I sometimes enjoy walking through a cemetery, especially an old cemetery, and reading the tombstones. I think my favorite one of all is Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many Looney Tunes characters. On his tombstone all that's written is his name, the year of his birth, the year of his death and the words, “That's all, folks!” As we see Joshua’s obit, we read these words, “Joshua the sun of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old.” First we see his physical identity - he was the son of Nun. But Joshua also had a spiritual identity – “servant of the Lord.” That's how Joshua would forever be known spiritually. He was the servant of the Lord. That is not a phrase used flippantly in the Bible. Only one other person in the Bible had that phrase used to describe them and that was Moses. Moses and Joshua will both forever be known as the servant of the Lord. There's many other people in the Bible that have a spiritual identity. Abraham will forever be known as the friend of God. David will forever be known as a man after God's own heart. John the Apostle will always be known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. What's your spiritual identity? How will people remember you spiritually?
As Joshua ends his farewell address to Israel in Joshua 24, he asks them to make a decisions. Are they going to serve the God of Israel or a different god? The call is for them to be either all in or all out – no divided loyalty. He then says, “I'll go first. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I love what Joshua does. He takes leadership. Men, you are responsible for the spiritual climate of your home. If the God of the Bible is going to be the God of your home, you must set the pace. You must choose for your family saying, “In this home God will be the priority.” I also love it that as Joshua addresses the nation, he does not say to them, “We need to decide as a nation.” He says, “We need to decide family by family.” I believe with all my heart that the strength of a nation is the strength of the family units that make up that nation. And the stronger the family unit the stronger the nation. Yes, military strength is important as is economics, but I believe that the greatest strength of a nation is the family unit. The leader of each family needs to decide. Are you in or are you out?
When Joshua gives his farewell address to Israel he warns them about marrying those who worship other gods. That same principle is found in 2 Corinthians 6, we're told not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. We're not to marry an unbeliever. Why? Because it will hurt our walk with the Lord. I see it happen all the time as young, godly women who love Jesus with all their heart fall in love with somebody who doesn't love Jesus and ultimately make the decision to marry them. Suddenly they have become yoked with an unbeliever and there's divided spiritual loyalty in the home and marriage.
If you're a single woman listening right now may I give you some pastoral advice? One of the worst mistakes you can make is to marry someone who doesn't love Jesus. The problem is that it is very possible to fall in love with someone who doesn't know Jesus. My advice to you is this, if you want to ensure that you never marry someone who doesn't love Jesus, then you need to be sure you don't fall in love with someone who doesn't love Jesus. And the way you ensure that you don't fall in love with someone who doesn't love Jesus is very simple. Don't ever date someone who doesn't love Jesus.
As Joshua give his farewell address to Israel in Joshua 24 he stresses their need to have courage in obeying God. And it does take courage to obey the Word of God, doesn’t it? It takes courage in our culture today surrounded by so much sin, surrounded by so much depravity, and surrounded by so much of worldly influence, to love God exclusively. Joshua clearly states their need to be courageous because all around them were false gods. It would be very easy for Israel to divide their loyalty between the God of Israel and the false gods of the nations around them. It would take courage to worship God exclusively. It's easy for us to read this and go “Well, I don't worship idols.” Is that really true? What is an idol? An idol is anything in your life that you elevate to the same level of priority as God. Anything that is as important to you as God is an idol. Now, that means in our culture today we have many idols. Money can certainly be an idol. For many Christians, they have a divided loyalty between materialism and God. You might remember that Jesus talked about this in the gospels when He said you can't serve two masters. You can’t serve God and money.
In Joshua 24, Joshua is now 110 years old and he knows it's time for him to die so he's giving his last address to Israel. He gives them some advice and it really falls into three charges. You need to be confident in God. You need to be courageous for God. And you need to be committed to God. These were the same three charges that God gave Joshua way back in Joshua 1 when Joshua took over leadership of Israel. Now, Joshua is passing those same charges on to the nation.
Four times Joshua draws their attention to “the Lord your God.” Remember that it was the Lord your God that drove out the enemies. It was the Lord your God that gave you the land. Joshua is saying, “Listen, I'm about ready to die but you're going to be fine because I'm not the one who's given you the victories. It's been God. And the same God who gave you the victories in the past will continue to be with you. Their confidence should be in the God who gave them all of these amazing victories. Folks, listen, God buries His leaders but His work always continues. We can't put our confidence in any one person or any one leader. Our confidence must always be in God.
