Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying…
I. THE SUFFERING OF PUNISHMENT EXTORTS THE CONFESSION OF SIN. The reason whereof is the very nature of punishment, which always implieth some offence, and therefore is a good remembrancer of the same. Thus Joseph's brethren, when they were distressed in Egypt, cried, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." Proud Pharaoh, when he saw the plague of hail and thunder, said: "I have now sinned; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." The proud stomachs of the Israelites came down when once the fiery serpents stung them, and then they came to Moses and said: "We have sinned; for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee." Manasseh, whom all the threatenings of God's prophets in fifty years' space could never move, yet when he was bound in fetters and carried prisoner unto Babylon, "then he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers." Whosoever, therefore, he be that feels not this fruit and makes not this use of his afflictions is worse than hard-hearted Pharaoh, worse than cruel Adoni-bezek. But if by this means we come to see and acknowledge our sin, then may we say with David: "It is good for me that I was afflicted," and give praise unto our God, who is able out of such hard rocks as these to make flow the saving waters of repentance.
II. GOD'S JUDGMENT FOR SIN IS ONE OF THE STRONGEST MOTIVES TO MAKE AN ATHEIST CONFESS THERE IS A GOD. Those who say, "There is no God," David accounteth them in the number of fools (Psalm 53:1). Solomon styleth punishment the schoolmaster of fools. If for all fools, then also for atheistical fools, that they, either by their own or by example of God's plagues upon others, may be taught to put away their folly. Most certain it is, the not observing of God's judgments, or the supposed examples of some who seem to escape the hand of God in the greatest sins, is a main occasion of atheism. For this cause, therefore, David, as jealous of God's honour and knowing what force God's judgments have to keep atheism from creeping into the hearts of men, desireth God (Psalm 59:13). Hence it is also that God often in Ezekiel doth plainly affirm this to be the end of His judgments, that it might be known that He was the Lord. As in Ezekiel 6:6 thus He threatens Israel: "Your cities shall be laid waste, and your high places shall be desolate," etc. Ver. 7: "And the slain shall fall in the midst of you; and you shall know that I am the Lord." And again, vers. 12, 13: "He that is far off shall die by the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword. Then shall ye know that I am the Lord." And Ezekiel 25:17, concerning the Philistines: "I will execute great vengeance upon them, saith the Lord, with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord when I shall lay My vengeance upon them." If this, then, be so as ye have heard, let us learn hence a good preservative against atheism and all the ill motions of the devil and our flesh drawing thereunto; not lightly, as most men do, to pass over the judgments of God upon sin, but duly and diligently to observe them; if in ourselves, then more severely; if in our neighbours, curiously but charitably.
III. AS PUNISHMENT IN GENERAL BRINGETH SIN TO MIND WHICH ELSE WOULD BE FORGOTTEN, SO THE FASHION AND KIND THEREOF WELL CONSIDERED MAY LEAD US AS IT WERE BY THE HAND, TO KNOW THE VERY SIN WE ARE PUNISHED FOR. God's visible judgments have usually in them a stamp of conformity with the sin for which they are inflicted; for either we suffer the same thing ourselves that we have done to others or something resembling or like unto it, or else are punished about the same thing wherein our sin was, or, lastly, in the place or time where and when we sinned. I am persuaded there is no judgment which God sends for any special sin but it hath one of these marks in it. Come, therefore, to Adoni-bezek, and let us learn of him by God's stamp in our punishment to find out what sin He aims at. If we would once use to read this handwriting of God in our afflictions, what a motive would it be to make us leave many a sin wherein the devil nuzzles us the greater part of our life without sense and feeling? For if anything would scare us from sin, sure this would, to hear word from God Himself what the sin is He plagues us for and so sharply warns us to amend. Whensoever, therefore, any cross or calamity befalls us or any of ours, either in body, goods, or name, or in the success of anything we take in hand, let us not rebel against God with an impatient heart, or fret at the occasion or author of our misery; but let us take a just account of our life past, and thus reason with ourselves: "This is surely none other but the very finger of God; I am punished, therefore have I sinned. I am punished thus and thus, in this or that sort, in this or that thing, in this or that place or time; therefore God is angry with me for something I have done, the same with that I suffer, or something like unto it, or because I sinned in this thing, or at this time, or in this place, when and where I am now punished. 'As I have done, so surely God hath requited me.' Therefore I will not look any longer upon any other cause or occasion of this misery, of this cross or calamity, but look unto my sin and give glory unto God who sent the hand which hath done all this unto me."
(Joseph Mede, B. D.)
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?