Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the LORD said to him, "You have become old and advanced in years, but very much of the land remains to be possessed.
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.
Genesis 12:1-3, 6, 7, &c.). This promise, so old, so solemn, so wide, so definite, so clear, and so often repeated, was the formative and governing principle in the lives of all the patriarchs. This it was that made them Faith's Pilgrim Fathers. They believed these promises, their hearts embraced them, said they confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers in the earth. But the promise was sure, though held long in abeyance for wise and loving purposes. The vision may tarry, but come it must; because God's gifts and calling are without repentance, unconditioned by aught in the creature; and because God's power and wisdom are without limit. He is the God of truth and of infinite resources. Through strange scenes, hard discipline, and varying experiences the seed of Abraham may pass, but all the time God is leading them to His promised rest. What a lesson in patience have we here! What encouragement to wait for the end of the Lord! Surely, as we consider them thus at the end of their toils and in the enjoyment of that great promise, we may exclaim, "Happy is the people whose God is the Lord." Is there anything as good in store for us? There is better. God's basket of bounty is not empty. God's act gave this promise first of all. After He created all things He rested from His works. He had gone out of Himself to work; He returned to Himself to rest. As certainly as the old creation, through ages of convulsion and astounding changes, attained its crown and climax in God's rest, so surely the new creation, by whatever mysteries and conflicts its development is characterised, shall usher in the glorious Sabbath of redemption. As surely as Joshua gave rest to those who followed him, so surely does Jesus give rest to all who put their trust in Him. The innumerable company of the redeemed have found in this promise a power sufficient to govern all their lives, a solace for every woe. But if the rest for which Israel fought was a rest long promised, it was also a rest which for a time was forfeited. "They could not enter in because of unbelief. Thou standest by faith. Therefore be not high-minded, but fear." Let us fear with that fear which has strong confidence, with which we work out our salvation, which mingles with holy mirth, which lasts through all the time of our sojourn here, and which is our safety. "Blessed is the man that feareth alway." Further, the rest for which Israel fought was imperfect. It was only a comparative rest. The land as a whole was taken. It was so far in their hands that they could with safety partition it among the several tribes, allowing each to perfect the work of conquest within his allotted territory. The Canaanites were unable to put an army in the field. Their united power was for the time utterly broken. Yet still they had cities here and there in their possession. They were to remain for a time, to prevent the land from lapsing into an irreclaimable waste, to exercise the people in war, and to be a test of Israel's faithfulness. We have therefore here a master-sketch of Christian experience. The believer enters into life by a miracle of grace and power. He is buried with Christ by baptism into His death. He is raised with Him and seated with Him in heavenly places. He finds his Gilgal at Golgotha, where the reproach of sin is rolled away, and he receives nourishment for his soul. Here, also, he learns the mystery of the Divine leadership of Him who has said, "Lo, I am with you alway." He takes Him as Prophet, Priest, and King. Then he learns the might of faith in casting down the walls which human pride and strength and skill have reared. He is also taught, it may be by humiliating defeat, the weakness of unbelief and disobedience, as was Israel at Ai. He is convinced that if he is not to make shipwreck he must hold fast "faith and a good conscience." Then with bitter sorrow he learns the value of self-judgment and confession of sin. The dark and dreadful valley of Achor becomes the only door of hope. Then with deeper intelligence he repeats with restored soul the Amen of allegiance, deliberately takes the law of God for his guide, and depends on the Cross for power of communion. tie camps at Ebal and Gerizim, in the very centre of the blessed inheritance, surrounded by its fairest scenes, when his heart knows the meaning of these words, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." Then, from new consecration, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh, he passes on to higher acts of faith and to nobler victories. Things in heaven as well as things on earth reveal faith's power. Be can put his foot on the neck of tyrant sins, and laugh to scorn the horses and chariots of human might. Some. times there are periods of desperate fighting, in which every fibre is strained to its utmost tension, Sometimes there are periods of comparative repose, a welcome lull, when the land rests from war. And in these happy days all the work may seem done, and perfect victory gained. Old and tough sins are conquered. Those that remain hide their diminished heads. Still they lurk in the dark recesses of the heart, ready to spring out and pounce upon us if for a moment we are off our guard. Therefore there is constant need of watchfulness. Lastly, the rest for which Israel fought was prospective. From the very fact of its imperfections it pointed forward to a better.
