Ellen G. White Writings

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The Youth’s Instructor

June 20, 1901

Joshua's Last Words

Part 2.

Once again before his death Joshua summoned the people before him. He knew that the infirmities of age were upon him, and that soon he must lay his responsibilities upon the representative men of the nation. Obedient to his summons, the tribes assembled at Shechem. No spot in the land possessed so many sacred associations. It carried their minds back to God's covenant with Abraham and Jacob, and recalled also their own solemn vows upon their entrance to Canaan. Here were the mountains Ebal and Gerizim, the silent witnesses of those vows which now, in the presence of their dying leader, they had assembled to renew. On every side were reminders of what God had wrought for them; how he had given them a land for which they did not labor, and cities which they built not, vineyards and olive-yards which they planted not.

By Joshua's direction the ark had been brought from Shiloh. The occasion was one of great solemnity, and this symbol of God's presence would deepen the impression which he wished to make upon the people. Earnestly and solemnly Joshua gave his last charge to those who would soon be left without his counsel. He reviewed once more the history of Israel, recounting the wonderful works of God, that all might have a sense of his love and mercy, and might serve him “in sincerity and truth.” Briefly he mentioned the most important points of their history since leaving Egypt, reviving their faith by calling on them to remember that not one of God's promises had failed.

After presenting the goodness of God toward Israel, Joshua called upon the people, in the name of Jehovah, to choose whom they would serve. The worship of idols was still to some extent secretly practiced, and Joshua endeavored now to bring the people to a decision that they would banish this sin from Israel. “If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord,” he said, “choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” Joshua desired to lead them to serve God, not by compulsion, but willingly. Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in his service merely from the hope of reward or the fear of punishment, would avail nothing. Open apostasy would not be more offensive to God than hypocrisy and mere formal worship.

The aged leader urged the people to consider, in all its bearings, what he had set before them, and to decide if they really desired to live as did the idolatrous nations around them. If it seemed evil to them to serve Jehovah, the source of power, the fountain of blessing, let them that day choose whom they would serve,—“the gods which your fathers served,” from whom Abraham was called out, “or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell.” These last words were a keen rebuke to Israel. The gods of the Amorites had not been able to protect their worshipers. Because of their abominable and debasing sins, that wicked nation had been destroyed, and the good land which they once possessed had been given to God's people. What folly for Israel to choose the deities for whose worship the Amorites had been destroyed. “As for me and my house,” said Joshua, “we will serve the Lord.” The holy zeal that inspired the leader's heart was communicated to the people. His appeal called forth the unhesitating response, “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.”

“Ye can not serve the Lord,” Joshua said; “for he is a holy God; ... he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” Before there could be any permanent reformation, the people must be led to feel their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God. They had broken his law; it condemned them as transgressors; and it provided no way of escape. While they trusted in their own strength and righteousness, it was impossible for them to secure the pardon of their sins; they could not meet the claims of God's perfect law, and it was in vain that they pledged themselves to serve God. It was only by faith in Christ that they could secure pardon of sin, and receive strength to obey God's law. They must cease to rely upon their own righteousness, they must turn from idolatry, and trust wholly in the merits of the promised Saviour, if they would be accepted by God.

To us today Christ says, “Without me ye can do nothing.” He is stronger than the strongest human power. The weaker you know yourself to be, the more you should realize the necessity of leaning on the Great Teacher, and the stronger you may become in his strength. In your weakness he will perfect his strength. Sanctify the Lord God of hosts, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Only trust him; and though weak, he will strengthen you; though faint, he will revive you; though wounded, he will heal you.

Men gain nothing by rushing on before the Lord. Many have thought their own endowments sufficient for an enterprise. So Moses thought when he slew the Egyptian. But he was obliged to flee for his life to the desert. Here he kept sheep for forty years, until he learned to be a shepherd of men. He learned his lesson so perfectly that though the Lord revealed himself to him, and spoke with him face to face, as a man speaketh to a friend, he did not become lifted up. “Follow me,” Jesus says. Do not run before me. Follow where my footsteps lead the way. Then you will not meet the armies of Satan alone. Let me go before you, and you will not be overcome by the enemy's planning.

Mrs. E. G. White

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