The Signs of the Times


May 19, 1881

Joshua's Farewell Address


Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites as a nation maintained their allegiance to God, and his blessing attended them. Among the wooded hills and fertile valleys of the promised land, doubly attractive after the long desert wanderings, the chosen tribes dwelt safely; and the years passed on, peaceful and prosperous. ST May 19, 1881, par. 1

As Joshua felt the infirmities of age stealing upon him, and realized that his labors must soon cease, he assembled the elders, the judges, and the officers of Israel, that he might communicate to them his last warnings and admonitions. The people looked upon the form of their veteran general, who had led them on from victory to victory, and they were ready to ascribe to him the honor of placing them in possession of that good land. But, like his great predecessor, Joshua showed them that their enemies had been conquered because the Lord had fought for Israel, and that God alone should have all the glory. ST May 19, 1881, par. 2

Although the Canaanites had been subdued, they still possessed a considerable portion of the land promised to Israel; and Joshua exhorted his people not to settle down at ease, and forget the Lord's command to utterly dispossess these idolatrous nations. Lest the Israelites should be disheartened, he assured them that if they would be true to God, his presence and power would attend them in their future conflicts as in the past. He earnestly sought to inspire their hearts with faith and courage. “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left.” ST May 19, 1881, par. 3

He repeated the instructions given by Moses, that they were to form no allegiance with the idolatrous nations that God had appointed to utter destruction. They were forbidden to manifest the least respect for the gods of the heathen, to take oath by their names, or to join in their worship in any manner. They were warned that familiarity with idolatry would remove their abhorrence of it, and would expose them to God's displeasure. ST May 19, 1881, par. 4

We are in as great danger from contact with infidelity as were the Israelites from intercourse with idolaters. The productions of genius and talent too often conceal the deadly poison. Under an attractive guise, themes are presented and thoughts expressed that attract, interest, and corrupt the mind and heart. Thus, in our Christian land, piety wanes, and skepticism and ungodliness are triumphant. ST May 19, 1881, par. 5

The Israelites were exhorted to make the Lord first in their thoughts and affections, and to cleave unto him as their source of strength. “For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong; but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.” Joshua reiterated the words of Moses: “One man of you shall chase a thousand; for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.” ST May 19, 1881, par. 6

He warned the people that if they should in any manner unite with the remnant of the heathen nations still among them, and contract marriages with them, the protecting care of God would surely be removed from Israel, and those very nations would be the instruments of their punishment. “They shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.” ST May 19, 1881, par. 7

Joshua declared to the people that his work among them was done; for he was soon to die. He appealed to themselves as witnesses that God had faithfully fulfilled his promises to them. “And ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” He assured them that as the Lord had fulfilled his promises, so would he fulfill his threatenings. If they were disobedient to his requirements, he would destroy them, as he had destroyed their enemies. ST May 19, 1881, par. 8

The Lord has not changed. His character is the same today as in the days of Joshua. He is true, merciful, compassionate, faithful in the performance of his word, both in promises and threatenings. One of the greatest dangers that besets the people of God today, is that of association with the ungodly; especially in uniting themselves in marriage with unbelievers. With many, the love for the human eclipses the love for the divine. They take the first step in backsliding by venturing to disregard the Lord's express command; and complete apostasy is too often the result. It has ever proved a dangerous thing for men to carry out their own will in opposition to the requirements of God. Yet it is a hard lesson for men to learn that God means what he says. ST May 19, 1881, par. 9

As a rule, those who choose for their friends and companions, persons who reject Christ and trample upon God's law, eventually become of the same mind and spirit. We should ever feel a deep interest in the salvation of the impenitent, and should manifest toward them a spirit of kindness and courtesy; but we can safely choose for our friends only those who are the friends of God. ST May 19, 1881, par. 10

Those who make the word of God their rule of life are hated by the world. The ungodly are not willing to have their consciences aroused; and the silent example of Christ's true followers is a constant reproof. There are many professed Christians who partake of the spirit of the world, and love its friendship. But none need be deceived by their example; for the word of truth declares that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Those who take human feeling and human reasoning for their guide, will as surely separate from the wisdom of God, as did ancient Israel when they forsook the Lord to serve Baal and Ashtaroth. ST May 19, 1881, par. 11

Once more, before his final removal from the people of his care, Joshua assembled the chosen tribes to speak to them the words of God. He rehearsed before them their own history and the history of their fathers from the days of Abraham. He did not conceal their errors and mistakes; and with earnestness and gratitude he dwelt upon the dealings of God with them. He reminded them that it was not their own strength or valor which had given them the land of Canaan. God himself had said, “I have given you a land for which ye did not labor, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them. Of the vineyards and olive-yards which ye planted not, do you eat.” ST May 19, 1881, par. 12

In view of all that God had done for them, Joshua exhorted the people, “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.” The human mind is naturally inclined to dwell upon the things which are seen and heard, and to neglect the things which are unseen. The Lord had done marvelous things for his people in the manifesting of his power as the only true and living God; yet many had been led astray by the Satanic delusion that God might be represented by material objects, the works of men's hands. By the contemplation of these things, their minds were diverted from God. ST May 19, 1881, par. 13

Among the multitudes that came up out of Egypt were many who had been worshipers of idols; and such is the power of habit that the practice was secretly continued, to some extent, even after the settlement in Canaan. Joshua was sensible of this evil among the Israelites, and he clearly perceived the dangers that would result. He earnestly desired to see a thorough reformation among the Hebrew host. He knew that unless the people took a decided stand to serve the Lord with all their hearts, they would continue to separate themselves farther and farther from him. Then would the Lord remove his protecting care, and suffer them to be driven out and scattered, by the very people whom he had commanded them to destroy. ST May 19, 1881, par. 14

