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AN OLD GENERAL’S FINAL ORDERS
Intro: Verse 1 sums up the context of this passage very well. Israel has acquired the land that God had promised them and their faithful leader, Joshua, is old and is preparing to die, v. 14. Before he steps off the scene, he has something to say about serving the Lord.
In order to communicate what is on his heart, he calls two meetings.
As Joshua, the faithful old soldier and general of Israel, prepares to break camp, he wants to encourage Israel to stay the course for God. He knows that the old guard, those who knew Moses and Joshua, are swiftly dying off. He knows that a new generation is coming along that did not see all the miracles and all the wonders of the Lord in their midst. Before he dies, he just wants to remind them of the God they serve.
In these two chapters, there are some valuable lessons for us. We live in a day when many have forgotten about the glory and power of God, and those who have known about such things are becoming fewer by the day. We need to be reminded of the power and glory of our God. Our children need to be exposed to His power!
These verses tells us what we need to know about keeping God’s work alive. As we consider the thoughts contained here, please allow the Lord to instruct your heart and then allow Him to make whatever changes are necessary in your life. If we will hear His voice and obey His commands, the world around us will see the glory and power of God at work in His church and in the lives of His people.
Go with me to ancient Israel as old general Joshua issues his last orders to his troops. Notice the thoughts that occupied the heart and mind of this great man as he neared the end of his journey. These thoughts were designed to teach Israel about the way and will of God for their nation. These thoughts also speak to the way and will of God for His church. Let’s notice these thoughts together as we consider An Old General’s Final Orders.
I. 23:1-8 JOSHUA’S CONCERNS
Ill. As Joshua nears the time of his departure, he sees some changes occurring in the life of Israel. He sees changes that he does not like. So, like any good leader, he feels duty bound to address these issues before he departs.
We preachers have the same duty as Joshua. When we see error in the lives of people, we have a duty before God to tell people about those errors. Why? We tell them God love them, we love them and we want to help them walk in the will of God for their lives.
A. V. 6 He Fears Their Complacency - Joshua is afraid that the people of Israel might begin to take the Law of God for granted. He fears that they might become complacent in their walk with the Lord and begin to let things slide in their lives. Tragically, he was right, this is exactly what they did!
It is my conviction that the sins of complacency and apathy are among the most common and devastating sins that exist among the people of God! We have allowed ourselves to adopt a Laodicean attitude - Rev. 3:14-22. We have allowed ourselves to be satisfied with our spiritual condition and as a result, we are allowing issues to go unchallenged in our lives that are leading us away from God and deeper into sin! Like the Laodicean Christians, we are neither hot or cold.
Ill. The water situation in Laodicea. Cold water was piped down the mountains Colossae, and hot water was piped in from Hieropolis. By the time each of these waters reached Laodicea, they were lukewarm.
Just like this water, the modern church is neither refreshing like a drink of cool water, nor is she stimulating like a hot bath. We are lukewarm and fit for nothing, but to trigger a gag reflex in those acquainted with us!
This is an unfortunate, but accurate, description of many in the modern church! Many here at Calvary have been bitten by the complacency bug. We are no longer striving to serve the Lord, win the lost and live holy, consecrated lives to the glory of God. We no longer come to the house of the Lord excited to be saved and ready for worship. Instead, we are self-satisfied and confident in our spiritual achievements! That is a dangerous condition to be in!
B. V. 7 He Fears Their Compromise - Another fear Joshua possesses is that the people of Israel will go after the dead gods of Canaan. He fears they will compromise their standards and bow down to idols. Again, this is exactly what happened in Israel!
What about us? Aren’t we just as guilty as Israel? Have not the people of God given their affection to other gods? Certainly, many worship the gods of self, success, materialism, career, etc.
The truth is, many are guilty of compromise in their lives. We allow ourselves to indulge in activities that we know God disproves of. We do things that we know are wrong and try to justify it by saying, “Well, so and so does it!” All the while we smile and sing, “Oh how I love Jesus!” It has a hollow ring to it my friend!
Oh, how we need to avoid the trap of compromise! Isn’t it true that some of you are doing things today that you used to think were wrong? God hasn’t changed! You have! You have compromised your standards and given in to the will of your flesh! Remember 1 Thes. 5:22? “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” If it looks wrong, smells wrong, or even seems wrong; it is wrong, and the child of God must avoid it!
C. V. 8 He Fears Their Commitment - It is not that Joshua fears that they will be committed to the Lord. Rather, he fears that they will not cleave to the Lord as they should. Once again, we see, from the history of the nation of Israel, that Joshua was right to be concerned.
