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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 23

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-16

Chapter 23

In chapter twenty-three,

It came to pass a long time after that the Lord had given rest to Israel ( Joshua 23:1 )

A long time, being about seventeen years. So from the time that they conquered the land, the people had gone back to the other side, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, about seventeen years later.

Joshua waxed old and stricken in age ( Joshua 23:1 ).

The stricken in age as a phrase that refers to actually a feebleness because of age. Now with Moses, man, he was a healthy critter right up until the day he died. He didn't need glasses or anything else. His strength did not wane at all but he was still very healthy up until the day of his death.

Caleb fared much better than Joshua, Caleb remained very healthy. When he was a hundred and twenty-five years old, he said, "Now Moses promised me this area down here, and I want to go down. I want permission to go down and take it." He said, "I'm as strong as I was the day I spied out the land, and I'm ready to take a company of men and go down and wipe out those guys." So he got along pretty well in his older years, but Joshua was well stricken in years, which does refer to a feebleness. The well stricken in years would mean really, he really had now a hard time getting around. He probably was hard of hearing and just the processes of age had set in upon him.

I make that point to make another point. That is that God, for purposes that we do not understand, allows some people to age very well. They can remain strong and healthy till the day they die, whereas other people age really takes its toll upon them, and they become very feeble, and weaken with age.

The question, "Does that mean that Joshua was less favored by God than Moses? Or was less favored by God than Caleb? Does that mean that Joshua did not have enough faith, and because of his lack of faith he was stricken in years?" I don't think so at all. I think that, that's just the way it happens. That there are some people who live to a ripe, old age and remain healthy all the time, and there are some people who when they get old become feeble, and it has nothing at all to do with their faith, or their relationship to God, or God's love for them.

I do not know of any man in the Old Testament who had greater faith and more miracles through his ministry than Elisha the prophet. Yet we read in the scriptures, "Now Elisha fell sick of the sickness whereof he died." This mighty man of faith, tremendous spiritual insight, and yet he fell sick of the sickness whereof he died. Does God allow His children to get sick? You bet He does. Does God allow His children to get old? You bet He does. Some of them when they get old, do they get stricken with years? Yes, they do. How is it that some age well, and some don't age well? I don't know. But I think that it is very wrong for us to insinuate, or to declare that if a person just has enough faith they don't need to get feeble with old age. If that person becomes stricken in years that we begin to look at them as sort of spiritually second rate. I don't know the ways of God, the purposes of God, but I do know that God allows His children many times to endure suffering.

In the New Testament we read in the book of Acts that, "Herod stretched forth his hand against the church, and he had James beheaded." When he saw that it pleased the Jews, this was James the brother of John, when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he put Peter in prison intending to bring him forth the next day for a trial and execution. The church got together and prayed, and about the midnight hour an angel of the Lord appeared to Peter in the prison, and said, "Put your shoes on, Peter." Peter put his shoes on. He says, "Follow me." The gates all started opening automatically. Peter followed the angel out. When they got outside of the prison, the angel left him. All of a sudden he realized he wasn't dreaming. He thought, "This is just a dream. But it's chilly tonight, and I'm out here and it's not a dream. It's real. I'm free."

So he went to the house where the church was holding a prayer meeting, and he knocked on the door. The young girl Rhoda came to the door, and he said, "Let me in; it's Peter." She was so excited she ran back to the prayer meeting where they were praying, "God help Peter, get Peter out of there, save Peter." And she said, "Peter's at the door." And they said, "Oh you're crazy. You're dreaming." But he kept knocking, so they went to the door, and sure enough there's Peter. So you can't really say it was the faith of the church praying that sprung Peter out of prison.

Now did the Lord love James more than He loved Peter? "Herod stretched forth his hand and beheaded James." Could not God have also saved James from being beheaded? Yes, I'm sure He could. Why didn't He? I don't know. I do not know the mind of God. But there you have a case of where the Lord did rescue Peter. Why? Because the Lord wasn't through with Peter yet. Later on Peter was crucified upside down. Why didn't the Lord rescue him then? Did he lose faith as he grew older? No. It was just God's time for him to go.

