Joshua 18

 

 

THE CONTINUED DIVISION OF THE LAND (vs. 1-18)

 

1 “And the whole congregation” - The word signifies a body of persons gathered

together at a spot before indicated. The Septuagint renders by συναγωγή -

sunagogaecongregation; synagogue.  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 - “of the children of Israel 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 Israelite unity, the tabernacle at

Shiloh, relaxed, then DISSENTIION 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 labor 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” (Romans 15:6),

and be willing to meet together like on the day of Pentecost “with one accord

 in one place.”(Acts 2:1) – “together at Shiloh,” – In Deuteronomy 12:5,11,14,

we find God prescribing that only in a place chosen byHimself 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

(which was probably made by Urim and Thummim, the case being important

enough for such a decision) 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 ch.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 (Psalm 78:60, 67-69), it

fell into utter neglect, and even in the days of Jeremiah it seems to have

become a by word (see Jeremiah 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9.  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; 14:15; 21:44; 22:4). The difficult passage in Genesis 49:10

is not of course included in this interpretation of the meaning of the word Shiloh

 “and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there.” – (Septuagint: 

“tent of the meeting”) - 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.

 

 

Shiloh (v.1)

 

Shiloh was at once the seat of public worship and the center 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.

 

  • 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” (I Thessalonians

5:17) of those who “walk with God” (Genesis 5:22-24) 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.

 

  • 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:

 

Ø      natural,

Ø      helpful.

 

·         PUBLICWORSHIP 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:

 

Ø      to confess our faith (Matthew 10:32);

Ø      to glorify God by declaring His character to the world and

thanking Him before men for the blessings we have received;

Ø      to preach Christ by making the light of His gospel shine through

the worship of His Church (Ibid. 5:13-16).

 

  • 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:

 

Ø      by the direct influence of the religious exercises of prayer,

praise, and the reading of Scripture and preaching;

Ø      by mutual sympathy.

 

·         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

center 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 4:20-24). By no means is this more fully realized than by union

in the deepest emotions of the spiritual life.

 

2 “And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had

not yet received their inheritance.  3  And Joshua said unto the children of

Israel, 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 -“to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of

your fathers hath given you?”

 

 

Slackness (v.3)

 

  • 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.

 

Ø      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

3:13-14).

 

Ø      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:

 

o       from weariness when it shows the need of the Divine help

for continued exertion; or

o       from culpable remissness when it is a distinct proof of

cooling zeal.

 

Ø      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 (Psalm 95:7).

 

Ø      Unbelief:

 

o       in the need of Christ,

o       in the greatness of the Christian blessings,

o       in the Divine power, through which they may be obtained.

 

 

An Exhortation to Advance (v 3)

 

In ch.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 center, Levi was to have no special territory assigned, and seven tribes

waited for the determination of their settlements.

 

  • 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 labor in order to receive is a

 BENEFICIAL LAW!  (Matthew 13:44)

 

  • WHAT THE REPROOF OF THE TEXT ARGUES UPON THE

PART OF THE REPROVED.

 

Ø      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.  (See Deuteronomy

6:10-12) 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.”

 

Ø      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 endeavors 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.

 

Ø      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

EXCUSES 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! (Luke 12:47)  - Constantly let the inquiry be

made, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)

 

 

  • 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” (Philippians 3:13-14).  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 (II Corinthians

10:4-5), 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.

 

 

  • THE APPLICATION OF THE FOREGOING TO CHRISTIAN

ATTAINMENTS 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

rightfulposition 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 DISHONORS

YOUR REDEEMER!.

 

4 “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

ch.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 ch.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 improbable that the commissioners were provided

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 -“and I will send them, and

they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the

inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me.  5 And they shall

divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and

the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north.”

 

6 “Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts,” -  Literally, ye shall

 write the land, seven parts. Similarly in v. 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 (v. 10) by lot -“and bring the description hither

to me, 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 - “for you here before the LORD

our God.”

 

7 “But the Levites  (see ch.13:14,33) have no part among you; for the

priesthood of the LORD” -  An equivalent expression to that in ch.13. 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 - “is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe

of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the

east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.”

 

8 “And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to

describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and

come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in

Shiloh.” - .”  Shiloh (see note on v. 1 and ch.24:1).  The seat of the tabernacle

became, for the present at least, the headquarters of the Israelites.

 

9  “And the men went and passed through the land, and described it 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?  -“into seven parts

in a book, 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 -“to the host at Shiloh.”

 

10 “And Joshua cast lots” -  Here, and in v. 8, yet another phrase is used to

describe the casting of the lots - “for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and

there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according

to their divisions.

 

11 “And the lot of the tribe of 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 chapters15 or 16 -

“came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth

between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.  12 And their

border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the

side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains

westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.

13 And the border went over from thence toward Luz, to the side of

Luz, which is Bethel, southward; and the border descended to

Atarothadar, near the hill that lieth on the south side of the nether

Bethhoron.”  (For simplification, see ZZZ Map of Canaan as Divided

among the Twelve Tribes – this web site – CY – 2012)

 

14 “And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the corner of the Sea” - 

This is a serious mistranslation, arising from the same word being used for sea and

west in Hebrew.   The Septuagint has πρὸς – pros – nigh; side; (some

copies have παρὰ - para nigh; pertain to ) θάλασσαν Thalassan - sea.

