The warfare for the possession of Canaan has been finished. The land had been partitioned among the people of Israel. Before proceeding with his narrative, the sacred narrator declared the covenant fidelity of Jehovah. Israel possesses the land and dwells therein. It has rest round about. Their stands not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord has delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which He had spoken to the house of Israel; all came to pass,.
This language plainly reposes upon the foundation of the truth that Joshua, his military genius, the force of arms and the courage of his troops, were but the creations of God, through whom He had wrought; that thus the conquest of Canaan was God’s work and, on this account, the evidence and perfect demonstration of His faithfulness. The three verses of our passage form a monument, which the author erects upon the battlefield and on which he inscribes but one name,—the name of Jehovah. This is proper, certainly.
How often, in the past, had the Lord’s loyalty been questioned! How often had unbelief complained that He was failing His people, was thus not holding Him to the promise made to the house of Israel. Truly, there had been many such complainings through the ages of the past,—complainings rising from the unbelief not only of the carnal seed but of the true people of God as well. Even faithful Abraham, the founder of the house of Israel and the first to hear and to receive the promise—the Abrahamatic promise—was not above reproach in this respect. In the disquietude of his soul, he must call the Lord’s attention to the fact that he had no seed and that one born in his house was his heir. When Sarah, using as her argument that the Lord had given her no seed, urged him to go into her maid, he hearkens. Subsequently, as troubled by his own sterility and the sterility of his wife—he was a hundred years old and she ninety at the time—his prayer was that Ishmael might live before God’s face. When he so acted and prayed, he had the promise. There is even more of unbelief discernable in the lives of the other two great-patriarchs. Distrustful of the Lord’s ability and willingness to achieve His purpose, Jacob, the heir of the promise by divine election, seized upon the profanity of his brother and used it to trick him into selling his birthright. Later, under the impulse of this same distrust and as relying upon the infirmities of old age—Isaac was partially blind—and dissimilation to carry him through, he got his father, confused and perplexed by his son’s deceit, to bestow upon him the Melting. As to Isaac, giving way to his strong attachment for the jovial, generous, but profane Esau, he was willingly ignorant of the purpose of God according to the election until rebuked by the Lord through the fraud of Jacob.
How frightful the riotings of unbelief in the house of Israel of the desert period! When Pharaoh becomes unspeakably exacting, as a result of his having been commanded to release his slaves, the people charge Moses with having made their savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh. Driven to distraction by their reproaches, Moses accuses the Lord of ill-treating His people, demands to know why the Lord sent him, and ends with upbraiding God for not having delivered His people at all. Over and over, during those forty years, the people accuse God of having led them into the wilderness with a view to killing them; once at Elim, in the wilderness, when there was no bread, and when the Lord, in response to their murmuring, gave them manna from heaven; again at Rephidim, on account of there being no water for them to drink and despite the fact that they well knew that the Lord stood ready to meet also this necessity, which He did by fetching them water out of the rock; once again at Kadesh, upon hearing the discouraging report of the spies. But this is not all. In Horeb they made a calf and thus changed the glory of their God into the likeness of an ox. At Taberah, loathing the manna, they lusted for flesh, Korah and his company despised the priesthood and with it the vicarious atonement of Christ, At Kadesh the people again accused God of wanting to kill them in the wilderness. In the plains of Moab, they “joined themselves also unto Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.” And this was the new generation!
What a terrible record they had made for themselves through their unbelief, murmurings and rebellions. But as to the Lord, there failed not ought of any good thing which He had spoken to the house of Israel; all came to pass. The provocations of His people could not cause Him to swerve from His purpose; for, being God, He hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth. This being true, (the wickedness of man could not throw Him off balance, so that, as discouraged and frustrated by the rioting of unbelief, He should have concluded that he had better forget about the good thing that He had spoken. The wicked are not unpredictable to Him. However deceitful the human heart, He knows that heart and has determined all its issues. And from everlasting to everlasting He is our God. And He doeth all His good pleasure. His promises therefore could not fail. He did keep mercy for thousands. Forgiving iniquity fend transgression and sin, He entered them into His rest. (And also other thousands who feared Him not; for the rest of Canaan was but typical). The others perished in the wilderness because of unbelief. For whom He will He hardeneth.
