Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 9
ISRAEL: FROM JOSHUA TO NEHEMIAH
Let’s turn again to Joshua Chapter 3, and remember we closed the last lesson with Rahab, and how her little bit of faith was sufficient. And God recognized that faith by placing her in the genealogy of Christ. She is in the very family line of the Messiah. Remember that Rahab is one of four women in that genealogy. I have always said when we teach Matthew, that most people would say “I don’t want those women in my family tree.” But there they are. I’ll explain that more in detail when we get to Matthew someday. Remember, Israel is coming in from the east side of the Jordan River. Let me put my makeshift map on the board (see page 38). Notice Jericho sits right off the northern tip of the Dead Sea.
So Israel has come out of the wilderness experience through Moab and there they are on the east side of Jordan. It is spring time and the river is now in flood stage. It may be a mile or two wide. Ordinarily the Jordan River is not very big. Those of us in Oklahoma would probably call it a creek. But at flood time it can be very wide. This is what Israel is up against. They’re up against the Jordan River, in the spring at flood time. And just on the other side, about five miles in from the river, will be the city of Jericho (and of course you all know the story of Joshua and the city of Jericho). But now here in Chapter 3, I want you to see how things are changing a little bit. Remember when they came out of Egypt, the children of Israel were led by the Cloud or the Pillar of Fire. And throughout that whole forty years of wilderness experience there in the Sinai, that Cloud and the Pillar of Fire have been evident. That has been their leading force. But now when you get here, something else happens. It’s not the cloud leading them into the river; now it’s the Ark of the Covenant being carried by the priests. Let’s pick up the account in Joshua Chapter 3:
“And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel,…”
And we’re not talking about a few thousand; we’re talking about a few million. I don’t want you to lose that concept of this great multitude of people, plus all of their livestock, plus a great number of hangers-on (called the mixed multitude in the Scripture).
“And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
Now `three days’ keeps popping up, doesn’t it? And whenever you see that three days, there’s an insinuation of the three days that Christ was in the tomb:
“And they commanded the people, saying, `When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levities bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.'”
That’s going to be the sign of their leadership, the Ark of the Covenant. Remember from our Tabernacle study; that’s why we had to stop there a few weeks ago. The Ark of the Covenant was that little box, overlaid with gold, in which were the tables of the Ten Commandments, the samplings of the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. When I asked on television what was in the Ark of the Covenant, I thought I would get a hundred answers. But I only got one, and it wasn’t right. But anyway, the Ark of the Covenant contained these things. And over the Ark of the Covenant, remember was what? The Mercy Seat. The place of mercy. Now when everything was completed, and they were ready to begin their Tabernacle worship, the Shekinah glory, this cloud, placed itself right above the Ark of the Covenant which was in the Holy of Holies. It’s this same piece of furniture now that is signified by the very presence of God, the very mercy of God, that is going to lead the children of Israel. Back to verse 4. He says:
“Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits (that would be about three thousand feet; that would be a little over a half a mile. They were never to get too close, remember, to the Ark of the Covenant.) 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.” Now, as they are ready to cross Jordan, verse 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. And the LORD said unto Joshua, `This day will I begin to magnify thee (that is, Joshua who has now taken Moses’ place, remember) in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.'”
In other words, God is going to prove to the nation of Israel that Joshua is, indeed, now His man to lead them in and occupy the whole area of Canaan which is still inhabited by the Canaanites and the various tribes. Tribes that God told Abraham would be driven out so that his offspring could have the land of Canaan.
“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.'”
What happened? As they stepped in, the water just sort of piled up. And like the Red Sea experience, Israel is now able to cross the Jordan on dry ground even though it’s at flood stage. I’ve emphasized before that when you deal with God and Israel, the supernatural is common place. Never be shocked by any kind of supernatural, miraculous event when God deals with Israel.
Now of course, we’re living in the Age of Grace. We’re not living in the time when God is dealing with His Covenant people and God is still the same, all powerful, sovereign God. We know that God can still do anything that He would want to do. But in this Age of Grace, He has chosen not to perform the supernatural. And I think the reason is that He has given us His Word, and it’s all that we need. You and I today do not need a manifestation of the miraculous in order to believe and trust what God has said. But Israel, you see, even as Paul says in I Corinthians 1:22 that the Jew required, what? A sign. It was just part of their nature. They had to constantly see the very proof of God. So the miraculous was common place. Just think for a moment as you go up through Israel’s history of all the supernatural events that were just constantly happening, whether it was in war or whether it was in the scope of their religion.
