Reading: Joshua 3:7,10-11; Ex. 3:12; Rom. 6:5; Col. 1:29; 2:1-3,
"As I was with Moses, so I will be with Thee".
"Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you".
The difference between the ministry of Moses and Joshua was this,
that mainly Moses was related to the bringing out and the
formation of the people of God; Joshua was related to their
bringing in and establishment. The Lord assured Joshua of His
presence with them, that as He had been with Moses for the
bringing out of the people, and their constituting, so He would be
with him for their bringing in and for their establishing. The
assurance was given directly by the Lord to Joshua. We are not
told of any more that the Lord said to him, but we find almost
immediately Joshua declaring to the people, not only the fact that
the Lord was with them, but how they would know it, the way in
which His presence would be known by them. "Hereby ye shall
know that the living God is among you... behold, the ark of the
covenant of the Lord of all the earth passes over before you
into Jordan" (Joshua 3:10-11).
If I understand that aright, in spiritual terms it means this.
The testimony (it is the ark of the testimony) being brought into
the very presence of the active stream of death would arrest and
set back that power. Jordan speaks to us of death. In the New
Testament we understand union with Christ in death, being planted
or united with Him in the likeness of His death, to have had its
typical setting forth in Jordan - having been buried with Him in
baptism - so that Jordan sets before us the active, energetic
stream of death. The ark of the Lord, which is the ark of the
testimony, advances straight into that spiritual energy, that
active stream of death, and immediately the two come together, as
the priests' feet touch the brink of the stream, the waters of
Jordan come under arrest, are forced back, made to stand upright,
and that activity is checked and held up by the presence of the
ark of the testimony.
Let us repeat that in the form in which we first said it. The
testimony being brought into the very presence of the active
stream of death would arrest and set back that power, and "hereby
ye shall know that the living God is among you".
"As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee". That, "as I
was with Moses", must, therefore, connect with the power of life
over death. If we are to take these statements in Joshua 3 as the
connection with the Lord's presence; if the "as" is the link which
represents not only the fact of the Lord's presence but the nature
in which the Lord was present, then it clearly means that the
Lord's presence was a presence in the energy and power of a Life
bringing death under arrest, and setting it back and overcoming
With Moses it is perfectly clearly seen in the matter of the
deliverance of the people. The deliverance and the forming of the
people was, from start to finish, a matter of life triumphant over
death. The final issue of the exodus from Egypt was life over
death; death universal, except in the realm where the testimony is,
and unable to function there. At the waters of Marah, again, it
was a question of life and death for want of water and Life
triumphed over death by the tree. Between these two incidents
there was the Red Sea, another great testimony. Death engulfed
those who were not in the testimony. Those who were in the
testimony sang the song of victory over death. With Amalek, again,
the same principle is at work: Life conquering death. Then the
same thing is seen in relation to the serpents in the wilderness.
And so on to the end.
The one thing which is in evidence all the way through is this
matter of the presence of God, meaning the deliverance of the
people by the operation of resurrection Life, until that
generation itself refused any longer to stand on that principle,
and then it had to be given over to the work of death, and that
generation died. But even out of that death was born another
generation in the power of resurrection, over which death had no
In this sense of the continuous victory of Life among them, the
Lord was with Moses, and as He was with Moses, so He said He would
be with Joshua. With Joshua the work of this very same thing was
unto the inheritance. The inheritance was the result of the energy
of Divine Life set against the energy of death.
Here in Joshua 3 there are one or two other little fragments
which are illuminating and inspiring. It says that the waters
stood up in a heap as far up as Adam. Christ's victory in His
Cross, Christ's victory in that great spiritual Jordan, goes right
back to the place where death came in with Adam; it goes to the
very source of this evil river of death. It goes right back to the
beginning of things: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die". There is a last Adam, Who has gone right
back over all the history of Adam the first, to the point where he
laid in death, and has dealt with the open door of death high up
there, and has triumphed. "As far up as Adam". That means the
victory of Christ goes right back to the place where death
entered, the gateway of death.
