Over This Jordan
September 20th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
OVER THIS JORDAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-20-59 8:15 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio, you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Over This Jordan. It is a message on two books in the Bible, the Book of Joshua and the Book of Ephesians. If you will turn to those two books, you can easily follow the message of this morning hour.
First, the Book of Joshua:
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your boundary.
There shall not be any man able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not leave thee, nor forsake thee.
All one has to do to vindicate the Bible is to preach it. The autograph of the Holy Spirit is in every book. The watermark of heaven is on every page. And the more we look upon these profound and limitless treasures of price, the more fathomless are the depths of its mystery, and its grace, and its revelation of God. The Book is like God, infinite in its marvelous revelation. After these many years, I am just now beginning to see some of the treasures of this Holy Word, one of which this message this morning, so new to me.
When I was a student in school, Howard Taylor, the son of Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, came to Baylor and spoke to our student group. While he was there, I heard him describe a Chinese army whose commanding officer was a man who realized that his troops needed spiritual and religious and moral instruction. Being over there in China’s interior with no knowledge of the true God, this commanding general wrote a book. And once a week, he had a teacher who read to these soldiers out of the book the general had written, and encouraged them, taking the book as his basis and his text, in religious and spiritual and moral things.
So when Howard Taylor came and preached the gospel to the people, the teacher or chaplain of those Chinese soldiers was engrossed with the enthusiasm and the refreshing spirit by which the missionary opened his Book and preached the gospel to the people. And upon a day, Howard Taylor said, the chaplain teacher came to him and said, “What kind of a book is this that you have?” He said, “The book that we have, written by our commanding officer, I have read and reread. I have spoken out of it and spoken out of it, and we are weary of it. We are tired of it. We have wrung it dry. It’s a dreariness. We’ve heard it again and again and are tired of it. But your Book, what kind of a book do you have? It seems to be to you ever fresh and ever interesting, and you never seem to weary of its revelations.”
Well, what a wonderful opportunity to speak to a heathen teacher of the unfathomable riches to be found when we study the Word of God. It’s the same thing that happened down there in another instance. I took a course in music appreciation. You’d never realize it, but I did just the same. And as I sat in that class trying to learn to appreciate all of that intellectual music, why, I was having as hard a time as my compatriots were, and the teacher said something—told something.
The teacher said, “You know there was a group, a class like this.” And he said, “The class with one accord said, ‘We don’t like Handel’s oratorios, and we don’t like Beethoven’s nine symphonies, and we don’t like Chopin and Bach and Schubert.’“
“Well,” said the teacher, “what do you like?” Well, in my day and at that particular time, the song that everybody sang was “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” So, with one accord, the class chorused, “We like ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas.’”
So the teacher replied, “Why, that’s fine; that’s just perfectly fine. We’re going to forget about Mozart, and Beethoven, and Schubert, and Bach, and Chopin, and all of those. We’re going to forget about them. You don’t like them. We’re going to forget about them. And we’re going to study ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas.’”
So the teacher assigned the altos, and they studied and studied it and sang it and sang it, then the tenors, then the sopranos, then the basses, then in unison, then the harmony of the song, then all of the parts of the song and the pieces of it, and the instrumental renditions of the song; and he kept at it, and they studied it, and they sang it, and they had parts in it; two parts and three parts and quartets of it. And studying that until they got so sick of it; they had the thing running out of their ears; never wanted to hear any more of “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” Then after that, why, the class was perfectly delighted to study those great, great music compositions that, after you have studied them a lifetime, still have an infinite, musical reward to those who learn to love it.
That’s the same thing with the Book. We read a daily paper. But after that paper is two days old, I don’t want to see it. Put it out in the trash. Give it to the Salvation Army boys, anything to get rid of it, get it out of your house; same way with the books of yesterday. But this Book, this volume, this Word of God has an infinite treasure, and an unfathomable depth.
Now I want to show you one this morning, the Book of Joshua and the Book of Ephesians. The Book of Genesis is the beginning. God makes a covenant by which He promises in His own grace and goodness to send us a Redeemer to help us; to deliver us [Genesis 3:15]. God loves us before there is any cause or reason to warrant it. It is out of the grace of God that the Lord made the promise. And all that develops thereafter is God reaching out to keep that promise. Then the Book of Exodus is the book of redemption. The Book of Leviticus is the book of worship. The Book of Numbers is our place in the great army of the Lord. The Book of Deuteronomy is the spiritual appeal of the Law. And the Book of Joshua is our entrance into the Promised Land. We are brought out that we might be brought in. We are redeemed in order that we might be a purchased possession [Ephesians 1:14]. We are justified in order that we might be glorified [Romans 8:30].