I bet that a high percentage of church divisions have started with the words -- hey, did you hear about so and so? I really believe with all my heart that one of the greatest threats to the church today is gossip because we're all guilty. Before you just self-righteously say, I don't gossip, let's define it. Gossip is any time I tell someone else something negative about you behind your back when that person doesn't need to know. That's gossip. Can I just make it clear? Just because they're a family member doesn't mean they need to know. Just because they're a friend doesn't mean they need to know. Let me go a step further. If you listen to gossip you've still committed the sin.
I heard a preacher articulate five questions to ask when someone comes to you with gossip. Let me give them to you. Number one, “Why are you telling me this?” Question number two, “Where did you get your information?” Number three, “Have you already gone directly to that person like Jesus said we should do?” Number four, “Have you checked out your facts?” And then number five, “When I go talk to that person, may I use your name? “ That will stop a gossip right in their tracks.
In every relationship in your life there will be a gap at times between what you expect of someone and what you actually experience from them. It happens in marriage all the time, doesn't it? I expect my spouse to do this but that’s not what I experience creating a gap. It happens at work. It happens with your kids. It happens with friends. When there's a gap that occurs between what you expect of someone and what you experience from them you will always fill the gap and what you fill the gap with will determine how you respond. If you fill the gap with suspicion, false assumption and trying to guess someone’s motives you will respond negatively. If you fill that gap with trust and a mind-set that says, “I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt,” then you'll react lovingly.
The same thing is true in your relationship with God. There are times in your walk with the Lord that what you expect of God doesn't match what you experience and there's a gap. It's easy to fill that gap with suspicion and become angry at God rather than filling the gap with trust saying, “You didn't do it the way I wanted You to but I'm going to trust You God because You know best.
The most famous verse in the book of Joshua is when Joshua says to Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I bet many of you have that verse hanging somewhere in your home. But if I had to pick just one verse from Joshua and say this is the one we ought to put on our wall, I would pick Joshua 22:5. I want to challenge you, no, I want to dare you to memorize this verse. It's powerful verse in which Joshua says this, “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
All of those phrases come from the book of Deuteronomy. The overall theme is to observe the commandments of Moses. He now lists them. First of all, love the Lord your God. If you love the Lord your God you're going to next walk in God's ways and keep His commandments. He then concludes with hold fast to God. All of this in one verse of the Bible.
In the book of Joshua as the land is divided up among the tribes of Israel, 48 cities were established for the Levites. No matter where you lived in the land of promise, you were within ten miles of one of these cities. These were the cities where the Levites lived. If you go back to the book of Genesis you realize that Levi sinned and part of the consequence of his sin was that his descendants would be scattered throughout the land. However God used even that consequence to bless Israel because now, no matter where you lived in Israel, you had Levites within ten miles of you. Levites were the priests. They're the ones who taught you the Law of God.
Because I am a sinner I love the principle that says that even though there are consequences when I sin God isn't done with me. Even in the midst of those consequences, God can still use me to be a blessing to others. Never get into the mind-set that says because there's a particular sin in your past that God can't use me anymore. The fact is that there will always be consequences to your sin but it doesn't end there. Even in the midst of the consequences, God can still use you to bless other people
As Caleb in the Bible aged, he became more reflective, more confident, and more involved. It's the exact opposite of what usually happens in church today. We have adopted a retirement mind-set in the church. When people reach a certain age I hear them say, “I've done my time.” They make it sound like serving in the church is a prison sentence. “I was in cell block N, the nursery. Served there for 24 years. Got paroled for good behavior.” Where did that concept come from?
In the Bible God didn't say, “Joshua, you are old. Go take a rest. You did your time.” He said, “Joshua, you are old, dude, but I still have work for you to do.” When Caleb turned 85 he wasn’t sitting there going, “I did my time.” No. The older Caleb got, the more he wanted to serve. Folks, listen. You haven't done your time yet! That’s impossible! Retire from your job but don't retire from serving Jesus. Caleb didn't. Neither did Joshua. And that is not God’s plan for you! If you've gotten into that rut of thinking you did your time, and you're just now coming to church and no longer serving, can I just say this to you? We need you in the game. There's still a place for you to serve.