Summary: Examines part of Joshua’s final words to the Israelites
I have a question for all of you this morning: What would you say to a close friend if you knew it would be the last time you would speak to them? I read a story this past week about a man named Herman Lange. Mr. Lange was a Christian in Germany during the time of World War II. Adolf Hitler and his regime, of course, were anti-Christian. Therefore, Herman Lange was ordered to be executed by the Nazis. In his cell on the night before he was to be killed, Lange wrote a note to his parents. He said two feelings occupied his mind: "I am, first, in a joyous mood, and second filled with great anticipation." Then he made this beautiful affirmation: "In Christ I have put my faith, and precisely today I have faith in Him more firmly than ever." Finally he urged his parents to read the New Testament for comfort. He wrote, "Look where you will, everywhere you will find jubilation over the grace that makes us children of God. What can befall a child of God? Of what should I be afraid? On the contrary, rejoice!" These are powerful words coming from a man who knows that he is about to be martyred, and yet he doesn’t have any fear, because like Job, he knows that his Redeemer lives. This was what one man chose to be his last words to his loved ones. So what would yours be? This was a question that I was contemplating in the earlier part of the week as I was getting ready for this morning’s sermon. I knew that it would be my last sermon here at Springfield Church of the Brethren, and so I was seeking the Lord’s will as to what my "last words" should be. I flipped through the Bible for some guidance, and finally I came to the last words of Joshua. Here was a man who had led the Israelites following the death of Moses. He had brought them a great military victory in Jericho and had led them into the land of Canaan, but now he was nearing the end of his life. So, he gathered everyone around him and gave his final speech. His great and final speech extends over three chapters, but I thought I’d be nice today and only talk about one of them, so I’ll be going through chapter 23 today. There are four main points that Joshua drives home in this chapter.
The first point that Joshua makes is to remind them of how God has blessed them in the past. (read vv. 1-3) He reminds the Israelites that it has been God who fought their battles and gave them the victory over their enemies. Likewise, as Christians, God has fought our battles and given us the victory. Except that Ephesians reminds us that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil." You see, before Christ came along, we were lost - we were dead in our sin. We were on the broad road to hell, without power to change our course. But then Christ came and died for our sins on the cross and saved us from our sins and changed our destiny from hell to heaven. This transformation is outlined beautifully in Titus 3:3-5. Listen to this... (read) Christ died for our sins. This expression finds its roots in the Old Testament, where it speaks of the effects of sacrifices. The death of Christ is like a sacrifice in that it takes away sin and cancels sin’s effects. Christ’s death served as a perfect sin offering for the sins of others because Christ himself was sinless. In the Old Testament, sacrifices for sins were made repeatedly, but Christ died once for all. Christ’s death is all that is necessary to provide spiritual salvation, because the ultimate purpose of His death was to bring us to God, tobridge that great gap that our sin had placed between us and God. (Joshua 23:9) Just as the Lord drove out the nations that opposed Israel, so He has also driven out the sin that opposes us. This is the past blessing that we are to remember.
The second thing that Joshua does is to remind the Israelites of the future blessings that had been promised to them by the Lord. (Joshua 23:5) The Lord promised Israel that He would deliver them from their enemies. The Lord has also promised to deliver us as Christians from our enemies. He will deliver us from Satan. James 4:7 reminds us that when we submit ourselves to God, we will be able to resist the devil so that he will flee from us. God has also promised to deliver us from the world. 1 John 2:17 reminds us that "the world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." Everything about this world - the money we make, the houses we live in, the jobs we work at, the stress and illnesses we deal with - all of these things are temporary, they will pass away. But you and I can avoid that trap of the world. When we are doing and living in the will of God, we will live forever. Finally, we have been promised victory over our sin-filled lives. Romans 6:14 tells us that "sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." It is by this grace alone that we are able to have confidence in victory over sin.