by T. Austin-Sparks
With the book of Joshua open before us we will also remind ourselves of the Word in the letter to the Colossians, chapter 2 verse 19: "Holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increases with the increase of God." Then in chapter 3 verse 11: "Where there cannot be Greek or Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman, but Christ is all, and in all". Really, these two portions make one whole and they can, without being unlawful, be brought together in that way - the Head increases with the increase of God in the Body where Christ is all and in all. The more literal translation of the last passage would be: "Where Christ is everything and in all".
With that we turn back to the book of Joshua at chapter 1 verses 1-2. If you glance through that chapter you will see that Moses and Joshua are found very much together there. There is a sense in which they overlap. Although Moses is dead, yet that which Moses represented is carried on and, in the sense of his ministry and purpose, he is still found very much in evidence. It is as though Joshua took Moses with him. It is of considerable significance that the first chapter of the book of Joshua finds Moses and Joshua very closely related. The significance is that with which we shall be occupied for a little while.
What is the significance of Moses? To just mention it to such as are at all familiar with the Word will be sufficient to immediately recall a very great deal of confirmatory proof and data. There is one expression which is a very common expression in connection with Moses, it is: "the word of the Lord by Moses". That occurs frequently in the book of Exodus. "As the Lord spoke unto Moses" is repeated again and again. So that we may rightly say that Moses represents the word of the Lord.
When you look into the word of the Lord as given by Moses you find that by far the greater amount is with a forward aspect. It is, in a sense, prophetic; it is pointing onwards. It is in the nature of promise. It has to do with a time which has not yet arrived. Moses was a prophet, whatever else he was. He said himself in a prophecy: "The Lord your God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like unto me". So that the word of the Lord to Moses had a future in view, a history as yet unrealised.
Carry that into the first chapter of the book of Joshua, and you find that upon which this book rests, and the basis of all that follows. Then recognise what Joshua represents; he speaks of the energies of the Holy Spirit. Joshua is the energies of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Word of God, in relation to the history not yet realised, in relation to all the prospect and promise by Moses. Joshua's ministry is the fulfilment of the word of the Lord and the realisations of all the divine intention.
Then we have to look at the nature of the word of the Lord with its spiritual interpretation. And we find that the Lord's intention, the Lord's thought, the Lord's purpose was to bring His people from a place of barrenness and emptiness and weakness and oppression, into a place of fruitfulness, strength, dominion and of fulness.
The dominating promise through Moses was that of a fruitful land, flowing with milk and honey. It is one historic way of illustrating and typifying what we have in another form in the case of Solomon, with the wonderful expression of divinely given fulness. Solomon was the product of a special act of God in order to give amongst men in a high place, a conspicuous illustration of divine glory. And one who came with a great train, camels, spices, and riches, who was one of the great ones of the earth was left, with all her greatness, without ability to express herself. The greatness of this world went down into insignificance before the glory of Solomon. Then the Lord Jesus says a thing which, were it not He Who said it, would be a tremendously presumptuous thing to say, "...a greater than Solomon is here". Literally the word there is "more", a more than Solomon is here.
The land speaking of divine fulness, or Solomon speaking of divine glory, are only types of the Lord Jesus. And they lead us on to these passages in Colossians to the increase of God, where Christ is everything and in all. That is God's intention, revealed in the Word through Moses and to be made an actuality through Joshua. Or, putting it more generally, the word of the Lord all points to the fulness of Christ, and the activities and energies of the Holy Spirit are all directed to that end. From the very first energy of the Holy Spirit in the deliverance of a soul from sin and from the world, through all the subsequent activities of the Spirit in that life, and in the whole Body of Christ, the one thing is in view - the making good of the Word which points to that ultimate issue: the fulness of Christ.
We might stay for a moment to get a little adjustment in our minds as to service. If this is true, that all the Word of God is intended to lead to the fulness of Christ, and all the energies of the Holy Spirit are unto that end, then surely there is no service outside of that. All service is within the Word of God, and under the energy of the Holy Spirit. There is no service outside of the Word of God. There is no service which counts for anything apart from the energies of the Holy Spirit; therefore, whatever may be the phase or the aspect of service, ministry, or of life, it comes within that compass. If it is what is called evangelical (which is mainly thought to relate to the conversion of the unsaved), or whether it be any other form of service in relation to the Lord, it comes within that compass and is bound by that double divine law: the Word and the Spirit. It is, therefore, dominated by one object.
