Words of Joshua
chapter is based on Joshua 23 and 24.]
wars and conquest ended, Joshua had withdrawn to the peaceful retirement
of his home at Timnath-serah. "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 . . . called for all Israel, and for their elders, and
for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers."
had passed since the people had settled in their possessions, and already
could be seen cropping out the same evils that had heretofore brought
judgments upon Israel. As Joshua felt the infirmities of age stealing upon
him, and realized that his work must soon close, he was filled with
anxiety for the future of his people. It was with more than a father's
interest that he addressed them, as they gathered once more about their
aged chief. "Ye have seen," he said, "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." Although the Canaanites had
been subdued, they still possessed a considerable portion of the land
promised to Israel, and Joshua exhorted his people not to settle down at
ease and forget the Lord's command to utterly dispossess these idolatrous
The people in
general were slow to complete the work of driving out the heathen. The
tribes had dispersed to their possessions, the army had disbanded, and it
was looked upon as a difficult and doubtful undertaking to renew the war.
But Joshua declared: "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. 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
appealed to the people themselves as witnesses that, so far as they had
complied with the conditions, God had faithfully fulfilled His promises to
them. "Ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls," he
said, "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." He declared to them that as the
Lord had fulfilled His promises, so He would fulfill His threatenings.
"It shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you,
which the Lord your God promised you; so shall the Lord bring upon you all
evil things. . . . When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord, . .
. then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall
perish quickly from off the good land which He hath given unto you."
deceives many with the plausible theory that God's love for His people is
so great that He will excuse sin in them; he represents that while the
threatenings of God's word are to serve a certain purpose in His moral
government, they are never to be literally fulfilled. But in all His
dealings with his creatures God has maintained the principles of
righteousness by revealing sin in its true character--by demonstrating
that its sure result is misery and death. The unconditional pardon of sin
never has been, and never will be. Such pardon would show the abandonment
of the principles of righteousness, which are the very foundation of the
government of God. It would fill the unfallen universe with consternation.
God has faithfully pointed out the results of sin, and if these warnings
were not true, how could we be sure that His promises would be fulfilled?
That so-called benevolence which would set aside justice is not
benevolence but weakness.
God is the
life-giver. From the beginning all His laws were ordained to life. But sin
broke in upon the order that God had established, and discord followed. So
long as sin exists, suffering and death are inevitable. It is only because
the Redeemer has borne the curse of sin in our behalf that man can hope to
escape, in his own person, its dire results.
death of Joshua the heads and representatives of the tribes, obedient to
his summons, again assembled at Shechem. No spot in all the land possessed
so many sacred associations, carrying their minds back to God's covenant
with Abraham and Jacob, and recalling also their own solemn vows upon
entrance into Canaan. Here were the mountains Ebal and Gerizim, the
silent witnesses of those vows which now, in the presence of their dying
leader, they had assembled to renew. On every side were evidences of what
God had wrought for them; how He had given them a land for which they did
not labor, and cities which they built not, vineyards and oliveyards which
they planted not. Joshua reviewed once more the history of Israel,
recounting the wonderful works of God, that all might have a sense of His
love and mercy and might serve Him "in sincerity and in truth."
direction the ark had been brought from Shiloh. The occasion was one of
great solemnity, and this symbol of God's presence would deepen the
impression he wished to make upon the people. After presenting the
goodness of God toward Israel, he called upon them, in the name of
Jehovah, to choose whom they would serve. The worship of idols was still
to some extent secretly practiced, and Joshua endeavored now to bring them
to a decision that should banish this sin from Israel. "If it seem
evil unto you to serve Jehovah," he said, "choose you this day
whom ye will serve." Joshua desired to lead them to serve God, not by
compulsion, but willingly. Love to God is the very foundation of religion.
To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment
would avail nothing. Open apostasy would not be more offensive to God than
hypocrisy and mere formal worship.
leader urged the people to consider, in all its bearings, what he had set
before them, and to decide if they really desired to live as did the
degraded idolatrous nations around them. If it seemed evil to them to
serve Jehovah, the source of power, the fountain of blessing, let them
that day choose whom they would serve--"the gods which your fathers
served," from whom Abraham was called out, "or the gods of the
Amorites, in whose land ye dwell." These last words were a keen
rebuke to Israel. The gods of the Amorites had not been able to protect
their worshipers. Because of their abominable and debasing sins, that
wicked nation had been destroyed, and the good land which they once
possessed had been given to God's people. What folly for Israel to choose
the deities for whose worship the Amorites had been destroyed! "As
for me and my house," said Joshua, "we will serve Jehovah."
The same holy zeal that inspired the leader's heart was communicated to
the people. His appeals
called forth the unhesitating response, "God
forbid that we should forsake Jehovah, to serve other gods."
cannot serve the Lord," said Joshua: "for He is a holy God; . .
. He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." Before
there could be any permanent reformation the people must be led to feel
their utter inability in themselves to render obedience to God. They had
broken His law, it condemned them as transgressors, and it provided no way
of escape. While they trusted in their own strength and righteousness, it
was impossible for them to secure the pardon of their sins; they could not
meet the claims of God's perfect law, and it was in vain that they pledged
themselves to serve God. It was only by faith in Christ that they could
secure pardon of sin and receive strength to obey God's law. They must
cease to rely upon their own efforts for salvation, they must trust wholly
in the merits of the promised Saviour, if they would be accepted of God.
endeavored to lead his hearers to weigh well their words, and refrain from
vows which they would be unprepared to fulfill. With deep earnestness they
repeated the declaration: "Nay; but we will serve the Lord."
Solemnly consenting to the witness against themselves that they had chosen
Jehovah, they once more reiterated their pledge of loyalty: "The Lord
our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey.
Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute
and an ordinance in Shechem." Having written an account of this
solemn transaction, he placed it, with the book of the law, in the side of
the ark. And he set up a pillar as a memorial, saying, "Behold, this
stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the
Lord which He spake unto us; it shall be therefore a witness unto you,
lest ye deny your God. So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his
for Israel was done. He had "wholly followed the Lord;" and in
the book of God he is written, "The servant of Jehovah." The
noblest testimony to his character as a public leader is the history of
the generation that had enjoyed his labors: "Israel served the Lord
all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived