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THE CONTINUED DIVISION OF THE LAND.—
Congregation. The word signifies a body of persons gathered together at a spot before indicated. The LXX. renders by συναγωγή. The idea is evidently that of an assembly gathered together for some specific acts of worship. This passage teaches the duty of a national recognition of religion. Whatever evils there might be in Israel at that time, the absence of a general and formal acknowledgment of God was not one of them. When that public acknowledgment of Him ceased, the downfall of the nation was at hand. It was the absence of such acknowledgment that was the ruin of Israel, while the hypocritical and purely external recognition of God by Judah was equally offensive in God's sight. Assembled. Literally, was summoned; by whom, we are not told. But this general gathering to set up the tabernacle was at once an act of due homage to Him by whose power they had done so many great deeds, and also the establishment of a centre of national life. As long as the worship of God was maintained in its purity, the unity of Israel would be preserved, in spite of the twelve-fold division into tribes, and without the need to introduce the monarchical power. When fidelity to the outward symbol of Israelitish unity, the tabernacle at Shiloh, relaxed, then dissension and weakness crept in, and Israel became a prey to her enemies. A remarkable instance of an opposite character meets us in the history of our own country. The prey of various unconnected Teutonic tribes, the island was one vast scene of anarchy and confusion, until the great Archbishop Theodore came over and founded a National Church. It was this religious unity and cooperation which tended to harmonise the conflicting forces in the land and steadily pioneered the way to an union of the rival tribes under one head. Without attempting to say whose fault it is that this religious unity is lost, or how it may best be reestablished, it surely is the duty of every patriot and every Christian to cooperate to the best of his ability and knowledge, with all the forces that he sees tending towards unity, and both pray and labour for the coming of the day when men may once more "with one mind and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," and be willing to meet together "with one accord in one place." Shiloh. In Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14, we find God prescribing that only in a place chosen by Himself shall the public worship of the congregation be paid to Him. Thither were all the males to resort three times a year. It is obvious how such a regulation tended to keep alive national feeling among the Israelites. The reason for the choice of Shiloh is to be found in its central position, five hours south of Shechem, and eight hours north of Jerusalem. Its situation is minutely described in Judges 21:19. It is difficult to understand why; since Shiloh must have been well known to all the dwellers in Israel at that time, unless it was to explain to those who were not acquainted with the localities in the tribe of Benjamin the reason for the selection of Shiloh, namely, that it lay close by the road between Bethel and Shechem (see, however, note on Joshua 24:1). The place has been identified. It is the modern Seilun, but only a few ruins remain to mark the place once so famous in the history of Israel, where Eli abode, where Samuel spent his early years. Rejected by God Himself, as the Jewish Psalmist relates with patriotic pride (Psalms 78:60, Psalms 78:67-69), it fell into utter neglect, and even in the days of Jeremiah it seems to have become a by word. Whether it was named Shiloh on account of the word used in Genesis 49:10, it is impossible to say. The name appears to signify rest, and was an appropriate name to be given to the visible symbol of rest from warfare which Joshua had obtained for Israel (see Joshua 11:23; Joshua 14:15; Joshua 21:44; Joshua 22:4). The difficult passage in Genesis 49:10 is not of course included in this interpretation of the meaning of the word Shiloh. Congregation The word here differs slightly from the word translated "congregation" in the first part of the verse, but it comes from the same root. And the land was subdued before them. That is, the land in which the tabernacle was set up. We know from the next verse that the land as a whole was not subdued.
How long are ye slack? This "slackness" (the translation is a literal one) in the arduous conflict against the powers of evil is not confined to Jews. The exhortation needs repeating to every generation, and not less to our own than any other, since the prevalence of an external decency and propriety blinds our eyes to the impiety and evil which still lurks amid us unsubdued.
Give out from among you. Calvin enlarges much upon the boldness of these twenty-one men in venturing upon the task of the survey, rightly supposing that the difficulty of the task was enhanced by the number who undertook it (see note on Joshua 14:12). And here it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the twenty-one commissioners went together, for the object of their selection was to obviate complaints of a kind which, as we have already seen, the Israelites were not slow to make (see Joshua 17:14-18). But the Israelites had inspired quite sufficient awe into the inhabitants of the land to make such a general survey by no means a difficult task. Nor is it probable that the commissioners were unprovided with an escort. Three men for each tribe. Literally, for the tribe. This selection, which was intended to secure an impartial description of the country, would render impossible all future complaints, since the boundaries would be settled according to reports sent in by the representatives of each tribe.
Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts. Literally, ye shall write the land, seven parts. Similarly in Joshua 18:8. That is to say, a written report was to be brought up in seven parts, a fair and equal division of the land having previously been agreed upon among the commissioners. This report having been accepted, division was afterwards made (Joshua 18:10) by lot. Bishop Horsley and Houbigant here, as elsewhere, would rearrange the chapter, supposing it to have been accidentally transposed. But there seems no ground for the supposition. The repetition, with its additional particulars at each repetition, is quite in the style of the author (see Joshua 2:1-24 and notes). That I may cast lots. Or, and I will cast a lot. The somewhat unusual word ירה to throw, is used here. The more usual word is הפּיל caused to fall, though other expressions are also used.
But the Levites (see Joshua 13:14, Joshua 13:33). The priesthood of the Lord. An equivalent expression to that in Joshua 13:1-33. Here the office of the priesthood, there, more accurately, the sacrifices which it was the privilege of that tribe to offer up, are said to be the possession of the tribe of Levi. By cities. It was evidently not a land survey, entering into such particulars as the physical conditions of the ground, its fitness for agriculture, for pasture and the like. The division was made by cities. These cities had been taken and destroyed by Joshua, and now it was the intention of the Israelites to be guided by the ancient political system of the country, to occupy those cities, and to cultivate the adjacent land, as the Phoenicians had done before them. Thus, not so much the area of the land, as the size and importance of its cities, was to be the leading principle of the division. And not unwisely. The Israelites were about to relinquish their nomad life, and if they settled in Palestine, how, without walled cities, could they hold their own against the powerful nations round about them? And came again to Joshua. "The result of this examination, which was unquestionably a more careful one than that made by the spies of Moses, was that the unsubdued territory was found to be too small for the wants of seven tribes, while that apportioned to Judah was seen to be disproportionately large. To remedy this difficulty a place was found for Benjamin between Judah and Ephraim, and the portion of Simeon was taken out of the southern portion of Judah, while both Judah and Ephraim had to give up some cities to Dan" (Ritter).
Shiloh (see note on Joshua 18:1 and Joshua 24:1). The seat of the tabernacle became, for the present at least, the headquarters of the Israelites.
Cast lots. Here, and in Joshua 18:8, yet another phrase is used to describe the casting of the lots.
The children of Benjamin. Lying as their inheritance did between that of Ephraim and Judah, the chief places of note on their border have been already mentioned either in Joshua 15:1-63. or in Joshua 16:1-10.
And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the border of the sea. This is a serious mistranslation, arising from the same word being used for sea and west in Hebrew. The LXX. has πρὸς (some copies have παρὰ) θάλασσαν. The literal translation is, and the border extended, and deflected to the western side. What is meant is that the further portion of the border now described was the western side of Benjamin. Southward. The western border of course ran in a southerly direction. Quarter. This is the same word that is translated border above, in the phrase, "border of the sea." Kirjath-Jearim. Any one who will take the trouble to examine a map will see how much more probable the site Kuriet el Enab is here, than any place "four miles from Beth-shemesh," as suggested by Lieut. Conder. The distance from nether Beth-horon to Kuriet el Enab is not great. It is improbable that the boundary should have run double that distance without any mention of locality.
Geliloth (see Joshua 15:7).
Avim. Most probably Ai (see note on Joshua 7:2).
Ophrah. Not the Ophrah of Gideon, who (Judges 6:11; Judges 8:2, Judges 8:32) was a Manassite. Gaba. Some (as Knobel) think this the same as Gibeah of Saul. But see below, Joshua 18:28. Also Isaiah 10:29. Gibeah and Gaba, however, must have been near together, for Ramah is near both of them (see Ezra 2:26).