For example, when Elijah built that alter up on Mount Carmel; and he was going to confront all the priests of the gods of Baal. He filled the trenches with water and soaked the sacrifices with water. And then he encouraged the priests of Baal, “Alright, tell your gods to come down and burn up these sacrifices.” They couldn’t. After all, pagan gods are powerless when it comes to something like that. Now they do have a power that of course, comes from the other side. It’s satanic power. But they didn’t have the power to do what Elijah was tempting them to do. But what does Elijah call on his God to do? The same thing and what happened? Why, the fire came down, licked up the water out of the trenches, and burned up the sacrifices. It was miraculous; it was supernatural. Never doubt that it happened. And on and on we could go. Remember when old Samson finally stood between the main pillars of the pagan temple. It wasn’t Samson that pulled it down. He was merely a vehicle that God used. God crumbled that temple. Again, it was a supernatural, miraculous event. Back to the text then. Supernaturally, miraculously, God stops the waters of the Jordan from flowing. They pile up and Israel crosses over on dry ground. Now verse 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 (in other words, the water was just going to pile up). And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water (Now here it is, the scriptural account), [for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,] (now that would be barley harvest, which was the first crop in the early spring; March, April) That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.”
“And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan (now that’s how completely God held back the waters of the Jordan River, even at flood stage. And they walked over again, as they did from Egypt on dry ground), and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.”
In Chapter 4, he sets up a memorial of twelve stones and so forth. Read that in your spare time. Now I’d like you to go to Chapter 5:
“And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward… (in other words, in this area now between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, Canaan. Occupied by these pagan nations that), …heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their hearts melted,…”
That’s what you call the fear of God. They had the proof that Israel’s God was alive and well and still performing the miraculous. They had heard about what had happened 40 years earlier. Rahab rehearsed that. “Oh we’ve heard how God dried up the Red Sea. We’ve heard how your God brought you out of Egypt.” Now they’ve been close enough. They probably had eye witnesses that saw that old Jordan River suddenly dammed up by an invisible power. “And so their hearts melted.”
Now. I am going to say this with all sincerity. They’ve just crossed the Jordan river. They’re now in enemy territory. They’re only a mile or two away from the first city they’re going to have to conquer. And then God stops them; and they have a tremendous national right of circumcision. Imagine! At the doorstep of the enemy, they have a national circumcision! Why? Because they had neglected it for forty years. I always have to put it this way. When it comes to dealing with God, it’s first things first. In other words as far as God was concerned, it was more important that Israel fulfill their Covenant relationship with Jehovah, which of course, had been demanded from day one. First things first. Even at the doorstep of a mortal enemy, the city of Jericho, God literally lays the nation of Israel in a useless position. We think that’s foolishness, don’t we? That He would incapacitate the whole nation at the doorstep of their enemy. But that’s what He does. So they went through this whole right of circumcision, in order to prepare them spiritually for the physical battles that were coming. It was a Covenant relationship that had to be consummated. Now then:
“And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, (that is, whatever they were living in; tents or whatever) till they were whole (or until they were all healed). And the LORD said unto Joshua, `This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.’ Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal (or rolling) unto this day. And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.”
Now mark this one down. This Passover, right here, is forty years to the day from the Passover they celebrated that night in Egypt. I was teaching in one of my classes last week on prophesy. A lot of people don’t have the real, true definition of prophesy. They think that anything that speaks of something in the future is prophetic. Well maybe it is, but when you come to Old Testament Bible prophesy, always remember that not only does God foretell something, but He puts it in a time frame. God’s timing is so exact that when He says something is going to happen, prophetically, at a specific time in the future, be it forty years, seventy years, five hundred years, or even a thousand years or more, you just bet the farm that it’s going to happen just like God says. Now that’s true prophesy and this is only associated with the nation of Israel.
Now we’re still here today. Koreans are sitting on the mountain tops, they tell me, waiting for the Lord to come. They’ve already sold their houses and their lands and they have said that“Today is the day that the Lord will come.” Well they’re not the first. Others have done it before them and there may be others, but this is where they’re way out in left field. Prophesy mandates dates setting for the most part. But you see there is no prophesy given to the Church. For that reason, the Church does not know when the Lord is going to come for her. Because if a date could be set, then you’re putting the Church back under prophesy. You can’t do that any more than you can put the church under law. You can’t put the Church under prophesy because the two absolutely will not mix. So always remember that. There is nothing designated, date or time wise, for the Church. And consequently there is not prophesy, as such given to the Church. That’s what insulates us and isolates us from the whole Jewish program.
