Judges 1:1, 2
Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying…
The circumstances which accompanied and followed the death of Joshua are suggestive of the common difficulties which arise on the death of great men, and the conduct of Israel is an example of the right spirit in which to face these difficulties.
I. THE MOST USEFUL MEN ARE OFTEN CALLED AWAY BEFORE THEIR WORK IS FINISHED. The measure of work which God requires of them may always be accomplished, for he sets no task for which he does not supply all needful talents and opportunities. But the work which a man aims at accomplishing, which he sees needing to be done, which men trust him to achieve for them, is commonly greater than his time and powers allow of perfect performance.
1. This fact should teach the most active workers
(1) diligence, since at the best they can never overtake their work, and
(2) humility, in the thought of the little that the ablest can accomplish compared with what he aims at.
2. This fact should lead all men
(1) not to lean too much on any one individual,
(2) to be ready to welcome new men,
(3) to train children to take the places of their parents.
II. THE DEATH OF GREAT MEN SHOULD INSPIRE US WITH A DESIRE TO CONTINUE THEIR UNFINISHED WORK.
1. It is foolish to be content with idle panegyrics, as though we could live for ever on the glory of the past. Life must not be spent in a dreamy contemplation of the sunset, however brilliant this may be. While we gaze the radiance fades; night will soon fall. We must be up and preparing for shelter under the darkness, and for work in a new day.
2. It is weak to sink into mere regrets and despondency. We do not honour the dead by wasting our lives in barren grief. When the great and good are gone the future may look blank and hopeless; but God is still with us, and he will still provide for us. Therefore we should do as Israel did. Not satisfied with the glory of Joshua's victories, nor stunned by the blow of his death, the people look forward, seek for guidance for the future, and endeavour to continue his unfinished work. The richest legacy we can receive from the great is the unfinished task which drops from their dying hands. The noblest monument we can erect to their memory will be the completion of that task; the most honourable epitaph we can write for them will be the story of the good works for which their lives and examples have inspired their successors.
III. As POSTS OF RESPONSIBILITY BECOME VACANT, IT IS WISE TO SEEK THE GUIDANCE OF GOD IN THE CHOICE OF NEW MEN TO OCCUPY THEM. After the death of Joshua Israel consulted "the Eternal." It is a blessing that the loss of our most trusted earthly friends should drive us to the refuge of the great heavenly Friend. In the present case new leaders do not now arise by selfish ambition, nor are they chosen by popular election. The selection of them is referred to God. Israel thus recognises its constitution as a theocracy. Every nation should consider itself under a supreme theocracy. Political leaders should be chosen by a Christian nation only after prayer for Divine guidance. Much more evident is it that the selection of men for service in spiritual things, as ministers, as missionaries, etc., should not be left to the mere inclination of the individual or the unaided human judgment of others, but determined after the most earnest prayer for Divine light (Acts 1:24). Note - such a method of election implies a willingness that the chosen leaders should be called to do God's will, not merely to humour the popular caprice.
IV. WHEN GREAT MEN ARE TAKEN AWAY IT IS OFTEN THE CASE THAT NO MEN OF EQUAL ABILITY ARE FOUND TO SUCCEED THEM. Joshua was not equal to Moses, but he was still well able to take the staff of leadership from his master's hand. But Joshua left no successor. Nothing but anarchy faced the nation "after the death of Joshua" - it seemed as though there could be no 'after." There are advantages in the absence, of great men. The multitude may become indolent, trusting too much to the work of the few. When these are removed men are thrown back on their own resources; thus the courage and energy of the whole people is put on trial. Yet on the whole we must feel that it is better to have the great among us. The death of Joshua is the signal for the decadence of the nation from its ancient heroic glory. Therefore let us pray that God will continue the race of good and great men: and seek to educate and discover such among the young. Let us be thankful that our Joshua - Christ - will never be taken from his people (Matthew 28:20). - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?