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In this chapter we are drawing towards the close of Joshua's ministry. Like all the other servants of the Lord, his work being finished, his death succeeds. He is represented here as convening the Lord's heritage together, to make his farewell discourse to them. This chapter hath the leading heads of his sermon; and it should seem by what follows in the next chapter, that this is closed before that he ends his discourse.
There is somewhat very interesting in the close of life, of the more immediate servants of the Lord. The dying frames of faithful ministers are of singular use to be recorded for the comfort and encouragement of living members of Christ's mystical body. Hence it should seem, that the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to have his servants held forth to view in the church in their last hours. The representation here made of Joshua, is truly engaging. We are not told of the precise time when it was, but only it is in general said, to have been a long time after Joshua ' s victories were ended. Probably as Joshua died at the age of one hundred and ten years (see Joshua 24:29 .) it was just before his death.
This preface to his discourse, is just what it should be, to call up their attention. I said (says Elihu) days should speak, and multitude of years teach wisdom. Job 32:7 . Who suitable to speak of God's love, as the man who hath long experienced it!
Reader! do not fail to observe, how Joshua's dying sermon opens. It is all of God. God, as a covenant God, was Joshua ' s text, and the sum and substance of all his sermon. Not a word of himself. Not a word to magnify his services, even as an instrument in God's hand. The burden of his preaching was, what the Jehovah Aleim had done, and what their own experience knew to be true, of the Lord their God's grace towards them. Dearest Jesus! may it be my happiness to copy after this illustrious example. In a living hour may I speak of thee and of thy righteousness only. And in a dying hour may long experience sum up the whole account, Christ is all and in all. Colossians 3:11 .
Observe with what confidence the man of God speaks of future blessings; and how he makes the review of past mercies, the foundation of all that are yet to come. Reader! pause over this doctrine. May the Holy Ghost be your teacher while perusing it, and you will then learn that this is the great secret of religion. The only possible method for a poor tried soul to exercise faith, under the Spirit ' s influence for what is to come, is by looking back, and , beholding what of God's faithfulness is in what is past. By faith in God's promises we look forward and depend. God hath wrought deliverance before. The same God will do it now, and for all that is to come. What though there are Canaanites yet to be driven out, (Israel might say) yet in these already destroyed, God's word is pledged for all that remain. Reader! apply this to your own case. Hath Jesus begun his grace in your heart? Hath he given you to see and feel the plague of your own heart, and a view of his preciousness! Are there yet remains of corruption still within, under which you groan? Look to him! He that is the author, is the finisher also of faith. Thou saidst (said Jacob) thou wouldst surely do me good. Genesis 32:12 ; Hebrews 12:2 .
The holy jealousy which the man of God so warmly and affectionately recommended, may serve to teach us, with what circumspection believers in Jesus ought to walk amidst the swarm of vanities, with which they are surrounded in this wilderness state. It is said that the ancient Jews would not allow their children to mention even the name of certain things, which their laws forbade the use of. Swine ' s flesh they were taught to call strange flesh, if any occasion required its being mentioned at all. I should much rejoice if believing parents were to exercise a like caution over the rising generation in a multitude of instances. If Joshua commanded Israel not even to make mention of the name of the heathen gods which were around them, can it be consistent with believers to have their children educated in such systems of learning, as lead them into not only an acquaintance with the names, but with the whole history of the gods of ancient idolaters. And when men come to admire the phrases and expressions, for the sake of the language of the heathen writers, is not the transition but too easily made, (except grace restrains) by the heart too much disposed by nature to evil, to the love of the persons or systems also. The prayer which begs not to be led into temptation, presupposes the desire of the soul not to lead ourselves into it. Sweet and precious is the direction of our dear Lord to this point. Luke 22:40 .
How closely connected sin is with its sure punishment. My backslidings shall correct thee! The very thing which we lean upon for confidence or comfort; that above every other evil, shall be sure to pierce us through. In the unhappy, and I had almost said unnatural, coalition sometimes made between believers and unbelievers, what sorrow hath sprung out of them? 'There is death in the pot. Snares, and traps, and scourges, and thorns, we make for ourselves. The root is laid in unbelief, and it will be sure to bring forth and blossom with deadly fruit. Lord, keep thy people from themselves and the perversity of their ways, for they are well kept who are preserved by thee. Joh_17:11; Joh_17:15 .
The man of God makes use of the same argument again, of his old age and dying circumstances, to enforce all he had said. Not to endear his memory to them. Not to have a monument erected of his valour and his good deeds. Not a word of this. Not an intimation that he wished it. But his dying request corresponded to his living earnestness, that the Lord might be glorified in their souls. How sweet and lovely is it to behold the dying servants of Jesus, glorifying the Lord in their latter end, as they had been enabled to promote his glory in the beginning. And the apostle makes as suitable an inference from it, when he saith, Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:7-8 .
BLESSED Jesus! In the close of Joshua's ministry and labours, I see that all things and all men come to an end. But though Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and Joshua must die, yet thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. Oh! the sweet consoling thought! the Lord liveth, and blessed be my strong helper; and praised be the God of my salvation.
But though the saints and servants of my God go the way of all the earth, yet through thy grace, O Lord, the fruits of their labours, their zeal and patience, their prayers and examples, are left behind. Here would I, for myself and Reader, pray that the dying words and legacy of the man of God, might live in my remembrance. Oh! for grace to cleave unto thee, thou dearest Jesus, for thou art indeed my life. And in the awful day of idolatry, and the pleasure-loving age, in which the Lord hath cast our lot, Oh! for faith to resist stedfastly all the enemies of our salvation. Make them, O Lord, thorns and briars in our path; hedge up our way with thorns if need be, that we may never find such lovers. Keep our souls close unto thee, and so powerfully restrain us, by the sweet influences of thy Spirit, that we may be more and more dead unto the world, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 23". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30