"To the intent that now unto principalities and powers might be made known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God." (Eph. 3:10,11).
"That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace... for we are His workmanship." (Eph. 2:7,10).
The Inheritance an Inward Thing First
We want to get to the heart of this matter, which is to be in a position where we possess. The Lord is wanting us to be somewhere and to possess something in that place; and unto that God has to take us through experiences; but He always has that end in view - to possess the inheritance; and He is moving towards His end, getting us to a spiritual position within, where Christ is our inheritance.
When He in sovereign purpose took an elect individual, Abraham, He immediately brought His purpose for choosing him into view; and associated the elect one with the land, linked the "call" with the end - "the inheritance."
We were chosen in Christ before the world was, and with that He linked the inheritance; "Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world... having foreordained us unto the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself... He purposed to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in Him in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:4-11 A.R.V.), God has that always in view and all His dealings with us are unto that end, and it is towards this He has been moving through the ages.
This inheritance must first be an inward spiritual thing; must be a spiritual thing within us before we can come into our possession of it. Possessing the nations in Christ is quite impossible until we have reached a certain spiritual state, that is, ascendency in spirit, sovereign rulership in Christ Jesus in our own spirit. We have got to have sovereignty within us before we can manifest sovereignty without.
This is in view in Joshua, preparation for what God has, and intends, to accomplish. This wilderness and all its meaning is the place of preparation by God unto possession of the land. Our longer or shorter stay in the wilderness depends upon our knowing the Lord in experience, this Knowledge of Him governs the length of our stay in this desert place.
Let us get back in mind to that wilderness in which the children of Israel spent forty years, remembering they could cross it in eleven days and that they had a good objective ahead of them; yet year after year passed by, ten years, twenty, thirty, thirty-nine years passed and it seemed the end was still no nearer, not in view, just as far away as ever, there is nothing but wilderness. It all seemed a hopeless thing and the land most remote. This was their mental state, and there was nothing to give them any encouragement as far as eye could see, their soul life was starved. There was nothing for them in the realm of senses, nothing to gratify the natural man.
The Goal is the Lord Himself
What is God after in this procedure, by this method? He is after this - it has all got to be a spiritual state before it can be a literal thing. This inheritance is not in things, not even good things in relation to God, or Divine things as such; we are not to have our eyes fixed on any object as on the earth, the Lord is not out to give us something here of earth, yet a possession that we can possess here. What God is after is that HE should be our possession, and that is the final test of everything. Starved in even what we have a right to because it is from the Lord, and you know the Lord called you to it, yes even in the very thing you have taken direct from Him, starved! This is His way until we are content to possess the LORD (and not His things) as our sole inheritance and only possession; till we can be in the wilderness with barrenness all around, but we are possessing and knowing the Lord, HE is our fulness, even in a desert place.
Not even souls saved as our possession, no not our work. The greatest thing that matters is to have the Lord, to see the Lord, to possess the Lord; and unto this the soul or natural realm is kept in a wilderness. Again and again a crisis has come to us along that principle, and the Lord has had to ask us, is it some thing or ME you are after? Am I more to you than anything? The wilderness experience leads to the discovery that it is not always and only HIMSELF. Some demand things of the Lord and He gives them, but He sends leanness into their souls (Ps. 105:15). We have lived to see this, when we have said, "If the Lord does not do this we are not going further," and He has given it. We have insisted to have what we have wanted and got it, and found we have been after some thing, and as with Ishmael it had to be cast out. It's not the work, or ministry, or things developing, even the things of the Lord, but it is the Lord HIMSELF who is to be our goal. And if we insist on something or things, sometimes He says, "you can have it, but to your loss."
This is what the wilderness does, we come to the place where the Lord is our goal and our end. "Seek ye the things that are above" (Col. 3:1). The Holy Spirit energises in us to do this thing and to bring us to the place where it is for us utterly and only the LORD HIMSELF. Colossians 3 ends where Colossians 2 begins (there are no divisions into chapters in the original writings) and that is where you are brought by Jordan, when you are clean over the place of the cutting off from the cravings of your flesh, from knowing after the flesh - our sense, seeings, feelings, or of having to have something tangible in our hands as it were. No it has to be all of faith when we can say even in the terrible wilderness "I believe God and He is my portion for ever, for me henceforth life is Christ 'To me to live is Christ.'"