Ramah. Now er-Ram. This would seem, from Jeremiah 31:15, and from a comparison of Jeremiah 1:1 and Jeremiah 40:1, to have been the Ramah of later history, famous as the dwelling place of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1, etc; for Mount Ephraim is applied to territory in Benjamin. Cf. Judges 4:5; 2 Samuel 20:1, 2 Samuel 20:21). It was near Gibeah (Judges 19:13; Isaiah 10:29), and not far from Bethel (Judges 4:5). It was rebuilt by Baasha (1 Kings 15:17, 1 Kings 15:21). Mizpeh. This is the Mizpeh, or Mizpah, of Benjamin, whither the tribes were wont to gather together, and where the tabernacle appears to have been removed (see Judges 20:1, Judges 20:3; Judges 21:1-8). If, as Lieut. Conder supposes, Nob and Mizpeh were identical, and were near Jerusalem, this would explain the presence of the tribes within the border of Benjamin on this occasion. They were near the border; and the Benjamites had retired to their mountain fastnesses. This seems almost implied in Judges 20:3. Similar gatherings are recorded in the Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:5-7, 1 Samuel 7:11, 1Sa 7:12, 1 Samuel 7:16; 1 Samuel 10:17). Mizpeh was the seat of Gedaliah's administration, and of the tragedy of his assassination (2 Kings 25:23-25; Jeremiah 40:10-13; Jeremiah 41:1-18).
Gibeath. Almost certainly the same as "Gibeah of Saul" (1 Samuel 11:4). It was Saul's home (1Sa 10:26; 1 Samuel 13:2, 1 Samuel 13:15, 1 Samuel 13:16). It was near Saul's home, at the time his temporary refuge, that the Philistines encamped when Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:1-52) made his daring attack on them. It was the scene of the terrible outrage recorded in Judges 19:1-30. Lieut. Conder has identified it with Jeba, not far from Miehmash, situated on one of the branches of the precipitous Wady Suwaynit. The situation explains the otherwise unintelligible narrative in 1 Samuel 13:14. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin. Dean Stanley ('Sinai and Palestine,' 1 Samuel 4:1-22) reminds us how the very names suggest the "remarkable heights" which constitute the "table land" of which the inheritance of Benjamin consists. Thus Gibeon, Gibeah, Geba, or Gaba, all signify hill. Ramah signifies high place, and Mizpeh, watch tower, which of necessity must be situated on an eminence. Only by narrow passes along deep torrent beds could access be obtained to this mountainous region. Thus it was that the otherwise inexplicable resistance to all Israel in arms, recorded in Judges 20:1-48; Judges 21:1-25; was maintained. In a country like this the skill of the Benjamites with the sling (Judges 20:16) and the bow (2 Samuel 1:22) could be used with terrible effect upon foes powerless to come to a hand-to-hand conflict. To Dean Stanley's vivid description of the physical geography of the country the student is referred for a detailed account.
Progress in the great work.
The tribes gathered together at Shiloh, set up the common tabernacle for worship, and then proceeded, at Joshua's instance, to complete the division of the land. Several detached considerations may be derived from this chapter.
I. THE DUTY OF A PUBLIC RECOGNITION OF GOD. The duty of public worship has been universally recognised in all religions, and is founded in a natural tendency of mankind. Philosophical sects, in which religious observances are neglected or proscribed, show by that very fact their exclusiveness. Religions, however perverted, exist for mankind as a whole; philosophies, for the cultivated few. Christianity has provided fewer forms than perhaps any other religion for the gratification of this instinct, but the principle is clearly acknowledged. At first, the disciples met together weekly to "break bread." At the Reformation, the abuses that had crept into the doctrine and practice of the Lord's Supper led to its more infrequent reception. Yet still the precept, "not forgetting the assembling of yourselves together," has continued to be recognised, and the man who habitually neglects public worship is scarcely regarded as a Christian at all. The duty of a public national recognition is a matter of more difficulty in the midst of our present religious divisions. Yet it is practically not neglected. The fact that the nation as such recognises Christianity is proved by the spectacle presented by our country every Lord's Day, a spectacle which drew from a distinguished French Roman Catholic writer the admission that England was the most religious country in the world. And in times of national rejoicing, or national distress, the various religious bodies in the country do not fail, according to their various forms, to unite in common thanksgiving, or common humiliation and intercession. A more complete external agreement in the manner of such national recognition of religion may or may not be desirable. But it would be folly to conclude that no such recognition exists because it is not externally organised into a system. Perhaps in God's eyes the agreement is greater than it seems to us: that where we discern conflicting institutions and rival denominations. He sees the tribes of Israel gathered together at Shiloh, and offering up united praises and supplications to Him for His mercy and His bounty. Be it ours to recognise more and more a real union under seeming disagreement, and to abstain from all uncharitable expressions, which are out of harmony with the voice of praise and thanksgiving, of prayer and intercession, addressed to our common Father in heaven.
