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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30 am service, 2000-03-26

Text: Joshua 23:11-14, 24:14,15

The title of our message is taken from the last words that Joshua spoke to the people of Israel. It is interesting to study the last words that are spoken by people before their life comes to an end. There are many things we can learn from them. There is even a book that has been written called, 'Famous Last Words.' A person's last words sometimes reveal some deep philosophical insights that have been distilled out of a lifetime's experience. For example, when Queen Elizabeth I was about to expire, her last words were: 'All my possessions for a moment of time.' 

Last words sometimes inspire us to take up the challenge for following an exemplary life. For example, Joseph Addison said on his death bed, 'See in what peace a Christian can die.' And Thomas Becket, just before he was martyred in England said, 'I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.' Some of the finest last words spoken by men have brought glory to God, like the words of a godly British general called James Wolfe, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Quebec and said, 'Now God be praised, I will die in peace.' 

Dearly beloved, when our turn comes to utter our last words, let us be like these godly people who glorified the Lord before leaving this world. Romans 14:8 tells us 'For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.' The Scriptures give us many accounts of great men who lived and died unto the Lord. This morning we are going to look at the last words of Joshua, the son of Nun. 

I. The Worthy Life of Joshua 

A. His God-given Skill in Battle (Exodus 17:9-14) 

The passage that we read awhile ago were part of the last words that Joshua spoke to the nation of Israel. Before we study his last words, it would be good for us to take a quick look at the life of Joshua. Who was Joshua? He was an Israelite from the tribe of Ephraim who was appointed by God to lead the people of Israel after Moses died. 

Joshua began his life as one of the Israelites who were in bondage of slavery under Egyptian taskmasters. He left Egypt together with the rest when God used Moses to deliver them. He apparently had God-given qualities and skills that were recognized by all, because early in their journey to the Promised land, Moses appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites to put up a strong defence against an attacking force of Amalekites (Exodus 17:9-14). With the Lord�s help, Joshua was able to defeat them. This, by the way, is the very first time that Joshua is mentioned in the Bible. 

B. His Unswerving Trust in God in the midst of Crisis (Numbers 14:7-9) 

Joshua is mentioned again when he was appointed to be one of the twelve spies that were sent to survey the Promised Land (Numbers 13). While ten spies brought back an evil and discouraging report, Joshua and his good friend, Caleb, displayed their faith in the Lord by urging the people to trust that God would enable them to occupy the land of Canaan. Listen to what they said in Numbers 14:7-9: 'The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.' 

For daring to trust in the Lord like this, even when the majority of the Israelites were doubting and disobeying the Lord, and were about to stone them, Joshua and Caleb became the only ones to be spared by God from dying together with the rest, as Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. 

C. His Godly Leadership of Israel (Joshua 1:1-8) 

Hence, after Moses died, Joshua and Caleb became the two lone survivors of the older generation who had come out of Egypt. By the time Israel was ready to enter the Promised Land, they were about 85 years old. The rest of the Israelites were much younger than they were. And Joshua was commissioned by God to succeed Moses as the leader of Israel. And the charge he was given is recorded in Joshua 1:6,7 'Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.' 

And Joshua fulfilled this charge exceedingly well. Following God's instructions, he brought the Israelites safely across the river Jordan and then led them into battle with the Canaanites. After about seven years, the Israelites successfully completed three intensive campaigns of warfare and became the new masters of the land. Joshua divided it among the tribes of Israel, and they settled into it. Joshua had clearly proven himself to be one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. 

D. His Astronomical Feat of Faith (Joshua 10:12-14) 

One remarkable thing about Joshua's life is the fact that he was the only man in all history who has caused the sun and moon to stand still. This miracle took place during the southern campaign, when the Israelites were in a crucial part of their battle with five Amorite kings, and they desperately needed more daylight time to complete their manoeuvres. Therefore, by God's direction, Joshua said (Joshua 10:12), 'Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.' The comment for this act is found a few verses later, in v. 14 'And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.' Our Lord Jesus Christ said that we can move mountains if we have faith as small as a grain of mustardseed (Matthew 17:20). By faith Joshua was able even to stop the sun and moon not just for a few seconds or a few minutes, but for a whole day! 

Recently I received an article by email about this. Space scientists at a place called Greenbelt, Mayland in the U.S. were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1000 years from now. They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries but it came to a halt. The computer indicated that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out, and they found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time. They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer. Finally, a Christian man on the team took his Bible and went to the book of Joshua where they found Joshua 10:13 which says, 'So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.' 

