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…
Joshua gathers all the tribes together to Shechem, and calls for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and they presented themselves before God. "And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen you the Lord to serve Him. And they said, We are witnesses. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day." There are few more beautiful incidents in the Old Testament than this renewal of the covenant between God and His people, at the moment of their entering into possession of the promised land, and on the eve of the death of Joshua. It seems to us an admirable model of the covenant which ought to be constantly renewed between successive generations of the people of God in all ages, and the Father in heaven.
(1) Let us observe, first, that the piety of the fathers does not suffice for the sons, and that while it is a great blessing to have pious parents, and gives the children a strong vantage ground for the spiritual warfare, it does not do away with the necessity that they should for themselves ratify the holy resolves of their progenitors. God made a covenant with Abraham, but, nevertheless, both Isaac and Jacob renewed that holy covenant for themselves. And it needed, as we see, to be ratified again by their descendants when at length they entered into possession of the promised land. So is it with ourselves. Though we had in our veins the blood of the most glorious saints, their holiness would not make us the less culpable if we did not yield our own selves a living sacrifice unto God. What avails it to be children of Abraham according to the flesh, since God is able of the stones to raise up children unto Abraham? (Matthew 3:7.) These principles find a special application in the gospel economy, in which everything is made to depend upon the birth. Not only should the covenant with God be concluded by each new generation of Christians, but it needs to be ratified by every individual for himself apart.
(2) "They presented themselves before God," it is said, on this solemn day. It is before Him and in His sight that the great pledge is to be taken which marks our entrance into His covenant of grace. We have not to do with His representatives, the ministers of His Church, nor even with the Church itself, but with Him. Let us rise above all that is human, and let us come into the very presence of God when we yield ourselves to Him and to his service.
(3) In this solemn meeting between Israel and Israel's God, to renew their covenant, it is God who leads the way by recalling to His people the glorious manifestations of His love in choosing them, delivering them from the bondage of Egypt, bringing them through the desert, and making them victorious over the nations of Canaan. All is of His mercy; His free grace is the basis of reconciliation. It is the offended one who makes the first advance. "He first loved us," says St. John (1 John 4:18).
(4) Preventing grace does not nullify human freedom. God proposes, invites, beseeches, and in His very entreaty there is a virtue which enables us to respond to Him. But we must respond, we must decide for ourselves, it must be our free act. The question is put in the most categorical form to the people of Israel: "If it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve" (ver. 15). "The people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods." "And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves, that ye have chosen you the Lord to serve Him. And they said, We are witnesses" (ver. 22). This decisive dialogue ought to pass between every individual soul and God. Its form may differ, but in substance it is always the same. "Lovest thou Me?" says Christ to Peter, on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias. "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee" (John 21:15). It is the interchange of this question and answer which seals the covenant between the soul and Christ. Woe to those who forsake the good way after having once chosen it! "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment" (Hebrews 10:26, 27). - E. DE P.
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.