Joshua's Charge to Israel's Leaders
23 A long time afterward, when the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years. And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the LORD your God promised you. Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”
Joshua 23 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Joshua’s time on earth and as a leader was coming to an end. He had brilliantly fulfilled the plans and leadership God had given to him. I can’t help but think of how satisfied he must have felt but also the concerns and questions he may have had for this people group. Would they continue in faithfulness? Would they cling to their God, a phrase he used several times in this farewell address?
It’s a very rewarding feeling to know we have done all God has asked of us with people. Sometimes we can only take them so far when God moves us on. We must trust that our leadership and instruction have made a difference. And yet letting go is one of the toughest things ever. In such moments we must trust the Holy Spirit to continue the work we started. Letting go is never easy.
If you find yourself in such a position today, remind yourself that these whom God entrusted to you for a period of time are His. He who was faithful through their own journey will continue to be faithful in leading them to their next place. Unlike Joshua who was about to die, when we are released from investment in someone means He has someone else lined up for us to pour into as well. He also has someone lined up for those we’re letting go of. If our life is a journey, which it is, sometimes we can only take people so far. We must trust His working in us and them and look toward the next thing God is doing.
Joshua 23 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Joshua gives the people lots of encouragement but also many warnings. He knows that if they are obedient, the Lord will fight for them, but if they are not, He will fight against them. The promises and power of God are amazing, but the temptation and struggle of Israel to go back on their responsibility was too much. We will see the fulfillment of Joshua’s concern at the end of this chapter.
If you do not keep the covenant which the LORD your God commanded you to keep and if you serve and worship other gods, then in his anger he will punish you, and soon none of you will be left in this good land that he has given you.”Joshua 23:16 GNB
In 2 Kings, nearly 800 years later, we see Babylon conquer Judah. Within the chapters in between, we see Israel flirt continuously with the Canaanite gods.
The point is clear. Though Joshua was a strong leader, a determined and loyal warrior, and a constant presence drawing Israel back to the Lord, ultimately, he could not force them to do anything. In the end, it would be their own path that they stubbornly pursued. What we can take from this today is that the law does not and will not change hearts. The law is good and it’s just, but it has no saving power. Thank God for His Son Jesus, who by grace through faith alone is more than enough to change the depraved human heart condition.