The land rested from war.
(A. B. Mackay.)
(A. B. Mackay.)
These axe the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote.resume of the conquest Moses is not forgotten. He is named as well as Joshua. The Holy Ghost delights to point out how God causes many instruments to work out His designs, and thus takes all praise from man. Thus the chapter is a miniature, suggesting all the victories that Israel won, and all the defeats which overwhelmed the Canaanites. Accordingly it is valuable as a demonstration that both the promises and the threatenings of God will be fulfilled to the letter. Here as in a glass we see on the one hand the course and the end of those who follow God, and on the other the course and the end of those who resist. Or, we have pointed out to us the narrow way that leads to life, and the broad road that leads to destruction. May we ponder these things and learn the way wherein we should walk.
I. THE DIFFERENT ROADS. That of Israel was the path of obedience. Everything was done by Divine command. But it was not always easy work for Israel to obey. The commands of God not only led along a narrow way, but often brought them up to a strait gate. They had just to go right on, according to the command of God. Obedience was their watchword. To stop and parley was to be lost. Patient endurance characterised them all through. When an old general was asked why he picked out the old veterans for a forced march he replied, "Because they have the most staying power." For hard work of any kind this is what tells in the long run; and from the first encounter with Sihon and Og to the last wrestle with the Anakim Israel exhibited this quality both in things physical and things spiritual. Obedience was the path: patient endurance was the characteristic of those who walked therein. On the part of the Canaanites their course was marked by rebellion. They said, "Who is Lord over us?" Thus they hardened themselves against God's will, and fought it out to the bitter end, learning no lesson and yielding no submission. These two paths of obedience and rebellion have not ceased to be trodden. Neither of them is grass-grown. Thank God there are many who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality. If there must be patient continuance on the part of those who walk the narrow way, there must be constant contention on the part of those who hurry down the broad road. There must be the resistance of the Holy Ghost, of the warnings of conscience, of the light of truth. There must be at times the fear of death and judgment and eternity.
II. THE DIFFERENT OBJECTS placed before each. That placed before Israel was something very definite and tangible, viz., the sure promise of Jehovah. To them that promise was the title-deed of the Holy Land; therefore all through this war they had in their eye a Divine inheritance, and all the glory and honour which this implied. Can we find any similar incitement on the part of the Canaanites? Nay. Theirs was a hopeless struggle. They were without God and therefore without hope. They obeyed unrighteousness, and were therefore filled with unrest. So is it now. They who walk in the obedience of faith have a glorious object before their eyes to stimulate and encourage them. They seek for glory and honour and immortality. And they have good hope through grace of obtaining it. Yea, they have God's faithful promise, and therefore glorious assurance of the result. But where is the hope of the rebellious? It is but a vague, unsatisfying dream. At the very best they have no certainty of a happy issue. When they pass hence it is "A leap in the dark." What a miserable plight is this l Notwithstanding their vast coalitions, their imposing armies, their formidable weapons, their notable leaders, they go forward with fear. The Sihon and Og of materialism, the Adoni-zedek of sacerdotalism, the Jabin of false philosophy, can inspire no true and blessed hope in the hearts of their faltering followers.