Salvation is not just to get a soul saved, but to start that soul on the way to the fulness of Christ. Every ministry in the Word and in the Spirit, is governed by that end. And to be just saved and stay there is to fail of the purpose of the Word and to fall short of the energy of the Holy Spirit. To go to any part of this world in what we call "the work of the Lord" must mean that we are governed by this thing: that in that place there shall be nothing less than the fulness of Christ; as far as it is possible, that Christ shall be everything and in all there. That is final, utter, ultimate. There can be no division and no sharing with Christ. It must be Christ as everything and in all.
When we recognise that that is the aim and object of the Holy Spirit, we have life and ministry defined. It applies to all. If you are the Lord's, your life should be governed by the Word of the Lord and by the Holy Spirit. If it is not, there is something wrong with your relationship to the Lord. Whatever your work is - it may be in the home as a parent, it may be in household duties, it may be in business - if you are there in relation to the Lord, so far as you personally are concerned, your life has got to represent Christ; and that is the ministry. If we carried that into every sphere of life, things would be very different. That must challenge every motive, that must govern every consideration, that must settle every quarrel, every conflict, everything that arises which causes us disturbance, annoyance, and throws us into the vortex of some battle. The thing has to be tested on this point only - Christ as everything and Christ in all.
We have to continually ask the question: "Is Christ everything in this matter, or am I wanting my own way? Am I allowing my own feelings, desires and likes to dominate or is Christ everything? Is Christ in all here, so far as it is within my power, in the energy of the Holy Spirit, for it to be so?" That has to be reduced to the minutia of daily life. We have to get away when we are upset, annoyed, provoked, irritated, and fight that battle out and say: "Lord, You have to be everything in this matter: it does not matter how my interests are affected." And from those details of everyday life and experience out to the wider ranges, and up to the place where we may be the Lord's responsible servant, the Word and the Spirit have to govern; and the Word and the Spirit have one object: Christ - everything and in all.
Recognising that, we see that this further thing is necessary, that we are a truly spiritual people. It is very often difficult to define what is meant by spirituality, or a spiritual people. It is one of those things better experienced than explained. But for the moment it can be put quite simply and quite safely and soundly in this way, that a spiritual people is a people who are governed by the Word and the Holy Spirit to this end: that in everything within and without, Christ is all and in all. That is true spirituality. The difference between Israel in the wilderness and Israel in the land, is the difference between Israel carnally and Israel in conquest and victory, because the flesh had been cut off in Jordan and set aside in Gilgal, and now it is a people after the Spirit. There arises upon that ground the very fact of conflict.
The same applies to Ephesians 6:10 and 12. The apostle there says: "Our wrestling is... against the principalities, against the powers". So often our mentality is round the other way, and we think in terms of principalities and powers wrestling with us. When the people of God were constituted a spiritual people, they were automatically constituted an aggressive people; they took the initiative in the matter of battle and conflict. It comes about spontaneously. If we come within the compass of the government of the word of God, and the energies of the Holy Spirit (which have the fulness of Christ in view) then a state of conflict is precipitated spontaneously and automatically.
The enemy is definitely and positively set against the fulness of Christ in the saints. The enemy is set with all his resources against the object in view, which is Christ - everything and in all. We come on to that ground, that is our object and we are energised by the Holy Spirit unto that end, and quite spontaneously the battle arises. It is not necessary to make battle. We are in a realm of spiritual conflict and we find that we are compelled to fight; it is not optional at all. We are flung into it, and have got to take it up. When that is our object, the enemy is against us with every kind of resource that he has.
