“And behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” – Joshua 23:14
These words Joshua spoke to the people of Israel with their elders and heads, their judges and officers. Joshua was old and he knew that he was about to die. So he assembled the people at Shechem. It was an impressive occasion. Joshua had led them to victory. He had made of Israel a nation, and had seen them settled in the land promised to them of old, to which they had looked forward with hope for many years. So Joshua wished to give them his counsel and his blessing. He was the same man in dying that he had been in living – calm, brave, and unwavering.
We first learn of Joshua in the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai. He was the leader of Israel’s armies in that memorable battle with the Amalekites at Rephidim, when Moses went up to the top of a hill overlooking the battlefield and lifted up his hands to the Lord, and Aaron and Hun stayed his hands until the setting of the sun, and the Amalekites were defeated.
Again, with Caleb and ten others, Joshua was sent forth to spy out the land of Canaan. Ten of the spies brought back a disheartening report. They saw nothing but dangers, and said: “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we… The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” But Joshua and Caleb were not discouraged by what they saw, and urged that Israel go forward. Where others were timid, hesitating, and fearful Joshua stood forth unafraid, ready to undertake anything in the service of God and his people. Numbers, giants, walled cities were all alike to him. He heard the craven account of the ten spies with indignation, and spoke out: “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land… their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.”
At Rephidim, at Jericho, at Ai, at Beth Horon, at the waters of Merom this same courage was displayed, and now in his old age and in his dying moments, the same courage flamed forth. “Be ye therefore very courageous,” he said, “to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left… no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.”
Bravery was one of Joshua’s qualities, and the Lord always appeals to this quality in him and strengthens it, as He seeks to strengthen in us whatever is good. So he had assured Joshua that He would always be present to defend him: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage,” “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” These commands appealed to Joshua and strengthened him, preparing him for the part he was to play in conquering the hostile tribes within the promised land, which were Israel’s deadliest foes, and in settling Israel in their new home.
Moses freed the children of Israel from bondage to Egypt, gave them laws, and established order and discipline among them. He did this outer work, and died outside the land. Joshua did the inner work, and died in the midst of the land which he had won for them.
When his work was finished, he gathered the people together and gave them his parting charge. He exhorted the people to choose the Lord. He spoke from the experience of a hundred and ten years; he spoke to those he had led in hard times and in good; he spoke of the wonders he had seen and known, wonders done by the Lord. And he finished his life with this exhortation: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Then he set up a stone, symbol of Divine truth, to witness in future ages to the impressive lesson he had given then. Then the people went back to their homes, and Joshua passed into the more glorious home above.
And it is recorded that “Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God.” This book of Joshua has been called the Doomsday Book of the tribes, because in it the several boundaries and possessions of the tribes are arranged and fixed. Spiritually it pictures the self-conquest of evils within the heart, which the Lord can enable everyone to accomplish. Joshua thus represents the power of the Lord’s truth working in the hearts and souls of men. In his end he represents the state we should attain when our labors here are finished, when no giant lust remains, no selfish passion, no impatience is left. Joshua is going quietly to rest. The angelic idea of death is of resurrection. To men we die, to angels we rise. “Mortals say a man is dead, angels a child is born.”
In the Gospel of John we read: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” When the Lord is lifted up in us, when His qualities of love and wisdom are enthroned in our hearts and minds, He draws us to Himself, and He becomes our light and guide.
It is further recorded that Joshua was buried in the lot of his inheritance. This means that what progress he had made would be secured to him. After the conflict he would be given peace, and enemies would no more rise up against him.
Joshua’s success was due to his unhesitating valor in obeying the Lord. If we had similar bravery, we should realize similar conquests much sooner than we are wont to attain them. We often fail in making progress because we hesitate – we are fearful. We see the right course but still we delay, as if there could be a danger where truth leads. Joshua represents trust in the truth and obedience. If we had this trust, many an evil which is left to plague us for years would early have been overcome. Not a man of them could stand before us, and we should attain much more fully and much sooner than we do the victory of peace.
Many view their leading sin as something that they cannot give up without some great detriment, or at least cannot give up now. They think that it is a part of their individuality and that they must be very careful in giving it up. On the other hand, some good step, the adoption of some virtuous course is a matter of slow resolution and great hesitation, as though some great danger were to be feared.
On the contrary, sin is always a curse. It is an aberration from true order. It is described in Scripture by every term that can express what it hurtful and loathsome: it is a serpent, a dragon, a plague, a poison, it is death and hell. It is that which destroys a father’s goodness and a mother’s love. It destroys the happiness of children and leads them to destruction. Is there any reason why we should spare it for a moment?
The psalmist writes: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” To hate outward foes is wrong, but to abhor the sins of mind and heart is true wisdom. So it is written: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
The time is always now. When truth has shown us a wrong, if we are faithful and fearless, we shall secure years of peace, years of progress, years of usefulness which otherwise would be worse than wasted. This is one of the lessons that the Lord brings to us through Joshua, namely, that as soon as we see the truth; we should obey it, and trust in the Lord, the God of truth, to bring us into His Kingdom.