Joshua 23:1-16 (Part 2) – It’s Not Our Failures That Define Us; It’s What You Do Next That Defines Us!

Posted: July 17, 2017 in 06-Joshua
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Joshua 23:1-16 (Part 2 of 2)

Joshua’s Final Words to Israel

When you get to your mid-fifties as I am now, you begin thinking about retirement and even about death. I would not say that either of these things are preoccupations to me at the moment, but these thoughts do now cross my mind, on occasion. What do I want to be remembered for?


There are certainly a list of mistakes that I have made in my life that I do not want to be remembered for. I do not want to be remembered for my low points and there are plenty of those. I got to thinking about this yesterday as a result of the content of what I had to teach in my New Testament class at church that I teach. In yesterday’s class, week 4 of the 13 week class, I have to teach on the Gospel of Mark. I spent a lot of time on just who the author of this gospel is. He is the John Mark noted in Paul and Peter’s letters to the church and in Acts. The first that we see Mark mentioned by name is in the descriptions of Paul’s first two missionary journeys. In that first missionary journey, John Mark is mentioned by Luke as having quit on the team and was returning to Jerusalem right in the middle of the Paul and the team’s first missionary journey. Luke is silent in the book of Acts as to why John Mark returns home smack dab in the middle of a missionary journey. But the fact remains that John Mark fails in his first efforts to be a bearer of the gospel to the nations. He turned tail and ran home. He failed. At the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, Barnabas wants to bring his cousin, John Mark, along with them again. Paul refuses to allow John Mark to be a part of the team. Things become so heated between Barnabas and Paul as to John Mark’s presence on the team that Barnabas and Paul agree to disagree and go their separate ways. Paul and Silas go one way and Barnabas and John Mark go another – as separate missionary teams.


The New Testament is silent about John Mark until a brief mention of him in closing of the epistle to Philemon. He is given specific mention by Paul in 2 Timothy 4 where Paul ask Timothy to bring John Mark to Rome (where Paul is in prison awaiting what will be his execution) because John Mark is “useful in ministry.” What happened between John Mark’s failure in Acts 15:37-38 and 2 Timothy 4? John Mark goes from being an utter failure in missions work to the point that Paul does not want him on the missionary team anymore to a person whom Paul considers “useful in ministry.” He goes from being a person who shrank away from the work of the Lord (somewhat like Jonah in the Old Testament) and ran away from his God-ordained mission to be someone who Philemon, a leader in the church at Colossae, was very familiar with as a part of Paul’s church plant development team. The fact that we understand that his gospel is written to a Roman audience and the fact that Paul calls him to Rome through his second letter to Timothy, we know that John Mark was a great influence on the Christian church, the collection of believers, situated at Rome.


Somewhere along the way, John Mark overcomes his failures and becomes a tireless servant to the church in general. We know from first century church historian/writer, Jerome, that John Mark was responsible for establishing a church in Alexandria, Egypt that went on to become a center of Christian thought and writing. It was writers like Jerome and others at Alexandria that helped fully develop the theology of the Christian faith that still resonates in what we know and understand of the principles of our faith today. Mark went from a failure to a tireless worker and thinker of the Christian faith. His understanding of the faith became so great that it compelled him to write his gospel (much of it based on his conversations with Peter with whom John Mark had a close personal relationship to the point that Peter refers to him as a spiritual son in 1 Peter).

It is not as though John Mark had a start in life that was far from god because of his parentage. Where does Peter go after he is miraculously freed from prison. To the house of John Mark’s mother (see Acts 12) because it was at her house that believers were gathered together for prayer. His cousin Barnabas is mentioned in Acts 4 as a person that sold some land and brought the proceeds to the apostles for use in financing the Jerusalem church’s activities. This means that John Mark’s family was heavily involved in the early church and the family home was a center of activity, maybe even a central place of worship for this young movement, the Christ movement, in Jerusalem. John Mark “grew up in the church” just like I did. And just like me, it did not guarantee that he would be this spiritual giant. Mark failed miserably when it was first his time to be of real service to the church. He talked the big talk but when it first came his time to be of service he failed miserably. I grew up in the church but like John Mark I grew up and ran away from the church. Although I grew up the church, I did not accept Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old.


But as the old saying goes, “it’s not our failures that define us, it is what we do next that defines us.” John Mark failed miserably on his first mission trip with Paul. But between Acts 15 and 2 Timothy 4, there is this amazing transformation in John Mark where he goes from failure to a tireless servant to Christian churches throughout the Roman empire. It’s what we do next that defines us. It is what we do next that is our legacy. John Mark is now among the spiritual giants of the early church and that’s what we remember the most. John Mark what such an influence on the church that his gospel is one of the four gospels that becomes accepted by the Christian church as part of the New Testament canon. His gospel has been read and re-read and studied and has caused people to come to Christ as their Savior for two millenia now. Talk about your comeback kids! Talk about what you do next that matters.


That’s the kind of legacy that I want to leave. I do want future generations of my family to know that I was like John Mark – a what you do next that matters kind of guy. I want to be remembered for my chasing after God in the last half of my life more so than the things that I was known for chasing after in the first half of my life. I want to be remembered as a man who loved God and did his best to do God’s will and to follow God’s calling rather than the person who ran from God for so long and had so many moral failures. I want that John Mark legacy. A story of redemption and usefulness to the kingdom.


That’s the message that Joshua is sending her in this passage. What do you want your legacy to be? Let us read through it and see how this all ties together after we read the passage:

23 After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, 2 summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am very old. 3 You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. 4 Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain—the nations I conquered—between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you.


6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.


9 “The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.


12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.


14 “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. 15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”


In this passage, we see that Joshua is dying and so he called all the leaders of the nation of Israel together to give them his final words of encouragement and instruction. His whole message can be summarized in this verse, “but you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.” Joshua had been a living example of those words and he wanted that to be his legacy. For what do you and I want to be remembered, and what do you want to pass on to your children, family, friends and co-workers?


What do you want to be remembered for? Your moral failures? Your greed? Your adultery? Your disregard for God’s law? Your cheapening of God’s grace? Your ignoring of your children after your divorce? Your rationalization of it all? Your saying that your sin is OK because it is a sin or sins that you do not want to give up? What is the legacy that you will present before the Lord on your judgment day? There will be no justifications then? You will be judged? Do you know Jesus Christ? Have you submitted your life to His authority as Lord and have you accepted his grace through faith in Him as your Savior? What is your legacy going to be?


It does not matter what you have done or are doing now? It’s what you do next that matters! Come to Jesus? Change your life from a life of unrepentant sin to a life that is useful to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Come to him now. It’s what’s next that matters!


Amen and Amen.

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