III. THE DIFFERENT ENDS. We see the Israelites marching on from victory to victory; entering into Canaan, enjoying the smile of God, and reaping the fruit of their labours. We see the Canaanites swept with the besom of destruction, and all that is left of their mightiest kings is the chronicle of their tombstones as given here. The ends are different because the beginnings are different. Of Israel it might be said, "These all fought in faith." Of the Canaanites it might be said, "These all died in unbelief." Paul has laid plainly before us in the Epistle to the Romans these two ends, as we must know them. On the one hand he places eternal life, glory, honour, peace. On the other he places indignation, wrath, tribulation, anguish. One or other of these is the terminus to which every life is hastening. And he also plainly tells us that without faith it is impossible to walk in the good way or to attain the glorious end. Remember then God's solemn record of the dead. He marks His own as precious jewels, to be worn in His crown in the day of glory, but He counts His enemies but worthless ashes to be trodden under foot. In the Divine record of the dead there are no omissions, no oversights, and no lies. He counts His enemies and He counts His friends. How will He count you?
(A. B. Mackay.).
Thou art old and stricken in years
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. —I. REVEALED TRUTH YET TO BE LEARNED. We have not yet secured all the sacred knowledge which God has made possible, and which it would be profitable for us to acquire. Here is this book set out before us, the great region of revealed religion. May we not say that "there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed"? Who among us is familiar with all its histories, is acquainted with all its facts, knows all its truths, has seen all its beauties, or learned all its lessons? Some of you have been through the pass of Llanberis — perhaps twenty times. Did you ever see it twice alike? Always the same thing; and yet a different appearance, because seen under different circumstances. If you were to go through it twenty times twenty times, it would never appear twice alike. The light would be falling on it at different angles, and thus make a difference. On a cloudy day you would see something you did not see on a bright day, and on a rainy day you would see something you did not see on a fine day. It is thus with this book. You say that you read the Bible through last year, and you ask, "What is to be gained by reading it through again this year?" Have you the same hopes? the same joys? the same sorrows? the same aspirations? the same motives? and the same experiences? I care not how often you have read it, you have never read it as you feel now, with your present experience and in your present circumstances.
II. A HOLY CHARACTER TO BE ACQUIRED. There remaineth much of that to be possessed. Men in ancient times had not a Divine standard to measure themselves by, or a Divine pattern to contrast themselves with, and learn how deficient they were and full of blemishes. We have had a perfect pattern set before us. In the life of our Lord Jesus Christ we have the map of the good land; see it in its length and breadth, and realise how true it is that there are glorious portions of it over which our flag has not floated, provinces which we have not made our own.
III. CHRISTIAN USEFULNESS. I am not going to slander the Christian Church, and tell you that former times were better than these. There is nothing gained by telling lies for God. If you want to quicken God's people you must not talk as if the Church were more sleepy now than it ever was before. I do not believe it. As I read ecclesiastical history, I cannot find many periods when the Church, as a whole, was more vigorous and devoted than now. Let us not ignore what God has done for us, and enabled us to do. "Not unto us, but unto Him be the praise and glory." But when we take into account all that has been done and all that has been attempted against the world's ignorance, vice, and ungodliness, may we not still say, "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed"? It is not the season for slothfulness, selfishness, or prayerlessness; the call is urgent and great. "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." Why did God keep His people to that struggle? He gave the people the land, and then they had to fight for it. They crossed the Jordan with the best title-deeds man ever possessed; they came from heaven, they were given by Him to whom all the earth belongs. The title-deed of the people said, "The land is yours"; and after God had given it to them they had to buckle on the sword, sharpen the spear, and go and win every acre of it. This is God's way — He gives it to you, and yet He says, "Get it; work it out with fear and trembling." Why does He treat us so? I cannot tell; but this I know, that if we cease to work the powers of evil never will.
I. CANAAN, AS THE ISRAELITES FOUND IT, REPRESENTS THE STATE OF MAN'S HEART WHEN THE GRACE OF GOD ENTERS IT. Think of a soul like thine, made at first in the image of God; a being such as thou art, once occupying a rank in creation next to and but a little lower than that of angels; a heart like thine which, though blighted by sin, still retains some traces of departed glory, alienated from the true God, held captive of the devil, ruled by unholy passions, full of corruptions as difficult to root out as were these sons of Anak who, in Goliath and his giant race, disturbed the peace of Israel and defied the armies of the living God many long years after the land was, in a sense, both conquered and possessed. The Hebrews did not enter Canaan to find an empty land, which they had nothing to do but to occupy; nor does Jesus, when He enters our heart by His Spirit and saving grace. It is in possession of His enemies. They are there to dispute His rights, and resist His entrance — sons of Anak, indeed; more formidable still; for giant sins are less easily conquered than giant men.
