A. T. Schofield
Plain Papers for Young Believers
The whole history of the bondage, redemption, deliverance, walk, and warfare of the children of Israel gives us perhaps the most complete picture of the whole life of a saint of God that the Bible contains. There is hardly a sorrow in Egypt, a trial of circumstances in the wilderness, a warfare or other event in the land, that may not in some way or other afford a valuable lesson to the Christian. We purpose, therefore, looking to God for guidance, just to glance briefly at the wilderness history and Canaan conflicts, as being those parts that most concern a young believer.
It may seem strange to some that of these two we should first speak of Canaan, especially if this is to be regarded as our final rest in heaven. We trust, however, clearly to show that, on the contrary, this goodly land embraces the whole sphere of our spiritual blessings into which we are brought now, and without the enjoyment of which we cannot tread the wilderness path to the glory of God.
Let us in the first place consider such scriptures as Exodus 3:7,8; 6:7,8. These speak only of bringing out of Egypt into Canaan, no mention being made of the wilderness at all, thus showing that although they must necessarily cross it (an affair of a few days), their wanderings there for forty years formed no part of God's purpose. In like manner we find in Colossians 1:13 that the same act that brought us out of the kingdom of darkness translates us into the kingdom of the Son. The wilderness may come in by the way to humble us and to prove us, or it may not. The dying thief had no wilderness journey, but passed straight out of Egyptian bondage into the paradise of God. Most of us have, however, a certain stretch of wilderness to cross; but it is important to see at the outset that this is only by the way, and in no way interferes with the fact that the sinner who one day was in Egypt, dead in trespasses and sins, the next may be raised up and sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (not as yet with Him).
As a matter of fact, the heavenly life and the wilderness life go on together, the latter in the strength given by the former. As “in Christ,” a part of Him (also as a priest and worshiper), I am in heavenly places now; as a pilgrim and a stranger, I am in the wilderness. Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Colossians touch most on the Canaan side, while Philippians and 1 Peter take the wilderness path. It is clear that Canaan cannot be confined to our final home in heaven, though doubtless including it (when the wilderness journey is actually over), but is mainly a vivid picture of the saint's position in the heavenlies, now waging war like the Israelites of old, as soon as the Jordan is crossed, for the possession and maintenance of their rights, as well as the destruction of their enemies. This we read of not only in the Old Testament, but as regards the Christian in Ephesians 6.
In Deuteronomy 26:1 we read, “And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it and dwellest therein.” This verse speaks of three distinct positions of the Israelite in Canaan; that is to say, of the believer and his heavenly privileges. First he enters the land; next, he possesses it, or makes it his own; and third, he dwells in it. Let us briefly consider these in order.
Those for whom we write are sufficiently familiar with the leading facts of the history of the Israelites to remember that, having been delivered from the judgment of God, not by the fact of their being His people but by the atoning blood of the lamb, they next crossed the Red Sea, and then leisurely crossing the desert found themselves on the borders of the land. This they refused to enter, and were therefore doomed to die in the wilderness; while the next generation were not allowed to enter Canaan otherwise than by passing a second time through the waters of death in the Jordan.
Two facts at once arrest us here. First of all, the fact that neither the Red Sea nor the Jordan lies directly between Egypt and Canaan (Abraham, Jacob, and the Lord never crossed either in their journeys between the two); and second, that the children of Israel did cross the Red Sea by the direct guidance and leading of God. They never need have crossed the Jordan had it not been for their own unbelief. Let us try and see what meaning all this has for us. We have not only as sinners the judgment of God to face, from which the blood of the Lamb delivers us, but after this we still need deliverance from our three great foes — the world, the flesh, and the devil. Nothing now but the death of Christ can deliver us from the power of these, and of this both the Red Sea and Jordan are remarkable types.
In the waters of the former it will be remembered the pomp and pride of Egypt were drowned, and the strength of Pharaoh was broken, thus answering to the death of Christ which separates us from the world and Satan's power (Gal.6:14; Heb.2:14). But Romans 6 finds no real counterpart here, for although the Israelites should have left their old unbelieving hearts behind, as a matter of fact they did not. This is clearly seen on nearing Canaan. If the flesh had been left behind them as truly as Pharaoh and Egypt were, no Jordan would have been needed; but, alas, it appears this was the hardest lesson of all to learn. Those, therefore, who thus refused to leave it behind them, but on the contrary betrayed their confidence in it by putting themselves under law, had all to perish in the wilderness, that it might be destroyed; and death was again presented to the generation born in the wilderness, at the Jordan. Only this time special care was taken that they themselves, represented by twelve stones, should be left at the bottom. And this is the entrance into Canaan. The death of Christ has not only put away the sins of every believer, not only freed him from the world and Satan's power, but has also put an end to him, so that his old self is crucified and buried with Christ (in type by baptism), out of which he is risen in the power of a new life, and brought into the new and heavenly sphere of Canaan.
If, therefore, we put the Red Sea and the Jordan together, they present to us a full picture of the death of Christ, the former especially typifying what it delivers me from; in the latter, what it brings me into; or, in other words, death and resurrection. To cross the Jordan and enter Canaan is not the privilege of a few, but is the effect of the death of Christ for every believer, however few may enter into the meaning or power of it.
Let us now briefly consider the POSSESSING. This only belongs to those who fight for it; the condition of possession is stated in Joshua 1:3. We find that all Israel entered it together, but that many were careless about possessing it (Josh.18:3), while two and a half out of the twelve tribes never dwelt in it at all, or at any rate, in that part beyond the Jordan.
This has great meaning for us, dear fellow believers. In Christ we all have died and risen, and entered the land; but how slow we are to POSSESS, to make our own, often after much exercise and conflict with our spiritual enemies, the blessings that are ours in Christ! We have to fight the Lord's battles, but we are poor soldiers, though after all, the work is entirely His from first to last (Josh. 21:44). We have not space here to consider the various wiles by which Satan, at one time by fright as a roaring lion, at another by deceit as a wily serpent, sought to hinder this POSSESSION, but we earnestly commend the study of the book of Joshua in the light of Ephesians to our readers.
All that we can do here is, while just pointing out the outlines of this interesting subject, to bring home to each of our hearts the fact that it is only as we are thus possessing, thus abiding in communion with Christ, in the enjoyment of His love and peace, in the blessed sense of our portion in Him, that we can hope to walk to His glory down here. And in all this let us beware of possessing without dwelling; the two and a half tribes were valiant enough in possessing, that is, in making the land their own; but they did not enjoy what they obtained. So with many of us. We are keen and eager, it may be, in the pursuit of truth and a true position according to the mind of Christ, but how far are we dwelling in the power of what we know? How far does the atmosphere of Canaan so pervade our spirits, and its fruits so fill our lives, that we are found to the praise of God down here? Only the man who lives in Canaan can rightly cross the wilderness; the heart must be satisfied and happy in Christ to be content with His portion and path down here. If we would be strangers here, we must practically have a home with Christ in heaven for our hearts; and the man who does not dwell in a house in Canaan can never be content with only a tent in the wilderness. May the Lord give us each to feel more and more the importance of keeping up a fresh and happy inward life in real communion with Christ where He is, as this is the only real power to maintain a consistent walk to the glory of God.
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