In the wilderness gap a reducing process is going on and a bringing home to these people with a new emphasis their littleness. Even Joshua is not mentioned with any glory but called the minister of Moses. The man himself is taken no note of, but there are features in the record which stress the nothingness of the instrument, thus showing it all to be of God's grace and energy (Joshua 1). And notice there had to be a space between the Ark and the people "about two thousand cubits by measure" (Joshua 3:4). Yes, there is a big space between the Lord Jesus and us; He is infinitely greater, and He goes into death the dimension of which we do not come into, we should have been swamped in its floods and lost; it is at a distance and on a much less scale we go through, but the shadow of it. If He had not met that in advance of us, we should not be able to go through, but because of what He did, we go through on dry ground (Joshua 3:17).
Secondly, when they are clean over Jordan, and about to take possession of the land, another thing happens, "Captain of the Lord's hosts appears" (Joshua 5). "Art thou for us or for our adversaries?" which of these two? "Nay!" To what does that "Nay" belong? It covers both questions: No, I am not with you; no I am not with your adversaries, but as Captain of the Lord's hosts I am come, and if you are in the Hosts of the Lord, I am in that. He is in that which stands wholly for God and with a people who are wholly the Lord's and while they in holiness of life and purpose are all wholly for God, in that thing or that people He is Captain, and so we come under His Sovereign Headship, but there must come into this nothing of Man. The Holy Spirit is not going to recognise the flesh, and says, "No, I am not with a company of people as a people, but am only in and in control of that which is wholly the Lord's."
Thirdly, that which comes up with Jericho is the final proof of all we have said. Jericho represents the key to the seven nations: seven, the Divine perfection of possession by conquest; so the nature of Jericho's conquest is the key for everything, and shows why it was necessary for the Lord to make clear to them that HE was not with them as men but only so far as they were utterly and wholly for the Lord.
The Perfecting of Faith
The nature of Jericho's conquest is purely a faith movement, it is not the impulsive hot action of man but the Divine perfection of faith in God related to the perfection of possession, where they are able to say, "We can be silly in the eyes of the world and jeered at by it; for the inheritance is ours, we have got it, all we have to do is to believe God and obey Him." If you can go out into the world with that as a settled background, that you have the LORD, and can say, "we have got HIM, HE is the inheritance, we KNOW HIM" you are where the enemy is in defeat before you, and it can be a dry wilderness all around you, but the 'LORD is your portion' and you can say, "I know God" then you have entered His rest. Rest and inheritance go together; Christ is GOD'S rest, the rest that remaineth, God's Sabbath.
If we are going out to preach the Gospel, we have got to be where all our questions have ceased, for when we are questioning, "Have I made a mistake? Did God mean me to come this way? Are we wrong?" we are in weakness, rendered unfit for fighting, nor can we fight till we have entered into His rest and until we have come there we have not come into the Inheritance, the two are brought together, the one goes with the other. Yes, difficulties existing, and starvation all around, but we can rest there in spite of these things, because we know GOD. That is coming into the inheritance, into perfect satisfaction with the Lord Jesus.
What is rest? Christ is the sum total of rest, God's perfect satisfaction and ours too. We shall never be able to possess in the nations our possession in our redemption in Christ Jesus until we come into the inheritance of rest in HIM. That is where Paul was, he had come to that rest in Christ. See him on his way to Rome, how easy it would have been for him in that shipwreck to have questioned everything, as to whether he had been in God's will in appealing to Caesar and so being sent to Rome. How the enemy could have got in with all manner of cruel doubts, suggestions and questions; but Paul was in fellowship with God and saw the marvellous overruling of God through all. He was the only calm one on the ship in the great storm. He took command and gave the orders (Acts 26:22,36).
The Lord is after getting us inwardly resting in HIMSELF. Unrest, anxiety, is ever the ground of defeat. Uncertainty about the Lord brings weakness and defeat; the Lord sets great value on BELIEVING GOD - faith in GOD. In the list of the heroes of faith in Heb. 11, the Holy Spirit records Rahab the harlot, and links her with Abraham in James; she believed God and leapt out of one realm into another, because she believed God and put her faith into action. Rahab comes into the list of Hebrews justified by faith; yes she, the one time heathen harlot, now justified by faith, has her place in the House of God. Does this not show forth the GRACE of GOD? Likewise you get the Holy Spirit going outside the covenant people after the "Man of Ethiopia" (Acts 8); and in Acts 9 we have Saul of Tarsus, the Asiatic; Acts 10, Cornelius the European. GRACE is a wonderful thing, it links Ethiopia, Asia, Europe together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; FAITH being the basis for all that God does.
"JESUS the author and perfecter of faith." (Heb. 12:2).