Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the LORD said to him, “You are old and advance in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed.”
Since God was speaking to him face to face a reply of, “You know you’re pretty ancient yourself,” wouldn’t have been the right response. It seems that God isn’t reprimanding Joshua. He has a two-fold purpose here, the first to affirm and the second to cause Joshua to evaluate. These are two principles which we would do well to heed in our own lives before we get to that point where we are ‘old and advanced in years.’
God affirms that Joshua has already done much in the way of leading into the Promised Land. In the chapter before we see a recounting of the thirty-one kings that were defeated by Israel. The chapters following detail the dividing up of the land between tribes. Finally in the last chapter of the book Joshua recounts the many ways that God has fought for Israel.
On the heels of reiterating the history of Israel one can sense the coming meeting in the war room. Clearly there is a divide between ‘where we have been,’ and ‘where we are going.’ This is why Joshua lays out the ways that God has fought for the nation. They need courage to march forward in the same way that he needed courage to take up the mantle of Moses and march forward into the land. Remember God’s words to Joshua in chapter one, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land….Only be strong and courageous; be careful to do according to all the law….Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!”
This is a reminder to us to set goals in the years we have on Earth. By the grace of God we will make some measurable progress. We may not set out to complete all that we desire to accomplish. The overarching goal is to have God affirm us at the end of the race for what we’ve done and to pass the baton to the next generation to finish the race.