We cannot but discover a special mercy as to the time and place in which Christ appeared Personally to Joshua. Israel had crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan; the manna had ceased, and they had eaten of the old corn of the land. It seems, then, that Jesus would Himself be in waiting, if the first to receive and to welcome His servant to the Promised Land, he would be there to remind him of His covenant faithfulness and divine all-sufficiency. His very presence would seem to say, ‘This is the land I promised; you partake now of the earnest of its provision, I have fulfilled My word. I have accomplished My purpose. I have brought you to Myself, and to where I dwell.’ Sweet reminder this of what it shall be when Christ, at last, shall say of Himself and His seed, ‘Here am I, Father, and the children whom Thou hast given me, of whom I have lost none, save the son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.’
The heart glows, beloved, in the prospect of this rapturous privilege—a sight in open vision of the Person of Christ! Jesus Himself coming down to the shores of the heavenly Jerusalem, to wait for, and to receive and welcome, those who have just waded the Jordan under an angelic convoy; ‘are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto them who are heirs of salvation?’
"Come, My beloved, by purchase thou art Mine;
Be life, eternal life, for ever thine
His Lord for glory made His servant meet,
Then called him home to worship at His feet."
Canaan, as a mere type or figure of Gospel rest, would, by Christ’s appearing Personally there, intimate His ever-gracious presence. The pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night now no longer followed Israel, for they had been safely piloted into the land; but, though their circumstances had greatly changed, and a new dispensation had indeed opened, they could not do without their Lord. They would have difficulties and dangers, though varied from the former; hence Christ would be there Personally, saying, ‘It is I; be not afraid.’
Canaan was to be no scene of unmingled pleasure and uninterrupted rest. We can well understand the rapturous feeling with which Israel stepped across its threshold. But, if for a moment they forget the trouble of the wilderness, and eat in plenty of the old corn of the land, they are speedily to be reminded that there, ‘over right against them,’ stands Jericho, with its high and massive walls, its numberless and powerful inhabitants. And, after the first burst of joy at the thought that their wilderness wanderings were over, and the appetite had been satiated upon the new provision we can well conceive of the kind of doubt, and dread and repugnance which seizes the Israelites mind, at the thought of new and untried dangers. They were verily in the land now, and hard by city after city, where dwelt most mighty and vigilant enemies. How like these fears to those which seize upon the soul not long since entered Gospel rest by believing! ‘Oh,’ said he, when in the wilderness, could I but once get out of this so dangerous and so exposed condition; could I but once know of a certainty that all is right if I could but once cross that fearful barrier, and know that Christ is mine, that all my sins are put away by him, I should fear nothing, and cheerfully submit to whatever my God saw fit to lay upon me.’ Indeed, in the supposed realization of these ardent desires, it would seem as though nothing could really vex or try. Everything of a secondary or worldly character would be absorbed in the one assurance that all was right for eternity. How many thus reasoned with themselves who? after thus privileged, have known by painful and bitter experience what Hart says—
“When all this is done, and his heart is assured
Of the total remission of sins;
When his pardon is signed, and his peace is procured
From that moment his conflict begins.”
