxvii. 1-4.