I want to make a couple of real fast scripture references here. Now Israel has come through on dry ground again, even as they did coming out of Egypt. It again, is a picture I think, of our coming through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. All this, remember, is a picture for us. Everything that we try to teach out of the Old Testament has a New Testament doctrine attached to it. Now then, before we go to the New Testament. After they have finished circumcising, they have crossed the river Jordan and they have celebrated the Passover, and now in verse 11:
“And they did eat of the old corn of the land (that is the land of Canaan) on the morrow after the passover…”
This was probably the old grain that had been stored in the granaries of the Canaanites. Israel now partakes of that instead of, (now think a minute, what have they been eating for forty years?) manna. And now the manna stops. That is part of their beginnings. That was part of their weakness, you might say. But now that they have crossed over; they have gone through the river Jordan, they have gone through the circumcising, they have gone through the Passover, and now they eat of the old corn of Canaan.
What’s the lesson? Now, we have to go to the New Testament. Turn with me to II Corinthians Chapter 5. Again we have to remember that in order to get to where you and I live tonight in this Age of Grace, there’s only one section of your Bible that gives us all the instructions for it, and that is Romans through Hebrews (the writings of Paul). Look what Paul writes to the Corinthians, basically a Gentile congregation. He could just as well be writing to you and I tonight. Beginning with Chapter 5 verse 14:
II Corinthians 5:14,15
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”
Now what is that? It’s Paul’s Gospel that Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead. Now verse 16 (I never get tired of teaching it and I don’t think people ever get tired of hearing it):
II Corinthians 5:16
“Wherefore (whenever you see a `wherefore’ or `therefore,’ you always reflect back to what has just come before it. Well, Christ died for all and rose from the dead.) henceforth (what does that mean? He’s going forward. He’s not going back forty years. He’s talking from this time on.) know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.”
Remember what I just said about manna? They feasted on manna as a result of their weakness. They had nothing to do but just wait on God. It was the very simplistic beginnings of the nation. But now that they have the crossing of Jordan behind them, and they’re now ready to occupy the land, God says, “No more manna. You’re going to have to get off the manna and you’re going to have to eat off of what? The grain of the land.” You see what Paul was saying? He was saying, “Oh I knew Christ in the flesh.” And I’m sure he did, even though there’s no record of the two ever meeting face to face. But Saul of Tarsus was a contemporary of Christ. I think they were basically the same age. So he had heard, and he had probably witnessed all that Jesus had done up and down the land of Israel. But Paul never concerns himself with Christ’s earthly ministry. Paul concerns himself only with Christ after His resurrection. The power of the resurrection is all that Paul knows. And so he says, “Yeah, we knew Christ in the flesh, but henceforth since His resurrection, we know Him as such, no more. That has to be behind us.” Let me show you another one. Turn to II Corinthians Chapter 13 verse 4:
II Corinthians 13:4a
“For though he was crucified through weakness (hey, that throws a curve at us, doesn’t it? What is he referring to? His earthly ministry again. Even though He performed the miracles and everything else, what kind of a man was He? Meek, lowly, riding on the foal, or a colt of an ass. He had no place where with to lay His head, not even a pillow. He said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests…” but He had none of those. So He was basically in a ministry of humiliation and as Paul says here, a time of weakness) yet He liveth (now what are we talking about? Resurrection. By what?) by the power of God…”
Do you see that. There has to be, even for us, a circumcision. Let’s keep turning to the right. Colossians 2:11, and again Paul is writing to us Gentiles and he says:
“In whom also (and that is the Godhead of verse 9 and 10) ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,…”
Now when something is done without hands, who’s performing it? God is. It’s the very power of God that is performing a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sin of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. What has to be cut off at our salvation? The old Adam. That’s spiritual circumcision. When the old Adam is cut off, it’s superfluous, it’s of no use. And a result of that, of course, is our entering into the Body of Christ. We enter into the Body of Christ no longer feasting on manna, but we’re feasting on the old corn of the land. In Hebrews Chapter 5, Paul says, “Get off the baby bottle, it’s milk, and for goodness’ sake get on to a diet of what? Meat.” I used to tell my little Sunday School kids, years ago, “You come into my class; you throw away the baby bottle. We’re going to start feeding you steak and vegetables.”