II. THE BLESSINGS OF THE KINGDOM OF GRACE, LIKE THOSE OF CANAAN, HAVE TO BE FOUGHT FOR. Bring out every sin before the Lord, and let it be condemned to death; pass the sword of the Spirit through and through it, till it has breathed out its cursed life, and has no more dominion over you. As the apostle says, "Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from alliniquity." Beware how you leave innate corruption and old sinful habits to draw down on you the anger of a holy God and the afflictions threatened on Israel (Numbers 33:55).
III. THE MOST ADVANCED CHRISTIAN HAS MUCH TO DO IN THE WAY OF SANCTIFICATION. How truly may it be said to the most experienced, aged, honoured Christian, as the Lord said to Joshua, "Thou art old and well stricken in years, and yet there is much land to be possessed. Sin still has more or less power over you, and it should have none; your corruptions are wounded, dying of mortal wounds, but they are not yet dead; your affections are set on heaven, yet how much are they still entangled with earthly things; your heart, like the needle of a sailor's compass to its pole, points to Christ, but how easily is it disturbed, how tremblingly and unsteadily does it often point to Him; your spirit has wings, but how short are its flights, and how often, like a half-fledged eaglet, has it to seek the nest, and come back to rest on the Rock of Ages; your soul is a garden in which, when north and south winds blow to call out its spices, Christ delights to walk, but with many a beautiful flower, how many vile weeds are there — ready to spring up, and ill to keep down; requiring constant care and watching." Indeed, so many impurities and imperfections cleave to the best of us, that it seems to me a change must take place at death only second to what took place at conversion. How that is done is a mystery which we cannot fathom; but it would seem as if grace, like that species of cereus which opens its gorgeous flower only at midnight burst out into fullest beauty amid the darkness of a dying hour.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Columbus was not content to pick up a few shells on the beach of the new world — he explored the continent; alas! we are too soon satisfied with coasting for a little on that great continent of the Divine nature.
II. THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE. Christians are too prone to keep to the beaten tracks; they do not make excursions into less familiar paths; some pages well thumbed, others clean and uncut.
III. CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Canaan was occupied by seven nations of ugly names; but our hearts and lives are cursed by still uglier things. We must not be content until all these are brought under obedience to Christ.
IV. THE HEATHEN WORLD.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
I. Yes, Christians, THERE REMAINETH YET VERY MUCH LAND TO BE POSSESSED — many cities and strongholds, many fine plains, and "springs of water," many beautiful valleys, and very "fruitful hills" — or, to speak less in figure, much of your religion is unattained, unoccupied, unenjoyed; you are far from its boundaries. Very little of it indeed do some of you possess; you command only a small, inconsiderable corner, scarcely affording you a subsistence.
1. Consider your knowledge. After so many years of hearing, what additions have you made to your stores? Are you filled with holy prudence to ponder "the path of your feet," to "look well to your goings," and to discern snares where there is no appearance-of danger? Do you "walk circumspectly; not as fools, but as wise"?
2. Observe your holiness. For the knowledge of persons may surpass their experience; and a growth in gifts is very distinguishable from a growth in grace. Review, then, your sanctification; and suffer me to ask, Have you no remaining corruptions to subdue? Is your obedience universal, unvarying, cheerful? Have you fully imbibed the tempers of your religion? Are there no deficiencies perceivable in every grace, in every duty?
