The Book of Joshua

29. Peace and Worship.

Joshua 18:1.

"The hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him." — John 4:23.

A new era now arises in Israel's history. Instead of Gilgal, the camp, Shiloh, the place of worship, becomes the centre for the people. It is now no longer the place of God-made liberty, where the reproach of Egypt is rolled off, but the place chosen of God for the tabernacle of the congregation to stand. The camp, with its self-denial and its hardship, is exchanged for peace and worship.

Standing in God-made liberty, and not being slack in self-denial, we go forth to spiritual warfare, and so become possessors practically of our God-bestowed portion in Christ; and this spirit leads to the further step of worship. Shiloh signifies "peace" or "rest"; and Israel, having conquered a large amount of their inheritance, and being at rest (for "the land was subdued before them"), set up the tabernacle of the congregation in that place which the Lord had chosen to put His Name there (Deut. 12:11).

At Gilgal the Lord rolled off the reproach from Israel and made His people His freed men; at Ebal He established His word in the promised land, and laid Israel under obedience to His laws; at Shiloh He established His Name in their midst, and dwelt among them. God makes the peace, and, blessed in the peace He has made, His saints worship Him. His hand produces the rest in which alone His people can dwell with Him, and He among them.

Shiloh was situated nearly in the centre of Israel's inheritance, and, if we regard Shiloh (peace) as a figure to us of Christ, who is our peace, remembering that one of His names is Shiloh (Gen. 49:10), we find at once the true Centre of all the vast circle of God's saints, in the fulness of their spiritual possessions.

At Shiloh were the one altar and the one tabernacle, Israel's centre; around this divinely-appointed centre the circle of the twelve tribes was drawn. The extent of the circle would be according to the multitude of the children of Israel, the centre itself could never vary. Thither would each faithful heart of the vast congregation turn, as surely as every compass points to the pole. Christ is God's centre for His people, and around Him is the circle of all His redeemed — "Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" (Gen. 49:10). Christ alone is the object of each heart's adoration. God has given no other attraction for His saints. Christ will be the centre in the glory; and even now upon the earth, despite all the divisions of language and of race, yes, and of creeds and "isms," Jesus only is the centre for His people.

Israel's tabernacle was the common inheritance of the nation; the chief of the fathers and the humblest of the Israelites alike worshipped there, for Jehovah's one people they were, and He dwelt among them.

There could be no divinely-owned association of the tribes, save where the glory of God was — at Shiloh. Every true association of the saints of God has His presence, and fellowship of heart and purpose in His presence; "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1:7). Christ is the only centre of true fellowship among those who are united to Him and to each other, and true fellowship among Christians only exists so far as this is practically recognized. Christians are now God's circle upon the earth, of which Christ is the centre. God has made them, though many, one body by His Spirit, who dwells in them; and so long as Christ is really and truly the practical centre of God's saints, unity amongst themselves, holiness, peace, and the joy of worshipping the Father result. Let Christ be lost sight of as the centre, and, lo! Shiloh becomes but a name, a memory of bygone days. Shiloh now is strewn with stones, one of the waste places on the earth, a solemn remembrance of glory, worship, and peace of departed years.

The tabernacle was Jehovah's tent, or dwelling place; and since Israel was His chosen nation, it was "the tabernacle of the congregation" — the tent of the meeting of the people and God. They were not only established in the place of God's appointment, surrounding Him according to the principles of His word, but they were associated with God and He with them. His Name demanded holiness in them, obedience from them, practical godliness and a national life, such as He could smile upon. Alas, how Israel's history comments upon Israel's disobedience! Jehovah's changeless holiness is written upon the ruins of Shiloh. Its desolation is an eloquent testimony to the divine displeasure against departure from Himself. "Go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My Name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel" (Jer. 7:12). Yet each of the three hundred and fifty years and more that the ark remained there declares the Lord's great patience with His rebellious people! God will ever keep His truth, but He has made His saints the caretakers thereof; if, then, His people dishonour Him, He will scatter them, and they will lose their place of trust. As we ponder over the suggestive history of Shiloh, let us take heed to the word of our God, "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, are these . . . Is this house, which is called by My Name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord" (Jer. 7:4, 11).

But Shiloh foretells a brighter day to come. It speaks of the gathering together of the scattered tribes of Israel to the Christ they now reject. It has also its encouragement for the Christian believer. We find, declared in the seventeenth of John's Gospel, the union of the family of God's children. First, the apostolic unity, which nothing did sever; secondly, the general unity of grace; thirdly, the unity of glory. Practical union, displayed upon the earth, is a testimony to the world, and to this responsibility attaches itself; but there shall be union displayed in the glory when this day of divisions is no more. In the coming day of peace and rest, the one undivided company of the family of God shall behold the glory of the Lord Jesus, which the Father has given Him. Then all hearts shall be united eternally; then all desires shall be fixed undistractedly upon Christ; then the saints "shall all see eye to eye." Then the whole of God's rich blessings shall be the portion of the whole of God's people. Then rest from war shall be the portion of all, and, in the sunshine of cloudless peace, in the glory of God, shall our Shiloh be. The tabernacle of God shall be with men! (See Rev. 21).