And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance to possess the land.…
I. THE POWER OF A GREAT MAN TO ADAPT HIMSELF TO CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES, AND TO BE EQUALLY GREAT UNDER VARYING CONDITIONS. Many a man great in conquest is a nonentity in peaceful times. The great warrior does not always make a great statesman. Joshua, on the contrary, was the moral ruler of the nation in peace as well as the military commander of the army in war. The Romans are said to have conquered like savages and ruled like philosophic statesmen. Joshua, too, excelled in war and peace. Perhaps he was greatest in peace, because "he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city." Contrast Napoleon in St. Helena with Joshua at Timnath Heres.
II. THE FORMATIVE INFLUENCE OF ONE GREAT LIFE IN GIVING CHARACTER TO AN AGE. Such men as Joshua are necessarily exceptional, There is a Divine economy in the sending of great men. Like miracles, they must not be allowed to degenerate into commonplaces. There is a reserve in producing great leaders: they come one in a century — in some instances, one in a millennium. Men of the Joshua type are sent to give a character to their time. The history of the world is largely the history of single champions.
III. THE LIMITATIONS OF A PERSONAL INFLUENCE — even one of the most powerful kind; for we see here the strange capacity of one age to prove untrue to the best traditions of that which preceded it: "There arose another generation," etc.
1. This generation suffered from the lack of direct personal testimony. They could not say, "We speak that which we do know, and testify that which we have seen." All they knew was by hearsay, and spirituality must be very vigorous and intense to breathe life into hearsay.
2. These people sadly under-estimated, and therefore ignored, the value of historic record — "knew not," etc. They severed themselves from the past.
3. This was an age of ease, and, as such, the least productive of noble manhood. These were poverty-stricken times. The nation was no longer braced by one common ambition, or bent upon one object. They had lapsed into a state of indolence and indifference. Moreover, there was no central supreme power, for they had leaders only in times of war, and the old leader and his subordinates were dead. This was a time when a great character was most needed to save the nation from degeneracy. Such ages often succeed the iron ages of history. I am not sure that we, as Christians, have not lost much of the robustness of the past age.
IV. WHAT A RESPONSIBILITY IS INVOLVED IN THIS SUCCESSION OF AGES TO MAINTAIN THE CONTINUITY, to be worthy followers of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises; to be, of a truth, successors of the apostles and of other holy men!
V. THANK GOD, THE RECORD IN OUR TEXT IS ONLY FRAGMENTARY. That age was not a final break upon the progress of revelation. History is progressive after all. Span the centuries. Don't let the point of observation be too narrow or near. Ascending from lowlands to highlands there are undulations; but take a span large enough, and you will find that it is an ascent all the way. So in the history of our race. God has been advancing throughout all time in spite of the "dark ages"of the world, and in spite of human relapses into sin.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.