It comes right on. It says here: "How Jordan overflowed all
its banks at the time of harvest", not only the place where
it entered, but at its very flood-tide, the full development, the
very inundation of death. Christ has entered in in the power of
His Cross and met death initially and finally, fully,
comprehensively, even to the overflowing of all its banks. His is
no partial victory. When God does a thing, He does it thoroughly.
If God deals with the gods of the Egyptians, He does it thoroughly
and there is nothing left; for when death had spread itself
throughout the land it was no mere permission that was granted,
but it was an entreaty to depart and a giving of the goods of
Egypt as a temptation to accelerate their departure. God does
things thoroughly. When He drowned the Egyptians there was no
question as to the thoroughness of His work.
There is another side. When God brings in the testimony of Life
He means His people to stand as fully in it as the others stand in
the opposite, to know the power of His resurrection to a
flood-tide, just as the power of death and judgement must come
upon the enemy to an utter overwhelming.
There was a basic thing with Moses, and that was the bush which
did not burn. It would be interesting to know just how long that
fire went on. As we have often heard, Moses saw the bush aflame,
but it would not be an uncommon thing. In those desert scorchings
I expect it was a daily occurrence for any bush to go up in flame.
If the eye of Moses caught sight of such a thing probably he
treated it as nothing extraordinary, but after a time he glanced
in that direction again, and saw the burning still going on,
probably concluded that it was a little thicker than others might
be, and was not in any way moved. Perhaps it was a matter of
hours. At last it came to him as far from being an ordinary sort
of thing, and he called it, "this great wonder". Then it
must have been burning a long time to have become in the realm of
the commonplace a great wonder, "I will turn aside and see this
great wonder, why the bush is not consumed."
That became the basic thing of the life of Moses. It was an
illustration for him. It was an object lesson. It was set before
his eyes as a means of demonstrating what the Lord said, "Certainly
I will be with thee". What does that mean? Life triumphant
over death, the power of a mighty Life in a frail humanity, and
the frail humanity which ought to have been consumed outright,
persisted so that the very fire, rather than being itself
consuming, is itself Life. It maintains its existence. The bush is
not consumed, it is not blackened, it does not turn to ashes, it
remains a bush while the fire goes on. Of course, it is a grand
picture of the incarnation, the Lord Jesus, God manifest in the
flesh, and man persisting in the energy of a Divine Life.
That was for Moses a lifelong secret. Moses ought to have broken
down perhaps a thousand times, bearing the awful strain and burden
of that people, the bringing out of Egypt, and the years of
wandering. Sometimes he cried out under the pressure: "This
people is too great for me." That was when he began to look
at himself. The fact is he went through and at the end his eye had
not lost the keenness of its vision, he could look from Pisgah's
Mount over all the land, at his great age, and take it all in.
Neither had his natural force abated. Why? "Certainly I will be
with thee". It was the working out of the truth of the bush.
The Lord says, "As I was for the deliverance, the forming, so I
will be for the inheritance, the bringing in, the establishing". "Hereby
ye shall know that the living God is among you", and just as
Moses had that basic thing in his life, the bush, so Joshua had a
basic thing in his life: the ark at Jordan; Life in the midst of
death at its flood, not overwhelmed but triumphant. "As I was...
so I will be".
If we had not got the letters of Paul we might read that as Old
Testament history, a battle of Israel's history, but we have
language which is so closely akin to that in the letters of Paul
that we are bound to bring over the application.
Take the whole situation with Moses and Joshua, their
testimonies, their foes, their purpose. Set it down in the letters
of Paul to the Ephesians, the Philippians and Colossians, and you
have the thing repeated in the spiritual realm.
