Title: A DYING GENERAL’S LAST WORDS
Text: Joshua 23:1-14
Last week we looked at 85 year old Caleb’s last request of General Joshua. They had completed the campaign of taking Canaan and land was being distributed. Caleb wanted a mountain…in the heart of Hebron…the land of the giants. He had one good fight left in him and he reminded Joshua of Moses’ 45 year old promise that he could have Hebron. He took it and the land rested from war.
Tonight’s story takes place 10 to 20 years later. Joshua knows his final days are counting down, so he pulled the people together one last time to exhort them. These would be some of the final words that the people would remember forever. Without hesitation, they all came to hear their great chief. In the nutshell, he spoke of God’s unfailing faithfulness to Israel and their responsibility to be faithful to Him.
Have you thought about your final words? You never know what event might put you suddenly upon them. So if you give it some forethought, yours, too, might be remembered as the greatest encouragement you ever gave. Let’s see what Joshua had to say when he gathered the children of Israel together one last time.
1. 23:1-2 What does having rest on every side from your enemies for several years do to a national militia? Josh. 11:23
Insight: Joshua’s early years knew what it was to taste of the bitter whip of slavery in Egypt. His middle years found him having to fight off criticism of leadership and complaining during the wilderness wandering years. Then his mature years hardened him into a veteran soldier during the Canaan conquest years. All this kept him on the edge spiritually. He knew that rest on every side from your enemy is the perfect flower bed for raising Pansies of Compromise.
2. How many times in this chapter did Joshua repeat the theme of his message? (3 times, 3-8, 9-13, 14-16)
Insight: Repetition of important instructions is needed not only for distracted children…but also for hard of hearing adults. Anytime God repeats something, our ears ought to perk up and take it to heart.
3. How old do you have to be when you can sit back and do nothing? Josh. 13:1
Insight: When the Ancient of Days tells you are old and advanced in years, there’s no use denying it…you ARE old!!!!! But notice the rest of the verse…even though the land was conquered, there were corner pockets yet to be possessed, thus God wasn’t done with Joshua…He still had a job for him.
4. Josh. 23:3-5 This wise sage carefully chose his final words so as to avoid the people elevating him above others. How so? (He reminded them that their enemies were defeated solely because the Lord their God had fought for them.)
Insight: It was not his battle…it was not their battle…the battle was the Lord’s. He alone deserved the glory. Ps. 44:3; Josh. 10:12-14
5. Josh. 23:6-8 Next Joshua reminds them of their responsibility. These words to “be strong; be careful to obey” have deep roots in the memory of Joshua. Do you recall their origin? Josh. 1:6-9
Insight: They are the words God spoke to Joshua before he began the Canaan conquest…they resonated deeply in Joshua’s heart all the way to his final days. Oh that we had the heart to remember the early words the Lord spoke to us when we were young…and carried them to our grave as well.
6. Courage and obedience were the graces that led to a successful Canaan conquest. Are they any less essential now? How so?
Insight: Spiritually, the heathen enemies of righteousness surround us on every side, as they did in Joshua’s day. Backsliding into their unrighteous conformity is only one step away. We cannot let them woo us away from our Lord nor bow to their pagan deities. It is no less important today to be exhorted to hold fast to the Lord. He who walks in the counsel of the ungodly will soon stand in the way of sinners and sit in the seat of scorners. Prov. 4:26-27; Ps. 16:4; Acts 11:23; 1 Cor. 15:33; 16:13; Heb. 12:4
7. Josh. 23:9-13 Joshua returned to his theme of affirming God’s past faithfulness to Israel. Yahweh fought their battles for them…wherever they encountered enemies, He overcame them. How did Joshua word their responsibility this time? (To love God.)
Insight: Heed this not-so-obvious warning my friend. Even though their enemies were peacefully living next to them, there was the subtle temptation to socialize with them…then marry them…then embrace their ungodly way. They must…as we must…keep our love for God untainted by any other lover of unrighteousness.
8. What important warning do you see in verse 13?
Insight: Conquered ground must remain conquered. The Lord will drive out wickedness the first time, but woe to the man who let’s pagan neighbors in the back door. They will end up being your death thrall. Ps. 35:1; Deut. 4:9
9. Josh. 23:14 Joshua knows that “today I am going the way of all the earth”…he is going to die just like everyone must die. He is trying to make his final words sink more deeply into their hearts. What has stuck in his mind like a solid rock all his years? (God’s word will never fail. You can take them to the grave with you.) Lk. 21:33
This old soldier had a long history of counting on God to pull him through. Every testimony had the same conclusion…God is faithful and victorious. Every time!!
Now he is closing his chapter in God’s walk with His people. Joshua is wise enough to look down the road yet traveled and he sees that sinful compromise will be their undoing if they do not cling to the Lord their God like a peach clings to its pit.
This experienced veteran speaks yet to you and me…for his words to them are those we need to embrace. Our greatest danger is not another nation’s military…it is moral and spiritual compromise. If General Joshua were alive today, there is a strong likelihood that he would say the same thing to this band of soldiers. Heb. 10:23
Well? How about you? Thought of how you would compose your final words? 2 Tim. 4:6-8