Seeing the agony and determination, hoping that the rebel would recant and ask for mercy, the captor announced to the on looking crowd, "The prisoner wishes to speak a word." The jailer hoped to quiet a rebellion, squash any sense of hope.
Seconds seemed like hours as the rebel’s face contorted as he exerted every last bit of his strength to shout his last words… words that ignited in the hearts of all who heard that day--"Freedom!!!!”
I love this scene from Braveheart because the same men that are watching William Wallace die for freedom are the ones who stroke that spark of freedom into flame. The famous last words stirred others to action.
The last words of Moses also stirred individuals to action, both in his day and in ours. I've been sharing some of the famous last words that I shared with theGATHERING community before leaving over two months ago. You can read the first post here.
"The word of God is your life!" and "Be strong and courageous, the Lord is with you!" were some of the last words that Moses spoke to Israel and to Joshua. Would Joshua pay attention to these words, allowing them to shape his calling or would he disregard them?
Joshua to Isarel ||
The chapter starts with the sobering reality that one leader has died--Moses. He's gone, but the mission of God's covenant--people of God, place of God, and presence of God--continues. See what God says to Joshua after Moses' death. Prepare yourself, I'm busting out the colors on this one.
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We talked through some of the history of Moses, where God flexed his "I'm with you" muscles. theGATHERING crew spouted off everything from the boy in the basket to the bush that was not consumed, the man before Pharaoh, the leader through the Red Sea, the mediator to the people on the fire consumed Mt. Sinai, and the prophet to the people in the tent of meeting. The promise was massive. The point is not that Moses was an amazing man. The point is God’s amazing character, His sovereign plan and His presence in Moses’ life for the sake of fulfilling His covenant with His people. God’s plan was bigger than Moses, so He then extends that promise to Joshua--"I will be with you, just as I was with Moses."
God also reiterates that the Word is life. He repeats several times not to turn aside from it, to meditate on it, to speak it, to be intent to be careful to do all that is written in it. We talked through what the Lord says about success and prosperity in these verses. What a worldview shift--success is faithfulness to the Word. Prosperity is being rich in the word of God. Child of God, success is faithfulness to the Word (by His grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit). Pastor, community group leader, Sunday school teacher, business man/woman, empty nester, and/or stay at home mom--success is faithfulness to the word. God’s presence in the Spirit and radical grace and Jesus are the only things that make this possible. May that shatter any other standard or measure of success that you may have. Success is faithfulness to the word.
In the midst of the opposition that Joshua knows they're about to experience —1. the new generation that had “obstinate” as family trait, 2 the huge river with no bridge, 3. the walled city on the other side of that river, the wild beasts in the land, and those crazy giants. Those were just the things he knew about, but what about the unknowns?! These things all could have paralyzed him from moving forward. Yet, strength, courage, endurance, and tenacity come from those two huge things--the presence of God and the faithfulness to the word of God.
Joshua got the weightiness of Moses' last words.
Fast forward - the tribes of Israel are victorious through the conquests for the land of promise --- not because of their strategy or brawn, but because of the presence of the One who had made covenant with this nation.
What were Joshua's last words after all of this success?
Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7 that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8 but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.
Joshua 24:14 & 15
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites
Joshua echoed Moses. Yes, the word is life. Yes, be gripped or be fastened to the Lord. Yet, here Joshua strongly warns the people to get rid of the remnants of their idols. God had shown himself faithful. God had graced them again and again through battle after battle. They'd fought hard for that land, but it wasn't time to enter into a peacetime living. It was time to take that same warrior spirit and apply it to the idols that remained--the history to which they were clinging, the "good-ole-days" mentality that may have deluded their minds, or the straight up idols that they were mixing with their worship of the one true God.
Famous Last Words || Joshua to Israel: Success is faithfulness to the word. Make war to get rid of idols.
I'm sure the Spirit may be stirring some things in your heart, but let's look at one last verse.
The leader was leaving. What were his followers going to do? He promised that it would be better for them if he did leave. You know this one since we walked through it again and again, but see the similarities in the famous last words of Moses, Joshua, and now Jesus.
Jesus to Disciples ||
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
theGATHERING community talked about making disciples who make disciples all of the time. Disciples who don't make disciples aren't really disciples, they're consumers. Jesus has all authority. He told us what to do. Similarities abound between those who supported William Wallace, those who followed Moses, and then those who followed Joshua - it looks impossible. Making disciples is hard. It is tough, especially when everyone seems to be against you accomplishing that end. Yet, our King--Jesus--commands it. He doesn't just command it, but he gives us His presence. Yes, the same promise--"I will be with you." Yet, on this side of the cross, the presence of God is in us. Child of God, He is with you is not some touchy feeling thing that gives you warm fuzzies. It's a call to action. It's a stir up your affection. It's a true grit. A shot of espresso. A pre-workout drink. All systems go to make disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus even defines, after he has exemplified it with his life, death, and resurrection--what discipleship is and what it isn't. The making disciples that Jesus digs is explained above--a change of identity (baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit), a change of curriculum (the word—teaching them to observe ALL that I commanded), and a change of ability (I am with you).