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Sermon Bible Commentary

Joshua 3



Verse 4

Joshua 3:4

I. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." We are all continually entering upon new paths, which afterwards turn out to be old ones in a new form. Religious experience moves by crises. Israel had not many years before gone across this same desert, and been abruptly turned back to Sinai again, because of rebelliousness in their will. Now they were to go to Canaan, but by another route altogether. We are always beginning new experiences. But we should remember that in the year to come we shall find ourselves travelling over much the same road as last year. There will not be anything extraordinarily surprising. Differences will be in the details.

II. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Then, in the fresh chance God is giving, He offers Himself to be our Helper and Friend. We failed last year. The chances of life are still open. Our parts may be played over again.

III. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Then surely the gifts of God's love have not been appropriated by others nor exhausted by ourselves.

IV. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore;" but it is well to remember that the ark has not passed this way heretofore either. The Israelites were to accept God's guidance implicitly. They were to bear the ark to the front and follow it without any question. It makes life a new thing to put the ark on before it.

V. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Now, with the ark in front, "the joy of the Lord is your strength."

C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 224.

I. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." Therefore do not go until you be assured of the Divine presence and protection.

II. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." It is quite right, consequently, to take new ways and untried paths in life.

III. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore." There are some particulars in which this must be true even of the least eventful life.

IV. "Ye have not passed this way heretofore," The suggestion is not human, but Divine. It is God Himself that proposes to guide and defend the lives of men.

Parker, The Ark of God, p. 26.

"Ye have not passed this way heretofore." The vista of the bygone years was never so long as it is to-day. Time never carried such a burden of events on his shoulders. Changes have taken place in society and in ourselves, and these changes are sure to go on during the coming year. Take these watchwords for the year, notes of the life we must aim to live as the days go by.

I. Vigilance. Have the senses well exercised and ready for quick and true discernment of men and things. Without something of this sleepless vigilance, without the "inevitable eye," we shall lose much of what is in the year, and in the year for us.

II. Promptitude. We should watch for occasions, that we may seize them; for opportunities, that we may improve them; for God in His manifold revealings and comings to us, that we may receive Him as our God.

III. Courage will often be needed to do what the hand finds to do. The possession and cultivation of moral courage therefore is another very necessary preparation for this way that we have not passed heretofore.

IV. Gentleness is a good word to put under the shelter of courage, and a good thing to put among the preparations for the unknown year.

V. We should be poorly furnished for the way without filial confidence, which will easily, when occasion comes, pass into resignation.

VI. Finally, whatever comes, there will always be, not only need and occasion, but ground and reason, for serene, invincible hopefulness. "Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."

A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 350 (see also Congregationalist, vol. i., p. 7).

References: Joshua 3:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1057; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 5; M. Nicholson, Redeeming the Time, p. 217; Outline Sermons for Children, p. 23; Old Testament Outlines, pp. 56, 59. Joshua 3:5.—E. B. Pusey, Sermons from Advent to Whitsuntide, 1848, p. 35. 3:7-4:15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 277. Joshua 3:9.—Parker, vol. v., p. 274. Joshua 3:11.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 144. Joshua 3:17.—Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the Old Testament, p. 40. 3—Parker, vol. v., pp. 88, 97. Joshua 4:6, Joshua 4:7.—Newman Hall, Sunday Magazine, 1865, p. 389. Joshua 4:9.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. viii., pp. 159, 315; H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 301. Joshua 4:15, Joshua 4:24.—Parker, vol. v., p. 116. Joshua 4:23.—Ibid., p. 275. 4—Ibid., p. 107. Joshua 5:11.—W. Harris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 384. Joshua 5:12.—H. Macmillan, Two Worlds are Ours, p. 177 (see also Sunday Magazine, 1879, p. 125); Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 1; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 183; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 257; J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i., p. 58.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Joshua 3:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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