24 The Death of Joshua

<< Joshua 24: The Death of Joshua >>

And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.–Joshua xxiv. 29, 30.

IT was a solemn and wonderful scene that was presented at Shechem when Joshua was about to die. The brave and single-hearted leader of the tribes was about to quit the people whom he had loved and led to victory. The heads, the elders, the judges, and the officers were all about him. He, a chief actor in the astonishing events by which Israel had been made a nation, and become settled in the land so long the object of promise and of hope, was about to quit them for the still better country above, and he desired to give them his counsel and his blessing. He was the same man in death that he had been in life–calm, brave, and decided. There is no trace of fear through the whole discourse. There is only in Joshua thankfulness, faithfulness, and trust. May we die the death of the righteous, and may our last end be like his. Two lessons pervade the whole of the discourse of the dying leader–faithfulness to God, and courage in maintaining what is good. These were the traits of his character during his life. When others were timid, hesitating, and fearful, again and again Joshua stood undauntedly forth ready to brave any danger which faithfulness required to be confronted. Nothing made him quail. Numbers, giants, strong walls, were all alike to him. Brave himself, he communicated courage to the fainting, and on several occasions prevented the trembling and timid from falling utterly away.

How strongly this was brought out when the ten disheartened spies brought their ignoble report, after their forty days exploration of the glorious country they had been sent to search. They querulously told of nothing but dangers. We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. The land through which we have gone to search it is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people we saw in it are men of great stature.

And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants. And we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.–Num. xii. 31-33. The whole host would then have perished but for Joshua and the noble Caleb. They heard the craven account with indignation. They rent their clothes with horror, and exclaimed, although the congregation were exasperated and threatening, and in their intense fright were ready to put to death those who would tell them the truth, yet the faithful and true men named spoke out, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.–Num. xiv. 7-9. At Rephidim, at Jericho, at Ai, at Beth-horon, and at Merom, the same spirit flamed forth in the glorious chief; and now in his old age, and in his dying moments, we cannot fail to recognize the qualities which had distinguished him throughout his whole career. Be ye very courageous, he said, 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. No man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. 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.

It is worthy of observation that Divine Providence always excites us to improvement, by strengthening in us whatever is good in our natural character, as well as by leading us to repress all that is evil. Joshua was naturally brave. In the charges given to him the Divine Being appeals to and strengthens this quality by the assurance that He would always be present with His valiant servant to defend him. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as it was with Moses so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage. Only be thou strong and very courageous. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong, and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. These charges evidently appealed to the native virtues of the heroic Joshua, and strengthened in him his already noble qualities, and thus prepared him for the distinguished part of conquering the hostile tribes which formed Israels deadliest foes within the promised land, and of settling the new possessors in their acquired territories;

thus completing the grand work begun by Moses. The one freed and disciplined the nation; the other crowned the glorious enterprise with success. The one did the outer work, and died outside the land; the other went forward and did the inner work, and died in the midst of the magnificent possessions his faithfulness and fearlessness had won. The latter had the laurel of complete success. Joshua also regulated and arranged the boundaries of each tribe, putting all things into order, and enforcing that persevering attention to a complete conquest in the boundaries of each tribe which would at length give them entire and lasting peace.

Having finished these noble works, the grand old man came to die, or rather to rise to a higher life, and he gave his parting charge. He was no fatalist, nor a man to dishonor human freedom. He exhorted the whole people to CHOOSE the Lord, and obey Him from love (ver. 15). He spoke from the experience of one hundred and ten years–he spoke to those whom he had led in sunshine and in storm–he spoke of the wonders which he had known, done by the Lord to men who had also known them, and he gave them this dying exhortation, with which he finished his noble life: Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and 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. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served 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.–ver. 14, 15.

He finally set up a stone, the symbol of Divine Truth, to witness in future ages to the impressive lesson he had given them, he then let all the people depart to their hard-won inheritance, and he passed to his more glorious home above.

We must not omit to notice the information that Joshua himself wrote the account of the events in which he had so largely figured, and added them to the books of the law written by Moses (ver. 26): And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God. Thus giving a warrant for the literal truth of the Sacred Narrative of the most conclusive kind–the dying testimony of the chief actor, and the greatest mind, associated with the events themselves, addressed to thousands of living witnesses. The Book of Joshua being the Doomsday Book of the tribes, arranging and fixing their several boundaries and possessions, would also interest them in its exact preservation, and evinces again the care of Divine Providence, that His Word should in every way be consistent with human freedom, be preserved from loss or damage;

and remain the sacred basis of that spirit and life which are now unveiled for Christians. The conquest of Canaan thus will be the shadow going before of that self-conquest in the heart which the Spirit of the Lord Jesus enables every humble Christian to effect, that he may be meet for the kingdom of heaven.

That Joshua spiritually represents the power of the Lord Jesus, and its working in the heart, may not only be conceived from the position he held of the companion and successor of Moses, just as the spirit of the Gospel is the companion and successor of the law, but it would be confirmed by the fact that in the New Testament Joshua is several times called Jesus. The Hebrew Joshua and the Creek Jesus are indeed the same name. We have instances of this in Acts vii. 45, Heb. iv. 8, where Joshua is called Jesus.

The name of Joshua at first was Oshea, see Num. xiii. 16, but when he received his charge to go with the others into the land of Canaan and inspect it with a view to its entire purification and conquest, his name was altered by the addition of Je, from Jehovah, and so became Jehoshua. Oshea or Oshua signifies salvation; Jehoshua implies Jehovah our salvation. And as the Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah as our Savior, we may see how truly the Lord Jesus in the seal by His Holy Spirit is the true Divine Joshua, the driver out of all those interior evils which infest the inner regions of the soul, as the Amorites were entrenched in the mountain lands, especially of Judea.

When Joshua had finished his labors, and was waiting to be translated to heaven, he foreshadowed for us the state of the Christian when the Spirit of the Savior has done His work in him, and he approaches his rest. No giant lust remains; no pride, no passion, no impurity, no impatience even are left. He is going quietly to rest. Joshua is going to die in Him, or rather, to rise up to higher life. The angelic idea of death is resurrection–to men we die, to angels we rise.

Mortals say a man is dead, angels a child is born.

The Lord dies in us when He rises to higher life, and to more regal and interior control over all our affections and thoughts. There is a remarkable saying by Himself in the Gospel, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.–John xii. 32. When the Lord is lifted up in us, He is enthroned in our central affections, the golden scepter of His love and wisdom waves over us, and He draws all other things in us to Himself.

This elevation in the soul is meant by the death of Joshua; it is the state in which He is glorified in us, and becomes to us our Love, our Light, our All-in-all.

The age of Joshua of one hundred and ten years has its spiritual signification. Compound numbers are like the simple ones from which they come, for in spiritual things, as indeed in material ones, greater masses are only repetitions of the same elements which. constitute smaller ones. One hundred and ten has therefore the same signification as eleven; it represents a state near completion, twelve representing that which is altogether full.

The twelve hours of the day represent complete regeneration, the eleventh not quite, but nearly complete. In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, our Lord describes the eleventh hour laborers as acquiring their silver reward in one hour, as much as the first who had been toiling all the day, and even a higher reward than the others, for the last, He said, should be first. The reason was, the whole labor of the vineyard represented the whole regeneration of the soul, the eleventh hour laborers those exalted affections which are brought into activity when the inner work of the soul is nearly over. Joshua, then, died at the age of one hundred and ten years, to be the type of the Lord Jesus about to rise into the interiors of the soul, and be there a sun that would never go down, when the days of the souls mourning would for ever be ended (Isa. lx. 20), the Sun of Righteousness, who would then have arisen with healing in His wings.

Timnath-Serah is, in Hebrew, the portion that remaineth, and we can hardly doubt its being selected to be the burial place of Joshua, because of its name and situation so strikingly representing the rest, the peaceful rest of the soul, which the Apostle speaks of, and which he says remaineth to the people of God (Heb. iv. 9). Another name for the same place, as we learn in Judges, was Timnath-Heres, that is, the portion of the sun, and thus it again represents that state of interior peace in which the soul feels itself in the sunny land of Divine Love, the inner mount Ephraim on which shines the perpetual glory of the light and blessing of the All-good–this is the mount of which it may be indeed said that it verifies the truth:

Though round its breast the rolling clouds may spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.

But the Divine Word is still more specific in naming the spot where the remains of Joshua were interred, and no doubt for reasons of a spiritual character. He was buried, it is said, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.

Gaash is one of the Hebrew terms meaning trouble or commotion. The hill of trouble, spiritually, would be the spirit of good to which we cling in trouble. If it were not that we have some little confidence in the Lord left, some little affection for right, some little hope, some little trust in the divine mercy and providence of Him who is our Heavenly Father and Redeemer, we should utterly fail and be overwhelmed. This inner spirit of good is meant by a mountain and hill in many parts of the Word. This is the mountain spoken of by the Psalmist, Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.–Ps. xxx. 7. The hill Mizar, or the hill of humility, which is mentioned in another psalm, is expressive of the same spirit of good which is present with us in states of tribulation and anguish, O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.–Ps. xlii. 6.

On the occasion of the trial of Abraham on Mount Moriah, it is said that he called the name of that place, the Lord will provide, and it is written, To this day in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.–Gen. xxii. 14.

In the spirit of inward good, which is present with us in the grievous hours of sorrow and trial, it is always written, The Lord will provide. There, to this day, it may be seen.

The hill of Gaash, or hill of trouble, then, we presume, means the same spirit of inward good, which sustains the soul in tribulation, and forms a center from which in good time can come consolation and lasting peace.

To bury Joshua on the border of his inheritance to the north of the hill of Gaash would be, in its spiritual application, to extend the influence of the Lord Jesus beyond the region of trouble in the soul, to the very extremes of the mind; that is to say, there would be an extreme sanctification of the character in word and work. Where there had been trouble there should be peace. There would be a lifting up of the Lord inward, and His divine radiance would extend outward. The principles of heaven would take root downward and bear fruit upward; the Lord who rules in the highest heaven of the soul would also rule in the lowest earth; so that whether we eat or drink, we should do all for the glory of God.

Such, then, is the series of lessons afforded us by the description of the death and burial of Israel’s valiant leader, of him who defeated their foes in the bosom of their God-given land. And in concluding our meditations on his character, and on the whole range of divine things opened to us by the journey from Egypt to Canaan, let us especially reflect on the success which arose from the unhesitating valor of Joshua. He came, he saw, he conquered, was equally true of him as it was of the renowned Roman. Similar bravery for the right, similar single-heartedness when truth points the way, would realize similar blessings with us much sooner than we often attain them.

We fail often in making progress because we hesitate, we are fearful. We see the right course, but we still delay, as if there could be danger where truth leads, and goodness beckons us on. O! for a spirit of simple trustful faith and love, which was so great in Joshua; then would many a sin fall swiftly prostrate, which is often a plague to us for years. Not a, man of them would stand long before us, but a speedy victory would be ours in every temptation, and we should realize much more fully, and much sooner than we do, entire virtue and everlasting peace. He who touches the nettle feebly, smarts; to him who seizes it boldly it readily yields.

How many there are who view their leading sin as something they cannot give up without some great detriment, or cannot give up just now. It is implied to be somehow an essential part of their being or their well-being, and they must be very careful in giving it up. On the other hand, some good step, the adoption of some virtuous course, is a matter for slow resolution and great hesitation, as though some great danger were to be feared.

On the contrary, sin is an abortion, a wan, a curse; it has no right in creation–it is an aberration from order. It is described in Scripture by every term that can express what is hurtful and loathsome; it is a serpent, a dragon, a satyr, a wolf, a fox, a plague, leprosy, poison, a thorn, a sting, death, and hell. It is that which destroys a fathers goodness and a mothers love. It turns children into vipers, incipient angels into fiends confirmed it sours tempers, withers the bliss of families, brings grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, and assimilates earth to the dark abodes of demons.

Is there then any reason for which we should spare it for a moment? Ought we not in prayer and in effort to assail whatever in us partakes of the evil kingdom, and say with the psalmist, Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise. up against thee?

I hate them with perfect hatred. I count them mine enemies. To hate outward foes is wrong, but to abhor and abominate our sins of mind and heart is the truest wisdom. Of them we should say, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Why, too, should there be so much hesitation in the adoption of a Christian course? Why not dare at once to do that which me see to be good? What a marvelous instance of weakness does Agrippa give us when Paul pleaded with him, and he ex-claimed, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. Almost-why not altogether? Why hesitate? Hear the Lord Himself, saying, O, that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways, I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.

Many, who like Festus, say, I will hear thee again at a more convenient season, might, if they decided at once, tear up sins by the roots, that often ramify and curse for many a year.

The convenient season is JUST NOW; when truth has shewn us a wrong, and if we are faithful and fearless under the direction of our blessed Lord and Savior, we shall secure years of peace, years of progress, years of usefulness, which otherwise would be worse than wasted. Let us, then, in His name avow His truth and obey it AS SOON AS WE CLEARLY PERCEIVE IT. Let us venture our all, cast our every care upon Him, and the result will be, our entrance into such a Canaan as will be to us a land flowing with milk and honey interiorly in this life of time, and we shall live fully and everlastingly in His kingdom above.

Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)