BIBLE STUDY SERIES #554, 555 and 556

7 July, 2002

JOSHUA - 3:1-11 - THE ARK LEADS - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we are reviewing a second aspect of Joshua 3:1-11 which we read and studied in part last week, and you may wish to have your Bibles open to that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

We had learned on our last Bible Study that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and they are, at this point, encamped at Shittim to the east of the river, and preparing to cross it, and to take possession of The Promised Land on the western side. Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but the authorities had been aroused by suspicions, and the two spied had to take steps to avoid capture. Before leaving, they made a promise to spare Rahab and her family, if all of her family members gathered inside her house, which would be marked by the scarlet cord tied in that window of escape, until the city had been destroyed. Keil and Delitzsch, incidentally, agree that the scarlet cord would be the cord made of scarlet thread, used by the spies as they escaped by climbing down the rope or cord let down outside the wall from Rahab's window. The spies made a swift retreat through the darkness to the cave-pitted hills, (probably to caves in the eastern face of the closer mountains to the north of the city), rather than immediately making for the Israelite encampment across the Jordan River. We might quickly review Joshua 3:1-8:

1. And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
2. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
3. And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
5. And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
6. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.
7. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.
8. And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.

Keil and Delitzsch outline the divisions in which the account of the crossing is presented in the following way. Chapter 3:1-6 outlines the final preparations for crossing the river. Then the passage through the bed of the river, and the erection of stones as a permanent memorial of this miracle are presented. The scripture divides those activities into three portions. They write "viz. vers. 7-17, the commencement of the crossing; chap. iv. 1-14, its further progress; and chap. iv. 15-24, its close." The commentary adds that "The account is also arranged upon the following plan: in every one of these three sections the command of God to Joshua is mentioned first (cf. chap. iii. 7, 8, iv. 2, 3, iv. 15, 16); then the communication of this command to the people by Joshua; and finally its execution (chap. iii. 9-17, iv. 4-13, iv. 17-20). This arrangement was adopted by the author for the purpose of bringing distinctly out to view, not only the miracle itself, but also the means with which God associated the performance of the miracle, and also of impressing deeply upon the memory of the people both the divine act and the end secured. In doing this, however, some repetitions were inevitable, in consequence of the endeavour, so peculiar to the Hebrew mode of writing history, to mark and round off the several points in the occurrences described, by such comprehensive statements as anticipate the actual course of events. It is to this arrangement and dovetailing of the different points that we must attribute the distribution of the revelation and commands which Joshua received from God, over the several portions of the history; and consequently we are not to suppose, that at each separate point during the passage God revealed to Joshua what he was to do, but must rather assume that He actually revealed and commanded whatever was requisite all at once, on the day before the miraculous passage."

Keil and Delitzsch hold that the three days of rest at the Jordan River are a separate three days from those announced at Shittim. The reasons are not hard to find, they point out, if we remember that the move involved passing into an enemy country, not only with the army, but with all the people, including wives, children, and all their possessions, and the river itself had first to be crossed.

Keil and Delitzsch explain that "The people were to keep about 2000 cubits away from the ark. This was not done, however, to prevent their going wrong in the unknown way, and so missing the ford, for that was impossible under the circumstances; but the ark was carried in front of the people, not so much to show the road as to make a road by dividing the waters of the Jordan, and the people were to keep at a distance from it, that they might not lose sight of the ark, but keep their eyes fixed upon it, and know the road by looking at the ark of the covenant by which the road had been made, i.e. might know and observe how the Lord, through the medium of the ark, was leading them to Canaan by a way which they had never traversed before, i.e. by a miraculous way. - Vers. 5, 6. Joshua then issued instructions (a) to the people to sanctify themselves, because on the morrow the Lord would do wonders among them; and (b) to the priests, to carry the ark of the covenant in front of the people. The issuing of these commands with the prediction of the miracle presupposes that the Lord had already made known His will to Joshua, and serves to confirm our conclusions as to the arrangement of the materials."

The reference points out that the sanctification did not consist in the washing of their clothes, ... for there was no time, nor in the changing of clothes, which would only be an outward sign, but rather, also, in spiritual purification, turning the heart to God in faith and trust in His promise, and in willing obedience to His commandments, that they should lay to heart in a proper way the miracle of grace which the Lord was about to work in the midst of them and on their behalf on the following day.

Now I want to introduce a possible connection with our own Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred people who are descendants of those same Israelites of the Biblical scene we have been examining. In Exodus 25:40, God instructed Moses to construct the Tabernacle "after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." Such an injunction shows that surpassing importance attaches to the symbolism of the pattern thus given. For example, the number five and its multiples is a constant theme throughout as an indicator of Grace.