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 -  “from the hill that lieth before Bethhoron  southward; and the

goings out thereof were at Kirjathbaal, which is Kirjathjearim, a city of the

children of Judah: this was the west quarter.” 

 

15 “And the south quarter” -  This is the same word that is  translated border above,

in the phrase, “corner (border) of the sea” - “was from the end of Kirjathjearim,” - 

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 - “and the border went

 out on the west, and went out to the well of waters of Nephtoah:

 

16 “And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth

before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley

of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom,

to the side of Jebusi on the south, and descended to Enrogel,

17 And was drawn from the north, and went forth to Enshemesh, and

went forth toward Geliloth (see ch. 15:7) which is over against the going up

of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben,

18 And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward,

and went down unto Arabah:  19 And the border passed along to the side

of Beth-hoglah northward: and the outgoings of the border were at the

north bay of the salt sea at the south end of Jordan: this was the south

coast.  20 And Jordan was the border of it on the east side. This was the

inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by the coasts thereof round about,

according to their families.  21 Now the cities of the tribe of the children

of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Beth-hoglah,

and the valley of Keziz,  22 And Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel,”

 

 

23 “And Avim,” -  Most probably Ai (see note on ch.7:2) - “and Pharah, and

Ophrah,” - Not the Ophrah of Gideon, who (Judges 6:11; 8:2,32) was a Manassite.

 

24  “And Chepharhaammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba;”-  Some think this the

same as Gibeah of Saul. But see below, v. 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) - “twelve cities with their villages:  25  Gibeon, and

Ramah,” - Now er-Ram. This would seem, from Jeremiah 31:15, and from a

comparison of Jeremiah 40:1, to have been the Ramah of later history,  famous as

the dwelling place of Samuel (I Samuel 1:1;  for Mount Ephraim is applied

to territory in Benjamin.  (Compare Judges 4:5; I Samuel 20:1). It was near

Gibeah (Judges 19:13; Isaiah 10:29), and not far from Bethel (Judges 4:5). It was

rebuilt by Baasha (I Kings 15:17, 21).  “and Beeroth,”

 

26 “And 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, 3; 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 I Samuel

7:5-7,11-12,16; 10:17). Mizpeh was the seat of Gedaliah’s administration,

and of the tragedy of his assassination (II Kings 25:23-25; Jeremiah 40:10-13; 41.) -

 “and Chephirah, and Mozah,” 27 And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah,”

 

28 “And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath,” -  Almost

certainly the same as “Gibeah of Saul” (I Samuel 11:4). It was Saul’s home (Ibid. ch.

10:26; 13:2,15-16). It was near Saul’s home, at the time his temporary refuge, that

the Philistines encamped when Jonathan (Ibid. ch.14.) made his daring attack on them.

It was the scene of the terrible outrage recorded in Judges 19. Lieut. Conder has

 identified it with Jeba, not far from Michmash, situated on one of the branches of the

precipitous Wady Suwaynit. The situation explains the otherwise unintelligible narrative

in I Samuel 13:14 - “and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the

inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.” 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,  chapters 20 and 21, was maintained.

In a country like this the skill of the Benjamites with the sling (Judges 20:16) and the

bow (I Chronicles 12:2) could be used with terrible effect upon foes powerless to come

 to a hand-to-hand conflict.

 

 

   Progress in the Great Work (vs. 1-28)

 

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:

 

  • THE DUTY OF A PUBLIC RECOGNITION OF GOD. The duty of

public worship has been universally recognized 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” (Hebrews 10:25), has continued to be recognized,

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 recognizes 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 organized 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 recognize 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 TH ANKSGIVING, OF PRAYER

AND INTERCESSION,  addressed to OUR COMMON FATHER

IN HEAVEN!

 

  • BEHOLD HOW GOOD AND JOYFUL A THING IT IS,

BRETHREN, TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY. (Psalm 133:1)

This consideration has been partially anticipated already. It was the WHOLE

CONGREGATION ASSEMBLED TOGETHER!   None stayed away,

still less refused to come.  (“I remember these things, I pour out my

soul in me:  for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to

the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude

that kept holy day” – (Psalm 42:4)  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 favor 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 clamor and

evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice,” (Ephesians 4:31)

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 savor.”

(Ibid. ch. 5:2)

 

  • REST IN GOD. Shiloh means rest, or peace. And REST AND PEACE

CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN GOD!  “Peace on earth,” cried the angels

at His birth. “I will give you rest.” “My peace I give unto you,” said He

Himself (Luke 2:14).  “He is our peace,” said the apostle (Ephesians 2:14).

Through Him we possess the “peace that passeth all understanding”

(Philippians 4:7).  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”

(Revelation 21:3), and wherever a soul pours itself out in prayer to

Him, there is His tabernacle and Shiloh, or RESTFUL DEPENDENCE

ON HIM!

 

  • 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.  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. (“Observe to do according to all the law…turn not from

it to the right hand or to the left” – ch. 1:7)  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” (Colossians 3:23).   (“Whatsoever

thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” – Ecclesiastes 9:10)

 

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