3. Think of your privileges. It is the privilege of Christians to be "careful for nothing." It is the privilege of Christians to "enter into rest." It is the privilege of Christians to "have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is the privilege of Christians to "count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations; and to glory in tribulation also." And all this has been exemplified. Men have "received the gospel in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: they have taken pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake"; they have "taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods"; they have approached the flames with rapture; they have loved and longed for "His appearing" — but where are you? Always in darkness and alarms, &c. Do you belong to the same company?
II. Whence is this? Why will you suffer all this remaining religion to be unpossessed? How shall I awaken you from your negligence, and convince you of the PROPRIETY AND NECESSITY OF MAKING FRESH AND CONTINUAL ADVANCES?
1. I place before you the commands of God. You are forbidden to draw back; you are forbidden to be stationary. Something more is necessary than languid, partial, occasional, temporary progression. You are required to be "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord"; to "add to your faith, virtue," &c.
2. I surround you with all the images employed by the sacred writers when they would describe the nature of a religious life. For which of them does not imply progress, and remind us of the importance of undiminished ardour and increasing exertion? Light. Growing grain. Mustard seed. Leaven.
3. I call forth examples in your presence; they teach you the same truth. Who said, "I beseech thee, show me Thy glory "? A man who had "seen God face to face." Who prayed, "Teach me Thy statutes: open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law"? A man who had "more understanding than all his teachers," a man who "understood more than the ancients."
4. I hold up to view the advantages of progressive religion.(1) A Christian should be concerned for the honour of God. He is under infinite obligations to "show forth the praises of Him, who hath called us," &c.; but "herein is" our "Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."(2) A Christian should be concerned for the welfare of his fellow-creatures. He should be a blessing to his family, to his country.(3) A Christian should be concerned for his own prosperity. And has he to learn wherein it consists? Need he be told that adding grace to grace is adding "strength to strength," dignity to dignity, beauty to beauty, joy to joy? It is an awful proof that you have no real religion if you are satisfied with what you have. A degree of experience, however small, would stimulate; the relish would provoke the appetite; and having "tasted that the Lord is gracious," your language would be, "evermore give us this bread."
III. SOME ADMONITIONS WITH REGARD TO YOUR FUTURE EFFORTS.
1. Shake off indolence. Nothing is more injurious to our progress; and, alas! nothing is more common. Man loves indulgence; he needs a stimulus, to make him arise from the bed of sloth, to exert his faculties, and to employ the means of which he is possessed. And one would naturally conclude that in religion he would find it. As he sits at ease revelation draws back the veil, and shows him the most astonishing realities — an eternal world; whatever can sting with motive; whatever can alarm with fear; whatever can animate with hope. What a Being to please, on whom it depends to save or to destroy! What a state of misery is there to escape! What an infinite happiness to secure!
2. Beware of diversion. Discharge yourself as much as possible from superfluous cares. Distinguish between diligence in lawful business and "entangling yourselves in the affairs of this life." There are not only diversions from religion, but diversions in it; and of these also you are to beware. Here, finding you are unsuspicious of danger, the enemy often succeeds; for his end is frequently answered by things good in themselves. He is satisfied if he can draw off your attention from great things, and engross it with little ones; if he can make you prefer opinions to practice, and controversy to devotion.
3. Guard against despondency. There are indeed many things which, when viewed alone, have a tendency to discourage the mind. We know your weakness, and we know the difficulties and dangers to which you are exposed. But you have the promise of a faithful God.
4. Be afraid of presumption. Our dependence upon God is absolute and universal. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." His agency is more indispensable in spiritual things than in natural; sin has rendered us peculiarly weak, helpless, and disaffected.
5. It would be profitable for you to "call to remembrance the former days," and especially to review the beginning of your religious course.
6. It will not be less profitable for you to look forward, and survey the close of all. Christians! "it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is your salvation nearer." Would you slumber on the verge of heaven? The stream increases as it approximates the sea; motion accelerates as it approaches the centre.
(W. Seaton.)"Ne plus ultra" — nothing beyond. But afterwards, when Columbus had discovered America, Spain struck out the negative and left the inscription, "Plus ultra" — more beyond.
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