[Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, l
et us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it…” – Hebrews 4:1]
The children of Israel braved the Red Sea, and passed it in triumph but the Canaanites in the land, in their armor of brass, and cities walled up to heaven, appalled them, and turned them back in to the wilderness to wander forty long years, before they were prepared to set foot upon the land of promise [Numbers 13:1-14:45].
Like them we have the two stages, and the two works, and both by faith, and both to learn.
They got not their inheritance by crossing the Red Sea alone. The Jordan must also be passed by faith, between watery walls on either hand, before they could learn the lesson that by faith, they were to conquer their foes in the land, as well as gain deliverance from foes in Egypt. A hard lesson as it proved in their case, and many another.
They were not stopped by the Red Sea, and they had their song of triumph upon the far bank overlooking the waters whose walls had opened to give them a dry passage, but closed upon their enemies and overwhelmed them [Exodus 15:1-21]. But when, in that same year, they came to the borders of Canaan and sent out their spies to view the land, and when the spies returned with their Eschol grapes, borne upon a pole between two of them, but reported giants, the sons of Anak in the land, and cities with walls great and exceeding high, they saw all through the magnifying glass of fear and were palsied [paralyzed]: difficulties rose up and swelled out into the giant proportions of absolute impossibilities, and they turned from them and set their faces to go back into Egypt, and were about to murder Moses and Aaron. Nothing kept them from it but the terrible judgments of God.
Strange that they could not see, and know that the same hand that opened up the way out of the bondage of Egypt through the Red Sea and through the wilderness, could and would open up the way into the land of Canaan and subdue all their enemies under them. “The Sea,” thought they, “God opened none but God could do that. But to conquer and subdue the land is our work, and we are not able to do it.” So they shrunk back from it.
Just so it is with us. We break from the bondage of the world. “We fly to the Saviour for pardon” and find it. We are happy in it we have our song of triumph after the passage of the sea, and we go forward. Bitter waters are made sweet for us by the branch of the tree of life cast in. Manna is given us to feast upon by the way. The Rock gives us its living waters. The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire guide us all our journey through [1 Cor. 10:1-5].
But by and by the Canaanites in the heart begin to be seen and felt in their power. And when we begin seriously to think of their absolute subjection we think of it as a work to be done by us not the Lord, and we shrink back from it as hopeless, and content ourselves as well as we can with a life-long career of wandering in the wilderness, simply because our faith fails us to strike for victory, trusting in God alone to give it.
In this way multitudes are stopped, almost before they have started: just when they have come to see the land before them, but have not yet taken the first decisive step for its possession.
Already in endeavoring to take up the “stumbling stone” of perfectionism [a false allegation against a life of victory], one of the difficulties has been anticipated and answered: and in meeting the special personal plea, “not for me,” another [excuse] has been sufficiently discussed, if not effectually removed. Others yet remain. God help us to see them, and conquer them too.
…But then, if common sense and common prudence do demand of us care lest we be deceived and ensnared, are we therefore to be stopped at the threshold of all that is good and great? No.
Rather let us be sure we are right, and then with our face as a flint, yet with the docility of the child, and with the firm tread of a mind made up and a faith leaning upon God, let us push resolutely forward to the conquest.
[There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” – Hebrew 4:9-12].
William E. Boardman, The Higher Christian Life, Henry Hoyt Publishers: Boston, 1858. https://archive.org/details/higherchristianlife00boarrich One of the many who have been impacted through this study was A.B. Simpson. His grace awakening culminated in the formation of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Italics, bracketed Scriptures and references have been added. – JBW
Note that “crossing the Jordan River” by believing and obeying Romans 6:1-14 is not a second or third installment of grace subsequent to salvation. However, most disciples who do “enter in” discover and appropriate this provision some distance along in their spiritual journey. Other helpful studies along this line include Victorious Christian Living (Alan Redpath), Promised Land Living (J. Oswald Sanders), Handbook to Happiness (Charles Solomon), and newly-published Glory Days (Max Lucado).