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1. A glorious rest. Our study opens with very striking words: "And it came to pass a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies."
There is, indeed, a twofold rest. There is a rest from our enemies and their is a rest in our souls. There is a rest from our labors and there is a rest to our souls.
We remember how Christ said, "Come unto Me, * * and I will give you rest." We remember also, how He added, "Take My yoke upon you, and * * ye shall find rest unto your souls."
Why should we be restless and filled with care when our sins are gone, and we are freed from the powers of darkness?
Why should we be anxious for anything, when we have Him? He is all we need, and more than we need.
Canaan rest was, indeed, a picture of the rest we have in Christ even now; it is, however, more effectively a picture of the Millennial rest which we shall have in Him, when Christ shall come and reign. It was this rest of which the Holy Spirit spoke in Hebrews 4:1-58.4.16 , when He said, "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." It is toward that rest that we set our faces like a flint. It is for that rest that we must labor, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief in which Israel of old fell and were left dead in the wilderness.
2. A glorious sunsetting. We now come to the story of Joshua passing to be with his fathers in Paradise. Joshua said, "I am old and stricken in age." Then the aged successor of Moses began to recount the Lord's mercies.
Joshua had proved himself faithful even unto death. He had lived true to his Lord; and so, also, he died. He never turned to the right hand or to the left. His eye was fixed on Jehovah. His feet kept the straight and narrow way.
Joshua proved that e'en down to hoary hairs, the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us.
3. A glorious praise. There is something uplifting and inspiring in the words of Joshua, which are found in Joshua 23:3 and Joshua 23:4 .
First of all Joshua gave God praise. He said, "Ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done." He did not take the honor of achievement to himself. He gave glory to God. What have any of us which we did not receive of Him? He is our Victory. He is our Supply. He is our Wisdom, our Strength, and our all in all.
Joshua said, "The Lord your God is He that hath fought for you." The conquests of Israel must have been the conquests of the Lord, because there is no other basis upon which they could have been realized. Israel had neither the skill nor the prowess to conquer the Canaanites.
To be sure, even Joshua acknowledged that he and the people had their part in the conquest. Their part, however, was that of obedience to orders. Their part was the march of faith. Thus to this day, it is "The Holy Ghost and us." It is not us, for the reason that we of our own selves can do nothing. It is not Him alone, for He has made Himself dependent upon us as channels through whom He may work out His purposes and plans. "Together" is His word to us.
I. WHAT OUR EYES HAVE SEEN (Joshua 23:3 )
1. All that God hath done. We like the expression, "Ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done." God did it, we saw it. How wonderful are all His works, and how wonderful that we may behold the works of the Lord.
The heavens could not tell us of His glory, if our eyes had not been keyed to view the heavens. Day unto day could not have shown us knowledge, if we had not been given brains to grasp the things which are God's.
As it is, we can see only in part. We may think we know it all, yet,
"Millions of years our eyes will rove
O'er the wonders of His love";
and yet there will always be more to follow.
2. All that God is. It is not enough for us to revel in the works of God for us. We need to go deeper in, and know God Himself. We need to say, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Paul wrote, "I know whom I have believed." If we know Him, not about Him, we are indeed happy. Did not Christ say: "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent"?
Is it not true that our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ?
3. All that God hath in store. To know what God has done and what He is, as manifested in His Son, is not all of the Christian's privileges. He may also, through the Holy Spirit, get a vision of the things to come. It is written, "That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace * * toward us."
II. ENTERING INTO THEIR INHERITANCES (Joshua 23:4 )
1. The fulfillment of every promise. So far as Joshua and Israel were concerned, they actually entered into their inheritance, and there failed not one good thing. It behooves us, as Christians, to study deeply into our inheritance which He has prepared for those who love Him.
These inheritances were every one prepared for us, from before the foundation of the world.
In Ephesians we are acclaimed as having obtained an inheritance. In the Book of Peter we are acclaimed as being kept by the power of God through faith to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you.
