And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.…
Within the compass of the five last verses of this book three deaths are recorded and three burial-places signalised by the deposited remains of the most distinguished saints. After all we have seen in Canaan, let us visit the sepulchre of Joshua. The short record given may be viewed as a simple, unvarnished memento, or monumental inscription (vers. 29, 30). The place of his interment was in the lot of his inheritance, and may remind us how soon the seat of life becomes the repository of death. Short had been the date of his settlement: an hundred years before he obtained rest, and then but ten before he must lie down in his grave, not again to rise till the heavens be no more. What can be a greater or more convincing proof of still higher and nobler ends of Providence than any contained within the limits of this life, when even the most distinguished of God's family, the most exemplary and useful of His children, are not suffered to continue by reason of death, but are early removed from the happiest scenes on earth! It bespeaks the greatness of man, and the more exalted provisions of glory the infinite goodness of God has secured in another world. The designs of His grace are too exalted, and the displays of His power too wondrous, to centre in any earthly lot, though equal in beauty and richness to Eden, when as yet the seat of innocence, perfection, and love. Timnath-serah was still the portion of his lot, even in death. Where he lived in possession, there he lay in possession, nor left any commandment, as Jacob and Joseph, for removal. It is remarkable how much this was the desire of the faithful, and of what moment, though not in itself, yet in its typical regards, they viewed a burying-place in the promised land. It was as if they thought upon the interests of their sleeping dust as well as the felicity of their undying spirits, and in still retaining their inheritance, even in a state of death, would claim for their bodies a share in the life to come; for He who had so richly provided for the one as well as for the other, in an inheritance entirely typical, would not have so essential a part of our redeemed nature for ever the prey of worms. Where the believer now rests, in what bed matters little, for Jesus is the resurrection and the life of all His people. A short inscription, which, as a plain monumental record of his character and age, claims in the solemn reflections here excited a moment's pause: "Servant of the Lord died, being an hundred and ten years old." What an important connection of age and dignity! What an honour to lie down at last under this character! This is the highest style of man. What he had done, and all which this book recorded of the mighty conquests achieved, was not here to be named; for in everything he had been but a servant, and only the willing instrument of Omnipotence. The title was all that need appear, or that any who know their own insignificance would desire. It is enough that "they rest from their labours, and their works do follow." Joshua and all the saints, from infancy to age, through the long lapse of time, shall retain the record of truth, and in the character in which they died rise the servants of God. As now in the end of life it is said, "The servant of the Lord died, being an hundred and ten years old," so then shall commence the history of eternity. The servant of the Lord arose the beginning, the first day, of immortality. From the tomb of Joshua let us go to the burying-place of Joseph: it is in the same inheritance, and not far distant. It is remarkable in the connected record of these burials that Joshua should have lived just the same number of years as this his distinguished ancestor, and that though not buried in the same spot, yet in the same inheritance, and not far distant from the same period. Never was there so singular a funeral: two hundred years dead before interment. Many, we may think, crowded to see it, and if the Church in heaven could have been witnesses, the sight must have yielded pleasure; for it was the burial of faith. And did it reach the glorified saint, the spirit long made perfect, or could he have looked down upon the purchased spot of his father, the desired resting-place of his bones, he would have known the fidelity of his brethren, and have rejoiced in the end of his faith. It became the inheritance of the children of Joseph, though he had stood a stranger in the land, when, in obedience to the dying request of his father, he buried him in the grave which himself was said to have digged (Genesis 50:5). How remarkable that the place where Joseph obtained interment, and where at length he was gathered to his fathers, should turn out the inheritance of his sons; and that, though separated many years from his father in life, he should, as he, rest in Canaan, and find a grave even in his own inheritance. Oh! it was a sweet privilege to be entombed in his own inheritance, and to hold a place with both his sons and his fathers in what bespoke the common hope and claim of all the faithful. It was a choice spot, and where any saint would have wished to have been laid, and there to have rested in the hope of all that was, in the perfection of the Church and close of time, to open in the grandeur of the resurrection, when, as the heirs of promise, and the sons of immortality, they would rise to claim a fairer, brighter, and more lasting inheritance above the skies. The ground was a purchase (Genesis 23:16, 17). And now the purchase of Jacob became the burying-place of Joseph. The heavenly land is spoken of as a purchased possession, and that in no part ever to become a burying-place, but the seat of endless life and felicity to the whole Church of God. But, oh! what has been the purchase, what paid for it, by the eternal Son of God! One more burying-place within this inheritance is pointed out: "And Eleazar the son of Aaron died," &c. As situated near Shiloh, this was, probably for its convenience, assigned as the residence of the high priest. We see the inheritances of Israel fast changing into the burying-places of the dead. It was not the land of immortality, not that state of being of which it is said, "There shall be no more death," &c. In Canaan all must die, as well princes, priests, and rulers, as others; but in heaven none die: there natural evils and moral pollutions are for ever removed.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.