Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said to him, You are old and stricken in years…
The most active servant of God may be overtaken by old ago before he has completed what he believes to be the task of his life. This fact suggests various reflections.
I. THE GREATNESS OF DUTY AND THE LIMITS OF TIME TOGETHER URGE UPON US THE NEED FOR DILIGENT SERVICE.
(1) We must not postpone the commencement of work. Joshua began to serve God in his youth; yet his work was not finished in his old age.
(2) We must not be satisfied with any amount of work done. Joshua had accomplished great things, but much remained undone.
(3) We must not be willing to work at intervals or with wastefulness of time. The work of life is too great for the longest, most earnest life. Time is short; the day of work will soon pass. "Work while it is day" (John 9:4).
II. IN GOD'S SIGHT THAT LIVE IS FINISHED WHICH HAS ACCOMPLISHED ALL WITHIN ITS POWER. Life is long enough for all that God requires of us. We may not be able to do all we wish, all we set before ourselves, all that appears to be needed, all that we think it our duty to do. But God apportions our duty according to our opportunities. Therefore in His eyes the broken, unfinished life is really finished if all is done for which opportunities have been given.
III. GOD JUDGES US BY FAITHFULNESS, NOT BY SUCCESS. It is not they who effect much, but they who serve truly, whom God accepts. We cannot command success. The finishing of our work is not in our hands. We can be faithful (Luke 16:10).
IV. THE UNFINISHED EARTHLY LIFE IS A PROPHECY OF A FUTURE LIFE. Our aspirations exceed our capacities. It is not simply that we desire the unattainable; but we are conscious of duties which reach beyond present opportunities, and of possibilities within us which the limits of life prevent us from developing. If God is too wise to waste His gifts and too good to deceive His children, we may take the broken life, and still more the incomplete life even of old age, as mute prophecies of a larger life beyond.
V. IN THE FUTURE LIFE THERE WILL BE NO OLD AGE. The pain of declining powers, of insufficient time, and of all other limits of earthly life will be gone. Eternity will give leisure for all service. The eternal life will not grow old, but flourish in perpetual youth.
VI. IT IS A PROVIDENTIAL BLESSING THAT GREAT MEN SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH THE WORK THEY SET BEFORE THEMSELVES. It is well that they should leave work for smaller men. The necessity thus created becomes a stimulus to others. When one falls, another is raised to continue his work (John 4:37, 38).
VII. NO MAN FULFILS EVEN SO MUCH OF LIFE'S WORE AS COMES WITHIN HIS POWERS. At best we are unprofitable servants; but we are all also negligent and slothful. We have left undone many things which we ought to have done. None of us can say with Christ, "It is finished." Therefore we should review our lives with humility, contrition, and repentance, seeking forgiveness for the failings of the past and more grace for the duties of the future.
VIII. CHRIST'S WORK ALONE IS THE GROUND OF ACCEPTANCE BY GOD. Our work is unfinished. It is faulty for the negligence it proves. It can earn us nothing on its own merits. Christ's work is finished. On this our faith can rest. Then we may offer our own imperfect work to God through Christ, and He will transform it for us by lifting it into the light of His merits, till it will be worthy as dust shines like gold when the sunbeam passes through it. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.