“Yes, Joshua—a lively type of Christ to lead the people through Jordan into the Promised Land, but they were to learn that the Canaanite was still there; and this discovery would be attended with a bitterness and an anguish for which they were ill prepared whilst treading the wilderness. Israel doubtless imagined—though falsely—that their conflict would be over when once they entered Canaan; and perhaps they longed for it as much for ease and security, and a species of independence as for anything else. They expected more liberty and less labor—more pleasure and less privation—but they found that Canaan was not heaven! They had now to learn that, though Pharaoh and the Egyptian host were long since destroyed, and the fiery flying serpents and scorpions, and wilderness drought, were no longer to be feared, yet a new species of trial peculiar to Canaan was in waiting for their arrival there. So every soul, privileged as he may be to enter into Gospel rest, will find that rest (blessed does not supersede trial, but rather is to support and nourish and comfort him under trial. His temptations and trials are to lead him instrumentally into a deeper knowledge of himself, and into a closer intimacy with Christ. The great sin of the Canaanites, and for which they were destroyed was idolatry; and it is questionable if ever Israel had one tithe the knowledge of, their own personal proneness to that accursed sin to which they attain after their entrance into Canaan. So it is with souls realizing their interest in Christ, and blessed with Gospel rest in Him, They see and feel sin in light in which they never saw or felt it before; says the poet—--
"The more Thy glories strike mine eyes
‘The humbler I shall lie,’"
It was this feeling that led Peter, under a further discovery of the power and grace of Jesus, to exclaim, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord;’ and the same experience led the favored Apostle to declare, And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.
‘Reader, do you know this experimentally?’
‘What is the effect personally of every fresh glimpse of Christ? What the tendency of each renewed discovery of His love, and grace, and power? What follows some new opening out of His sympathy and tender compassions? What succeeds the fresh proof of His mindfulness, special interest, and gracious care? What, but self loathing and humility, coupled with a glowing admiration of His lovely Person as well as divine faithfulness, forbearance, and mercy? And all this seemingly complicated and chequered experience tends one way, namely, to bring about the wish contained in one line of a hymn we have somewhere met with,
‘What a view we have of Christ as, on the morning of the third day, He rises from the dead, and leaves the sepulcher!’ Ah! how great His condescension, and what wondrous love! Mary—sinner as she was—shall be the first to see her risen Lord, and the first to hear his gracious salutation, ‘Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will carry Him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary! she turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.’
0, the volumes that these short, simple facts contain! Beloved, we can never come to this blessed part of the Word without being compelled pause in wonder, love, and praise. We know not where more of His love, and benignity, and grace, is depicted in so small a space. What marvelous tenderness was engrafted into that one word, Mary, and what comparable gratitude, and admiration, and love, in that simple response, Rabboni! What a scene was that, on that memorable morning, and on that one spot! What love must have prompted a woman’s heart to rise, after the restless slumberings of the night, and ‘early, while it was yet dark,’ seek the solitude and the gloominess of the tomb! How much natural repugnance must have been overcome! What a vivid interest did it necessarily bespeak in the Person of the Crucified! But how was that love rewarded? ‘Last at the cross and first at the sepulcher,’ Mary shall be the first to greet gracious Lord and Master upon His rising victorious over death, hell and the grave.
But, again, here were two disciples, low in themselves and bound (as Emmaus signifies) to a despised place or people. From what Jesus afterwards said, it is evident that their very countenances expressed the sorrow of their hearts. Their faith was extremely weak. They had understood but very partially what Jesus had said with respect to His mission. Misinterpreting the Lord’s mind, and placing a construction of their own upon His testimony, they become the subjects of deepest disappointment. Is not this a family failing? Are not the Lord’s people prone to think and (but for divine restraint) to act for themselves? And what is the issue – and deservedly – but vexation and disappointment? Notwithstanding, ‘whilst they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.’ Jesus Himself! No deputy, no messenger, no bearer even of the tidings, joyful as they were, ’Go to my brethren,’ &c.; no, but it was ‘Jesus Himself’! Himself in His own precious Person! Oh, the privilege! Oh the mercy! Reader, what do you know about the Person of Christ? Well, He not only drew near, but looked and listened. Perhaps they were so intent upon their ‘reasonings’ that they did not observe Him. He may have walked many paces with them. Mark this, reader. It may be so with you. Your eyes may not only be holden as to who the Stranger is, but as to His being there at all. Moreover, He not only looked and listened, but at length He spoke. Still He assumes either ignorance or indifference. He seeks to draw them out. He wants all their hearts. He will have them tell what they feel and what they fear. He bears them out. He will feign ignorance of all that has transpired until He hears all that they have to say up to that moment, and then He gives judgment. When the case hangs in doubt, then He decides it. ‘O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter His glory? And, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’ (Luke 24:27) Himself, His own lovely Person again! ‘And, behold, they drew nigh unto the village whither they went.’ Ah! How short the road, and how smooth and how pleasant, when Jesus is there! Have you not found it so, reader, oftentimes? You have gone to the house of God; the way has been dark and dreary. Bowed down, very probably, with a weight of care – perhaps tempted or sorely tried. Oh, what a world of anxiety you have had. Business wrong, or sundry vexations in the family; heavy engagements on the morrow, or perhaps health and spirits failing. What a mist and maze you have been in! You have longed for a momentary lull of the tempest--a little calm--some short relief from the din and tumult. You would sacrifice anything for an hour at Bethel. You would not desire a greater luxury than its stones for your pillow, the cold earth your bed, the vast canopy of heaven your curtain, if so be the ‘God of Bethel’ would but vouchsafe to be there. Yea, you would gladly seek shelter from the world’s discord, and avarice, and abomination, even in a Bethesda porch; if so be that a few crumbs of the bread of life are but sent forth from the ‘house of bread,’ to be distributed among the Bethesda-mendicants. But, if you cannot reach either Bethel or Bethesda, you would seek the quiet of even the lowly and despised Emmaus--anything, so that there may be a momentary escaping of the turmoil, and dissipation, and riot of the world! Well, and it may be that you have fallen in on your way with some poor tempted brother or some poor tried sister. You have communed with them aforetime. You have known each other’s case. There has been a previous touching upon some of the heart-secrets and heart-sorrows. There has not been merely a comprehending of the case--a recognition of relationship--but a blending of heart and sweetest fellow-feeling. Casually--shall we say?--you meet. Under some new trial--some fresh test--some sudden sorrow--some unexpected calamity--some least suspected emergency--you are compelled, as it were, for a season, to leave all, be the consequence what it may, ands to seek relief, or quiet, or change, if it be only at the little place hard by, even at Emmaus. Dismayed, perhaps, or distracted, or driven to your wits end, you, brethren, as we have said, fall in with each other. There is recognition and remembrance; recognition of the friend, the kindred, the brotherhood--remembrance of past scenes, which have been followed by a train of circumstances, the mercy and the goodness inseparable from which you can scarcely overlook. Distressed as may be your present position, the very sight of a brother in the Lord--a companion in tribulation--cheers; and you find already that, ‘as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend.’ You walk and you talk; your present position is the theme; until, ere you are aware, there is a diverting from that position. The recollection of how you have been borne up and brought through, induced by the small still voice, ‘What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?’ rouses the mind, raises the sinking spirit, and instantly directs both thought and word to the Person of a precious Christ. He is felt to be near and dear. There is an instantaneous falling under the loving and tender rebuke, ‘O fools and slow of heart to believe!’ With meekness and lowliness, and gratitude, and contrition, you listen to His gracious words and His renewed assurances of interest, and love, and care. How precious and how powerful His words, as, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself’! Ah! Yes, Himself--His own lovely and divine Person--is the Sum and Substance of all. It is Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last. What a glory shines through all the sacred page, as the Sun of Righteousness throws His bright beams upon it! How all-absorbing when Christ Himself is the theme! How completely is self, for the time being, extinguished--Satan vanquished--and the world trampled under foot! Christ becomes emphatically the ‘All and in all.’ The tempest may have raged, in all its threatening and fury, a moment before; but there is not a ripple upon the widespread waters now. Christ hath been seen walking upon the troubled ocean. His presence and His sweet ‘Peace be still’ produce an instantaneous and uninterrupted calm. Not a leaf moves upon the tree that was just now well-nigh uprooted by the blast. All is serene; all is blessed; and well say the pilgrims, ‘Did not our heart [only one heart] burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures!’