Beginning of the End


The Last Words of Joshua

This chapter is based on Joshua 23 and 24.

When the wars and conquest ended, Joshua had withdrawn to the peaceful seclusion of his home at Timnath Serah. “Now it came to pass, a long time after the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua ... called for all Israel, for their elders, for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers.” BOE 261.1

As Joshua felt the effects of old age coming on him and realized that his work must soon close, he was deeply concerned for the future of his people. “You have seen,” he said, “all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has fought for you.” Although the Canaanites had been subdued, they still possessed quite a bit of the land promised to Israel, and Joshua urged his people not to forget the Lord’s command to drive out these idolatrous nations. BOE 261.2

The tribes had all gone to their homes, the army had disbanded, and renewing the war looked like a difficult and doubtful plan. But Joshua declared: “The Lord your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God promised you. Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left.” BOE 261.3

God had faithfully fulfilled His promises to them. “You know in all your hearts and in all your souls,” he said, “that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.” BOE 261.4

As the Lord had fulfilled His promises, so He would fulfill His threatenings. “It shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the Lord your God promised you, so the Lord will bring upon you all harmful things. ... When you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord ..., then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you.” BOE 261.5

In all His dealings with His creatures, God has held up the principles of righteousness by revealing sin in its true character—by showing that its sure result is misery and death. Unconditional pardon for sin has never been offered, and it never will be. Such pardon would fill the unfallen universe with dismay. God has faithfully pointed out the results of sin, and if these warnings were not true, how could we be sure that His promises would be fulfilled? BOE 261.6

Before the death of Joshua the leaders and representatives of the tribes gathered together at Shechem again. No spot in all the land possessed so many sacred connections. Here were the mountains Ebal and Gerizim, the silent witnesses of those vows that they had now gathered together to renew in the presence of their dying leader. God had given them a land for which they did not work, cities that they had not built, and vineyards and oliveyards that they had not planted. Joshua reviewed the history of Israel once more, reminding them of the wonderful works of God so that everyone might have a sense of His love and mercy and might serve Him “in sincerity and in truth.” BOE 262.1

By Joshua’s order the ark had been brought from Shiloh. This symbol of God’s presence would deepen the impression he wished to make upon the people. After presenting the goodness of God toward Israel, he called for them to choose whom they would serve. To some extent they were still worshiping idols secretly, and Joshua tried now to bring them to a decision to banish this sin from Israel. “If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord,” he said, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” Joshua wanted to lead them to serve God not by force, but willingly. To serve Him only for the hope of reward or fear of punishment was unacceptable. Hypocrisy and mere formal worship were as offensive to God as was open apostasy. BOE 262.2