God chose Moses to lead the people in The Exodus, but in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, God led them through all their wilderness wanderings, and as Paul informs the reader in I Corinthians 10:6, "These things were our examples... ."

As a matter of ancillary interest, The New Bible Dictionary under "Weights and Measures - Linear Measures" yields the types of Hebrew cubits as "elbow to fingertip", or, more precisely, 17.49 inches or 44.4cm. for the "standard cubit (the cubit of a man)", while the "royal" cubit was 20.4 inches or51.8 cm. The Tabernacle tent contained The Holy Place, measuring ten by ten by twenty cubits, which thus contained 2000 cubic cubits, while beyond the vail, The Holy of Holies measured ten by ten by ten cubits, and thus contained 1000 further cubic cubits.

Once a year, The High Priest entered that Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, by steps which took him to the altar of sacrifice and the laver, and then, entering the tent, he must traverse 20 cubits to the vail, within which lay the Ark of the Covenant. In other words, from the court outside the Tabernacle tent, where one encountered the symbols in prophetic fore-view of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, the veil was reached by passing through the 2000 cubic cubits space comprising the Holy Place.

Now we might just raise a speculative question with regard to the "about 2000 cubits" which are to separate the massed Israelites from the Ark of the Covenant when approaching the border of their Promised Land. Does there exist a time element to the symbolism? Do 2000 Tabernacle cubic cubits represent "about 2000" years?

We will leave further consideration of that possibility until our next Bible Study.

14 July, 2002

JOSHUA - 3:1-11 - THE ARK LEADS - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we are reviewing a second aspect of Joshua 3:1-11 which we read and studied in part last week, and you may wish to have your Bibles open to that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

We had learned on our last Bible Study that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and they are, at this point, encamped at Shittim to the east of the river, and preparing to cross it, and to take possession of The Promised Land on the western side. Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but the authorities had been aroused by suspicions, and the two spied had to take steps to avoid capture. Before leaving, they made a promise to spare Rahab and her family, if all of her family members gathered inside her house, which would be marked.

Keil and Delitzsch state: "Vers. 7-17. Commencement of the Crossing. - First of all (in vers. 7 and 8), the revelation made by God to Joshua, that He would begin this day to make him great, i.e. to glorify him before the Israelites, and the command to the priests who bore the ark of the covenant to stand still in the river, when they came to the water of the Jordan; then (vers 9-13) the publication of this promise and command to the people; and lastly (vers. 14-17), the carrying out of the command." (Here, the Hebrew word, meaning: "I will begin to make thee great" is inserted.) They continue: "The miraculous guidance of the people through the Jordan was only the beginning of the whole series of miracles by which the Lord put His people in possession of the promised land, and glorified Joshua in the sight of Israel in the fulfilment of his office, as He had glorified Moses before. Just as Moses was accredited in the sight of the people, as the servant of the Lord in whom they could trust, by the miraculous division of the Red Sea (Ex. xiv. 31), so Joshua was accredited as the leader of Israel, whom the Almighty God acknowledged as He had His servant Moses, by the similar miracle, the division of the waters of Jordan. Only the most important points in the command of God to the priests are given in ver. 8. The command itself is communicated more fully afterwards in the address to the people in ver. 13. When they came with the ark to the end of the waters of Jordan, - i.e. not to the opposite side, but to the nearest bank; that is to say, as soon as they reached the water in the bed of the river, - they were to stand still (vid. ver. 15 and chap. iv. 11), in order, as we see from what follows, to form a dam as it were against the force of the water, which was miraculously arrested in its course, and piled up in a heap. Moses divided the waters of the Red Sea with his rod; Joshua was to do the same to the Jordan with the ark of the covenant, the appointed symbol and vehicle of the presence of the Almighty God since the conclusion of the covenant. Wherever the ordinary means of grace are at hand, God attaches the operations of His grace to them; for He is a God of order, who does not act in an arbitrary manner in the selection of His means. - Vers. 9, 10. The summons to the children of Israel, i.e. to the whole nation in the persons of its representatives, to draw near ... to hear the words of the Lord its God, points to the importance of the following announcement, by which Israel was to learn that there was a living God in the midst of it, who had the power to fulfil His word. Jehovah is called a 'living God,' in contrast with the dead gods of the heathen, as a God who proved himself to be living, with special reference to those 'divine operations by which God had shown that He was living and watchful on behalf of His people; just as His being in the midst of the people did not denote a naked presence, but a striking degree of presence on the part of God in relation to the performance of extraordinary operations, or the manifestation of peculiar care' ... . The God of Israel would now manifest himself as a living God by the extermination of the Canaanites, seven tribes of whom are enumerated, as in Deut. vii. 1... . Joshua mentions the destruction of these nations as the purpose which God had in view in the miraculous guidance of Israel through the Jordan, to fill the Israelites with confidence for their entrance into the promised land."