And so the scientists found their missing day, and have thus proven that the biblical record of Joshua's astronomical feat of faith is true! Putting all these things about Joshua together, we see that he stands out for us as a shining example of one who had God-given skills, of unswerving trust in God, of godly leadership and of tremendous feats of faith accomplished for the Lord. And now we want to pay attention to what such a man had to say in his last words on earth. 

II. The Last Words of Joshua 

These words are recorded in the last two chapters of the book of Joshua. They were spoken when Joshua was nearly 110 years old, when he knew that he was going to die and be with the Lord soon. This was the time when he gathered all the Israelites together to give them his words of farewell, which begins in Joshua 23:1,2 'And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age'

A. The Critical Issues 

1. Maintaining Obedience to the Lord 

Let us observe what he said in v.3 'And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you' Joshua knew this very well, because he had been instrumental in it. And he had learned in his own personal experience that the Lord gave them the victory, only as they carefully obeyed Him. 

For instance, when God commanded Joshua to make the Israelites march around and around the city of Jericho, it was his unquestioning obedience that led to the conquest of the impregnable city (Joshua 6:14-20). And when Israel was severely defeated in battle at the city of Ai, careful investigation revealed that the cause of this defeat was an act of disobedience by a man called Achan (Joshua 7:1-12). These, and other instances now led Joshua to emphasise obedience in his last words to Israel. 

According to chapter 12, through their careful obedience of all the instructions from God, the Israelites had defeated no less than 31 kings in Canaan. Thus the tribes of Israel were clearly the masters of the land. But the work was not finished yet. 

There were still more Canaanite cities to conquer, and the Israelites needed to keep on obeying God's instructions in order to defeat them. 

2. Maintaining Loyalty to The Lord 

And the Israelites could not afford to delay their conquest of these remaining cities. Any delay would give the Canaanites the opportunity to become strong again, and to influence them with their sinful and idolatrous ways. This would in turn cause the spiritual ruin of Israel. The Canaanites were a very wicked and sinful people, and they justly deserved God's judgment upon them. They worshipped a great number of gods in horribly debased rituals that were very appealing to the lusts of the flesh. If the Canaanites were not removed, the Israelites would surely fall into their idolatry and become just as debased and sinful as them. 

In his own lifetime, Joshua had witnessed how Israel had committed idolatry by worshipping the golden calf, and how debased the people became then: According to Exodus 32:6 they 'offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.' Joshua had also seen how God's wrath burned so intensely against the Israelites at Shittim, when they were seduced by Midianite women to commit fornication and to worship a local idol called Baalpeor (Numbers 25:1-5). Twenty-four thousand Israelites were struck dead in a plague because of this! There is no doubt that Joshua would want to ensure that such a plague as this would not happen to Israel again. 

Because of this, he took special care to highlight these two very critical issues in his last words to Israel. The Israelites would have to face these two issues after he was no longer with them to keep them from falling into sin: Firstly, the issue of maintaining full obedience to God in carrying out all His instructions faithfully. And secondly, the issue of maintaining firm loyalty to God in the midst of the attractive idolatry of the Canaanites. We can see both of these issues reflected in what Joshua said in vv.6-8 'Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.' 

Dearly beloved, do you know that we are facing the same issues today? Like Israel, we have been so wonderfully delivered by God out of the bondage of sin, to live in a blessed covenant relationship with Him. As Christians, we should now obey every word that God has given to us. And I trust that most of us have been doing that, and that we are taking God's Word seriously. Your presence here in the Lord's house is evidence of this. I believe that many of us have also forsaken many of the sins and worldly habits we used to indulge in before we were saved. And we can thank God for these things. 

But there is still a need for us to keep on obeying the Lord. There are still instructions from Him that we need to carry out faithfully. The Lord does not want us to rest satisfied with the level we have already attained in our spiritual walk with Him. He wants us to keep pressing onward to higher ground. He wants us to go on to greater commitment and consecration to Him. He wants us to pursue holiness, and Christlikeness. Thus, let us be reminded of the importance of obedience. Is there any matter in which you have not completely obeyed the Lord? And is there any matter in which you have disobeyed the Lord?

And like Israel, we also face the same danger that comes from not doing these things well: the danger of compromising our loyalty to God. We dwell in the midst of a world that is filled to the brim with things that can easily cause us to compromise our loyalty to the Lord. The overpowering tide of this world has swept along many into the pursuits of wealth, pleasure, fame and power. And it is all too easy to be conformed to the world because of its strong, irresistible influence! 

But Christians today need to withstand this powerful influence and maintain their loyalty to the Lord. We must not allow these pursuits to take over our lives and become our gods. For whoever or whatever a person lives for, and allows to dominate his whole life, becomes a god to him! Let us therefore take heed to the words of Joshua, as they apply to us - to maintain firm loyalty to the Lord. 

