The book of Joshua ends with a record of three burials, men of importance to Israel’s history. Pause for a moment at the burial sites. You will be encouraged by God. All three gravestones remind us of God’s faithfulness in bringing his people home to the Promised Land. More than that, they demonstrate God’s faithfulness in bringing his people into a life that he intended for them.
Look first at the burial of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-31). The period of Joshua’s leadership was one of the greatest evidences of godliness, faith, and unity that the nation, Israel, ever knew. Under his leadership the nation experienced everything the Lord had promised for Israel. “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua . . . and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).
Joshua understood the grace and power of God, as well as the reality of our fallenness. When the people met together to celebrate their victory, Joshua narrated God’s work from the call of Abraham to the defeat of Canaan. The good things in their life were the result of God’s goodness. Yet he was no stranger to the knowledge of sin. Acknowledging that our sin is great, but God’s grace is bigger. As indispensable to their past, so He was indispensable to their future. Joshua declared, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” His epitaph in chapter 24 was simple—“Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of the Lord.” It is a fitting end for a faithful man.
Look next at the burial of Joseph (Joshua 24:32). As Joseph had requested 400 years earlier, his bones were brought from Egypt and were buried near Shechem on a piece of land Joseph had purchased for his inheritance in the Promised Land. Long before Jacob’s family returned, Joseph understood by faith that the day would come when Israel would return to the Land. Now, looking at Joseph’s grave marker, his burial vindicated God’s faithfulness.
Look now the other way, to the burial of Eleazar. Eleazar had served as priest to Israel since his father, Aaron, died during the long wilderness wanderings. Eleazar witnessed the whole experience of redemption, conquest, and possession. His presence assured Israel that God would always keep a priest among them, someone who would always represent them to God. It’s a fitting evidence of Christ’s own priesthood for us throughout our experience of the Christian journey.
Three burials. One eternal Lord and God of faithfulness to his people. It’s a fitting reminder for whatever circumstances we face today.