On the last Bible Study, I made some comments regarding the possibility that there was a time element of prophetic dimension within the command by Joshua that the people of Israel should stay behind the progress of the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant to the brink of the Jordan River. You might have remembered that I spoke concerning the "about 2000 cubits" space ordered by Joshua when approaching the River. I had developed the theme by reference to the dimensions of the Tabernacle tent in the Wilderness encampments, and how the cubic volume within the Holy Place was 2000 cubic cubits, while the volume of the Holy of Holies was a further 1000 cubic cubits.

Now we might just raise that speculative question with regard to the "about 2000 cubits" which are to separate the massed Israelites from the Ark of the Covenant when approaching the border of their Promised Land. Does there exist a time element to the symbolism? Do 2000 Tabernacle cubic cubits represent "about 2000" years?

It is probable that the spot marked by the feet of those bearing The Ark at the brink of the rushing flood of the Jordan River in Joshua's day (whose name translates to "Jesus"), is quite possibly the exact spot in that river where, centuries later, Jesus asked John the Baptist to perform His Baptism at the beginning of Christ's First Advent ministry.

Just as the Ark was to open a door across the Jordan for God's Nation of Israel, Christ was thus at the same brink of the Jordan starting His ministry to perform the same function in a deeper spiritual sense.

Bearing in mind that passage from the area of the altar of sacrifice and the laver one must, on entering the tent traverse through space by the value of 2000 cubic cubits, towards the veil separating one from the Holy of Holies, that measure of "about two thousand cubits" between the Ark of the Covenant and the people may be extremely significant.

Such numbers appear frequently in prophetic scriptures to convey important information to the wise. Abraham's descendants would wait four hundred years before the Israel descendants of Abraham would inherit The Promised Land. Remember Ezekiel - lying on his one side then the other, indicating the years of Israel's and Judah's spans of designated times of judgment. Add to those the times shown by the hand which wrote on the wall of Belshazzar's palace, to judge the Babylon succession of empires, and also call to mind the numbers given to Daniel, in Daniel 12. The timing of Jerusalem's release by British-Empire Forces under General Allenby in 1917 relates directly to these.

The quantity, 2000 cubits, incidentally, appears in Scriptures pertaining to the extent of the suburbs of assigned Levitical cities in Num. 35:5. Solomon's Temple laver contained, it is calculated, 2000 baths of water, while the Gadarene swine which received the devils from the cleansed man in Mark 5:1-11, and dashed down the slope to drown in the lake, also numbered 2000! Again, the question is worth raising: "Is the time differential between Christ's First and Second Advents suggested by the numbers used?"

I might briefly elaborate on that with one or two additional points. Israelites approaching the crossing of the Jordan were to leave about two thousand cubits between themselves and the priests who bore the Ark to the bed of the River as the waters were stanched and the doorway across was opened to them. 2000 could symbolically represent two thousand years between the moment when Jesus was baptised at the same spot in the Jordan, and the year when Israelites would enter the Promised Land of God's Kingdom at His Second Advent.

When Jesus had cleansed the Temple, as recounted in John 2:19, it was demanded of Him by the Jews that He give them a sign signifying His authority to do it. He answered them by stating "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." As explained in the next verse, He was speaking of the temple of His body. In I Corinthians 3:8, Paul states to the Israelites to whom he is writing that "ye are the temple of God... ." Peter, in 2 Peter 3:8 states "that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. If we can integrate these three statements, we may see a prophetic double fulfilment. Christ did, indeed, rise from the dead in three literal days according to the Gospel accounts, but what of the Christians who are collectively designated by Paul as the Temple of God? Can the three days, within which He will raise His temple, be, in their case, a measure which extends to the third thousand years from the point of their destruction in the grave?

We shall continue on our next Bible Study.

21 July, 2002

JOSHUA - 3:1-13 - THE ARK LEADS - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we are reviewing a third aspect of Joshua 3:1-11 which we read and studied in part last week, and to which we will add a few succeeding verses today. You may wish to have your Bibles open to that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

We had learned on our last Bible Study that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and they are, at this point, encamped at Shittim to the east of the river, and preparing to cross it, and to take possession of The Promised Land on the western side. (I might explain that another word for the wood called shittim is acacia, by which name it may be more usually known today. As The Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary further explains, "prob. the Acacia seyal.") Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but the authorities had been aroused by suspicions, and the two spied had to take steps to avoid capture. Before leaving, they made a promise to spare Rahab and her family, if all of her family members gathered inside her house, which would be marked by the scarlet cord tied in that window of escape, until the city had been destroyed.