Now one day it's gonna be God's time for us to go. We do not know by what means God may choose to take us. But death is not defeat for the child of God. We look at it entirely the wrong way. God loves us. God has given to us marvelous promises. God will sustain us. God will be with us. God will strengthen us. God will heal us. But there comes a time for each of us when the purposes of God have been accomplished within our lives, and why should He leave us around this rotten place any longer, and He sees fit then to take us to our blessed reward with Him in heaven. That isn't defeat. That's victory when the Lord chooses by whatever means to take us home.

Now some people die sudden death. They appear to be in top physical condition, good health, and suddenly they are taken with a heart attack or in an accident. We cannot understand or know why God takes some in early childhood, some in early manhood, some in late years. When my father and brother were killed in my brother's plane, here my father was retired. We figured that he maybe would be around for another ten years or so, he was in good health and still very active. My brother had a motorcycle shop and my dad had just taken up dirtbike riding and was really loving it. He was just an active kind of a person, but we knew getting up at that age, you know, five, ten years, and that's gonna be it.

But my brother, tremendous athlete in the prime of life at twenty-four years. I could understand the Lord taking my dad, he's, you know, at that age and you're gonna go before too long now. But my brother at twenty-four years, why would you snuff out a life that's right here in the prime of health? As so many people said, "His whole life was before him." But what makes you think that it isn't? But we cannot understand the ways of God.

God said, "My ways are not your ways, My ways are beyond your finding out," and it is only an exercise of futility to try to find the answers to the whys of God. "Why did God? Why did God?" And whenever a person prefaces a question to me, "Why does God?" I just say, "I don't know." I do not know the whys of God nor will I allow myself to fall into the trap of seeking to understand the whys of God. Because so many people just more or less eat themselves up with the whys of God. "Why did God?"And they let that just eat them up rather than just accepting, "God did and He knows best and so I just commit it to God and His wisdom."

This past week I had two funeral services. One for a man who was fifty-five years old, in great shape, good health, had a massive coronary as he was coming down the ski slopes at Mammoth. What a way to go. The other one was for a baby who lived for nineteen hours. "Why God?" You don't know. You'll never know, it's foolish to try to understand.

So Joshua, though God loved him, he was a servant of God, a faithful servant of God, yet as he got older he became feeble and he was well stricken with years. The years weren't good to Joshua, though God loved him and he was a true and faithful servant. So loving God, serving God, believing in God, trusting God is no guarantee against the fact that you may be plagued with physical problems. Some of the dearest, sweetest, most faithful Christians I know have had tremendous health problems. It doesn't mean that there's a lack of faith in their life, it doesn't mean that there's a lack of commitment and devotion. It may even mean that they have a deeper commitment and devotion, that you wouldn't be able to take that kind of stuff. God knows that your faith is so weak He dares not to lay anything like that on you. You may be cursing Him, but He knows that they have the depth and the quality that they can abide these things. Don't be so foolish as to think that a person is a second rate child of God just because they have suffered some kind of chronic illness in their life. If only they followed some magic formula of positive confession or anything else that they could've been delivered from that particular ailment. That's hogwash. Some of the dearest saints of God endured horrible persecution and torture and suffering and hardships. God knew they had that inner strength and fortitude to take it.

I thank God that He has given me tremendous health. That's something that I thank God for all the time, because I feel so good. Maybe I am one of those weak spiritual characters. God knows that He dare not let me be sick too long, I'd murmur and complain and groan about it. So He keeps me in good, strong, physical condition so He doesn't have to listen to my murmuring and my moaning all the time. I don't know why God keeps me healthy. I thank Him for it, but I pray that I would have enough grace to thank Him even if I weren't so healthy. I pray that I'd have enough spiritual grace to give thanks unto God even if I had a weak, sickly body. But you cannot equate spirituality and physical health.

You say, "Oh, but the scripture says I wish above all things that God make us prosper and be in good health, even as thy soul doth prosper." ( 3 John 1:2 ) You didn't know I knew that scripture did you? Yes, I did know it was there. That is John's personal little salutation to the excellent lady. Just as I would write to a friend and say, "I trust that you'll stay healthy and prosper even as you are prospering spiritually." But it is not at all a declaration of God's purpose or will for a person's life; it is John's personal little greeting to the elect lady.

