I find a sufficiently palpable difference between the effect of the salvation that Christ has accomplished for us, and that which fits us for the enjoyment of things which are found in the heavenly country. The redemption of Israel was complete as to Pharaoh; it was finished for ever. Israel is introduced into the wilderness perfectly redeemed. It is the same with respect to us. In traversing the desert, Christ is given to us, as cloud, manna, water from the rock, all that is necessary for us. This comes from the pure grace of God. There is no question of conflict in all that, God gives the needful; cloud, manna, and water are always there. Christ is given to meet our every want, and to give us strength to journey through the desert.
If we look to ourselves, we shall find ourselves incapable of enjoying the things which belong to us. Now, it is no longer the question of entering into the wilderness, but of entering Canaan. The Jordan must be passed. Each fault we commit is committed in the presence of the enemy of our souls; it weakens us, and mars our enjoyment. The Christian, inasmuch as he is acting in the heavenly places, is in the enemy s presence; and if he is not faithful, he is incapable of enjoying the promises.
We must cross what stops the way, Jordan, death. It is true that we find there all the power of grace, the ark in the midst of Jordan. Christ has made of death a passage, a way. Death is ours; 1 Cor. 3:22. We can only enjoy the promises of God, so far as we are dead to all here below. Man is accounted dead. Manna continues until Jordan. Christ is there to give us the strength to go onward. But there is something else, even the enjoyment of the treasures which belong to us in heaven, and to that end we must be dead to all here below. If to-day I do not realise this death, I do not enjoy heavenly things. It is one thing not to find in ourselves the activity of the flesh, and as being in heaven to eat of the growth of the land; it is another thing to traverse the wilderness with Christ for all we need. We are called to the enjoyment of the heavenly places, and to do this we must have crossed the Jordan. It is there we eat of the fruit of the land of promise.
The first thing that Joshua does, before he enters on the career of battles, is to circumcise Israel, which signifies the putting off the body of the flesh, that is, the reproach of Egypt. Before our conversion, we were only carnal; it is the reproach of Egypt, the only fruit of that land. The Israelites are circumcised at Gilgal, which is the practical destruction of all that remained of Egypt up to that time. We must always return to Gilgal, always have the camp there; the evil must there be cut off. Afterwards they celebrated the passover, of which no repeated record is found in the wilderness history, where they were uncircumcised. There is real communion with what Christ has been, which can only take place when a man is circumcised, when the evil is taken away, and we judge ourselves. Here, in order to eat the passover, this must be done at Gilgal. Holiness, without this circumcision, is a terrible thing: with it I enjoy the holiness of God in Christ. The roasted grains of corn represent Christ risen, without having seen corruption. We enjoy it. It is a thing wherewith we are nourished, and not only what is necessary to us while we are in the wilderness.
But for spiritual warfare and in spiritual enjoyment, we must be dead to this world and to sin; practically, there must be a stripping off of the flesh. We must return to Gilgal, to the judgment of the flesh. These things precede the manifestation of the Captain of Jehovah’s host presenting himself for battle. When there has been circumcision, passover, we feed on things which, without that, would have been our death and condemnation; Gen. 17:14; Exod. 12:48. Christ presents Himself to lead us to battle. Inasmuch as He is the Captain of the host, He presents Himself in the same holiness as when He said to Moses, “I am that I am.” When He leads His people on to battle and triumph, He is equally the God of holiness as when He accomplished our redemption. This holiness is equally manifested in the conduct of His people. Because of the sin of Achan, He no longer goes up with His people. No difficulties can stand when God is there, and the people cannot stand before their enemies when He is not there.
For the enjoyment of heavenly things, there must be Jordan and Gilgal—death and the putting off of the flesh. There we eat of the fruit of God’s land. It is gain and a precious thing to realise our privilege in having done with sin. These two things are true of Christian life: the wilderness and conflict in Canaan. To be strong, we must be dead to the things of the flesh. Then all is ours; Christ is ours, with His holiness and His resurrection. We have the Lord Himself leading us from triumph to triumph, and saying to us, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet.”
God grant us grace to profit by the death of Christ, to enjoy the fruit of the land, all we have in Jesus. For this end we must be dead, have the circumcised heart, and return to Gilgal in order that we may possess in our camp the Captain of Jehovah’s host. We are weak. What do I say? Weak, since Christ is our strength! May we enjoy what is given to us in our heavenly Canaan!