We might now consult The New Bible Commentary with regard to the Jordan River crossing: As that reference addresses its words to verses 1-13, we might augment a part of our previous reading (which covered verses 1 to 11) by reading the extension of that passage starting from verse 9 to 13 before examining what that reference has to tell us.

9. And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.
10. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
11. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
12. Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
13. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

Under the heading "Preparation for a holy war (iii. 1-13)", the reference states "The people were given two reminders that this was a holy war upon which they were entering. First, Sanctify yourselves (5), necessary because God was about to work miraculously among them, giving evidence of His presence with Joshua no less than with Moses (7). The whole situation created an atmosphere of supernatural power waiting to be exercised. Secondly, the people were to be led across the Jordan by the ark, borne by the priests of the tribe of Levi (6). See Ex. xxv. 10a and Dt. xxxi. 9n.

Here, I might quote those two references in the present context. The first, Exodus 25:10 describes the Ark, and reads: "And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof", while the second, Deuteronomy 31:9 and following is the passage which begins "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel." That passage continues with an injunction that every seventh year, at the year of release, in the feast of Tabernacles, "...thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing."

Now we return to our Commentary, which explains: "Verses 11 and 13, taken literally, suggest that the ark of the covenant is taken as representing the Lord of all the earth. Verse 11 may be translated, 'Behold, the ark of the covenant. The Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into Jordan.' The ark was the sign that God was going before His people, to lead them against their enemies. Thus by their own preparations and by the sight of the ark going before them the people were reminded that this was no enterprise of their own in which they were engaged."

Now I might here interject a few further statements of my own. In light of present day occurrences in Palestine, we might benefit by reviewing some Biblical principles.

First, we, of the British-Israel-World Federation point to evidence that the vast majority of the descendants of the Biblical Patriarch, Jacob-Israel, are today to be found in the general lines of racial descent known as Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples throughout the world.

Second, the Holy Land, the Land of Promise, did not, in the first instance, nor in the last analysis, belong by right of conquest or prior occupancy to any component of humanity. It did not so belong to Israel (ancient or modern) any more than it belonged to the Canaanites. It is the possession of The LORD God, Creator of all the earth, and it can be placed in the keeping of any to whom He chooses to covenant a time of occupancy. In the New Testament, we find Scriptures which justify the claim that The Creator was, when clothed in flesh at His First Advent, the same One Who became The Saviour. In John 1:1-3, we find the statement that "In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." Hebrews 11:3 provides a second witness to this, in the words "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." 2 Peter 3:5 states that "by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water..."

Now is there more specific Scriptural background on the matter? Who is this "Word"? The figure seen in symbolic language of Revelation 19:13 is of a glorious righteous person "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." Drawing together the statements just quoted, we can put together the New Testament vision of Jesus Christ as the Creator, and hence the true owner, of the whole earth. Indeed in Matthew 21:33-45, His parable of the householder who returns to slay the rebel husbandmen and bring justice to his vineyard is exceedingly apropos in this specific connection.

I might here digress to note in this connection that it has even been theorised from certain theological considerations that Canaan might possibly have formed a portion of the area of the Garden of Eden of Adam and Eve; the connection being that the "Tree of Life" equates to the Cross of Christ. The theory observes that it would thus be appropriate to connect the prophetic "bruising of the heel of the woman's Seed, and of the head of the Serpent" to the location of that crucial event in subsequent history. Scriptural backing, however, would be required to give the thought serious consideration.

Regarding God's supreme jurisdiction, we can project the extension of such rights to the nation which came into the bonds of the Covenant of Law at Sinai. In particular, those who were united in national marriage to Himself, as a wife to her husband, and their lawful descendants, are designated as lawful inheritors in Scripture. Israel is defined variously as meaning "Prince with God," "Ruled by God", "Ruling under God", and it speaks of a relationship much as found in a marriage between a wife and her husband, as described in Biblical terms. The very name "Israel", granted to The Patriarch Jacob, himself, at the ford Jabbok, ends with the letters El, meaning God and that specific name is generally associated with His aspect as The Creator. Exodus 19:5 states "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine."

Third, The LORD God never breaks His covenants, but some are covenants which contain conditions, and thus broken conditions will result in times of application of penalty clauses, even to the casting out of those guilty of breaking God's Law.

Fourth, There are Biblical principles which parallel the prior teaching aids of Old Testament days and the New Testament unfolding of much greater equivalents of a higher spiritual sense and value, as noted particularly in The Epistle to the Hebrews. It becomes clear, to those who have compared matters, that the Ark in the Tabernacle was the diagrammatic equivalent of the Law of God, covered by the Mercy of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Thus a relationship with Jesus Christ is seen as a requirement in order to sustain the name "Israel" in one's right of possession.

As our time has expired for today, we shall have to reserve further thoughts for a forthcoming Study.

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