II. BEHOLD HOW GOOD AND JOYFUL A THING IT IS, BRETHREN, TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY. This consideration has been partially anticipated already. It was the whole congregation that assembled together. None stayed away, still less refused to come. And though perhaps, in view of the wide freedom allowed in the Christian Church, the minor differences of ceremonial do not prevent us from coming as one body before the throne of grace; yet, in so far as these divisions of opinion produce jealousy, suspicion, unkindness, bitter accusations and revilings, they exclude those who are so affected by them from a part in the common worship. Such persons are unclean, and cannot enter into the congregation of the faithful; they are unloving, and can have neither part nor lot in the worship of Him who came to call us to unity and peace. We may be sure that as there is no more certain method of checking the progress of the Church on earth than a contentious spirit, so there is nothing more sure to deprive us of the favour of God. Let the spectacle, then, of an united Israel, worshipping peacefully before God in Shiloh, lead us to beware how we promote disunion among God's people, remembering the exhortation, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice," and "walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour."
III. REST IN GOD. Shiloh means rest, or peace. And rest and peace is only to be found in the presence of God. "Peace on earth," cried the angels at His birth. "I will give you rest." "My peace I give unto you," said He Himself. "He is our peace," said the apostle. Through Him we possess the "peace that passeth all understanding." And, thanks be to Him, we are never far from His tabernacle. The tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell with them, and wherever a soul pours itself out in prayer to Him, there is His tabernacle and Shiloh, or restful dependence on Him.
IV. WHAT HAS TO BE DONE SHOULD BE DONE THOROUGHLY. Many a Christian has fallen into serious trouble by neglecting this precept. Some think that a certain profession of religion ought to excuse all shortcomings. Some even go so far as to think that the careful and punctual performance of duty is a legal work, below the attention of a redeemed and sanctified man. Such a view receives no confirmation from Scripture. Our Lord did not neglect the lighter matters of the law Himself, nor advise others to do so. St. Paul did not consider the minutest details beneath his attention. And here the survey was made with the most scrupulous exactness, and recorded in a book. Let Christians learn hence the duty of performing, accurately and punctually, whatever falls to their lot to do. Christ did not give His Spirit to men to make them slovenly, careless, indifferent to what they undertake, but the reverse. Both the Old Testament and the New combine to enforce on us the lesson, "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."
HOMILIES BY J. WAITE
Shiloh, the sanctuary.
The choice of Shiloh as a resting place for the tabernacle was not left at Joshua's discretion: it was a matter of Divine appointment (Deuteronomy 12:10-12). At the same time it was not without its natural reason. The situation was both central and secluded; in the midst of the land, as the tabernacle had always been "in the midst of the camp" in the wilderness (Numbers 2:17), and yet removed from the main routes of the country's traffic. Its name, dating probably from this time, while expressive of the fact that God had now given His people rest from their enemies, was also suggestive of the deeper thought of His settled dwelling among them, and was in harmony with the retired and tranquil aspect of the scene. Shiloh, the sanctuary, the place of rest. In this establishment of the tabernacle at Shiloh the Israelites were performing the highest function of their life as a people. It was a devout recognition of God; the majesty of His being, His sovereignty over them, their dependence on Him as the living root of all their social order and prosperity, that testimony for Him which it was their high calling to present before the nations. The tabernacle at Shiloh stands as a type of all places where people assemble to pay their homage to the Supreme.
I. THE SANCTITY OF THE SCENE OF WORSHIP. The tabernacle was the centre and home of all devout thought and feeling. The highest acts of worship could alone be performed there. It represented the unity of the religious life of the people, as opposed to a scattered and divided worship. It was called "the tabernacle of witness" (Numbers 17:7; Acts 7:44). In several ways is every scene of worship, every "house of prayer," a witness.
1. As a symbol of the presence of God with His people. It bears witness to the fact of His spiritual nearness and accessibility. It could have no meaning if personal and "congregational" communion with God were not a blessed reality. The fundamental idea of the tabernacle was that it is the place where man "meets with God," and finds a gracious response to his seeking. "In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee" (Exodus 20:24). "There will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat" (Exodus 25:22). And Christ perpetuates and confirms the promise with a freer, richer grace: "Wheresoever two or three," etc. (Matthew 18:15). This gives sanctity to any place; makes it a true sanctuary. What other consecration can be needed than the realised presence of the living God?
2. As a memorial of the hallowed traditions of the past. The historic associations of the tabernacle were distinctive, wonderful, supernatural. Its origin: made "after the pattern shown to Moses in the mount" (Exodus 26:1-37); the "glory cloud" that rested upon it; its varying fortunes; the changing scenes through which it had passed—scenes of human shame, and fear, and sorrow, and scenes of joyous triumph and marvellous Divine interposition—all this invested it with extraordinary interest. Every true house of prayer has its hallowed memories. Some small chapter at least of the sacred story of the past is enshrined in it. It speaks to us of struggles for truth and liberty, purity of faith and worship, freedom of conscience, in former days. It represents the earnest thought and self-denying labour of devout men and women who have long, perhaps, been numbered with the dead. It has been the scene of many a solemn spiritual transaction: revelations of truth, searchings of heart, stirrings of sympathetic emotion, heavenly aspirations, visions of God. However lowly a place it may be, the memory of these lingering about it gives it an interest and a distinction that no outward charm can rival.
3. As a prophecy of the better future. The tabernacle, though it had come now to a resting place after all its wanderings, was still only a temporary provision, a preparation for something more substantial and enduring. The time came when "Ichabod" must be pronounced on Shiloh. The ark of God was taken, the sanctuary was desecrated, and the faded glory of the sacred tent was lost at last in the greater splendour of the temple; until that also should pass away, to be followed by a nobler shrine. So is it with all earthly scenes of worship. They are but temporary and provisional. They are expressive, after, all, of our human weakness—dimness of spiritual vision, imperfection of spiritual life. They remind us ever of the "vail that hangs between the saints and joys Divine." They "have no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth." They speak to us of the "more perfect tabernacle not made with hands." We see in them a prophecy of the nobler worship of the future, and learn through them to lift our longing eyes to that eternal city of God of which it is written, "I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it" (Revelation 21:22).
II. THE PEACEFUL ASSOCIATIONS OF THE SCENE OF WORSHIP. "Shiloh" is a name that becomes every place of prayer, every scene of Divine manifestation and communion. It ought to be a place of rest in the midst of earthly agitations, a quiet resort for the spirit from the traffic and turmoil of life, a refuge for the weak and weary, a sanctuary for those who are harassed by the contradictions and pursued by the animosities of a hostile world. Unhappily the house of God is too often connected in men's minds with far other ideas than those of tranquillity and peace. It is suggestive to them of division, and enmity, and bitter contention. The mischief done by those historic strifes about faith and worship that have raged around it, or those mean discords that have reigned within, can never be exaggerated. And yet wherever there is a place of Christian assembly there stands a testimony to the "one Lord, one faith," etc. Beneath these superficial distractions lies the bond of a true spiritual unity. Let that essential unity become manifest, then shall the "glory of the Lord" be again upon His tabernacle, and it shall attract the world to itself as a true sanctuary and place of rest.—W.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Shiloh was at once the seat of public worship and the centre of tribal union; the symbol of established peace and the witness to that Divine law on which the maintenance of peace and prosperity depended. Christendom needs its Shilohs. It is true that our privileges of worship are not confined to consecrated buildings, holy days, priestly ministrations, and church ordinances. Anywhere, on the lonely hillside or in the busy street, at any hour—in the silent night or at the noisy noon—every Christian can claim the privilege of one of God's priests and offer up secret worship, which God will accept and bless. There is often a depth and spirituality in such worship which is not attained in the observance of public religious services. Nevertheless there are special advantages connected with public worship.
I. PUBLIC WORSHIP AFFORDS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SPIRITUAL REST. The tabernacle was set up when "the land was subdued." The seat of worship was named "Shiloh," the "place of peace." Our churches should be homes of spiritual peace; our Sundays, Sabbaths of spiritual rest. The ejaculatory prayer of sudden emergencies, and the "praying without ceasing" of those who "walk with God" and enjoy constant communion with Him, are not sufficient means for withdrawing us from the spirit of the world and revealing to us the heights and depths of heavenly things. For this we want a more complete separation from common scenes, and a longer season of quiet meditation.
