Page images
PDF
EPUB

We see them vividly illustrated in every page of the history of God's people, both in the Old and in ihe New Testament. The self-same presence that secures victory demands holiness. Let us never forget this. Yea, let us keep it ever in the remembrance of the thoughts of our hearts. It has an individual, as well as a collective application. If we are to walk with God, or rather if He is to walk with us, we must judge and put away everything inconsistent with His holy presence. He cannot sanction unjudged evil in His people. He can pardon, heal, restore, and bless, but He is intolerant of evil. Our God is a consuming fire." “ The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.

Should the thought of this discourage or depress any true-hearted child of God or servant of Christ? Most certainly not. It should neither discourage nor depress, but it should make us very watchful over our hearts, very careful as to our ways, as to our habits of thought, feeling, and conversation. We have nothing whatever to fear so long as God is with us, but He cannot possibly sanction evil in His people, and every true lover of holiness will heartily bless Him for this. Could we possibly desire it to be otherwise ? Would we wish the standard of holiness to be lowered the breadth of a hair? God forbid. All those who love His name can give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. They rejoice in the precious truth that holiness becometh His house for ever. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” It is not by any means on the miserable principle wrapped up in the words, “Stand by thyself; I am holier than thou." Thank God it is not this. It

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

is not a question of what we are, but of what He is. Our character and conduct are to be formed by the truth of what God is. Marvellous grace! Most precious privilege ! No human language can set forth its deep blessedness.

God must have His people like Himself. If they forget this, He will very speedily remind them of it. If He, in infinite grace, links His name and His glory with us, it behoves us, most surely, to look well to our habits and ways, lest we bring any reproach on that name, lest we tarnish the lustre of that glory. Is this legal bondage ? Nay, it is the very purest, highest, holiest liberty. We may rest perfectly assured of this, that we are never further removed from every trace of legality than when treading that path of true holiness which becomes all those who bear the name of Christ.

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

This great truth holds good at all times. We see it in the ruins of Jericho. We read it in the valley of Achor. What was it that caused the frowning walls and towering bulwarks of Jericho to fall down flat in one moment at the sound of a ram's horn and the shout of the people ? The presence of Jehovah. Yes; and if the whole land of Canaan had been studded with fortifications, from Dan to Beersheba, they would all have been levelled in like manner before that invincible Presence.

But what means the humiliating defeat before the insignificant city of Ai ? How comes it to pass that the hosts of Israel, so recently triumphant at Jericho, have to flee ignominiously before a mero handful of men ?

Let us

Ah! the answer tells a sorrowful tale. Here it is; let as hearken to it, and ponder it in the deepest depths of our moral being. Let us seek to profit by it. be solemnly warned by it. It has been written for our admonition. The Holy Ghost has taken the pains to record it for our learning. Woe be to the one who turns a deaf ear to the warning voice !

“ But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing; and the anger of the Lord was kindled against”—whom? Achan merely? or his household, or his family, or his tribe ? Nay, but “ against the children of Israel.” The whole assembly was involved in the evil. How was this? The divine presence imparted a unity to the whole assembly; it bound them all together in such a manner as to involve all in the sin of one. It was one assembly, and hence it was impossible for any one to take independent ground. The sin of each was the sin of all, because God was in their midst, and He could not sanction unjudged evil. The whole congregation was involved, and had to clear itself of the evil ere Jehovah could lead it on to victory. Had He allowed them to triumph at Ai, it would have argued that He was indifferent to the sin of His people, and that He could give the sanction of His

presence to 66

“ an accursed thing," which were simply blasphemy against His holy name.

And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned

in the camp.

to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai”-more easily said than done-"and make not all the people to labour thither, for they are but few”-yet quite too many for Israel with an Achan

" So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men; and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men; for they chased them from before the gate, even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down; wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads."

Here was a strange and unlooked-for experience! “ And Joshua said, Alas! O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies ? For the Canaanites, and all the inhabitants of the land, shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth; and what wilt thou do unto thy great name ?”

Joshua, that beloved and honoured servant of God, did not see, did not understand, that it was the very glory of that “great name” which necessitated the defeat at Ai, just as it had achieved the victory at Jericho. But there were other elements in that glory beside power. There was holiness, and that holiness ren

dered it impossible for Him to lend the sanction of His presence where there was unjudged evil. Joshua should have concluded that there was something wrong in the condition of the people. He ought to have known that the hindrance was with Israel, and not with Jehovah. The same grace that had given them victory at Jericho would have given it at Ai, if things were right. But, alas! they were not right; and hence defeat, and not victory, was the order of the day. How could there be victory with an accursed thing in the camp? Impossible! Israel must judge the evil, or Jehovah must judge Israel. To have given them a victory at Ai would have been a reproach and a dishonour to the One whose name was called upon them. The Divine Presence absolutely demanded judgment upon the evil; and unless that was immediately executed, further progress in the conquest of Canaan was wholly out of the question. "Be ye clean that bear

. the vessels of the Lord.” “ Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever."

" And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up: wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned—not merely Achan "and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed; neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you."

This is peculiarly solemn. The whole congregation

[ocr errors]

66

« PreviousContinue »