Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said to him, You are old and stricken in years…
The rest of the land from war, then (Joshua 12:23), was not that of final and completed victory. It was only a temporary truce. The whole land was not yet in the possession of Israel, but enough of it was subdued to prove God's absolute sovereignty over it. And now rest is needful to review the field and secure the ends that have been so far gained. Joshua is too old any longer to carry on the strife, but there is a work that he can do, and which must be done, before he is gathered to his fathers - the division of the land which in the Divine purpose, if not as an accomplished fact, is already Israel's inheritance. Note here -
I. THE HONOURED ENDING OF A LIFE OF NOBLE DEVOTION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. There is no Divine approval of Joshua's fidelity actually expressed here, but the spirit of it seems plainly to breathe through these words. It is as if God said to him, "Thou art old; thy work of life is done - done faithfully and well - now rest; review thy path of service; gather up the fruits of it; set thy last seal to the truth of My word of promise, and enter into thy reward." Old age has great dignity and beauty in it when it crowns a life of earnest practical godliness. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, etc." (Proverbs 16:31). Like the rich glow of autumn when the fields have yielded their precious store to the hand of the reaper, and the song of harvest home is sung; like the golden sunset closing a day of mingled brightness and gloom, giving assurance of a glorious rising in the world beyond; such is the halo that surrounds the head of one of God's veterans. Think of the moral grandeur of the Apostle Paul's position when, in view of his past life work, and in prospect of its eternal issues, he could say, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight," etc. (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Such honour, in their measure, have all those who consecrate their days with whole-hearted devotion to the service of the Lord.
II. THE FAILURE OF THE LONGEST AND THE NOBLEST LIFE COMPLETELY TO FULFIL ITS OWN HIGH AIMS. "There yet remaineth very much land to be possessed." This is not said in reproach of Joshua. He had accomplished the work to which God had called him. But it reminds us that; however rich a human life may be in the fruits of practical devotion, it is after all but a contribution towards the full working out of the Divine purpose - small, feeble, fragmentary indeed in comparison with the grandeur of God's providential plan. Great as may be the victories it has achieved, it leaves "much land yet to be possessed." More. over, the noblest spirit fails to reach its own ideal, the most fruitful life falls to realise its own aspirations. Human life at the best is but a tale half told, a song that dies away into silence when only a few timid notes have sounded. It is but a beginning, in which the foundation is laid of works that it is left to other hands to furnish, and purposes are born that find elsewhere their actual unfolding. How many a man in dying has had a painful sense of having fallen far short, not only of the diviner possibilities of his life, but even of the realisation of the hopes that inspired him in his earlier years. There is always a touch of sadness in the autumn gleam.
"The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;"
because they remind us of the brevity of our life day, and reflect the vanishing glory of so many of its fairest dreams. Full as it may have been of high endeavour and grand achievement, how much remains undone! "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." This is capable of many applications.
(1) As regards science. Marvellous as its progress has been, how many undiscovered secrets has Nature still locked up in her bosom!
(2) As regards the practical uses of life. God has made man "to have dominion over the works of His hands;" but what vast resources of the material world still remain unutilised in His service!
(3) As regards personal spiritual development. The best of us fall sadly short of the Scripture standard of character. When good men die, how far off still appears to them the goal of Divine perfection - like the horizon that seems to recede and widen and become more unapproachably glorious as we reach forth towards it.
(4) As regards the progress and consummation of the kingdom of God among men. Its triumphs thus far have been very wonderful, but how much remains yet to be done! How far as yet are the kingdoms of this world from having become "the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ"! How small the circle of light as compared with the vast outlying realms of darkness comparatively few of those who profess the faith of Christ, knowing anything of the living power of it, two-thirds of the human race being still heathen.
III. - THE STEADFASTNESS OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE, in spite of the decay, one after another, of the instruments by which it is accomplished. Much land remains to be possessed, and it shall be possessed though Joshua pass away from the scene of conflict. "Them will I drive out from before the children of Israel (ver. 6). God raises up men to take their particular part in His great work, some more prominent, some less, but He is independent alike of all The fall of His heroes on the field of battle in no way checks the onward march of the great unseen Captain of the host to final victory. All true leaders in the holy war point us, alike in their life and in their death, to Him whose presence is never withdrawn, whose years fail not, whose eye never becomes dim, whose force is never abated. In following their faith, and considering how their "conversation" ended, let us not forget that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:7, 8). - W.
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.