II. PUBLIC WORSHIP AFFORDS THE MEANS FOR THE OUTWARD EXPRESSION OF SPIRITUAL WORSHIP. All true worship must be internal and spiritual (John 4:24). External ordinances without this are a mockery; but spiritual worship will naturally seek some external expression. The body is so connected with the soul that all emotion tends to bodily manifestations—joy to smiles, sorrow to tears, anger to frowns. So emotions of worship find their outlet in articulate prayers and songs of praise. Such expression is
III. PUBLIC WORSHIP IS AN OCCASION FOR A PUBLIC TESTIMONY TO RELIGION. The tabernacle was set up in the sight of the people as a visible witness for God. We have our "altars of witness." It is our duty
(1) to confess our faith (Mat 10:1-42 :82);
(2) to glorify God by declaring His character to the world and thanking Him before men for the blessings we have received;
(3) to preach Christ by making the light of His gospel shine through the worship of His Church (Matthew 5:15-16).
IV. PUBLIC WORSHIP IS A STIMULUS TO PRIVATE DEVOTION. It counteracts the depressing influence of worldly occupations and the variations of private experience resulting from our own changing moods. It stimulates us
(1) by the direct influence of the religious exercises of prayer, praise, and the reading of Scripture and preaching;
(2) by mutual sympathy.
V. PUBLIC WORSHIP HELPS US TO REALISE CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD. The erection at Shiloh was "the tabernacle of the congregation." There the tribes assembled together. It was to them the centre of national unity. In our worship we should forget our differences. Rich and poor meet together first as one in sin and want and helplessness, and then as one in redemption, spiritual joy, and Christian service. No duty is more important than that of maintaining a spirit of Christian brotherhood (John 4:20, John 4:21). By no means is this more fully realised than by union in the deepest emotions of the spiritual life.—W. F. A.
Joshua 18:2, Joshua 18:3
I. MUCH OF THE CHRISTIAN INHERITANCE IS NOT YET POSSESSED.
(1) Multitudes of men have not yet received the advantages of the gospel which are freely offered to all. Christ died for the whole world; God desires the redemption of all men; all are freely invited (Revelation 22:17). Yet some live on in sin, some in distress, some in unbelief. Let these know that the distribution of God's grace has not ceased. There is yet abundance to be given for those who seek. The festal chamber is not full. There is yet room. The door is still open (Luke 14:22, Luke 14:23).
(2) The Church has not yet conquered the world for Christ. He claims the whole world. So long as there are heathen nations abroad and godless men at home the work of the Church militant will be incomplete. It is foolish to be satisfied with the triumphs of the past. We should rather lament the slow progress of the gospel.
(3) Christians have much of their inheritance in Christ not yet possessed. The half has not been told us. No one can conceive the fulness of the riches of Christ (Isaiah 64:4).
(a) Christians do not enjoy on earth all the blessings which they might have;
(b) greater blessings are reserved for heaven (1 John 3:2).
II. IT IS OWING TO THE SLACKNESS OF MEN, AND NOT TO THE WILL OF GOD, THAT SO MUCH OF THE CHRISTIAN INHERITANCE IS NOT YET POSSESSED. Not God's will, but man's impenitence, delays his acceptance of the blessings of the gospel. Not God's will, but the Church's tardiness, hinders the spread of Christianity through the world. Not God's will, but the Christian's weakness, prevents him from enjoying the full privileges of redemption. This slackness to take full possession of the Christian inheritance is culpable, and arises from various causes.
(1) Satisfaction with the present. The Israelites became too well satisfied with their achievements before all the land was conquered. We are too readily tempted to "rest and be thankful" before half our work is done. Our watchword should be "Forward" (Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14).
(2) Indolence. Even when we know that more should be done we are slothful and unwilling to rouse our energies for continued service. This may arise
(a) from weariness when it shows the need of the Divine help for continued exertion; or
(b) from culpable remissness when it is a distinct proof of cooling zeal.
(3) Habits of delay. Some seem to follow the rule of never doing today what can be postponed till the morrow. Every day has its task. To postpone this to the morrow will hinder the task of the morrow. All is ready on God's side; there is no excuse for delay. While we delay the opportunity may pass (Psalms 95:7).
(a) in the need of Christ,
(b) in the greatness of the Christian blessings,
(c) in the Divine power, through which they may be obtained.—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
An exhortation to advance.