Just because these doings of God—His giving His people rest, the rest of the typical Canaan—so wonderfully demonstrates the unswerving loyalty of God to His promise, the narration of these doings, the Scriptures that set them forth, have greatest significance for us. As has already been explained, “the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there.” The significance of this doing must be grasped, It may be set forth in this language: Jehovah, who is the God of peace and rest in Himself, (the word Shiloh means peace and then also rest) entered with His redeemed people into His rest, the rest of Canaan. And He gave them His rest i.e., He satisfied them with His likeness which they beheld in the typical institutions of the law there in Shiloh and made their enemies in Canaan their footstool so that they had rest round about “according to all He sware unto the fathers.” (The concept rest is rich in content. It is equivalent to salvation in all its glorious implications). It is evident that the doing of the people of Israel in Shiloh was indicative of the initial fulfillment of the prophecy of the dying Jacob, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah. . . .until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” The true Shiloh is the triune Jehovah as revealed in the face of Christ. Preindicating Him were Moses and Joshua, the pillar of cloud and the angel of the Lord and finally king Solomon. And preindicative of the heavenly land of Rest—the new earth to be peopled by the redeemed of God—was the land of Canaan with Shiloh (and later on Jerusalem) as its religious and political center. There, in the holiest place of the tabernacle set up in Shiloh, Jehovah dwelt. There, in Shiloh, He satisfied, in the language of the psalmist, the poor with bread, and clothed His priests with salvation. And there the saints shouted with joy.
But the rest just described was but a shadow. For true rest is the blessed state of just men only, thus of men truly redeemed from sin and wholly consecrated unto their redeemer-God. As to the children of Israel, they were evil. And they did evil “in the sight of the Lord, and served Baal. They forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and followed after other Gods.” When God heard this “he was wroth—in the words of the psalmist—and greatly abhorred Israel: so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; and delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemies hand.” The fact of the matter is, that Shiloh was destroyed and the ark of the covenant—Jehovah’s throne—taken by the Philistines. This was God’s doing, a giving of His strength into captivity. He also “gave his people unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance. The fire consumed their young men; and the maidens were not given to marriage. Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation” (). These reverses spelled the end of the peace and rest associated with the city of Shiloh.
Thus the fulfillment of the promise—the scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come—still lay in the future. So the Lord sware truth unto David to the effect that He would set up his seed after him and would establish the throne of his kingdom in Zion for ever. Thus “He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, the sanctuary of Shiloh, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim but the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved” (). In initial fulfillment of this prophecy, “the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man shouted by reason of wine. And He smote His enemies—the Philistines—in the hinder parts: He put them to perpetual reproach” (Ps. 78). This has reference to the return of the Ark of the covenant from the land of the Philistines, and its conveyance first to Kiriathjearim, where it rested for twenty long years in the house of Abinadab, and second to mount Zion, where it was placed in the midst of a tent that the king had pitched for it.
The capture of the Ark—the Lord’s delivering His strength into captivity—the return of the Ark to Mount Zion, was plainly prophetic of the humiliation of Christ and of His subsequent exaltation at the right hand of God. But the return of the Lord to Zion had direct significance for the people of Israel. It betokened the restoration of the people to the favor of God and thus, presaged the subduing of the hostile nations by King David. Mindful of this, the king danced before the Lord with all his might; and Israel shouted and sounded the trumpet.
David was the king of successful warfare, who ended his reign with all Israel’s enemies his footstool. Solomon was the typical king of glory and the prince of peace, who built God’s temple. With his ascension to the throne, Shiloh had again come. But Solomon, too, was but a shadow. Hence, his glory faded; the peace that characterized his reign gave way to strife and revolution from within and without. Shortly after his death, his kingdom was rent in twain through the ten tribes breaking away from the house of David and the service of God. Eventually these tribes, disappeared by a dispersion that was permanent. Judah went into exile. City and temple were destroyed by the heathen. But the exiles returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel. City and temple were rebuilt. It meant that Shiloh again came. But also this rest was without substance. The true Shiloh was still to come, and to Him the finger of prophecy now directly pointed. And He came, did Christ Jesus —He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. Through His atonement He merited the true rest, into which He also entered with His own. For He was raised unto their justification, and they with Him were set in heaven and blessed with all spiritual blessings. And by the power of His redeeming love, they cease from all their evil works all the days of their life and yield themselves to the Lord to work by His Spirit in them: and thus begin in this life the eternal sabbath. And when He comes again, His people, whose life is hidden with Him in God, will appear with Him in glory on the new earth, the land of everlasting rest. And they will, possess the, land and dwell therein and see God as He is in the face of Christ. They will be their rest. And they will say, “Truly there failed not ought of any good thing which He spake to the house of Israel; all has come to pass,” And with the fulfillment of the promise, with His loyalty to His people, standing out in their mind against the background of all the sins, of all the murmurings and rebellions, carnal doubts and fears and questionings from which He saved them—how they will bless His name. But certainly they do not wait with this praise until then. For Shiloh came once and again through the ages, in token of the immutability of His promise. The promise is in process of fulfillment. His goodness and mercy follows them all the days of their life until they dwell in His house forever.