Joshua 12 and 13 (4)
Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed. This is the land that yet remains: all the territory of the Philistines and all that of the Geshurites, from Sihor, which is east of Egypt, as far as the border of Ekron northward (which is counted as Canaanite); the five lords of the Philistines—the Gazites, the Ashdodites, the Ashkelonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites; from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorites; the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon as far as the entrance to Hamath; all the inhabitants of the mountains from Lebanon as far as the Brook Misrephoth, and all the Sidonians—them I will drive out from before the children of Israel; only divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance, as I have commanded you. Now therefore, divide this land as an inheritance to the nine tribes and half the tribe of Manasseh.” Joshua 13.1-7
1. Why is the Lord pushing Joshua so hard? Hasn’t he already accomplished enough?
2. Joshua was “old, advanced in years…” Shouldn’t he have just retired?
Think about it.
There was always more of the promised land to be gained than Israel ever managed to subdue. Even during the reign of King David, we find Israel still having to contend with Canaanites on all sides. My sense is that God always intended it to be this way, especially when we think of the conquest of Canaan as a symbol or type of our own sanctification.
Or even as a type of the Church’s mission in the world (Matt. 28.18-20). The land of Canaan was a token of the whole earth (going back to the mandate to Adam and forward to the commission of Christ). As in Joshua’s day, so in every age, God urges His people on to greater realization of His promises, raising up leaders to mark out carefully the parameters of what is yet to be gained, and to lead the people untiringly in laying hold on God's promises.
Here is counsel for church leaders today. We interpret the ancient promises of God (Gen. 12.1-3) into our mission of seeking the Kingdom and righteousness of God (Mat. 6.33). Leaders must point the people of God forward to the great and precious promises of the Lord, and lead them step by step, little by little, in dispossessing the kingdom of darkness and bringing the Kingdom of light more fully into every area of life.
Church leaders must nurture vision, develop strategies, and equip and lead their flocks for fuller realization of the promises of God, both in their personal lives and in their life together as communities of faith. Joshua was not allowed to “retire” from the work of the Kingdom. We may retire from our job, but the work we’ve been given to do is greater than the job at which we work. There will always be more work to do in seeing the Kingdom of God come on earth as it is in heaven, and we may never retire from that high and holy calling.
Meditate and discuss.
1. How do vision, strategy, and equipping factor into your church’s mission in its community?
2. What do we mean by saying that “the work we’ve been given to do is greater than the job at which we work”? Do you agree?
3. In his book, Finishing Our Course with Joy, J. I. Packer says that even as we grow old we can continue learning about Jesus and leading others to Him. Do you agree? How should church leaders help us in this?
“…although there are those in the Scriptures who are called presbyters or elders or high priests, nevertheless, among the presbyters or elders the Lord Jesus must be reckoned chief of presbyters, and among bishops, chief of bishops, just as among high priests he is ‘chief of high priests,’ and as among shepherds he is ‘chief of shepherds.’ The Savior must be held first and chief in this and in every honorable title, because he is the ‘head’ of all.” Augustine (354-430 AD)
Lord, You are sending me forth today to make a little progress in realizing Your promises and advancing Your Kingdom. Let me not grow weary of the struggle, Lord, but help me to…
Pray Psalm 126.
Instead of “captivity,” pray the word “restoration.” It’s closer to the Hebrew, and it points us to how the Lord is working in our lives to restore us to the image of King Jesus, and in our world to restore it to Himself in righteousness, peace, and joy. Seek the Lord’s strength for today’s “sowing.”
Psalm 126 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
When God restored our fortunes all,
We were like those who sweetly dream.
Our mouths with joy and laughter filled,
Made Him our constant song and theme.
Then the astonished nations said,
“The Lord has done great things for them!”
Indeed, great things our God has done,
Whose Name we praise, Amen, Amen!
Restore our fortunes, Lord our King!
Let grace like flowing streams prevail.
All they with tears of joy shall sing
Who sow while yet they weep and wail.
They who in tears of sorrow sow
And cast their seed on every hand,
With joy shall reach their heav’nly home,
And bring the harvest of their land.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).