Said Joshua, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua endeavored to show the people that God's requirements were just and merciful. He would lead them to serve him, not by compulsion, but willingly. Love to God is the very foundation of pure and undefiled religion. To engage in his service as an unpleasant task, merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment, would bring no sweet peace, no assurance of God's favor. ST May 19, 1881, par. 15

While a portion of the Hebrew host were spiritual worshipers, many were mere formalists; no zeal or earnestness characterized their service. Some were idolaters at heart, who would be ashamed to acknowledge themselves as such. Joshua urged them to consider in all its bearings the important matter which he had set before them, and to decide if they really desired to live as did the idolatrous nations around them. If it seemed evil to them to serve the Lord, if his requirements seemed a grievous exaction, he bade them that day choose whom they would serve,—the idols worshiped by their fathers from whom Abraham was called out, or the gods of the Amorites, “in whose land ye dwell.” ST May 19, 1881, par. 16

In these last words was a keen rebuke to the idolatry of Israel. The gods of the heathen had no power to bestow peace or prosperity. Their worshipers had ascribed to them praise and honor for all the bounties bestowed by the mercy and love of God. Hence the Lord had removed from them his blessing, and had left them to the mercies of the gods in whom they trusted. That wicked people had been destroyed; and the good land which they once possessed, had been given to God's people. Then what suicidal folly for Israel to choose the gods for worshiping whom the Amorites had been destroyed! ST May 19, 1881, par. 17

When a man comes to his right mind, he begins to reflect upon his relation to his Maker. It is moral madness to prefer the praise of men to the favor of God, the rewards of iniquity to the treasures of Heaven, the husks of sin to the spiritual food God gives his children. Yet how many who display intelligence and shrewdness in worldly things, manifest an utter disregard to those things that pertain to their eternal interest. ST May 19, 1881, par. 18

Joshua assured the Israelites that of themselves they could not serve the Lord. The natural heart is a battle-field, upon which there is a constant warfare; conscience seeking to hold sway, and passion also struggling for the victory. God would not grant them his favor and support while they persisted in transgression. If they honored him, he would honor them. If they should forsake him, and serve strange gods, he would forsake them. As God is a being of perfect truth and holiness, it was impossible for them to serve him and yet continue in sin; for he could not unite with iniquity. Only by thorough repentance and reformation of life, could they hope to secure the divine favor. ST May 19, 1881, par. 19

God's plan for the salvation of men, is perfect in every particular. If we will faithfully perform our allotted part, all will be well with us. It is man's apostasy that causes discord, and brings wretchedness and ruin. God never uses his power to oppress the creatures of his hand. He never requires more than man is able to perform; never punishes his disobedient children more than is necessary to bring them to repentance; or to deter others from following their example. Rebellion against God is inexcusable. ST May 19, 1881, par. 20

The judgments of God quickly following upon transgression, his counsels and reproofs, the manifestations of his love and mercy, and the oft-repeated exhibitions of his power,—all were a part of God's plan to preserve his people from sin, to make them pure and holy, that he might be their strength and shield and their exceeding great reward. But the persistent transgressions of the Israelites, their readiness to depart from God, and their forgetfulness of his mercies, showed that many had chosen to be servants of sin, rather than children of the Most High. ST May 19, 1881, par. 21

God had created them, Christ had redeemed them. From the house of bondage their cry of anguish went up to the throne of God, and he put forth his arm to rescue them; for their sake, bringing desolation upon the whole land of Egypt. He had granted them high honors. He had made them his peculiar people, and had showered upon them unnumbered blessings. If they would obey him, he would make them a mighty nation,—a praise and excellence in all the earth. God designed to magnify his name through his chosen people, by showing the vast difference existing between the righteous and the wicked, the servants of God and the worshipers of idols. ST May 19, 1881, par. 22

Joshua sought to show his people the inconsistency of their course of backsliding. He wished them to feel that the time had come to make a decided change, to put away every vestige of idolatry, and to turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart. He endeavored to impress upon their minds the fact that open apostasy would not be more offensive to God than hypocrisy, and a lifeless form of worship. ST May 19, 1881, par. 23

If the favor of God was worth anything, it was worth everything. Thus Joshua had decided; and after weighing the whole matter, he had determined to serve him with full purpose of heart. And more than this, he would endeavor to induce his family to pursue the same course. ST May 19, 1881, par. 24

God said of Abraham, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the ways of the Lord to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” The promises of God to Abraham and his posterity, and through Christ to the nations of the earth, may appear to have been unconditional. But such was not the case. Whether Abraham would share in their fulfillment, was determined by the course which he pursued. The Lord approved his faithfulness in the government of his household. Abraham firmly restrained evil, and endeavored by precept and example to promote justice and godliness among them. Thus he worked in harmony with God, faithfully performing his part in the great plan. ST May 19, 1881, par. 25

Our dangers are similar to those which threatened the prosperity of ancient Israel. The oft-repeated warnings against idolatry addressed to the Hebrew host, are no less applicable to us. Everything which leads the affections away from God is an idol, and betrays us into sin. If we serve God willingly and joyfully, preferring his service to the service of sin and Satan; if we choose him, openly and boldly turning from all the attractions and vanities of the world, we shall enjoy his blessing in this life, and shall dwell forever in his presence in the future life. ST May 19, 1881, par. 26

The Lord our God is a jealous God. He is just and holy. He will not be trifled with. He reads a deceptive heart. He abhors a double mind. He hates lukewarmness. We cannot serve God and mammon, for they are antagonistic. ST May 19, 1881, par. 27