Be very strong, then, so that you can keep and obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, not turning aside from it to the right or to the left.
I. THE DUTY.
(1) Personal devotion. God seeks the devotion of our hearts. It is inward and spiritual, and not merely a fact of visible conduct. It implies drawing near to God in prayer, walking with God, delighting in Him, seeking to be like Him, aiming at pleasing Him.
(2) Active obedience. Joshua exhorts the people to "be very courageous," "to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses." Devotion of heart is a mockery unless it leads to obedience in conduct. We must cleave to God in action as well as in feeling.
(3) Purity. The people are exhorted to avoid the contamination of heathen society and the sin of idolatry. Anything that takes the place of God in our heart is an idol. All sinful pleasures and worldly interests that are not consistent with pure devotion to God separate us from Him and vitiate our service. God cannot accept our sacrifices while we approach Him with sinful affections (Isaiah 1:18).
II. THE DANGER. Joshua saw that there was a danger that the people should cease to "cleave unto the Lord." This arose from various causes:
(1) Prosperity. It was now "a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel." In times of prosperity we are often off our guard, and become indolent, and hence are in danger.
(2) Bad example. The Canaanites who remained in the land would be a source of temptation to idolatry and immorality. We need to be especially careful if we are surrounded by those who live worldly and unholy lives. The influence of an ever present example is insidious and powerful.
(3) The inherent difficulty of duty. The people were exhorted not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left. The path of duty is narrow (Matthew 7:18, 14). There are many wrong ways, but only one right way.
(4) The loss of an old leader. Joshua was about to die. He feared for the people after his guiding hand was removed. When trusted leaders are called away the Church is thrown back on the individual responsibility of its members to preserve its fidelity.
III. THE MOTIVES FOR OVERCOMING THE DANGER AND FULFILLING THE DUTY. The great source of devotion is love to God. Joshua says, "Take good heed, therefore, unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God." We cannot cleave to the Lord out of a mere sense of duty. We must feel attracted by the influence of His love to us, rousing our love to Him (Hosea 11:4). This influence will be realised as we reflect upon the goodness of God in the past. Joshua appeals to the experience of the people and theft memory of God's great goodness and powerful help. We have not only the providential grace of God to reflect upon, but also the wonderful love He has revealed in the sacrifice of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14). If we have been at all faithful in the past, the thought of this fact should stimulate us to maintain our fidelity. Joshua says, "Cleave unto the Lord your God as ye have done unto this day." Past devotion is no security against future unfaithfulness. But it is a motive to fidelity, because, failing this, the fruits of the labour and sacrifice of the past will be lost; because the habits of the past will make it easier to be true in the future - the greater difficulties being overcome, it would be foolish to yield before the lesser; and because the experience of the blessings which accompany fidelity should make us see that our joy and peace are in "cleaving unto the Lord." - W. F. A.
Be ye therefore very courageous.
(A. B. Evans, D. D.)
To keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses.I. THE BOOK COMMENDED: "All that is written in the book of the law of Moses."
1. Observe it was to the written law alone that Joshua directed them.
2. From that day to this the will of God has been made known to us in writing.
3. The evidence of the Divine authority of the New Testament is of the same description.
4. Oh, let the written Word of God, infallible truth, be elevated far, far above the writings of men, however excellent.
II. THE EXHORTATION RESPECTING IT: "Be ye therefore very courageous," &c.
1. "Keep it" — treasure it up in your hearts; lodge it in your memories; inscribe it on the tablet of your mind.
2. "Do it." We are not to keep the Holy Scripture as a curiosity in a cabinet; not to hide or bury it, but to practise it. If the Scriptures do not exercise a practical influence over us, they will only increase our condemnation.
3. Observe the universality of the injunction, "All that is written in the book." There is to be no reservation nor exception — no selection of favourite doctrines or of agreeable duties, but "all that is written" is to be read, believed, obeyed I
4. There must be no deviation from the narrow way — "that ye turn not aside therefrom, to the right hand or to the left." This is the chart — be careful to steer by it! This is your map, your guide, your lamp; beware of the smallest deviation! (Isaiah 30:21).
5. "Be ye Very courageous to keep and to do all this!" He had said in the previous verse that God would drive out their enemies before them; and now he says, "Be ye very courageous" — but not to fight with sword and spear, but with spiritual weapons — moral courage: be bold for God — much courage is needed: for want of it Peter denied his Lord. "Be not ashamed of Christ" — "confess Him before men."
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF OBEDIENCE OR DISOBEDIENCE TO THIS EXHORTATION MAY BE LEARNED FROM SCRIPTURE AND EXPERIENCE. Wherever God's written Word was known and read and honoured, religion has flourished; and where that Word has been neglected, religion has decayed.
Turn... not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left.1. What motive has the Christian to obedience? Looking to be saved only through the righteousness of another, what is there to induce him to walk righteously before God Himself?(1) Gratitude, or responsive love. The Christian is plied with reminders of what the Lord hath done for him by Christ to open to him the heavenly Canaan and to give him an inheritance, and his grateful heart responds to the heavenly logic, "Take heed that ye love the Lord," "Serve the Lord in truth with all your heart, for consider how great things He hath clone for you." "If ye love Me, keep My commandments."(2) Hope. "Ye shall possess their land as the Lord your God hath promised you." Christ is made the author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him; and he that nameth the name of Christ must depart from iniquity.(3) Fear. "When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God ye shall perish quickly from off the good land." And similar are the rules with regard to entering heaven, of which land Canaan was a figure. Disobedience entails exclusion.
2. But what kind of obedience is necessary, or rather what do we learn from our text, will obedience require or call for?(1) Courage. "Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do." Many look down upon a Christian as a poor, mean-spirited creature, and only half a man. But he is the highest kind of man. In proportion as he acts up to his principles he is a bold, courageous hero, and may stand up among the bravest and noblest, and suffer not by the comparison. Is it a mark of courage to submit to the operator's knife, and a still higher mark to operate upon oneself? This the obedient servant of God does. He plucks out the right eye, he cuts off the right hand of forbidden indulgence; that is, in obedience to God's will he will give up inclinations which cost him as much as plucking or cutting. Is it a mark of courage to face the cannon's mouth? Aye; but it is a higher mark for beings constituted as we are, naturally proud and sensitive, to brave the mouth which sneers and jeers at piety, so that we are often a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.(2) Completeness. "Be ye very courageous to keep and do all," &c. The moral law of Moses, though no longer it can be so kept as to give us a right to eternal life, is to be our guide and rule in our present life. For the ten commandments expanded contain all the precepts, duties, and dispositions of a servant of God, just as buds contain all the leaves of that flower which opens out into such fulness of detail. And the Christian is to keep and do all.(3) Carefulness. "That ye turn not aside," &c. The path of obedience is generally a middle path, and we must seek to have such views of God's Word, under the teaching of God's Spirit, that our love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that we may approve things that are excellent; or, as it might be rendered, "discriminate things that differ," and ever hear a voice behind us saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." The extreme opposite of wrong is not right. We go safest between extremes. The pendulum swings as far to the right hand as it does to the left, and because some persons go to extremes one way, we are apt to go to extremes the opposite way. Some are all for privilege, others all for duty; but we must turn not aside to the right or left. Thankful for privileges, we must do our duty.
(H. C. Mitchinson, M. A.)
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