As with these two other problem areas, there is a word here for the church. It has become painfully obvious in recent days that the commitment of many is not where it should be!
Note the Lord Jesus’ idea of commitment: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me,” Matt 10:38.
Do you see what the Lord is saying? He is telling us very clearly that if He is not number one in our hearts and in our lives, then we are not worthy of Him! Also, according to Jesus, the ultimate expression of love for Him is in the willingness to bear one’s cross. This simply means that you are willing to make a total commitment to the Lord Jesus. That you are holding nothing back. You are His completely! How would you describe you commitment to Him today?
I. Joshua’s Concerns
II. 23:9-24:24 JOSHUA’S CHALLENGE
In this section, Joshua challenges the elders and the people to observe certain truths concerning God. His challenge is for them to look at what the Lord has done and is doing in their lives. If they will just consider the Lord, they are more likely to live the right kind of lives!
A. 23:9-16 A Challenge About The Wrath Of God - While there are many challenges given here, the primary idea that Joshua is trying to convey is this: “If you will serve the Lord, He will bless you. If you disobey Him, He will chastise you!” The challenge in verse 11 in the crux of the matter! How Israel responded to the Lord, was a perfect indicator of her love for Him.
This challenge still applies to the people of God today. That admonition is very simple: You play; you pay! As a child of God, you have two possible ways of living your life. You can either live it within the confines of God’s will and be blessed, or you can live outside the will of God and be chastised, Heb. 12:5-11! The choice is yours! The choices you make in life will be determined by the depth of your love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for the Heavenly Father, John 14:15.
Ill. Rev. 2:1-7 - The church at Ephesus had many commendable traits, but they lacked deep, abiding love for Jesus. We can say what we want to say, but the way we live our lives proves the depth of our love for Him!
B. 24:1-13 A Challenge About The Works Of God - Joshua reminds the nation of all the many great things the Lord has done for them. His challenge is for them to remember all the works of the Lord on their behalf. If they will remember His goodness, they will be more likely to serve Him faithfully.
Ill. The mighty works of the Lord on our behalf should motivate us to greater service! When we stop to think of all He has done, it should challenge us to go deeper in our relationship with Him.
C. 24:14-18 A Challenge About The Will Of God - Joshua tells the people that it is the Lord’s will for them to clean up their lives and to serve the Lord faithfully. He makes the statement that he and his family will do just that, v. 15! The people respond by expressing their desire to serve God because of His greatness and His blessings!
I just want to challenge you today by reminding you that talk about serving the Lord is not just good preaching material; it is the will of God for your life! He wants you to search your life and destroy anything in it that hinders your walk with Him. He wants you to be clean and to make that commitment to serve Him only!
Notice Joshua’s attitude toward the situation, v. 15. He tells them what he expects the nation of Israel to do, but then he tells them that regardless of what they do, he is going to serve God!
What a lesson for us as individuals! The sad fact of the matter is that not everyone is going to serve the Lord with total commitment. There will always be those who will remain on the fringe of things. These people will have no desire to sell out completely to the will of God for their lives.
Listen, the whole church does not have to get right with God for you to! We need to lose the mind set that looks at others and measures ourselves against how they are doing. Your relatives, your fellow church members, your friends you neighbors, etc, are not the standard you are to reach for! Out standard is none other that the Lord Jesus Christ! God saved us to be like Him and that is what we should strive for, Phil. 3:4-14.
D. 24:19-24 To Consider God’s Witness - Joshua makes a strange statement to the people. He tells them that they cannot serve the Lord! His meaning is clear. He is reminding them that the Lord witnesses their lives and they cannot have things both ways. That is, they cannot serve the Lord on the one have hand, and serve false God’s on the other! His reminder is that judgment will accompany such an action. Again, the people proclaim their desire to follow the Lord.
May I remind you that the Lord is also watching your life today, Pro. 15:3. My friends, you cannot have things both ways! Either you are serving the Lord with absolute commitment, or you are living a life of hypocrisy! Many in our day are like the Israelites were during Elijah’s day. Many are trying to walk the fence between devotion to God and living for themselves, 1 Kings 18:21! When we warn the people today, we get the same response that Elijah got from the people on Mt. Carmel.
I. Joshua’s Concern
II. Joshua’s Challenge
III. 24:25-33 JOSHUA’S COVENANT
As his last official act as the leader of Israel, Joshua leads them in a renewal of their covenant with the Lord. This ritual involved several stones. Let’s take a brief look at these stones before we stop.