This Book of Joshua is a vital link in the life of the child of God. We are delivered for a purpose; taken out that we might be brought in. And that same thing you will find in the Book of Ephesians. There is a characteristic word in the Book of Ephesians that is used again and again, and that [word] is the heavenlies; the heavenlies. Now in your King James Version, you have it translated “heavenly places” [Ephesians 1:20, 2:6, 3:10]. But if you look at your Bible, “places” is in italics; that means it is not in the original. It was added by the translators. So leave it out. So wherever that word occurs, let’s just let it stand as it is, “in the heavenlies.”
Now you’ll find it in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” [Ephesians 1:20]. Now in 1:20, you’ll find that word again: “Which God wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies” [Ephesians 2:6]. Then you’ll find it again in the sixth verse of the second chapter: “And God raised us up together, and made us sit together with Christ in the heavenlies.” And then you’ll find it again in the third chapter and the tenth verse: “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” [Ephesians 3:10]. Then you’ll find it again in the last chapter, the sixth chapter, and in the twelfth verse: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies”; translated here, “high places”; in the heavenlies [Ephesians 6:12].
Now that spiritual conception of the heavenlies is the same thing in our spiritual life that Canaan represented in the life of these people, the children of Israel. “In the heavenlies” does not represent so much our New Jerusalem, our final and ultimate and heavenly home [Revelation 21:1-3], as it does our oneness with Christ in His resurrection and in His exaltation [Ephesians 2:6]. God has a place for us now. God has an inheritance for His people now [Ephesians 1:3]. “Go over this Jordan now; this is your promised inheritance” [Joshua 1:2]. And there is a like promised inheritance for us now who are in Christ [Hebrews 4:9-11]. We are not “going” to live; we’re living now. Not “going” to be saved; we’re saved now. Not “going” to inherit; we are inheriting now. There are great areas of spiritual life and reality that God hath to give His people now. And as Joshua was encouraged to go over to possess that land, so we are encouraged today in Christ to enter into our inheritance in the heavenlies with our Lord Jesus [Hebrews 4:1-8].
Now I want to point out about five likenesses between this Book of Joshua and their entering into the Promised Land and the Book of Ephesians and our entering into our spiritual inheritance today. First: it is the great goal for which God’s purposes reached forward and out in our lives. This is the thing God is leading us into. In the Book of Joshua it was God’s purpose to lead His people into the Promised Land, and today it is God’s purpose in our lives to lead us into the heavenly places with Christ [Joshua 1:2].
God said to Moses at the burning bush, “I have heard the cry of My people” [Exodus 3:1, 7]. And the Lord God there avowed that it was His purpose not only to deliver the children of Israel out of the thrall of Egyptian bondage, but also to bring them into a land that flowed with milk and honey [Exodus 3:7-8]. God’s purpose was not only to take them out of the land of bondage and of slavery, but also to deliver them into and to give them an inheritance in a fair and promised land [Exodus 3:9-10].
That passage that I had you read in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis is that. God promised Abraham that though His people would fall into bondage for over four hundred years, yet He would remember them and take them out and bring them into that land from the River Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea, all of it, their promised inheritance [Genesis 15:13-21]. Now that is the exact thing that God hath for us: not only to deliver us from hell; not only to save us out of damnation and perdition; not only to redeem us from all of the bondage of our slavery and sin and death, but God has for us a wonderful promise, a wonderful spiritual reality [Ephesians 1:3-23].
It is not a negative thing. God has given us a freedom from these and these and these, but also a positive thing. God hath delivered us into a marvelous communion, a wonderful fellowship, a glorious inheritance, a happiness that the world could never know, an indescribable gladness and glory. We don’t miss, nor are we poverty stricken, by having given ourselves to the faith in the Lord Jesus. They may think–the Egyptian may think, the heathen may think, the pagan may think, the worldly may think—that we who have been redeemed by Christ [1 Peter 1:18-19], are thereby cut out and cut off from all of the happinesses of life, all of the gladnesses of this world, when in reality it is exactly the opposite.
We who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and we who have been saved by Jesus Christ have been also given a marvelous and wonderful inheritance [1 Peter 1:3-5]. Nobody has the rich possessions that we possess. They don’t know the gladnesses in which we rejoice and the rich rewards in our souls and in our lives. God hath brought us out in order that He might bring us in [Colossians 1:13]. God hath justified us, declared us righteous for Jesus’ sake [Ephesians 4:32], in order that He might glorify us, and enrich us, and make us glad and happy, and incomparably, hilariously grateful, and full of thanksgiving in our souls, in our homes, in our lives, in our hearts.
Whenever you see a Christian that’s down, and sad, and blue, and discouraged, and defeated, and in despair, he needs a vision of Joshua and Ephesians. Lift up your face, fellow. Raise up your heart. Why, the whole world is yours and a heaven beside! You’ve got it; it’s yours!
