And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges…
And they presented themselves before God. Eminent servants of God were remarkable for their solicitude respecting the course of events likely to follow their decease. "When I am gone let heaven and earth come together" is a sentiment with which a good man can have no sympathy. Note the instructions given by Moses (Deuteronomy 31.), David (1 Kings 2.), Paul (2 Timothy 4:1-8), and Peter (2 Peter 1:12-15). As Jesus Christ looked to the future (John 14-17.; Acts 1:3), so did His type Joshua. He was determined that the people should be bound to the service of the true God, if solemn meetings and declarations could bring it about. Nothing should be wanting on his part, at any rate. The gathering of the Israelites may remind us of the purposes for which we assemble every Lord's day. We come -
I. TO MAKE SPECIAL PRESENTATION OF OURSELVES BEFORE GOD. Always in the presence of the Almighty, yet do we on such occasions "draw nigh" to Him. The world, with its cares and temptations, is for a season excluded. We leave it to hold more immediate intercourse with our heavenly Father. We approach to pay the homage that is His due from us. Surely those who plead that they can worship in the woods and fields as well as in God's house, in solitude as in society, forget that the honour of Jehovah demands regular, public, united recognition. We have to consider His glory, not only our individual satisfaction. "I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation." It is our privilege also to proffer our requests, to implore the blessings essential to our welfare.
II. TO LISTEN TO THE WORD OF GOD. We have the "lively oracles," the revelation of God to man. It behoves us to give reverent attention thereto. In business or at home other matters may distract our attention; here we can give ourselves wholly to the "still small voice." It may instruct, inspire, rebuke, and comfort. The utterance of God's messenger claims a hearing as the message from God to our souls. "Thus saith the Lord" (ver. 2). The speaker may
(1) recall the past to our remembrance. Joshua reviewed God's dealings with His people, speaking of their call (ver. 2), deliverance from bondage (ver. 5), guidance (ver. 7), succour in battle (vers. 9-11), and possession of a goodly land (ver. 13). Such a narrative is fruitful in suggestions; provocative of gratitude, self abasement, and trust.
(2) State clearly the present position. Acquainted with God and the rival heathen deities, it was for the Israelites to make deliberate choice of the banner under which they would henceforth enrol themselves. In God's house Christians are taught to regard themselves as "strangers and pilgrims," as "seeking a better country," as those who are "on the Lord's side." If they will they may turn back and desert the Master whom hitherto they have followed. There must be "great searchings of heart."
(3) Briefly sketch the future. Religion does not confine itself to the narrow region of present circumstances; it looks far ahead, desires no man to take a leap in the dark, but rather to weigh calmly the respective issues dependent upon the actions of today. None who have experienced the tendency of earthly occupations to absorb, to engross the interest, will deny the advantage accruing from the quiet contemplations of the sanctuary, where it is possible to calculate correctly afar from the bustle of the city, where on wings of the spirit we rise to an altitude that dwarfs the loftiest objects of worldly ambition, and brings heaven and its glories nearer to our view.
III. TO RECONSECRATE OURSELVES TO GOD'S SERVICE. We remain the same persons and yet are continually changing. Like the particles of the body, so our opinions, affections, etc., are in unceasing flux. To dedicate ourselves afresh is no vain employment. It brightens the inscription, "holiness unto the Lord," which time tends to efface. Are not some idols still in our dwellings? some evil propensities indulged, which an exhortation may lead us to check? To keep the feast we cast out the old leaven. Man is the better for coming into contact with a holy Being. The contrast reveals his imperfections and quickens his good desires.
CONCLUSION. If inclined to say with the men of Beth-shemesh, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" (1 Samuel 7:20) let us think of Christ, who has entered as our Forerunner into the Holiest of all. In His name we may venture boldly to the throne of grace. Some dislike the services of the sanctuary because they speak of the need of cleansing in order to appear before the Almighty. Men would prefer to put aside gloomy thoughts and to stifle the consciousness that all is not right within. But does not prudence counsel us to make our peace with God now, to "seek Him while He may be found," clothed in the attribute of mercy, instead of waiting for the dread day when we must all appear before the judgment seat, when it will be useless to implore rocks and mountains to hide us from the presence of Him that sits upon the throne? Behold Him now not as a Judge desirous to condemn, but as a Father who hath devised means whereby His banished ones may be recalled, who waits for the return of the prodigal - yea, will discern Him afar off, and hasten to meet him in love. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.