A. 24:25-28 It Involved A Great Stone - Before Joshua dies, he erects a great stone as a monument to the fact that the people have sworn to follow the Lord. Thereafter, whenever they passed by that place they would remember their oath and be certain that their lives were pleasing to the Lord their God.
If you have, you can rest assured that God hasn’t! Some of you have promised to be more faithful to the Lord, to pray more, to read your Bibles, to witness for Him. You made the promise, but have you carried it out? You may have forgotten about it, but He hasn’t!
It is far better to never make a promise to God, than it is to make it and then break it, “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” Eccl. 5:1-5.
Are you doing all the things you told the Lord you would do? If not, today would be a good day to make that thing right with the Lord! You see, even not doing good is a sin, James 4:17. Thankfully, God still forgives sin when it is confessed before Him - 1 John 1:9.
B. 24:29-33 It Involved Some Grave Stones - This book closes with three funerals. These funerals speak to us today.
1. V. 29-31 The Gravestone Of Faithfulness - The first grave stone mentioned is that of Joshua himself. His tombstone spoke about the faithfulness of God to His people! This is the grave of faithfulness. God had used this man Joshua to bring the people in the Promised Land and God had used Joshua to lead the people in the right way. Through the life of Joshua, God had proven Himself to be a faithful God.
Those who serve the Lord soon learn that God is faithful! He will keep His Word and He will fulfill His promises to you, Rom. 4:21. If you will walk in His will and serve Him, then He will in turn bless you life beyond measure. Our God is a faithful God!
2. V. 32 The Gravestone Of Fulfillment - The second gravestone mentioned belonged to a man who had died many centuries before in the land of Egypt. This is the grave of fulfillment. While Joseph was on his deathbed, he made the following prediction, “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt,” Gen 50:24-26.
Now, several hundred years later, a grave is dug, a coffin is lowered and body is placed in the ground that was promised hundreds of years before. I can almost imagine that if you listened very carefully to the grave of Joseph after he was buried there, you might have heard that old pile of bones sigh and say, “I told you do, I told you so!”
The lesson here is that we serve a God Who is able to make that which seems impossible a reality for His children, Eph. 3:20. When He makes a promise to use and bless you if you will serve Him, then you can count on Him being able to do just what He has promised!
3. V. 33 The Gravestone Of Finality - The last gravestone marks the grave of Eleazar. He was the son of Aaron the first High Priest. His grave is the grave of finality. The death of Eleazar marks the changing of the guard in Israel. All the old timers are gone! All those who came out of Egypt and out of the wilderness have passed from the scene. All those God used in such a mighty fashion are dead. Now, it is time for a new generation to pick up the mantle of service and do something for the Lord.
It is a shame when old soldiers of Jesus pass from the scene. I have seen some great saints of God go home to be with the Lord. Their presence and gifts are still missed buy he church.
It is an even greater shame when those who are left behind do not lift the mantle and carry on for the Lord. Israel turned to idols after the deaths of their great leaders. Likewise, the modern church has forsaken the path laid down by those who have gone before. God help us to be like Elisha, who lifted the mantle of Elijah and cried out to God, “You did it for Elijah, now do it for me!,” 2 Kings 2:12-14!
Conc: Where are the Joshua’s and Elisha’s today? Where are those who will stand up and be counted for Jesus? Where are those who are tired of business as usual and want to see God moving in power in the midst of His people? Where are those who are willing to pay the price of personal sacrifice and holiness that they might be bright torches in the hand of God?
When those who had known the glory of God died out in Israel, those who were left behind turned to other gods and to wickedness. There is a generation in our midst who know nothing of the power of God. They know a church filled with people who claim to love Jesus, but who deny Him by the lives they live. They no longer see Him moving in power in the services.
We need some people who are willing to pay the price for the power of God, who will step forward and get themselves in these altars and call on God until He moves in their lives, forever changing them and their world.
The God of Elijah is not dead! The God of Moses and of Joshua is not dead! He is alive and well! The problem with our generation is that there are no Elijah’s, no Moses’ and no Joshua’s. God is still willing to use anyone who will make himself or herself available to Him. Is that person you?
Ill. D.L. Moody, as a young man heard Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.”
Moody said, “I will be that man!” And he was!
God used him to touch two continents for Jesus. God is still looking for someone who will come to Him and say, “I will be that man!” I ask again, is that person you?