Another thing: Ephesians and Joshua, by no means are these great inheritances given to us by the law. Moses, the servant of the Lord, after his death, as it says in John 1:17: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In a very real sense, Moses is the very embodiment of the law. But Moses cannot bring us into the inherited and Promised Land. Moses represents the law. “His eye was not dimmed, nor his natural force abated” [Deuteronomy 34:7]. The law never ages. It is as vigorous after the ages as it is when God first gave it. But the law cannot bring us into our inheritance. It cannot bring us into the Promised Land. The law has to be like Moses; buried over against Beth-peor, in the land of Moab, in a valley unknown to man [Deuteronomy 34:6].
So it is with us. The law cannot bring us into our spiritual inheritances, simply because, as Paul says in the seventh chapter of Romans, the flesh is weak: “What I would do, I do not do. What I do not want to do, I do [Romans 7:15, 18-19]. Oh, miserable wretch that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” [Romans 7:24].
I cannot enter into those inheritances by keeping the law. All of the resolutions that I could make and the vows that I could seek to keep; all the covenants I could sign with blood, fresh-drawn from my veins; all of the ascetic practices into which I might attempt to come into that inheritance, all my praying, and mourning, and abstinence, and observing rules and not doing this and doing that: those things cannot bring me into those heavenly places in Christ. Because I keep the law, because I follow a legalistic profession, thereby and therein the iron gates do not open and the great, broad, swelling flood of the river does not open: they open only as a gift of God. They come to us only in the grace and goodness of the Lord. I receive them, I take them: they are given into our hands as gifts of God [Ephesians 1:11].
It is the Spirit that opens the way [Ephesians 1:13], that divides the Jordan [Joshua 3:14-17], that unlocks the gates, that makes the walls fall down [Joshua 6:2-20]. It’s the power of God. We can enter into all kinds of ritualistic practices, and ascetic abstinences, and all kinds of rules and regulations. These do not free the Spirit; these do not make us rejoice in God. They put a yoke upon us and a burden upon us. Why is it that I could not eat ham or bacon? Why is it I could not eat a steak on Friday? Why is it that I could not be free in my life and service for God? The Lord wants us to be. For you do not enter into spiritual inheritances by counting beads, or by genuflecting, or by swinging incense pots, or by abstinence from this, or by ascetic practices, or by observing Lent, or by any other legalistic thing. All of these rich inheritances come to us as gifts of God, and we are to receive them as gifts. It’s the Spirit of the Lord that brings us into all of these rich treasures in Christ Jesus [Colossians 2:3].
“Let no man judge you in respect of days, and meats, and mourning, and ascetic practices, and abstinences. Let no man judge you,” says Paul, “in these things” [Colossians 2:16]. We are free! And what we do, we do out of an ebullient, and a glad, and a glorious, and a happy spirit as unto the Lord. Not down here because I have to be; down here because I want to be. Not down here serving God because I’m afraid I’ll go to hell if I don’t; down here because I choose to be. Not, not doing this and not doing that because I’m scared to death I’ll fall into mortal sin if I don’t; no! Doing all of these things because I like it.
If a fellow likes to play football or baseball, I’d rather be here in the house of the Lord, doing what I’m doing, ten thousand times better. One of those players said that he liked to play, and it was an amazing thing to him that he was paid for it. Brother, I’m just like that. I love to preach, and the amazing thing is I got paid for it. Isn’t that a marvelous arrangement? Isn’t this a glorious come to pass? Paid for what you love to do. That’s what God would have us all to be; happy, gloriously glad, sharing in the thing that we’re doing together unto the Lord. The law doesn’t do that. The law is a yoke. But this marvelous spirit in which God leads us into our inheritance is one of freedom and liberty. What we do, we do out of the goodness, and fullness, and response, and gratitude, and thanksgiving of our hearts. We like it.
All right, another thing between Joshua and Ephesians: in both instances the reward, the inheritance, was given to the people through a man, as trustee, as keeper. For example, I want you to look here in the Book, if you can follow it closely. Look in Joshua, the first chapter. Look how God speaks to Joshua personally, personally. He is to do all of these things and to receive all these things in behalf of the people. “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you, thou, Joshua” [Joshua 1:2].
Now in the next verse, the third verse: “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, I have given you, Joshua, as I said to Moses” [Joshua 1:3]. Now look again in the fifth verse: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee, Joshua, all the days of thy life, Joshua: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee, Joshua: I will not fail thee, Joshua, nor forsake thee, Joshua. Be strong and of a good courage” [Joshua 1:5-6]. The sixth verse: “For unto this people shalt thou divide the land” [Joshua 1:6]—to Joshua; always there in that personal tense.