Think you that such an inheritance as that to which we are predestined shall ever fail us? God says it is reserved for us in Heaven, while we are kept for it down here,
2. The righteous adjustment of every reward. Joshua 23:4 tells us that the inheritances were divided unto Israel by lot; that is, to each one was given his own portion. Thus it is when our Lord shall come, there will not only be the inheritance by grace of the saints in light, but there will also be inheritances by reward for services rendered. In other words, God shall render to every one according as his work shall be.
Here is an incentive for present hour toil.
3. The blessings of God to every individual. Everyone in Israel received something. Each one had his portion. So also when we stand before the Lord, there will be certain things for all. Some of these riches of grace are described for us in the 1st chapter of Ephesians.
Let us thank God and take courage.
III. THE THINGS TO COME (Joshua 23:5-6.23.6 )
1. Blessings still in store. The Children of Israel had not yet accomplished all of their task. Joshua 23:5 says, "And the Lord your God, He shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the Lord your God hath promised unto you."
We have not yet done all that God has commanded us to do. Therefore we have not yet received the full reward for our labor. The more we do for Him, the more He rewards us. Let us, therefore, redeem the time. Let us be up and doing. Let us occupy until He comes. If there remains much land yet to be possessed, much service yet to be done, let us not loiter by the way.
2. Blessings contingent upon courageous conquests. Joshua 23:6 says: "Be ye therefore very courageous." We must not become disheartened. We must not grow weary in well-doing. There is no time for idling. As long as there are ripened fields to be harvested, lost souls to be rescued, wanderers to be restored, we must press on our way.
We are almost amazed at the amount of land yet to be possessed. Millions of people have never yet heard the Gospel. With every present-hour possibility for speed and travel, we must hasten on.
3. Blessings contingent upon keeping the Law. The Children of Israel had more than a service to render; they had a Word to keep, and a life to live. There are some people who would sum up their whole Christian life in the word "do." We ask them to consider the word "be." Our duty is not only to go, to tell, to serve; we must be filled with the Spirit.
It is necessary for us to take heed to ourselves, to the way we live, to what we are. It is only thus that we can get God's richest blessings and rewards.
IV. GOD'S GALL TO SEPARATION (Joshua 23:7 ; Joshua 23:12 )
1. God's people are a special people. The Lord called Israel to come out from among the nations in order that they might be a special people unto Himself, above every people that dwell upon the face of the earth. Until this day Israel is not reckoned among the nations. They are a people belonging peculiarly unto God. What is true of Israel is true also of the Church. Of the Church we read: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar (special) people."
We are in the world, but we are not of the world. Upon us God looks as a people wholly His. He even says: "Know ye not that * * ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price."
2. God's people are a separated people. We could scarcely be a special people without being a separated people. If we are His, we are not of the world. If we are His we are called to come out of the world. God has said, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, * * and touch not the unclean thing." It is upon this condition that God adds this promise, "And [I] will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters."
3. God's people are a sanctified people. The word "separated" is included in the word "sanctified." However, the word "sanctified" goes beyond the word "separated." When the Lord said, "I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified," He meant that He had separated Himself unto us as a holy God, that we might be separated unto Him as a holy people.
In the Epistle to the Thessalonians we read: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication." God calls us to possess our vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of concupiscence. He hath not called us unto uncleanness but unto holiness.
V. A CALL FOR FIDELITY TO GOD (Joshua 23:8-6.23.12 )
1. Cleaving to God a condition of chasing thousands. Joshua 23:8 says, "But cleave unto the Lord your God." We remember how Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clave unto her. There is a little verse that is big in its meaning. Here it is: "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God." The word "panteth" is the same as the word "cleave." It means to follow hard after.
Cleaving to God is the first condition of the promise, "One man of you shall chase a thousand." Victory according to this is based upon cleaving to Jehovah.
2. Loving God a condition of favor from God. Joshua 23:11 says: "Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God. How else could God work for us? In Hosea it says: "Thou shalt abide for me * * so will I also be for thee." If we love Him, He will love us. If we give, it shall be given to us. We cannot expect to receive from God unless we are ready to impart to God. The early Church had left her first love, and for this cause she was not long in leaving her first power.