You say, "But then should we pray for the sick?" You bet, because the scripture says, "Pray for the sick." Should we expect them to be healed? You bet because the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up. But yet on the other hand, don't think that you're gonna escape the aging processes. Don't think you're gonna escape death unless the Lord raptures His church, which I think He is, but I mean it's wrong for you to think that you have some kind of a divine immunity from problems, from distresses, from physical sufferings, from accidents or anything else.

God does help us. God is good to us. You'll never fully understand the whys of God. I've wrestled with the whys of God for years growing up in a home that was a home that was really spiritually tuned. Extremely beautiful godly mother, deeply committed dad, one of the greatest personal witnesses I've ever met for Jesus Christ. Always witnessing to people. I grew up in this neat kind of an environment, of just believing and trusting in God. From my birth I can't remember a time when I didn't believe and trust in the Lord and love the Lord.

I can remember when I was a little guy going down the street on my bike and just worshiping the Lord. I was just praying and I decided, well, I was always taught you know when you pray you've got to close your eyes. I just wanted to pray and worship the Lord, and I closed my eyes and I ran into a car. I started wrestling with the whys of God. "Why God did You let me run into the car? After all I was praying. When I'm so spiritual and praying, Lord, why weren't You watching over me? Your angels were supposed to keep me from that, Lord. What's going wrong here?" Well, I discovered that God also, like my little granddaughter says, "God gave me a bwain, and He wants me to use it." So we're not to become foolish or extreme. We're to leave the whys with God.

Joshua was old and was stricken in years.

And so he called them together, the elders, and the heads of the people, the judges, their officers, and he said, I am old and stricken with age ( Joshua 23:2 ):

Joshua that's a negative confession, that's terrible, you should never say that. What a horrible confession to make. Hey, no. This is plain honest. Why can't I be honest? If I don't feel good, why can't I say, "I don't feel good." Why should I be dishonest and say, "Oh I feel great," if I'm feeling miserable? "Oh, it doesn't hurt" and it's paining like everything. Joshua was just plain honest. "Folks, I'm old and I'm stricken with years." Well it was probably obvious. He was probably leaning on his cane and could probably hardly see him, you know, just straining. Just plain honesty. He reminds them of God's goodness,

You have seen all that the Lord your God hath done to the nations because of you; for the Lord your God has fought for you. Now I've divided the land by the lot... And the Lord your God, shall expel the rest of your enemies from before you, [So Joshua the old man stricken with years, says,] Be courageous and keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, don't turn aside from it to the right or to the left; That you might come among these nations, that remain; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor swear by them, nor serve them, nor bow yourselves to them: But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done this day. For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man has 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 fights for you, as he has promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God. Else if ye do any wise and go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go unto them, and they to you: Know of a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of those nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off the good land which the Lord has given to you ( Joshua 23:3-10 , Joshua 23:12-13 ).

So Joshua was giving them a charge, the charge included that of separation. To remain separate from these people. Not to get involved and enter marriages and so forth. Not that God has separated races and is opposed today to any mixture of races, that's not at all what it is saying or advocating. God was preserving a race in order that He might bring His Son through this particular race. But it isn't that today there should be any kind of superior or inferior races of people. That is wrong, for in Christ He has made us all one whether we be Jews or Gentiles, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, Christ is all and in all today, new creatures in Christ Jesus.

Now he said,

Behold, I'm going the way of all the earth: and you know in your hearts and in your souls, that not one good thing has failed of all of the things which the Lord has spoken concerning you; if all come to pass, and not one thing has failed thereof. [God has been true, God has been faithful to His promises.] Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, [you can be sure that if you fail God,] and turn away from God the evil things are also gonna come upon you, the destruction, and all that he promised. When you've transgressed from the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and you've gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from the land ( Joshua 23:14-16 ).

So, "even as God has watched over you for good," he is declaring, "God will watch over you for evil." So cleave to the Lord, and love the Lord, serve the Lord.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Joshua 23". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/joshua-23.html. 2014.
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