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Here and There

Nowhere does the patience and longsuffering of God appear greater than in His dealings with Israel in the wilderness. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. The antediluvian world, the cities of the plain, and Egypt bore witness to the judgment of God; the wilderness to His mercy. Why is this? Because those who went through it were sprinkled with blood before they entered it. Mercy, even though the people put themselves under law, thus became a necessary feature in God’s righteous dealing.

Yet this is not the deeper thing. The Father would display the Lord Jesus; and the various victims offered upon the altar, the incense upon the golden altar in the holy place, the various duties and functions of Aaron, all declare Him and are for the instruction of the Church. The New Testament alone unfolds their meaning; a Book which Israel never had, but which is laid open to the Church.

Nevertheless we do not find all we need in the wilderness; for the saints of the Church are not only contemplated as pilgrims passing through a wilderness, but as dwellers in a land, i.e., blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. Not yet heaven, still on earth, in the body, in the midst of enemies but warring a good warfare with blessed victory. So when Israel enters the land, a new scene altogether different from the wilderness is presented for our learning; where new energies are called forth to meet different trials and testings, as seen in the conflicts of Israel under the leadership of Joshua with the inhabitants of the land.

How different too the character of the failure and sins in the wilderness to those in the land which are recorded in the Book of Joshua. It is the same flesh, and the sin in the land is rather vain confidence in man –in his strength as an Ai, in his wisdom as in the matter of the Gibeonites. Whatever the contrariety in appearance and working, whether the despondency that would make a king and return to Egypt, or the confidence apart from God that would meet the power and the wiles of the enemy, it is the same old man that never learns, never submits, never seeks the wisdom and grace of God.

Christians as being in the wilderness, and seated in heavenly places, are liable to both these things. They may not be manifested in the same believer at the same time, but, looking at the whole Church these two aspects of the Body are always visible. How prone we are to doubt and fail in confidence in the Father, to repine at His dealings, to murmur because of sorrows and difficulties, to long for the things of the world, and then to rebel in heart. These are the experiences of the wilderness, and are far from being uncommon.

Other dangers characterize the land. A believer who has in any way known the power of God in believing, or in service, may forget the source when victory came, and take glory to himself; forgetting that not his ram’s horn, but God made the walls to fall. God makes the believer feel his powerlessness, and puts him to shame (concerning self-dependence—NC). This is the experience of the land – not despairing of God, but confidence in the old man. Our true place is where we put the sentence of death upon ourselves (old man—NC), and have full confidence in the Father.

The wilderness condition is not one endowed with power, as in the land (Canaan—NC). The great lessons in the wilderness were the varied aspects but complete work of Christ; and it was necessary that He should, thus be set forth that when they – Israel – possessed the land, they might see how their blessings all centered in Him. The nation has not yet learned it, nor can they till the new heart is given them (Ezek. 36:26).

It was absolutely necessary that we should have all these details that we might learn how to judge and deal with our old man. And when grace has taught us that the Lord Jesus, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, died bearing its full judgment, and that we in Him have died unto sin, then do we as believers receive strength to maintain conflict with the world. It is vain to attempt battle with the enemy without, before the enemy within is judged (discerned and ever cautioned against—NC).

The change in the typical presentation of Christ, i.e., from Moses to Joshua, corresponds to the growing of the believer when he first apprehends the truth of being in heavenly places in Christ. The former led Israel through the wilderness, and Christ is the power that leads us through the world; and while believers look to Him, there may be awareness of the Holy Spirit’s enablement and power. Blessed it is, when, not realizing power over the old man, we are able, burdened and sorrowing, to turn to Him.

But to be delivered from the burden, to rise above the sorrow is something more, and this is when we know Him not only as the Captain of our salvation – our Joshua – but also as our High Priest in heaven, and the Holy Spirit sent down as the connecting link between the Head in heaven and His members on earth. The Spirit leads us through the Priesthood to look to Him as seated at the right hand of the Father.

So that He is with us here, and in heaven; and Priesthood connects these two, so that we have direct and immediate access to the Father. Joshua has to stand before Eleazer the priest who shall enquire of Jehovah for him. It is the Lord Jesus by the Spirit leading us to approach Him as our High Priest above, and to God, through Him revealed as our Father. “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).

We must be in the land to know this fully. But to be in the land – seated in Him in the heavenlies, does not take us out of the wilderness as to the body. On the other hand, only those who by grace know their position in the Lord Jesus can bear without murmuring the trials of the wilderness. And thus it is that the believer as to circumstances, is yet in the wilderness; and as to his standing, in the heavenly places, with and in the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ. A riddle to the world, a divine reality for us.

The people were numbered before Joshua were appointed. How the numbering of the people, and the record of the name of each family, and the allotted inheritance for each, prove the care and love of God entering – so to speak – into the details of their life so that place and quality of the possessions are appointed by Him. There was due preparation made, the order of their march was determined. It was God’s army going to take the promised inheritance; the rank and file, as well as each officer, knew their position, and the march did not begin until all was ready.

There is the same loving care watching over us, not such order as the world may see, not to such possessions as the world may take away. Our possessions are heavenly. But neither are we left as orphans now; all that we have now is appointed by our Father’s wisdom and goodness (Rom. 8:28). To most of His children now in this world, it is poverty and suffering; but the best is to them. This challenges our faith. Is suffering with its varied aspects the best for us? Ought we to doubt it, seeing that, having given us His Son, the Father will with Him surely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)? Our dwelling place, our city is one made without hands eternal in the heavenlies. Oh, for more confidence in the supreme love of our heavenly Father!

– R. Beacon

MJS devotional for March 4:

“God now commands each of us to reckon ourselves as having died with Christ to sin—and therefore as now dead unto sin; and as having risen with Christ, and therefore now alive to God (Rom. 6:11). Now it is always on the basis of what God has done (never in man but in Christ alone—NC) that He asks us to reckon, to appropriate. God makes the facts and tells us to take the attitude that befits these facts; and when we obey, He increasingly works our experiential victory in and through us.” -W.R.N.

None But The Hungry Heart