We shall find positive, open antagonism coming out in naked, bare resistance, and we shall find that the enemy resorts to every kind of trickery and subterfuge. We shall find Achan to be just one of his wiles. He knows quite well that while we maintain our spiritual position he is helpless; he must, therefore, get us out of our spiritual position. And Achan speaks of Israel being brought out of their spiritual position by a touch with the earth, by a link with the world and a contamination with what is polluted. The enemy is always trying to bring in the polluting element and always seeking to find a place where he can make a contact with that which must, in the nature of things, bring us under arrest and into divine disfavour, so that the Lord has to say: "I cannot go on with you while there is that." The enemy is trying always to get in between us and the Lord in this matter. It does not matter who it is; be he the most greatly used servant of God; be he in the most prominent spiritual position; be he an elect vessel, chosen of God before the foundation of the world; be he brought out into divine vocation by a Sovereign act, as never was before; that servant is just as liable to become set aside. Paul recognised that: "Lest after having heralded others I myself should be put on one side". It is not a matter of election; it is a matter of vocation. And Joshua and all that Joshua represents, is on his face before God, involved in the disaster of Ai because of Achan. If the enemy can in any way bring about a link with that which is not according to God's mind, it does not matter who it is, that one comes under arrest; the enemy has scored and until his ground is removed, the Lord cannot go on.
So the enemy is always seeking to get in between us and the Lord, by introducing something which provides for him a right ground of accusation: "The accuser of the brethren, who accused them before God day and night". This is not bringing back on to the ground of judgement in the matter of salvation, but is bringing on to the ground where the arrest of the divine purpose is involved.
The Gibeonites will be but another form of Satanic wiles. The enemy can succeed along that line also. Here you have a wily working, designing to associate with the Lord's purpose those who really at heart are not of God. The Gibeonites worked wilily in order to get an acceptance amongst the Lord's people, and Joshua and the elders were caught in that trap. The result was that they made a vow and formed a covenant with the Gibeonites, which they could not go back upon. And as a result they had men working amongst them who were not in heart or in spirit with them. That is a trick of the devil, to get in elements which feign to be in sympathy, but which are really not of the people of God in any spiritual sense. These people were thorns in their sides, and the later history of Israel for four hundred years under the Judges is the calamity in part resultant from that thing.
The confederacy of the kings will be another form of Satanic activity. There will be confederacy against what is truly spiritual. It is remarkable how confederacies come about when there is a common interest. They could not possibly exist but for a common interest. Herod and Pontius Pilate are sworn enemies until they have got a common ground in Jesus of Nazareth, and they are then made friends. The devil will bring about confederacies between those who are altogether unrelated and out of sympathy with one another, to make a common cause against something which is a menace to him. So you find strange things happening when you are going right out with God; things which would never happen otherwise.
There are many wiles of the enemy, but when you have covered all the ground you come back to one thing: the enemy is against Christ being all and in all. The very fact that that is so creates a state of war. And you are in it, you cannot help yourself, and you will meet it every step of the way.
It explains everything. It explains why it is that the way of a wholehearted abandonment to the Lord's end and to the Lord's purpose is such a difficult way and is so much more difficult than any other way; why it is that when you come right out for God into a spiritual, heavenly place with a heavenly object, you meet what you never meet in any other realm. There is nothing whatever which can serve the enemy's purpose, or which provides him with the slightest measure of ground for his purpose, which he does not snap up at once and use against you when you are there. He will pass over all kinds of things if you are not right out for God, but once you get clear and are set upon God's full end in God's way, by God's means, there is nothing that the enemy does not take hold of if he finds it available, to use against you. That, of course, is very significant.
There is another side to this. If the kings do form a confederacy, the Lord does not prevent and He does not break up their confederacy, but He hands over the lot. The Lord is sovereign, and if they bunch themselves together the Lord takes them as a bunch. And so the kings are brought, and are all in a bunch placed under the feet of the leaders of Israel. The Lord is sovereign, whatever the enemy may do. And even though there may be the tragedy of Achan, the Lord is sovereign. This will not weaken our spiritual position, or make us feel that because the Lord can sovereignly overrule things we can dabble in the things of the world. We must remember that even the valley of Achor became a door of hope. The place of sin and judgement and destruction can become the way to life, under the sovereign hand of God. But we might perhaps be saved a good deal of the devastation if we kept off the ground which God has devoted. If we will go on with Him, He will turn what seems to harm us into everlasting joy.
May we see what the Lord is after, what His Word points to, and what the Spirit is seeking to realise; and come under the two-fold government of the Word and the Spirit, unto the increase of God where Christ is everything and in all.