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“Shiloh, which is the Land of Canaan”
Shiloh was the place of Israel’s government. It was centrally located. Joshua made his headquarters in Shiloh. There God set the tabernacle of worship. And there Joshua cast lots for the people, dividing the land of Canaan to the chosen people by the decree of God. Shiloh means “place of rest.” Canaan was the place of Israel’s rest. Yet, even in “Shiloh, which is the land of Canaan,” things were far from perfect. So it has been, so it is, and so it shall be. — So long as God’s church is in this world, there is much that troubles us and much that delights us.
For Israel’s good and for the service of his own worship, God provided his people with the priestly tribe to do all the service of the tabernacle, “to keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony,” for the glory of God. Those Levites who served God’s church in the Old Testament were in many ways representatives of faithful gospel preachers, the ascension gifts of Christ to his church in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:8-16). They are truly blessed to whom the Lord God gives pastors according to his own heart, to feed their souls with knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15).
By divine appointment, the Levites (Joshua 21) were scattered through the land in four groups. God set them in the house of Aaron, Kohath, Gershon and Merai. As the Lord God dispersed the Levites throughout the land of Canaan, he sends his servants out to preach the gospel to every creature, to needy sinners everywhere, because his elect are found in and must be gathered out of all nations, by the power and grace of his Spirit, by the preaching of the gospel.
Those Levites who ministered about holy things had no portion, no lot of inheritance in Israel. They lived upon the holy things given by the people. So let God’s servants utterly devote themselves to the work of the gospel. And so let God’s people, whose souls they serve, generously provide for the carnal, material needs of his servants.
What a magnificent picture we have of God’s faithfulness to his covenant people in Joshua 21:43-45! Jehovah accomplished all that he promised to Abraham. — “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” The Lord gave Israel all of Canaan, brought them to his holy mountain, divided to each tribe its portion, and drove out all their enemies before them. As the Lord God called for Israel to glorify him for his faithfulness to them (Deuteronomy 7:9), let all the Israel of God give praise, honor, and glory to him for his great faithfulness. Thank you, our great God, for this sweet consolation to our souls. — “He abideth faithful!” Knowing my own unfaithfulness and unbelief, I give relentless thanks to God for his faithfulness (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:13).
Israel’s misjudging of the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh concerning the altar they erected ought to remind us of that horrible tendency of our depraved hearts to misjudge the behavior of others. How quick we are to judge and condemn as evil that which another says, or does! Thinking we know the intentions of others, we foolishly even determine that their intentions are evil! What a veil of ignorance the fall of Adam has thrown over our minds! What evil folly! Spirit of God, teach me to view the actions and words of my brothers and sisters in Christ in the best light possible, thinking no evil of those you have caused me to love (1 Corinthians 13:4).