Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying…
The one stern fact facing every Israelite is God's command to uproot the Canaanite. There must be at least one land wholly consecrated to Jehovah and freed from idolatry. The warfare is an inheritance, even as the land is. There is a common obligation to fulfil this task; but it is not to be done severally, at haphazard. United action being difficult on account of the loss of the great captain, representative action is the next best. Now upon one tribe, and now upon another, will the honour devolve of carrying the war into the ranks of the enemy. It is a kind of conscription of the tribes, the honour of the burden being borne in turn by one for all. In this case no lot is cast. Jehovah is the disposer of the forces of his kingdom.
I. THE LEADERSHIP IS MADE KNOWN THROUGH PRAYER AND INQUIRY. As yet no tribe had premier rank amongst its fellows. God must decide who shall go up first. He is the fountain of honour, and he must be approached by the wonted avenues. Accordingly, the priest or the prophet is called upon to exercise his functions. There is something very beautiful and pathetic in this united asking of Jehovah by the tribes. Where God is acknowledged as the Supreme Arbiter, harmony is certain to prevail. It is well for Christians to submit all their anxieties to their Divine Father. So we find the early disciples praying after their Master's ascension. And the Church at Antioch observed a like rule ere it sent its missionaries forth to the region beyond. Spiritual work must ever be prefaced by prayer; and although God may not declare the leaders of it by a special utterance, tokens will be given which will enable them to be discovered.
II. IT IS RENDERED OBLIGATORY BY A "CALL." We are not informed as to the precise manner in which the will of God was made known. Probably the Urim and Thummim were consulted. Joshua is never mentioned as doing this; like Moses, he receives the word of God directly. The leaders of Israel receive the word of God from the priest, and the response is not oracular, but clear and definite. A twofold advantage pertained to this decision. It obtained for the chosen one the recognition of his brethren, and confirmed his own faith. An articulate supernatural "call" is not always required for undertaking God's work, but we have a right to demand of those who assume the lead in spiritual things that they shall have clear and unmistakable proof of a vocation. And it stands to reason that one who feels a "necessity laid upon him" to do certain spiritual work shall be more likely to succeed in it.
III. THE DIVINE CHOICE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE CHARACTER AND PAST CAREER OF ITS SUBJECT, This is not to say that these furnish a reason for it. With regard to all Divine work it may well be asked, "Who is sufficient for these things?" But frequently human insight and experience justify Divine measures, so far as they go. It was Judah who delivered Joseph from the pit. He confessed his sins (Genesis 38:26). Jacob intrusted Benjamin to his care, and blessed him in the words - "Thy brethren praise thee; the sceptre shall not depart from Judah." His tribe became the most numerous and warlike (Numbers 2.); and of the commissioners appointed to allot the land, the representative of Judah is first mentioned (Numbers 34:19). But above all, it was Judah and Ephraim alone who furnished the spies that gave a faithful account of the land - Caleb and Joshua. The former still lived, chief of the tribe of Judah. Ephraim, the tribe of Joshua, being already settled, Judah's turn crones next. We see therefore that although human merit cannot be said to determine Divine appointments, the latter will often be found to run in the same line. - M.
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?