3. Keeping connections. Joshua 23:12 says: "If ye do in any wise go back, * * know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you." Every victory that Israel ever received was due to keeping connection with the Highest. Every battle that they ever lost was due to their drifting away from God. They were commanded to make no marriages with the peoples of the nations about them. They were not to cleave unto the remnant of the nations that remained among them. To the Church, as well as to them, world mixing and world conformity always brings disaster.
VI. A HALLOWED REMINISCENCE (Joshua 23:14 )
1. Growing old. Joshua 23:14 gives us the picture of Joshua the aged. He says: "And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth." Joshua seemed to be handing the torch of the Lord to his successors. How his heart must have beat within him as he pleaded with them to hold that torch high. He never let the flare burn low, and he did not want them so to do.
Let the young people who read these words remember that the old men and the old women who have kept the faith and finished their course are passing on their way, one by one. The young people, therefore, should step in and fill up the ranks.
When Moses died, Joshua took his place. Now that Joshua was about to go the way of all men, he unsheathed his sword and handed it to a younger generation.
2. Looking backward. The old always look back to the days of their youth. They become retrospective. As Joshua turned his face into the past, he said, "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."
As the aged of today look back they feel like saying;
"Here I'll raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I'll come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at Home."
3. Faithful to the end. There was a glorious sunset for Joshua. As he reviewed his life, he could say, "I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have kept the Law." As he looked forward he could say, "There is laid by for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord will give me in that day."
VII. GOD NEVER FAILS HIS SAINTS (Joshua 23:14-6.23.16 )
1. God is faithful to all of His promises. It is as true today as it was then. Great is His faithfulness. We may fail Him: He never fails us. We may not keep our word, or fulfill our promises: He never fails. The Word of God from Genesis to Revelation is filled with many wonderful promises relative to this life and to the life to come. Every one of these promises is yea and amen in Christ Jesus. When we have reached the other shore we will be able to say what the aged Joshua said: "Not one thing hath failed."
His Word is forever settled in Heaven. Heaven and earth may pass away but His Word will never pass.
2. We must be faithful to Him in all things. One of America's great men said: "O my friend, teach me to be thine." If we are true to God we have nothing whereof to boast, for He is true to us. Every call in the Bible upon the part of a faithful God toward an unfaithful people reveals the infidelity of the human heart.
Is it not a shame that the Holy Ghost must beseech us to give ourselves wholly to the One who gave Himself wholly to us? Sometimes whole sermons are given in pleading with Christians to present their tithes to God. God did not give us a tithe, He gave His all. He did not say, "One tenth of all I have is yours." He said, "All things are yours the things present and the things to come."
3. Disobedience will bring disaster. As Joshua anticipated the possibility of an unfaithful people he said: "It shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, * * so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until He have destroyed you from off this good land." Wandering Israel today, scattered among all nations, verifies the truthfulness of Joshua's word. The same is true of the Church. She has lost her good name among the nations, because she has lost her walk with God. Let us remember and fear lest we also fall by the way.
Fidelity to God marked the lives of Caleb and Joshua. In this line a word from Dr. A. B. Simpson will be most appropriate.
"This victorious achievement meant a hard fight and a powerful and relentless foe. It was the very citadel of the Anakim, the giant rulers of Canaan. These men stood for the strength of evil in the human heart, the life of self and sin in all its rudiments and ramifications. No great prize is won without opposition and difficulty. The devil does not take much trouble with ordinary people. He reserves his best shots for the most valuable game. We read that as soon as David was crowned king of Hebron, the Philistines came up to seek for David. He had suddenly become an object of interest because he had become a king. And so when we are pressing on for the highest things, we shall always find the principalities and powers not on the lower planes of life, but in the Heavenly places. The story is told about a regiment that had been punished for an ignominious defeat by the loss of their colors. They were deeply humiliated and eagerly waited the chance to retrieve their failure. At last it came. One day the commander called them and, pointing to a rugged hill bristling with the artillery of the enemy, he said, "Boys, there are your colors. Go and get them." It needed no second word to start that resistless charge. And they came back bloodstained but triumphant with their flag wrested from the grip of their most powerful enemies. Our flags of honor and our crowns of glory are waiting us yonder on many a height of difficulty and danger. Shall we be found in the ranks of Caleb and on the heights of Hebron?"
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Joshua 23". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent