When you come to the end of your life there are certainly things you want to say to people. There are certain things you want them to know. There may even be some things that you would want people to do. Great earthly men, particularly military leaders, often have a final speech they want to give before they die to those who have followed them. George Washington, Douglas MacArthur, and many others in our nation’s history gave famous final speeches at the end of their service. For Moses, the whole book of Deuteronomy is the record of his final speeches to the people of Israel. Joshua has come to the end of his life. He is old and well advanced in years (Joshua 23:1). Before he dies there are two speeches that he wants to make to Israel. There are some things that he has to say to the people before he goes to his eternal rest. Joshua makes two speeches to the people of Israel, recorded in Joshua 23-24, and his messages are timeless. His two speeches were intended to stir the people of Israel and were recorded for all time so as to stir us in service and worship to God. Open your Bibles to Joshua 23 and we will listen to these two speeches.
Be Strong To Love and Obey the Lord (Joshua 23)
Joshua’s first message is that the Lord keeps his promises. In verse 5 Joshua says that they will continue to take possession of the land “just as the Lord your God promised you.” In verse 10 Joshua says that the Lord will fight for you “just as he promised you.” Look at verse 14, which is the key of this chapter.
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14 ESV)
Joshua emphasizes that there is not one word of all the good things that the Lord promised that has failed. All the promises have come to pass. None of the promises failed. Further, Joshua says in verse 15 that all the good things that the Lord promised have been fulfilled. But verse 15 contains a warning. Just as God fulfilled all the good things promised you, he will also fulfill every judgment and every bad thing he promised. One of the message that has been declared in the book of Joshua is that God does everything that he says he will do. There is never a promise that fails. We looked at that message a couple of weeks ago. But this knowledge that God keeps his word and his promises never fail is supposed to cause a response.
Every time Joshua spoke of God keeping his word, he also expressed a response that the people were to have because of God’s faithfulness. After declaring in verse 5 that God has kept his promises, Joshua says in verse 6, “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses.” After declaring in verse 10 that God has kept what he promised, Joshua says in verse 11, “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.” After speaking about God keeping his promises in verse 14, Joshua warns that he keeps his promises regarding judgment as well in verses 15-16. Joshua’s first speech to the people is for them to understand that God keeping his promises toward you is to be your motivation to be strong to obey and to be very careful to love the Lord your God.
When we begin to struggle with our obedience to the Lord, one encouragement that God has given us to continue in faith and obedience is to look at God’s promises. Because God keeps his promises, I can follow his instructions and keep his laws. His promises are to encourage our obedience. Now hold this idea in mind as we look at Joshua’s second speech.
Serve the Lord (Joshua 24)
In Joshua 24 we see Joshua assemble Israel for what will be his last speech to the people. From verses 2-13 Joshua gives a quick reminder of their history. The father of Abraham was an idolator (24:2), yet God took him from beyond the Euphrates River and brought him to the land of Canaan. God blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Jacob and his children went to Egypt. God used Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt through the plagues and then they lived in the wilderness a long time (24:4-8). He reminds them that God promised to bless Israel even though the prophet Balaam tried to curse them (24:9-10). Finally God fought for you and gave you the land of Canaan with all of its blessings (24:11-13). You again sense Joshua telling this history in terms of the need to see that God has blessed you and kept his promises to you. In fact, 21 times God says, “I took” or “I gave” or “I did” or something that God did. God says 21 times that he is the one who acted on behalf of the people.
Now Joshua comes to the point of his speech in verses 14-15. Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness. Stop your idolatry. You need to choose today who you are going to serve. Are you going to serve your idols or are you going to serve the Lord who did all these things for you. Then Joshua declares his famous line, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Choose today what it will be. I do not know what you will choose. But Joshua says he is serving the Lord. He is decisive about his response to the faithfulness of God.
Look at the response of the people in verses 16-18. The people answer that they are not going to forsake the Lord to serve other gods. The Lord brought us out of Egypt and drove out all the peoples before us. “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God” (24:18). Now you would think that Joshua would be overjoyed. Look at what the people declared. They are going to serve the Lord. The Lord is our God. The Lord saved us and drove out the people. It sounds like the perfect ending.
But look at what Joshua says in verse 19. “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” Joshua turns around and tells the people that they cannot serve the Lord. You think you can serve the Lord but you cannot because God is a jealous God. He does not accept us having our hearts in idolatry. God does not want your idle words or mere confessions. God does not want you just to say it. God wants you to live it. God is not going to forgive your sins when you are keeping these idols in your lives. Are you amazed by something? They were still serving idols and gods all these years later after the exodus. Joshua tells the people that this must stop. God will not forgive you if you keep hanging on to your idols. God does not forgive the double-minded. You cannot serve the Lord a little bit and serve other things a little bit. God demands your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and all your strength. Remember that this is what set Caleb apart. He wholly followed the Lord. Israel was not wholly following the Lord and that is why they cannot serve him. This is why Joshua challenges them. You think you can serve God the way you are serving him right now. You are wrong. God wants it all or it is nothing.
Now before we think this is crazy, I would like for you to think about what God is saying in terms of love. Imagine having a spouse that says to you that they love you and they will spend time with you, but they want to be around other men or women also. They say that will be with you on Sundays but then they romantically love other people the other days of the week. Would you be okay with this? Would you call this love? No one would accept this as love. God does not accept it either. This is what Joshua is saying. You cannot say that you love and will serve the Lord while you live and love this world. You cannot say that you are there for God on Sunday but the rest of the days I will have other loves in my life to which I am devoted. Choose who it is going to be. Are you going to serve the Lord and love him or are you going to love and serve your own desires? Are you going to do what you want or what God wants? Are you going to follow your desires or God’s desires? Are you going to do what you think is right or what God says is right? These are the questions every person who claims to follow God must ask. Everyone must make a real decision and act on it.
The people response in verse 21 that they will serve the Lord. Joshua declares that you are witnesses against yourselves. You have chosen to serve the Lord. Notice it cannot be words. Joshua tells the people to throw away the foreign gods that they still had and give your heart to the Lord. It is time for action. It is time for changes. Make the changes now. Further, Joshua makes a covenant with the people and a visible witness so that the people will be reminded that they said they will serve the Lord and put away their idols. With this done, Joshua dismisses the people of Israel to their inheritance.
This week we turn the calendar to 2020. Choose today who you are going to serve this year. Let Joshua’s words drive deeply into your mind and heart. Do not just say you are going to serve the Lord. That is not enough because God is a jealous God. God is a faithful God. God has kept all of his promises to you. Now decide what you will do. Are you going to serve him or not? No more pretending and no more words. If you are going to serve the Lord, then now is the time. Put away the idols and gods that are in your heart. Take a spiritual evaluation of yourself and determine what you desire and love that is either contrary to the Lord or keeps you from loving and serving the Lord as you ought. What keeps you from prayer? What keeps you from worship? What keeps you from Bible study? What keeps you from being faithful to the Lord? God loves you and will not share you. Do not share yourself with him.
The ending of this book is powerful. Please read verse 29. Joshua is now called the servant of the Lord. At the end of Moses’ life, Moses is given the title of honor, “The servant of the Lord.” Now at the end of Joshua’s life, Joshua is given the title of honor, “The servant of the Lord.” God will say those words to you too. Can you imagine it? Jesus told a parable that says so. Listen to it in Matthew 25:21.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
God will honor you if you will choose today to put away your gods and your idols and serve the Lord with sincerity and faithfulness.