Now I want to follow that thing through. I found out that in the whole Bible it was the same thing. In Deuteronomy 1:38: “But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit the land.” Joshua shall. Now, you find it again in the third chapter: “But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land” [Deuteronomy 3:28].
Now look again in Deuteronomy 31:7: “And Moses called Joshua, and said unto him . . . Be strong and of a good courage . . . for thou shalt cause them to inherit the land,” Joshua. Now in keeping with all of that, when I turn to [Joshua 11:23], “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.”
Now that is exactly the way it is with us. All the blessings that come to us, that we inherit, all of them are in Christ Jesus. He possesses them for us, and He apportions them out to us. Our Lord said, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18]. And in keeping with the promise of the Father [Joel 2:28-32], our Lord at Pentecost poured out upon us the baptism of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:16-18] and that gift of the Spirit comes from His gracious hands in all fullness today.
All that Christ has, He has for us; all of it, all of it. He keeps it in trust. Everything that is Christ’s is ours. He is our Joshua to divide to us the wonders and the riches of our glorious inheritance in Christ, in God. It is ours through Him [Colossians 2:3]. That’s a marvelous thing. Does Christ have heaven up there? Well, that’s for me and you [1 Peter 1:4]. Does Christ sit at the right hand of God? [Hebrews 10:12]. That’s for you and me. Does Christ have all power in heaven and earth? [Matthew 28:18]. That’s for us. Is Christ ultimately and finally victorious? [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]. That’s for us, too. We shall win! We are not going to fail. Whatever He has, that’s ours. Do they have any golden streets up there? They’re ours [Revelation 21:21]. Any pearly gates? They’re ours [Revelation 21:21]. Any mansions up there? They’re ours [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-3]. And whatever God has today is ours. Fullness of the Spirit, grace and glory, all of it did Joshua receive for the people and divided it among the people, so Christ does to us today. He gives you gifts, me gifts, all of us gifts; differing gifts [Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28]. All of it comes from His bountiful and gracious and generous hands.
Oh! My time is gone almost, and I have two others, just briefly, to summarize them. This purpose of God in leading His people into the Promised Land—one: many people failed in it. As the third chapter of Hebrews says: “And their carcasses perished in the wilderness” [Hebrews 3:17]. The people said, “Ah, would God we had died in the wilderness” [Numbers 14:2], and the people who said that died in the wilderness [Numbers 26:64-65, 32:11-13]. We fail of those heavenlies in Christ. Why? Because we are buried in graves of worldliness, buried in graves of self-interest, and self-seeking, and private ambition, and worldly aims and visions and goals. Oh, it hurts your heart to see people who have been saved and who belong to God’s church, and they are out there in the world perishing in the wilderness. That’s no place for a Christian. The place for a Christian is over this Jordan, into the Promised Land. The place of the Christian is in the heavenlies with Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:6].
Just one other word: that land has its challenging foes. There were seven nations in Canaan to challenge the entrance of God’s people into that Promised Land, and I haven’t time to expatiate upon it. Oh, how we need hours! Paul says up there in the heavenlies there are principalities and powers of this world and kings of darkness [Ephesians 6:12]. Just the same thing as Paul said in the sixteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter. “I will abide in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” [1 Corinthians 16:8-9].
That’s the way it is with us in Christ today; many to oppose, many to challenge, many powers of darkness who contest every inch of our spiritual life. But God says, “Go over! Go over!” [Joshua 1:2]. There was war in heaven [Revelation 12:7]. Go over! Lord bless us as we fight the good fight of faith [1 Timothy 6:12], as we cross over into the Promised Land [Joshua 3:1-4:24], meet the sons of Anak [Joshua 11:21], encompass the city of Ai [Joshua 8:1-35], march around the walls of Jericho [Joshua 6:1-27], fight with the Lord at Hebron, and at Merom, and at Bethel, and at Sychar, Shechem [Joshua 9-12], warring in the ranks of our Savior; our Joshua, leading us into our Promised Land [Ephesians 1:2, 2:6].
Now we must sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody you to give your heart to Jesus; somebody to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, as the Spirit of God shall open the door and lead the way, would you come? Is there a family here to put their lives with us in the church? Would you come this morning? In this balcony round, down one of these stairwells, on this lower floor, into the aisle and here to the front, “Here I come, preacher, and here we are. We make it now,” while we stand and while we sing.
OVER THIS JORDAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1. Best way to vindicate the Bible is to preach it
2. Each book is an autograph of the Holy Spirit
3. Each page has a watermark of heaven
II. Ephesians to the NT is what Joshua is to the OT; likenesses
1. Joshua led Israel into the promised land, Ephesians to heavenly places with Christ
2. Each impossible by means of the law
3. Each entrusted to a representative
4. Many people failed in it
5. Each had challenging foes