Thus we have seen how the two critical issues of Joshua's last words to Israel are applicable to us - the issues of maintaining full obedience and full loyalty to God. The next thing we want to learn from Joshua's last words is: How to be motivated or stirred up to do these things. What steps can be take to do them well? 

Let us look once again at what Joshua said to Israel in his last words, and see how he motivated the Israelites to maintain their obedience and loyalty to God. 

B. The Motivation to Face These Issues 

There are two things we want to observe in this passage, firstly we can be motivated: 

1. By Considering God's Faithfulness To His Promises 

Let us look at several verses here: v.9,10 'For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath 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 fighteth for you, as He hath promised you.'

Can you see how these verses look both backwards and forwards in time? In v.9 Joshua declares that God has been faithful to drive out the Canaanites and to give Israel the mastery over them. Then in v.10 he extrapolates that faithfulness of God to the future - that Israel will still have the mastery over their enemies because God will fight for them. He will keep His promises! How comforting it must have been to Israelites to hear these words! 

V.14 continues to highlight God's faithfulness to His promises 'And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that 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, and not one thing hath failed thereof.' In other words, the Lord is 100 % faithful. He will never at any time fail to do whatever He says He will do. He will never let us down. 

This comforting assurance should stir us deeply to maintain our obedience and loyalty to the Lord. Dearly beloved, when you look back in your own life, can you trace all the manifestations of the Lord's faithfulness to you? Has God ever failed you or forsaken you? Can you recall the moments when you prayed to Him for help and He delivered you? Can you recall the many undeserved and unexpected blessings you have received from Him, both material and spiritual blessings? When you remember all these things, can you testify to the faithfulness of God in your life, and say, like Joshua, 'not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD spake concerning me; all are come to pass unto me, and not one thing hath failed thereof.' ? 

Now, if you can testify that God's faithfulness has been evident in your life, then the next question is, Will you, in turn, be faithful to Him? In what way should you be faithful to Him? In terms of obedience to Him, and loyalty to Him. Actually the Lord deserves your fullest obedience and loyalty, whether or not He is faithful to you. He has the right to require it from you simply because He is your Creator and you belong to Him. And so when God proves Himself to be faithful to you, then that constrains you even more to be obedient and loyal to Him - and to do it out of love and a grateful heart.

Let God's faithfulness stir up a fervent desire in your heart to obey the Lord, and to prevent any thing from taking His place in your life. Now we return to our text to observe what Joshua did next, in order to stir up the Israelites toward such a response. 

2. By Making a Firm Commitment to Serve the Lord Alone 

In chapter 24 he led the people of Israel in a special ceremony, which we may call, a 'Renewal of the Covenant.' Israel had already entered into a Covenant with the Lord about 65 years before this, at Mount Sinai. What we see here is a renewal of their commitment to keep that covenant. The account begins in v.1 'And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.' 

This covenant renewal ceremony was marked by the setting up of a large stone monument at Shechem - a stone that would serve as a witness or reminder to the people, of the commitment they had made to follow the Lord and obey Him wholeheartedly. What we want to learn from this whole event, is the stirring challenge that Joshua issued to the people, to commit themselves firmly to serve the Lord, as given in v.15 'And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.'

Choose you this day whom ye will serve! Dearly beloved, are you able to respond to this challenge, and say, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?' Perhaps one of the reasons why you have been having problems in having full obedience and firm loyalty to the Lord, is that you have never made such a firm commitment to the Lord. 

You have not yet made a clean and decisive break with the world and with your sins. Your heart is still obeying the charming call of the world. You are seeking to gain the benefits of following the Lord, while at the same time holding on to what the world offers. You have not yet come to a turning point in your life when you said, 'Take the world, but give me Jesus!' 

Or perhaps you have come to such a point before, but that was a long time ago, and since then, you have lost your first love for the Lord and have begun to love the world. And thus your commitment is no longer wholehearted but divided between the Lord and something else. 

If either of these are true of you, then listen to the Lord speaking to you: 'Choose you this day whom ye will serve.' The Lord wants your undivided commitment to Him. He cannot share a place in your heart with something else. Please do not rest until you have settled this matter and are able to say with full conviction, 'As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.' 

These words of Joshua in v.15 evidently made a great impact on Israel. For after he had spoken them, the people responded in v.24 by saying 'The LORD our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey.' And their firm commitment to the Lord carried on for many years after Joshua died, as v.31 tells us: 'And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.'

May the Last words of Joshua have a similar impact on our lives so that we may serve the Lord obediently and faithfully, all the days of our life.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11