JOSHUA’S FAREWELL ADDRESS
T. Pierce Brown
In Joshua 23 there is some stirring advice from Joshua toIsraeland some eternal principles that are still applicable to us. First Joshua calls attention to what the Lord has done for them. This has two values. First, it should produce gratitude. This is one reason for our taking the Lord’s Supper. A normal person cannot properly meditate on the gracious goodness and marvelous manifestation of God’s love without having gratitude that will motivate him to a loving, obedient response. That gratitude will help to move him from the position of doing things in worship and service merely from a sense of duty to doing them from a sense of gratitude. That change alone would increase our productivity for God by at least 50%.
Second, thinking of what the Lord has done for us should increase our faith. When I think of the fantastic promises God has made to me, none of which has ever failed, I cannot but trust in Him more completely. The first time I ever remember questioning God about one of his promises that seemed unlikely was about 56 years ago when our barn burned down. I had just taken a bushel of corn to the mill, so we could have corn bread, except that we now lacked cows and milk with which to make it. Hay, livestock and all that is usually in the barn were gone.
I had just read Romans8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” We could, after several years, pay off the $600 the farm, house and barn had cost. How could the loss of a newly built barn work for good? I do not have time and space to tell you, but it did. From that time, I never recall questioning any of God’s promises.
One of the most precious is in 1 Corinthians 10:13. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” I can remember no occasion in my life from the time I read that passage about 60 years ago until now that I was ever tempted to sin that I succumbed to the temptation when I called that passage to mind during the temptation. Whether he removed the temptation, or gave me strength to bear it, his promise never failed when I relied on it. That last phrase is so significant. I sinned during those 60 years, but never when I was relying on that promise.
Another promise that I have seen fulfilled in some most astounding ways is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8-10, “And God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work: as it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor; His righteousness abideth forever. And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” I have never seen a person who trusted in God’s promise in these verses to fail to get that which was promised.
Joshua knew that if he could getIsraelto remember properly what God had done, they would with gratitude, faith and courage press on to do what they were supposed to do. The Lord had fought for them while they were in thelandofEgypt, and He fought for us when we were enslaved in sin. The world, the flesh and the Devil are opposed to us entering the “landofCanaan” but when we are willing to “Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life” (2 Timothy6:12), he will provide the whole armor of God (Ephesians6:11-17) and give us strength and victory.
To keep those things God gave them, and to gain the others he promised, there were some requirements. The first one he mentions is to be very courageous (v. 6). When our intellect, our emotions and our desires make us want to conform to the world, yet we know the will of God is to be not conformed to the world (Romans 12:2), it takes courage. Whether that temptation to conform is caused by peer pressure, lusts of the flesh, or anything else, it still takes courage to fight against it. Keep in mind that courage is not the absence of fear, but the will to do what should be done in spite of fear.
When you want a needful thing to be done, and encounter the resistance of the indolent, lazy or selfish, it takes courage to press on. When you are faced with the opposition of envious persons who will neither cooperate nor commend what you are trying to do for the Lord, it takes courage. When you are faced with the sneers or slander of persons who resent your stand for truth and righteousness because that stand condemns them, it takes courage. It condemns them in the sense spoken of in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
When faced with the unkind misrepresentation of worldly-minded persons who cannot conceive of others having pure motives, it takes courage to go on without recrimination. In one congregation when I was reporting two or three families per week being baptized at all hours of the night one of the deacons said, “If I were out at all such hours of the night, there would be hanky panky going on.” I simply replied, “You know yourself better than I do” and went on with the work of the Lord.
It takes courage to try to help others who do not want help, whether it be to soften the obstinate heart, persuade the willful and rebellious, or reform the prodigal son. It requires courage to forgive injuries, endure wrongs, or ask for forgiveness and make reparation when we have done wrong. It requires courage to put on the whole armor of God and to stand against all the fiery darts of the wicked one. It took courage for Joseph to resist Potipher’s wife. It took courage for Shadrak, Meshach and Abednego to refuse to bow down to the idol of the king. It took courage for Daniel to pray, knowing the lion’s den awaited him. It took courage for David to face a bear, a lion and Goliath. They all had it because they remembered what God had done and could do.
The reason for developing courage, the means of developing that courage and the end for which it is developed is also suggested in verse 6. “Be ye therefore very courageous” indicates the reason for having courage. In view of all that God has done for you in time past, you should thank God and take courage. When one determines to keep and do all that God wants from him one will develop courage by that determination. Then the end or purpose for which that courage is developed is to keep and do the commandments and not turn aside from the right hand or left.
The only difference I can discern between “keep” and “do” the commandments is that “keep” may refer to keeping them treasured in your heart, lodged in your memory and inscribed on the tablet of your mind. The term “do” would refer to practicing the things learned. “Turn not aside” makes it emphatic by including the negative as well as the positive. Biblical preaching always includes negative as well as positive preaching.
There was to be not the smallest deviation, such as was practiced by Nadab and Abihu, Moses in striking the rock, or Saul as he destroyed the Amalekites on his terms rather than God’s. There was to be no fellowship with the enemy (v. 7), no division of heart (v. 11), no going back (vs. 12, 13).Lot’s wife had a divided heart, and was turned to a pillar of salt.
The three great consequences of failing in these things were loss of power (vs. 12, 13), loss of comfort and blessings (v. 13), and loss of the promised land (v.16). Each of these consequences will be for us if we fail to abide by the principles Joshua commends.
Also, the motives for our obedience are the same as theirs, except greater. That is, they should have had gratitude and responsive love for God’s delivering them from bondage and providing for their every need. How much greater should be ours! They should have hope, “for ye shall possess the land” (v. 5). How much greater our hope, the anchor of the soul (Hebrews6:19), for an eternal city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God! Then their motivation was fear for “ye shall perish quickly from off the good land” (v. 16). For those who think that we should never motivate with fear, it would be profitable to examine the passages that command us to fear. It is true that the wrong kind of fear, and fear of the wrong things is destructive and bad. But Paul said, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians5:11). It is sad that so many modern preachers think they know more about it than the inspired Apostle.
Remember that although the specific commands of God to achieve some purpose have changed, the principles on which God acts are eternal, as God is eternal, and never change. Therefore an understanding of those principles enjoined by Joshua are timeless and important for us today.