In the above passages there are references to the inheritance: "In
Him dwells all the fulness... and ye are made full in Him";
"All the riches of wisdom and knowledge in Him". We cannot
fail to see the correspondence between these New Testament words
and the Old Testament history. If that is so - and can we doubt
that there is a spiritual counterpart of that history? - then, if
we do not doubt that the history is repeated in a spiritual way in
the case of the church, have we any right to take the terms?
Surely we can say to ourselves in heart that that word is for us:
"As I was... so I will be...".
Let us seek to gather this whole thing up into a few practical
statements by way of application. The position, then, is this:
firstly, the possessing of the fulness of Christ by the church,
and the expression of Christ's fulness in the church, is His
purpose and call. In Him dwells the fulness, and we are complete
in Him. He is the head of all principality and power. The church
is the fulness of Him that fills all in all. The possessing of His
fulness, and the expression of His fulness by and in the church,
is God's purpose, God's goal. Do you believe that? Is your heart
set upon it, that we shall come to the fulness of Christ, and that
God shall have His inheritance in us, the saints? That is God's
goal. It must be ours.
Then the persistent enemy of this is death. All the way along
death will seek to withstand this Divine purpose and goal, and
withstand us also if we are moving in that way. This death is
something more than an abstract thing. There is one little phrase
in the New Testament which most expressively defines this
spiritual death; it is this, "spiritual wickedness", for
when this spiritual death is operating, is active, the sense which
we have is of something evil, wicked, very dark, very sinister.
There comes upon us the sense of malignity, and we can only say it
is wicked, it is "spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies".
Moses was confronted by that, Joshua was confronted by that, and
this death, this spiritual wickedness in the power of death, in
the atmosphere, in circumstances, in mind, in will, in body, in
spirit, this is the persistent enemy of the fulness of Christ.
That means, in the third place, that every fresh gesture in
relation to the increase of Christ is fraught with conflict, and
that conflict is with spiritual death and spiritual wickedness.
Every fresh gesture, movement, purpose, determination, inclination
in relation to the increase of Christ, which is the inheritance,
is fraught with conflict; with spiritual death and spiritual
wickedness. Perhaps that is so well-known to you that it does not
evoke any kind of response, but it is as well for us to recognise
the meaning of things. Whenever there is going to be anything
whatever which is in the direction of an increase of Christ, the
forces of spiritual wickedness will begin to operate along the
line of spiritual death - they will put forth their energies in a
new way. If you do not know that, there is something wrong with
your aspiration for the fulness of Christ, but if you are really
in the way of God's end, that fulness of Christ, this is a thing
which you will know. There is something in view, a gathering in
which something more of Christ is to be ministered, or some
ministry by which you are to minister something more of Christ to
others, in one thing of a thousand ways in which Christ is to be
brought to His own, and His own are to be brought more fully into
Him, and because of that you will be beset by this activity, an
energy of spiritual wickedness and death. If our ministry does not
provoke those forces of evil, then there is something wrong with
I suppose that means that we ought to take great comfort when
there is a great deal of such activity. We could say equally, "As
it was with Moses, so it will be with you", but over against
that, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you". How was it
with Moses? It was a death conflict to the end; perhaps hardly a
day in his life when he could not have gone under but for the
Lord. The fact that he came out as he did at the end is a
marvellous testimony to the God who was in the bush... the frail
humanity. "Hereby ye shall know... behold, the ark". The
ark goes into death, and death rages to a flood, and is even at
its flood checked, arrested, set back. That is the power of His
Remember that when Christ is coming in some fuller measure to us
by some means, or we are moving to some greater measure of Christ,
we shall know conflict, and everything will enter into a realm of
conflict. The whole object of the adversary will be to quench, to
submerge, to kill. In such times let us call to remembrance the
words, "As I was... so I will be."
The instrument of God's purpose must know the secret of victory
in the swellings of Jordan. What is the instrument of God's
purpose? The word in Joshua 3 is "The priests the Levites shall
carry the ark. There shall be a space between it and you".
Here is a priestly ministry in the testimony, with the testimony
in the behalf of the main body of the Lord's people. That priestly
ministry has to advance to the flood, and prove the victory, take
the victory, know the secret of victory on behalf of the people of
God. The priestly company always take the place of leadership in a
spiritual sense, even in battle. That instrument of God's purpose,
that priestly instrument, has to know the secret of victory in the
swellings of Jordan; that is, the instrument has to know the power
of His resurrection in a measure beyond the ordinary.
That instrument may be an individual instrument, or it may be a
collective instrument; that is, it may be a company of the Lord's
people to be used by Him to know in a specially real and deep way
the power of His Life over death. It must, therefore, be
confronted with more of the power of death than others. There is a
great heavenly vocation, there is a great calling, a great
responsibility, and it is costly. It may explain a lot. There is
no evading that truth. I do not think that there is any getting
away from the fact that at all times the Lord has had, by reason
of the existing situation, to find those who would go all the way
with Him in the behalf of others, to whom He would say, "To you
it has been given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe...
but also to suffer for His sake."
Paul would sign himself, "Yours in bonds for the Body's sake". So
it is very often those who for the others have it given to them to
suffer in a peculiar way, to know the bonds for the Body's sake,
to be in the priestly ministry, and being able to bring triumphant
life to the Lord's people. The Lord must have such, and He must
have that to which or to whom He can bring those who are needing
to know victory in life, that there they may know.
This thing is not done directly by God from heaven. The Lord will
bind us to this principle, that if He has some who are paying the
price, and have, therefore, the power of His risen Life, He will
compel those who need help to come to them to find their life
there. The Lord has focal points of Life where suffering unto Life
has been gone through, and to that He brings and ministers Life
there. But He must have that, these are His strategic Life-points
for the sake of others. That is priestly ministry, but that
priestly instrument in relation to God's purpose has to know in
the more than ordinary way the power of His resurrection, because
of the swellings of Jordan.
I think this is what the apostle meant when he said, "I would
that ye knew what great conflict I have for you..."; "Whereunto
I also labour, striving according to His working, which works in
me mightily". It was so that he might present every man
perfect in Christ. Those strivings, that great conflict, did not
represent something which we set ourselves to! I do not for a
moment think that Paul made up his mind to have great strivings
and conflicts. These strivings and conflicts are not something to
which we set ourselves, but they are that which is forced upon us
by the very nature of the purpose. If you are in the purpose you
will not have to set yourself to strive, you will find that you
will have to strive or you will go under. You will not have to set
yourself to a great conflict; you will be in it without any
effort. You will be drawn into the battle. This is nothing
romantic - the calling of the young men to go out to war - this is
something satanic; a devilish thing, which only spiritual energy
can overcome, where no energy of the flesh is of avail. In this
connection the apostle prays that He would grant us that we might
be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inward man.
The power by which increase in Christ is reached is resurrection
Life. You can see how true that is. There is not the slightest bit
of increase in Christ except by the energy of Divine Life. From
start to finish it is so. We never begin until we know union with
Christ in resurrection. So it was with Israel and Joshua. They had
to come out of Jordan on resurrection ground before there was any
possessing of ground, and every fresh step was the application of
the victory of the Jordan, the victory of that life over death. If
ever they were set back in the way or arrested, it was because
they compromised with something against which Jordan stood to
testify. It was the same at Ai. Confidence in the flesh is death,
and is the cause of our arrest. The Gibeonites with their wiliness
are an illustration. So Paul writes to the Colossians: "Lest
any man deceive you with his philosophy." The Gibeonites
coming up was intended to arrest, it was all against the
inheritance. The continuous progress and development in the
inheritance was by the energy of that resurrection Life and it
will always be so.
Thus we are in the battle for Life, because everything hangs upon
it, with it everything is bound up. Blessed be God, the living God
is among us, and hereby ye shall know it, the ark of the Lord of
all the earth goes before you into Jordan. The testimony of His
supremacy stands in the presence of death when it is most
energetic, and overcomes.