In Joshua 13:1 we find an address delivered to Joshua by Jehovah, in which he was reminded how much remained to be done ere his work was finished, and his age forbade the belief that many years would intervene before his death. To the assembled tribes of Israel the exhortation of the text was consequently given. The tribes of Manasseh, Reuben, and Gad had received their inheritance on the east of the Jordan, Judah occupied the south of Palestine, and Ephraim a domain in the centre, Levi was to have no special territory assigned, and seven tribes waited for the determination of their settlements.
I. THE POSITION OF THESE ISRAELITES. After years of wandering they were permitted at last to tread the soil of the land of promise. They might well indulge feelings of gratification at the thought of their surroundings, that the wilderness was passed, and their eyes beheld the country which their fathers had in vain desired to see. A spot had been selected where the tabernacle should remain, being, according to the promise and prophecy of God, "in the midst of all their tribes." Still the Israelites had only attained to a half-way position. The rest of arrival must be succeeded by the warfare of acquisition before they could reach the rest of enjoyment. Jehovah had granted to them the land of the enemy, had conducted them safely thither; now let them grasp the privilege placed so near. Few of God's gifts but necessitate effort on the part of the recipients, efforts to appropriate and improve. According to the old fable, treasures are buried in the fields, and only diligent search and cultivation will bring them to light and make us master of them. What men pay for or have a hand in securing, they value; what they strive after, they esteem; hence the necessity laid upon us to labour in order to receive is a beneficial law.
II. WHAT THE REPROOF OF THE TEXT ARGUES UPON THE PART OF THE REPROVED.
(1) Indolence of disposition. It was doubtless pleasing to the Israelites to indulge for a season their love of ease. They could live for a time on the bounty of their brethren and on the fertile produce of the land which had cost them no trouble to till. They were "slack to go in to possess the land." Indolence is one of the most difficult foes to overcome. The great majority evince a decided disinclination to energetic exercise of their powers. Indolence is not only a state of privative loss in respect both of character and happiness, it is also a dangerous state, leaving man open to any incursion of the arch enemy. History abounds in instances of failure on the part of men to become great because they relaxed their efforts and progress ceased. A little longer struggling and the summit of ambition and fame had been scaled. "Idleness," says Seneca, "is the burying of a living man."
(2) Insensibility to the privileges possible to be acquired. Desire of gaining an end in view is the chief incentive to exertion, and the strength of the desire depends upon the amount of appreciation of the advantages which will be thereby secured. He who is not attracted by the pictures drawn of heaven will not manifest any resolute endeavours to get there. That kind of exhortation is most successful which causes hearers to glow within them at the thought of the precious jewels which may be obtained by seeking. Emotions are regulated by the keenness or dulness of our perceptions.
(3) Forgetfulness of direct command. Sloth was, in fact, disobedience. The very purpose for which God had preserved the tribes was, that they might, in obedience to His behests, occupy their respective territories, and drive out the inhabitants who had defiled the land. Many persons excuse their dilatoriness in complying with the precepts of Scripture by various pleas which discover an insufficient acknowledgment of the obligation resting upon them not merely to leave undone what ought not to be done, but to do at once what they ought to do. In this they are verily guilty. We must not be oblivious of the sins of omission as well as of commission. Woe to us if we know our Lord's will and do it not! Constantly let the inquiry be made, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
III. THE APPLICATION OF THE FOREGOING. To Christian attainments. The Christian life is described in many terms, nearly all of which represent it as a progress, a "reaching forth unto things that are before." It is called a warfare, a race, a pilgrimage, a building, etc; denoting continuous effort, in the shape of assault or resistance to assault. There are strongholds to be taken, plains to be seized, fountains and woods and rivers to be gained, trophies to be won. The followers of Christ are expected to advance in faith, hope, and love, in knowledge, purity and holiness, in gifts and graces, in self discipline and improvement, and in usefulness to others and to the Church. To secret discipleship. There was a time when you were under the servile yoke of sin, and being released entered the wilderness of doubt to be affrighted by the thunders of the law. But you have found a High Priest, a Mediator, who has also been a Deliverer to lead you into the land of rest. You have believed in Christ, and are rejoicing in your condition. But you have not taken your rightful position among your brethren. Some are engaged in tending the ground, planting and sowing, erecting houses and expelling the enemy, whilst you are content to remain by the tabernacle of the Lord. You do not enjoy the privileges of communion at the table of the Lord, and of occupying your station in the Church of Christ. To stay where you are is an injury to yourselves, it is a loss to the Church, and dishonours the Redeemer.—A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 18". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent