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God had opened for him, and for all Israel, a passage through Jordan, at a time when it overflowed all its banks; just as he had for Moses through the Red Sea, at the time of his departure from Egypt. Now, therefore,
What should we expect to be the conduct of Joshua ?
[Certainly, I apprehend, if he acted on principles which were common to all other Generals, when invading an enemy's country, he would either prosecute his advantage instantly, whilst all his enemies were filled with terror, and crush them before they had any time to concert measures for their defence; or he would fortify his own camp, to prevent surprise, and prepare for carrying on his conquests by such a disposition of his army as his skill in war might suggest.] But, what is the information given in our text ?
[Behold, instead of adopting any military plans whatever, the very day after he had invaded a country in which there were seven nations greater and mightier than his, he appointed every male in the whole nation, that had been born in the wilderness, and consequently that was under forty years of age, to be circumcised. He did not even wait a day, to know what the effect of his invasion should be, or what efforts his enemies were making to repel it; but by one act disabled the greater part of his whole army from even standing in their own defence.
may seem strange, that Moses, whose own life had been endangered by neglecting to circumcise his son", should suffer the whole nation of Israel, who till the hour of their departure from Egypt had observed the rite of circumcision, utterly to neglect it for forty years. Whence this neglect arose, we are not informed: but I conceive, that if in the first instance it arose from the unsettled state of the people till they came to Mount Horeb, and was permitted by Moses for about three months on that account, it was suffered afterwards by God as a just judgment on account of the worship paid to the golden calf, and because of the murmuring of the people at Kadeshbarnea when they were discouraged by the report of the spies who had searched out the land. On the former occasion, Moses brake the tables of the covenant, to shew that the covenant which God had made with them was dissolved; and on the latter occasion, God sware that not a soul of those who had attained the age of twenty at the time of their departure from Egypt should ever enter into the promised land. Being thus disclaimed by God as his peculiar people, they were suffered
a Exod. iv. 24–26.
to withhold from their descendants, for forty years together, that seal, by which alone they could be admitted into covenant with God.
But, however the neglect originated, so it was, that not one of all the children of Israel was circumcised for the space of forty years; and all of these did Joshua circumcise, the very day after his entrance into Canaan.
Only three days after this, (for they passed over Jordan on the tenth day of the month, and kept the passover on the fourteenth, at even",) did he also enjoin the observance of the passover. The passover had also been neglected, just as circumcision had been": and now that also must be revived, togegether with the attendant feast of unleavened bread. But was this a fit season for such observances? Had not Joshua other matters to occupy his attention? In a time of peace we might well expect that a holy man of God would renew these ordinances: but at the very moment of invading an enemy's country, and within two or three miles of a fortified and stronglygarrisoned city, was this a measure to be adopted? Human prudence, doubtless, would have deferred it: but piety towards God was regarded by Joshua as superseding every other consideration, and as the best means of securing His favour, through whose blessing alone any human efforts could prove effectual.]
Now, instead of passing over this conduct of Joshua as an event in which we have no interest, it will be well to inquire, II. How far it is proper for our imitation at this day
Enter into the state of Joshua's mind at this time; and then say, whether we may not learn, from his conduct, many lessons for ourselves at this day. We may learn,
1. That, in whatever circumstances we be, religion should be our first concern
[If ever there were circumstances under which the offices of religion might be postponed, methinks they were those of Joshua on this occasion, when he had but just set foot on the land where great and powerful nations were prepared to combat for their very existence. And, in fact, it is the general opinion of military and naval commanders, that they have, as it were, a dispensation to neglect the ordinances of religion on account of the urgency and importance of their occupations. The same idea prevails through almost all the orders of society, every one being ready to plead his temporal engagements as an excuse for neglecting the concerns of his soul. The statesman is too much engaged with politics; the merchant with business; the philosopher with his researches; the student with his books; the servant with his duties; and every man with his own separate vocation : each, in his place, urges his occupations as justifying a neglect of his duties towards God. But, if Joshua, under his peculiar circumstances, sought first to serve and honour God, we can have no hesitation in saying, that in comparison of the divine favour there is not an object under heaven worthy of a thought. I mean not by this to say, that we are at liberty to neglect the discharge of any office to which God in his providence has called us, or so to postpone the discharge of it as to endanger our ultimate success: far from it. It is the inward service of the soul, of which I speak; and which needs not to delay any outward act for one moment. It is not the act of Joshua which I propose to your imitation, but the habit of his mind : and that, I say again, is proper to be exercised by every child of man.]
b Compare Josh. iv. 19. with Josh. v. 2, 10. c Amos v. 25. and Acts vii. 42.
