Since coming to Twin Oaks I have had several of our members tell me about an elderly gentleman by the name of Brother Carter, who preached a revival many years ago that stirred the hearts of many. What’s amazing is that it was not his ‘flashiness’ that God used, but rather his ‘faithfulness.’ Here was a man who had walked with God for a long, long time and even as he neared the end of his life, his fervency for the Lord hadn’t waver, but instead had increased. I want to be that kind of man. I want to finish well.
Today we conclude our study of the book of Joshua and as we do, we see another man who finished well. His name was Joshua and at the age of 110 he preached two of the most powerful messages the people of God have ever heard.
Joshua 23:1 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.
I. Joshua’s Commitment
Joshua was over 100 years old at this time. He also had walked with God for a long time. As I was studying this week I read over and over again how Joshua and his friend Caleb – ‘wholly followed the LORD.’ Scripture also says of him –
Numbers 27:18 ‘…Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit’ As many of you know, someone was exceptional to have the Spirit of God dwelling in him during the OT period. But Joshua was such a man. The Bible also says – Deut 34:9 ‘And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom…’ Joshua was a man full of God’s Spirit, full of wisdom, full of courage, full of obedience and full of reverence. He was a true man of God. We read this also at the end of Joshua 24 –
Joshua 24:29 And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 30 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Tim-nath-serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash. 31 And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that over lived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
Much like Brother Carter, Joshua had a powerful spiritual influence upon others, even up to the day he died. If God would grant me one request, it would be that. I want to finish well.
II. Joshua’s Concern
Because Joshua had lived a long time, he had witnessed a lot of things. One of the things he had witnessed is that sometimes God’s people fall away in their walk with Him.
Joshua 23:2 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: 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. 4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off , even unto the great sea westward. 5 And 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. 6 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 there from to the right hand or to the left;
Joshua had a great fear that once the people had become settled into the Promised Land, they would forget God. He feared that they would compromise in their Christianity.
A. They Would Compromise on Their Convictions
Joshua 23:6 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 there from to the right hand or to the left.
A conviction is a strong belief regarding something on which you will not change or bend. If affects who you are and how you act. May I ask you an important question? What are your convictions? On what is it that you will not compromise? The reason many ‘professing believers’ live questionably lives is because they lack biblical convictions.’ The reason they lack biblical convictions is because they avoid exposing themselves to biblical truth. Jesus said,
John 3:19 Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Joshua 23:6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses…
It takes courage to have convictions and such courage comes from the Word of God.
B. They Would Compromise on Their Companions
Joshua 23:7 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.
Though the Israelites had defeated and driven out many of their enemies, there were still many who remained. Joshua knew that these remaining enemy nations would have a lot of influence upon God’s people. The longer they lived around them, the more likely it would be that some of them would begin to intermingle. Such intermingling would make the people of God very susceptible to lowering their standards and to becoming more and more like those around them. We read in 1 Cor 15:33 “…”Bad company corrupts good character.”
C. They Would Compromise on Their Commitment
Joshua 23:8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.
It’s interesting that Joshua used the word ‘cleave’ to describe their relationship with God. It’s the same word Moses used to describe the close and lasting relationship there is to be between a man and his wife. It means to be ‘glued together.’
Joshua 23:9 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. 10 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. 11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.
Who we are as believers is not about a law or legalism. It’s about love. Someone who doesn’t love the Lord won’t live for the Lord.
Joshua feared that the people would compromise. Did he have a legitimate fear? We only have to go a few short chapters and one generation in time to see.
Judges 2:7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Tim-nath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. 10 And also all that generation was gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
Statistics show that those age 30 and younger have less commitment to God, the church and the Bible than ever before. That’s bad but there’s something even worse. It doesn’t seem that many my age and older care. It’s almost like my generation is saying, “So what? That’s just the way it is.” I’ll tell you so what – our children and grandchildren’s eternal soul is at stake.
III. Joshua’s Challenge
Joshua 24:1 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. 2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. 3 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
1. Consider the grace of God
The children of Israel were living in the Promised Land only because of the grace of God. It was the grace of God that called their father, Abraham, out of pagan idolatry and to truth. It’s only by the grace of God that someone invited my dad to bring his family to a church that preached the gospel truth. It was only the grace of God that helped Tammy find salvation during a TV broadcast of a Billy Graham Crusade. I owe everything to the grace of God.
2.Consider the faithfulness of God
Joshua 24:4 And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. 5 I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. 6 And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. 8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
3. Consider the goodness of God
Joshua 24:13 And I have given you a land for which ye did not labor, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat .
Joshua 24:14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil [the wrong thing to do] unto you to serve the LORD … choose [make a decision] 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.
In plain English Joshua told them that it was time to make a choice. God never forces us to serve Him. He always gives us the freedom of choice. In this old saint’s mind, if the grace of God, the faithfulness of God and the goodness of God is not enough to motivate them to serve Him, nothing would.
Joshua 24:16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; 17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: 18 And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.
The people’s response would be enough to satisfy most pastors. The people quickly answered and said, “God forgive that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods.” One would think that would be enough to satisfy Joshua; yet he knew human nature. He knew that it was a lot easier to mouth it than to live it. Joshua also knew that just saying the words didn’t impress God. God wanted to see it put into action. God wanted sincerity.
Joshua 24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
It wasn’t that Joshua was trying to discourage or prohibit them from serving God. He was warning them that God hates hypocrisy. And so Joshua was saying – “If you’re really sincere, if you really mean it, than make a commitment to do it.”
Joshua 24:21 And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. 22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. 23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. 24 And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said unto all the people, 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.
Perhaps the key verse in all of Joshua’s message was this –
Joshua 24:14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth…
The word ‘sincerity’ is an interesting word. It means to be complete, whole and sound. In the Latin it is a word that means ‘without wax.’ Many centuries ago, when men sold statues and pottery, they would often try to conceal a flaw by filling it in with wax. It became so common that often the one making the purchase would ask, “Is this piece sincere?” In other words, is it with an hidden flaws?
God knows that none of us are perfect, yet the one thing that seems to anger Him the most is when we pretend that everything is OK, when in reality it is not. A word that Jesus often used is the word ‘hypocrisy.’ To be hypocritical is to ‘wear a mask’, or to ‘act out a part.’ It’s to pretend to be someone that actually we’re not.
The question we need to ask ourselves is – “Is my relationship with God ‘without wax’?” Is it sincere? Is it true? Can we say, even as Joshua said – “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”?