The Commander of the Grace of Salvation is Amongst Us
Last week, this writer shared with you the topic ：With what attitude should we enter our new hall?・ This week, I・d like to use the experiences of the Israelites when they entered into Canaan to extract certain spiritual teachings so that they may be lessons for us as we begin service in our new building.
After the death of Moses, God chose Joshua to lead the Israelites as they prepared to enter Canaan. They arrived at the east bank of the River Jordan and waited to cross (Joshua 3:1). It was harvest time, and the banks were overflowing. The people including men and women, young and old numbered over a million. For them, terminating their existence of wandering in the wilderness and entering into the bountiful land of Canaan was indeed something to be ecstatic about. The tumultuous River Jordan was a natural barrier, but God performed a miracle for them. He ordered the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people and wade into the river. When the feet of the priests touched the water, God caused the water to pile up in a heap upstream at a distant city called Adam, while the water downstream flowed completely into the Dead Sea. As the people traversed the wide riverbed, the priests continued carrying the Ark and standing in the River Jordan.
We also deeply savoured this sort of experience in the matter of our church purchasing property to construct an assembly hall, and learned altogether to revere the guidance of the Lord. Although difficulties obstructed the way just like the waters of the River Jordan, we still lifted high the ark of God・s testimony and proceeded forward in faith. The original budget for construction of the church was $1.7M. For various reasons, after many twists and turns, it ended up at $3.6M. By then, our feet had already waded into the water just like the priests・. So God miraculously opened the way for us. In May 2003, our Church-building Fund stood at just $260,000. As of this date, God has provided for us over $3M. We see then that if we single-mindedly revere God, quietly rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, raise high the testimony of God in unison, and proceed forward in faith, God will do His work and open a way for us through the hardships and obstacles. Thank the Lord!
After the Israelites crossed the Jordan and before they engaged in battle for the new land, they pitched their camp at Gilgal. Several important things happened there that are admonitions for us: 1) Set up stones as a symbol, 2) Performed circumcision, 3) Celebrated the Passover, 4) The manna stopped falling, and 5) The appearance of the Commander of Jehovah・s army.
The writer does not wish to expound on all these points, just to share with you on three of them. For the Israelites, they had to consecrate themselves if they were to walk with God (Joshua 3:5). Were they to receive the land of Canaan as their inheritance, they must completely rid themselves of the reproach associated with Egypt. God wanted the new generation to undergo circumcision as their reminder to return to the relationship of the ：covenant；. Jehovah was the God of Israel and they were His people - a Holy Nation - so they must be circumcised in their heart and be purged of sin (Jeremiah 9:25). God wanted them to be circumcised in the flesh as a symbol of His relationship with the Israelites. If the people sinned and worshipped other gods, it would not just be an affront to God・s holiness, but an act of breaching the covenant as well.
Similarly, if we walk with God and want to see more of His handiwork and experience more of His presence, we must remove those things connected with the sinful nature (Colossians 2:11) and pursue holiness, for ：without holiness no one will see the Lord；. (Hebrews 12:14) Now that we are at the threshold of moving into the new building and beginning a new phase, we must self-examine to see if there still are any shameful sins that have not been discarded, and any bad habits pertaining to physical lust and obsession remaining in our hearts. When blessed by the light, we should quickly expunge them, lest we suffer impairment.
After the Israelites crossed the Jordan, God stopped supplying manna. During 40 years in the wilderness, every week for 6 days in the morning, the Lord continuously let fall all around their campground heavenly provision for the nourishment of the people. When they entered the bountiful territory of Canaan, God wanted the people to reap the local produce as their food. That was the new lesson of seeking their own sustenance. East of the river it is the gathering of manna. West of the river, a little more effort has to be made to obtain food. In fact, most of the time God defeated their enemies for them so that the people received fruit that they did not plant themselves (Joshua 24:13).
Likewise, in order that our spiritual lives can grow, we should ensure that there is new progress in our enjoyment of the heavenly food (word of God). Gathering manna can be taken to mean the fresh, uninterrupted supply of the word of God. Reaping local produce refers to doing meticulous research so as to find the richness of God・s words. After moving to the new church, can we expect ourselves that we learn God・s words more ardently so that we discover the fullness within? For our spiritual lives to grow, we must leave the stage of a milk-fed infant and enter into the stage of a solid-food-consuming adult, and be well versed in truth and righteousness, contemplative and enlightened, and able to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:13-14).
Per the understanding of this writer, of all the things that happened at Gilgal, the most important is the revelation to Joshua of the Commander of Jehovah・s army. In the past, the Israelites angered God by worshipping the golden calf. God informed Moses that He did not wish to proceed to Canaan with them, but would only send His messenger to lead them. Yet Moses implored God to go with the people (Exodus 33:2-3, 15), because he recognized the great difference between God accompanying the people and God sending a messenger to tag along. Before the start of every battle west of the river, God appeared in the role of Commander, with a drawn sword in His hand indicating that the conflict was about to begin, and that He would act as the Commander Himself and lead the people into battle. He did not instruct Joshua what to do, except to remove his sandals (Joshua 5:15). We see then that the ground too had become holy because of the descent of the Son of God.
When the church enters the new hall, we must continue to revere the author of the grace of salvation, the head of the church Jesus Christ as the Commander. We must affirm that in the final analysis the true guide of the church is our Lord Jesus Christ, and not an individual leader. We must be sensitive to the Lord・s presence and His holiness. In all matters relating to the church・s policy-making and the expansion of its work, hold firm to Christ, the Head (Colossians 2:19). We do not use the Son of God to gain benefit for ourselves, but love and fear Him, yield to Him as our Commander, and obey His words, for the spiritual battle is indeed nigh.
For many years we had yearned for a secured assembly building. Now it has finally transpired. Thank the Lord! The writer exhorts everyone not to forget God・s blessings. Abandon those shady behaviours of the old self in the light of God and live the likeness of a new self. Delve deeply into the bounty of God・s words, learn to be obedient, and pursue holiness, for the Commander of the grace of salvation is amongst us.
By: Daniel To