Sermons by the Monday Club
And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance to possess the land.…
With ages of schooling, and always the same lessons, mankind is slow to learn the absolute and unalterable conditions of prosperity; equally slow to note and steer clear of the reefs and shoals on which nationality after nationality has gone to wreck.
I. THE DRIFT OF HUMAN NATURE. It is towards sin, and away from God. The Israelites were men no better and no worse than other men. Sentimental philosophers of the modern type may write out in soft phrase their exalted estimates of human nature; they may enlarge upon its beauties and excellences; but, in spite of their fancies and ecstacies, here the fact asserts itself in the record, as it does on every page of history, that human nature, left to itself, gravitates downward.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF MEN IN HIGH STATION. The significant fact is recorded that "the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua," etc. A great responsibility rests upon those who occupy prominent places in society or in the State — a responsibility that is not discharged by fidelity to the specific duties of their position. There is that undefined, incalculable something of influence which is inseparable from their station, which they are to guard and direct.
III. THE DANGER OF RELIGIOUS INSENSIBILITY. It is twofold. There is danger that men will come into a state of mind and heart where they will be unmoved by Divine truth, and there is great danger in that state. The children of Israel did not sweep over at once and in a body into idolatry. They drifted, by slow and unrecognised gradations, from the service of God to the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth. Carelessness about single duties, indifference to single truths — here were the causes of their final detection. The process has been often repeated, is still in progress. Men and women walk our streets to-day utterly indifferent to the most solemn truths of religion, to whom all the truths of God were once intensely real. There was a time when conscience was quick, and the least wandering from duty brought sorrow and repentance. There was a time when immortality, with its heaven of blessedness and its land of infinite sorrow, loomed colossal on the horizon of thought. There was such a time, but it has passed, perhaps for ever. Neglect of duty, lack of watchfulness against sin, disobedience to many a heavenly calling — things like these, slight and unnoticed in themselves, have swept them away from the moorings of faith and interest, and they are adrift on the dark sea of unbelief and indifference.
IV. THE SECRET OF PROSPERITY. The Israelites had all the human factors of success — a fruitful country, a genial climate, experience in the arts of war and peace, and the prestige of a triumphant march from Egypt to Canaan. These were seemingly enough to make them a power among the nations. But one thing, the indispensable thing, was missing — the Divine favour which they had forfeited by their sin. Is God for us or against us? is the decisive question. If He frown, empires with the glow of centuries of art and culture transfiguring them may crumble to dishonoured dust, and the shame of their defeat become greater than the splendour of their conquests. From the tawny sands that cover the old-time magnificence of Babylon and Nineveh, and the scores of historic centres that have faded out of sight, comes one and the same declaration, voiced by the desert wind that moans over their graves, "Even so shall it be with the nations that forget God." And what is true of men in the mass is true of individuals. The conditions of real and enduring success in life are always the same. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Many things are rightly estimated as elements in what is called a successful life. Enterprise, thrift, patience, energy — all these are helpful and desirable forces; but it still remains unalterably and everlastingly true that the sovereign maxim of political and social economy is that given long ago by Jesus on the mount: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.