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Victories in Old Age
God often speaks very plainly. Few care to be told to their face that they are old. But the Almighty recognizes these awkward facts and bids men recognize them. He is sometimes almost blunt, as He was in addressing Joshua. His is the directness of loving faithfulness. Matthew Henry says: 'It is good for those who are old... to be put in remembrance of their being so'. And it was for Joshua's highest good that God now puts him in memory of this unwelcome fact.
The Bible renders us the great service of introducing us to numerous aged or ageing people. They are not the least interesting figures of its fascinating and often pathetic gallery. Abraham, Sarah, David, Zacharias, and Elizabeth, have honoured place among the venerable saints of Scripture. It is to be observed that old age is associated in the Bible, I think invariably, with the saints. The tragedy of godless old age is not alluded to. Only the old age which is a crown of glory, because found in the way of righteousness, is honoured in the sacred treasury of honour.
I. Achievement Jehovah cheers His aged servant by a great and inspiring implication. It lurks delightfully in that 'yet'. Thank God for that delectable adverb. 'Yet' carries the idea of 'in addition,' and addition implies something already in existence. 'There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.' Much land had already been possessed. Great victories had been won. The territory of the enemy had been heroically acquired. Joshua had not lived in vain. His greyed head had won its laurels and won them worthily and well. There is a gospel of sweet reminiscence and kindly hope in that gracious 'yet'.
The Lord, the great Encourager, delights to remind his old warriors of the battles they have by His grace fought and won. He gives them light at evening time in many ways, and not least by recalling to them the 'land' they have already 'possessed'. Divinely inspired memories are among the treasures of old age.
1. When we are old we, in many cases, have the recollection of temporal achievement.
2. It is a great thing to come to age and know that we have achieved doctrinally. Blessed are they who have possessed themselves of 'much' of this Emmanuel's Land!
3. Experimentally some of God's children achieve grandly ere they are old. They become experts in believing prayer. They abound in thanksgiving. They delight themselves in the Law of the Lord. They hate every evil way. They have fellowship with all such as love Jesus Christ in sincerity. Happy souls that in old age can give glory to God because they have possessed themselves of 'much land' in the Canaan of Christian experience!
4. It appertains to some to recognize in their old age that they have achieved altruistically.
II. Omission . When God said to Joshua, 'Thou art old... and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed,' there was kindly reproof in the faithful word. If there had been achievement, there had been omission. 'There remaineth yet' much had been left undone. He and his braves had possessed themselves grandly, but imperfectly. Jerusalem, Gezer, Bethshean, were but instances of the 'very much' that was still unaccomplished. Those forte were still untaken.
What a parable of life! Age reveals, and increasingly reveals, our omissions. Oh, the Jerusalems, Gezers, Bethshean's, of our soldiership! Why did we not take those proud fortresses when we had boundless vigour? 'There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.'
III. Opportunity . Even though Joshua was old, he had spacious opportunity before him. 'Very much land remained' 'to be possessed'. He had not the opportunity of earlier days, but it was an opportunity relatively very great. The 'very much' was the measure of his possibilities.
Age always has its opportunity, greater or lesser. What land may not veteran victors possess! Do not regard old age as defeat; make it a triumph. God can strengthen Joshua to possess 'very much land,' albeit he be 'old'. Bishop Creighton said, 'We can scarcely recognize as one of the problems of life how to grow old happily'. But it is one of life's hardest and yet most hopeful problems.
IV. Endeavour. 'The Lord said unto him, Thou art old... and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.' Then Joshua must make immediate endeavour. 'You are not dangerously ill,' said a physician to a patient; 'but you are dangerously old.' Ah, that is the spiritual peril of some. At once such must bestir themselves. There is no time to be lost if the 'very much land' is not to be lost. Arise, my friend, and call earnestly upon thy God and go forth to the battle and to the victory! 'Tis time to live if I grow old' was a favourite exclamation of John Wesley in his closing years. And it is well for all old people to soliloquize thus if they would be victors whilst the shadows lengthen.
Very trustful such may well be as they war their good warfare. Philip Henry declared, 'Christ is a Master that does not cast off His old servants'. No! He never does. And He will not cast you off in the time of old age! The comforter shall still be with you. The Risen Lord shall empower you. You shall possess the land.
Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 43.
References. XIII. 1. C. Vince, The Unchanging Saviour, p. 120. John McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 393. XIII. 1-6. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Deuteronomy, Joshua, etc., p. 158. XIV. 6. Ibid. p. 160. D. T. Young, Neglected People of the Bible, p. 59.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Joshua 13". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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