2. That, in whatever circumstances we be, we should place the most implicit confidence in God
[Suppose yourself in the presence of Joshua whilst these religious ceremonies were proceeding : you would naturally ask, Are you not in an enemy's land? and have you not many conflicts to maintain ere you can get a quiet possession of it? yet you seem as much at your ease as if the whole land were already subdued before you. What reply do you suppose Joshua would make to observations like these. True, he would say, you behold me in a state of as much quietness and confidence as if I had not an enemy to contend with. But whose battles am I fighting ? In whose service am I engaged? Is there any device or power that can succeed against God? In him I trust : and he it is that “ keeps my mind in perfect peaced.” Now, though in respect of temporal trials we cannot be sure that we are called to them in the
that Joshua was, in our spiritual warfare we stand, as it were, on the same ground as he: we are called to it, as he was; and it is the
way appointed for our getting possession of our destined inheritance. We also have our enemies at hand, enemies with whom, in our own strength, it would be impossible for us to
our God is for us;" and therefore, we ask with confidence, “ Who can be against us?” Though in ourselves we are weak, we may be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Though we have a warfare to maintain against all the powers of darkness, we should never regard it
d Isai. xxvi. 3, 4.
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as of doubtful issue: we should assure ourselves, that in all our conflicts we shall be victorious, and that “ Satan himself shall be bruised under our feet shortly." Already may we look upon the land as ours, and see the crowns and kingdoms there reserved for us. There, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, we should consider ourselves as already enthroned"; and look forward with joy to the dissolution of our earthly tabernacle, in order to its erection in that good land where it shall be the habitation of God for ever and ever.]
3. That, in whatever circumstances we be, we should be determined, through grace, to "roll away the reproach” of our unconverted state-
[The reproach of the Israelites in Egypt was, that they were in bondage both to men and devils: for, whilst they were involuntarily engaged in the service of their Egyptian task-masters, they voluntarily worshipped the gods of Egypth. But behold them now consecrated to God by circumcision, and their reproach was completely rolled away. And is not the unconverted man also both a bond-slave and an idolater? Yes, whatever be the exterior of his deportment, he serves the world, the flesh, and “ the devil, by whom he is led captive at his will:” and, whether more or less correct in his outward conduct, he “worships and serves the creature more than the Creator, who is God blessed for evermore.” Now then, I say, if you are consecrated to the Lord in baptism, your duty is to rise superior to all your lusts, and to give yourselves entirely to the service of your God. You must also, in remembrance of your adorable Redeemer, be feeding continually on his body and blood, by means of which you are to be strengthened for all your
conflicts, and to be “ made more than conquerors over all your enemies. “Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us,” your whole life must be one continual feast, which you CCXLVII. CHRIST THE CAPTAIN OF THE LORD's Host. Josh. v. 13, 14. It came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho,
keep, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." It is the reproach of man that ever he was the servant of sin in any degree: and this reproach we are to be rolling away; and, as the redeemed of the Lord, we are to be "glorifying God with our body and our spirit, which are hisi.” To this employment I call you all. I ask you not what your engagements are in life, or what else you have to do: this I am well assured of, that there is not a person under heaven that is not called to this duty; nor is there a circumstance that can be imagined, wherein this duty can be dispensed with. Be ye, then, upright in serving God; and never fear but that God will be faithful in saving you.]
e Rom. xvi. 20. * Eph. ii. 6. 2 Cor. v. 1. Eph. ii. 21, 22. h Josh. xxiv, 14. with Ezek. xx. 5—8.
i 1 Cor. vi. 20.
are to "
that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand : and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?
MOST seasonable are the mercies which God vouchsafes to his people. His interpositions for them at the Red Sea and the wilderness, and at their entrance into Canaan through the river Jordan, are ample illustrations of this truth, as is also the peculiar fact recorded in my text. Joshua was now surveying Jericho, which was the first fortress that was to be attacked by him. That he had no fears about success, was evident; because, from his first entrance into the land to that hour, he had acted rather like a person at peace with all men, than as one in the midst of enemies whom he was commissioned to destroy. Still, the visible manifestation of Jehovah's presence with him could not but greatly strengthen his faith, and increase his assurance that every enemy, however powerful, should fall before him.
The points for our consideration are, 1. The character which our blessed Lord assumed on
this occasion The person who now appeared to him as “a man," was no other than the Son of God himself
[Many were the occasions on which, at that period of the world, the Son of God assumed either an angelic or human shape, for the purpose of encouraging his believing people. To Abrahama, and Jacob", and afterwards to Manoah, were manifestations given similar to that which was here vouchsafed to Joshua. That the person who here appeared to Joshua was more than either man or angel, is clear, I think, from the worship which Joshua, on discovering who he was, paid to him: “ Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship." Now, I grant that Joshua might have made a mistake; but if a Gen. xviii. 2. b Gen. xxxii. 24-30.
Judg. xii. 6, 22. VOL. II.