Preparation For The Inheritance
“Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it. And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising. And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and withersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage”—Joshua 1:10-18.
Israel had a long period of wandering in the wilderness. They were forty years making their way to the land of Canaan, and yet it could have been made in eleven days. But God led them about by way of the wilderness lest they should be discouraged if they immediately came in contact with their enemies. They journeyed during the first two years from Egypt to Kedesh-Barnea, which was on the southwestern edge of the land, and from it they might have gone right up into their inheritance and taken possession of it. But you remember that at the request of the people, God allowed Moses to send out spies in order to find out whether God was as good as His word! He had told them exactly what kind of land it was—a land flowing with milk and honey; but the people requested Moses to send spies to see what it was actually like, and he selected two men who went throughout all Palestine investigating. When they returned, ten of them reported that the land was everything God had said it was. “But,” they added, “we never will be able to overcome the nations that dwell there. They are stronger than we; their cities are walled up to heaven; and there we saw the giants: and we were in their sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in our own sight. We are not able to go against them.” Only two of the men encouraged the people. They were Joshua and Caleb. They said, “Let us go up at once and possess the land; for we are well able to overcome the foes.” But the people would not believe them. So the Lord turned them back and they were destined to wander in the wilderness for thirty-eight years because they did not believe God. They refused to do as He had directed them. But He did not forsake them; He watched over them and protected them during all the years of their wilderness wanderings.
The people at last were encamped on the east of the Jordan, looking over toward Jericho. Then the word of God came to Joshua, saying, “Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it.”
This land is typical of what we have in Christ. God “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Yet we can possess our inheritance only as we recognize our death and resurrection with our Lord Jesus Christ. God had told Israel long before when in Egypt that they were to go three days’ journey into the wilderness, which speaks of death and resurrection. Now the people of Israel were to go over Jordan in three days.
I wonder how far you and I have entered into our possessions in Christ. Many of us have come to Him as poor, needy sinners, and have trusted Him as our Saviour, but are we now identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection? In God’s reckoning every believer has been raised again with Christ. You remember what the apostle Paul said, “God, forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). It is only as we take this place of identification with Christ practically that we enter into and enjoy our present inheritance in Him. It is the Word of God that brings these truths before us. Do we meditate upon the Word? Do we appropriate its precious truths? Do we feed our souls upon the blessed realities therein revealed? We would not think of going without our regular meals from day to day, but how many of us go without spiritual food! We cannot depend on another ministering to us; we must study the Word for ourselves. One who does not give time daily to meditation on the Word and to waiting on God in prayer will never be a strong Christian; he will never lay hold of that which the Lord intends him to enjoy as he is linked up with a risen Christ.
Well, Joshua here commands the people to prepare victuals for a three days’ journey. They are to pass over Jordan right against Jericho. But first we notice that there is a particular group to whom he gives a special message. This group was made up of two and a half tribes—the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh. Why did Joshua address himself to these tribes particularly? Well, for this reason: You remember how Israel under Moses overcame their foes on the east side of the Jordan, and the men of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh came to Moses, and they said, “This is a wonderful land, a great land for cattle, marvelous pastures here on the east side of Jordan, and we have cattle; therefore, we have come to ask if we might not have our inheritance here in this land instead of going over the Jordan. May we not settle here where we can find suitable accommodation?” Moses was very angry with them, and said, “Your brethren have to pass over the Jordan and they have to meet the seven nations, mightier and greater than they are; they have to overcome the enemies before they can have their inheritance and enjoy the land, yet you would settle down on the east side of Jordan in rest and freedom.” But the tribes said, “No, we don’t want to do that. We are willing to send our warriors over the Jordan to fight with the rest, but when at last they have obtained their land and have discomfited their foes, then our warriors will return to this side of Jordan. Meantime, we will arrange to make our wives and children comfortable in the cities on the east side, and we will make proper preparation for the care of our cattle, etc.” Finally, Moses agreed to this. Sometimes God allows His people to take second best if they are not willing to take His best. Too many Christians today have been saved by grace but are content to settle down, as it were, on the east of Jordan. They have trusted Christ; they have heard the voice of God when He said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you,” and they have come to the verge of Jordan, but they have stopped on the east side. In other words, they are world-bordering Christians. These two and a half tribes settled in the land just bordering Canaan, and they were exposed to the nations of the east, to Assyria, Babylon and the other countries roundabout. They were the first to be attacked by the enemies outside the land, who came down upon Israel in later times.
Let us ask our own hearts, What kind of a Christian am I—out-and-out for God, or am I dwelling on the border of the world? God made a dry way through Jordan for His people, and He has made a dry way through death for us today. We died with Christ at Calvary when He died in our place. There we were crucified with Him. Is this a reality to our souls? When Christians come to me and ask if there is any harm in this and that, something that pertains to the east side of Jordan, something in which the world indulges, I say, “Why don’t you ask if there would be any harm in going to a prayer meeting?” “Oh,” they answer, “anybody knows there is no harm in going to a prayer meeting.” Well, that is the answer. They would not think of asking the question if there was not a doubt in their minds. It is things like that of which the Apostle speaks when he says that he that doubteth is condemned if he does the thing concerning which he is in doubt.
As to something of which you stand in doubt, you may be sure it will never help you spiritually; it will never help to make Christ more precious to you; it will never make you love His Word more; it will never enable you to triumph over sin. A great many of these things may not be wicked but are just bordering on the edge of the world as it were. Like these two and a half tribes, you are settling down on the east side of Jordan. You have not gone through death, burial, and resurrection with Christ experimentally. Some have made a profession of this in Christian baptism, but are not living it out from day to day. In this ordinance we confess that we have died to the world, to sin, and to the law, and that we now are to live unto God as those who are alive from the dead. May our profession and our lives agree that the Lord Jesus may be magnified in us!
After Joshua’s address to the two and a half tribes who were to cross over the river to aid their brethren in taking possession of the inheritance, proceedings went on apace for the actual entering into that land which belonged already to Israel by divine gift.