Our Text – Joshua 23:1-16
Our theme, “The Lord Honors those who honor Him”
On April 11, 1951, President Truman relieved General MacArthur of his command in South Korea. The respected general arrived home to a hero’s welcome and received an invitation to address Congress. At the close of his speech, General MacArthur stated, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Thousands of years before General MacArthur uttered those famous words, Joshua the Commander and Chief of the Israelites gathered all the tribes of Israel for one last address. Concerned for the welfare of Israel and the honor of the Lord, he summoned its elders, leaders, judges, and officials, all of whom would hear his final farewell remarks before his death. Joshua’s challenge to them was for:
(1) Courage and obedience (Joshua 23:6)
(2) Refusal to compromise (Joshua 23:7)
(3) Devotion to God (Joshua 23:8)
(4) Love for the Lord (Joshua 23:11)
However, Joshua’s warning for Israel’s elders, leaders, judges, and officials was that their compromise would eventually lead to the following results:
(1) God would leave Israel on her own (Joshua 23:13)
(2) The enemies would be a constant menace (Joshua 23:13)
(3) Israel would meet ultimate doom (Joshua 23:15-16)
Joshua’s Farewell Address (Joshua 23:1-16)
Joshua 23:1-2, after a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years, 2 summoned all Israel-their elders, leaders, judges, and officials-and said to them, “I am old and well advanced in years.
At this time, the days of Joshua’s youth had passed away. Now, this old warrior’s body no longer exhibited the exuberance and strength of his youthful years; however, he was as vigorous spiritually now, as when he started serving and following the Lord. He had journeyed with Israel through those forty years of wilderness wanderings when there weren’t many who were true to the Lord. He could have lost heart and settled down to an “I-don’t-care” kind of religious experience, as many others had chosen to do. Nearly everyone around him displayed spiritual indifference and carnality, but Joshua refused to go along with the will of the crowd, and chose instead, to live close to, and follow God (we need more Joshua’s today).
Romans 12:2 puts it this way, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We too must also resist the temptation to compromise our Biblical values and principles; we must oppose the will of the crowd and the ways of the wicked world. We must live in the world, but let’s make sure we keep the world and its values from living in us. We, like Joshua, must choose to live for God, by taking regularly into our hearts the Word of truth and obeying that Eternal Word as Joshua did.
Joshua 23:3, You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you. 5 The LORD your God himself will drive them out of your way. He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your God promised you.
The words “And it was so” are repeated several times in the story of creation found in Genesis 1. Whatever God said, it happened. Each time God spoke the words “and it was so”, and it became a reality. The Lord had promised Israel He would drive and push the people out and that they (Israel) would possess the land. Are the promises of God written in Scripture relevant for us today? As I read about the beginning of our world and the power of God, I started thinking about some other things God and His Son Jesus have said, things we can count on 100%. One such promise is found in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Isn’t that an encouraging promise? What a wonderful, powerful, and faithful God we have and serve as our heavenly Father.
Through His inspired written Word, He gives us assurance in His promises and in His power to accomplish what He has promised. Surely, we can and must put our trust and confidence in the teachings, promises, and warnings of the truly dependable One, the Creator, and Sustainer of all life. This was what Joshua was telling the elders, leaders, judges, and officials of Israel, and this is what we should be telling our generation!
Joshua 23:6, Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.
In these verses, Joshua’s counsel to the Nation of Israel was for them to be strong, obey, and hold fast to all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses. He warned them not to associate with the nations; and above all, he warned them not to invoke their Gods, nor serve or bow down to them, but to hold fast to the LORD your God. Exodus 20:3 tells us, “You shall have no other gods before me” and 1 John 5:21 says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”. The Nation of Israel had a track record of turning away from God, ignoring His Commandments, and falling back into their old habits (so much like people and nations of today).
When Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, the Israelites were making with their hands a golden calf so they could worship it. The book of Jeremiah tells how God spoke through His prophet to the people of Judah saying, “My people have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and [have made] broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). They had turned from the one true God to a worthless God-substitute, and in the book of Ezekiel, the Lord exposed the idolatry in the hearts of His people (Ezekiel 14:3).
What about the idols of this day and age? Idolatry in the Old Testament was easy to recognize, dancing around the golden calves, bowing before the other gods. Even when the apostle Paul wrote to the followers of Christ in first-century Corinth, pagan idolatry was openly practiced. He warned the Corinthians to avoid any association with it, as did Joshua during his final address. But did they listen? No! My brethren, idolatry is still a great danger to God’s people today, though it isn’t always so open or obvious. Today idols are usually more subtle and hard to detect, for they set up their home in the hidden places of our heart. If we want to know our idols, we need to consider our predominant thoughts, for what we think about most of the time may be an idol. Our last thoughts before we sleep, our first thoughts when we awake, our thoughts throughout the day, are spent on the items, and issues we treasure and trust. Any possession or person we put our hope in to bring us fulfillment, any goal or aspiration that becomes more important to us than God, these “gods” attract our allegiance and cleverly control our lives.
Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites wasn’t about the past, but was about the future. He challenged them to worship the one and only true God. The Israelites had seen God do miraculously things from the time they left their bondage in Egypt, through the Red Sea, their wanderings in the wilderness and now in the land which God had promised Abraham.
We too have seen God work, both amazingly in giving us eternal life, and more importantly in His daily care and provision for His children. So, in thankfulness to the Lord, let us cast aside our “false gods”, anything that competes with our devotion to Him, and incline our heart, mind, and soul toward giving all our allegiance to the Almighty God our Creator. Only God can satisfy the deepest needs of our heart and make us truly alive. That’s why we would be wise to heed the loving counsel of the apostle Paul when he said, “My beloved, flee from idolatry.”
Joshua 23:11-13, “So be very careful to love the LORD your God. But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you”
In these three short verses, Joshua is telling the Israelites what they must do and what they must not do, and what will happen, if they fail to obey and heed God’s Word. We know that the people of Israel turned away from the Lord like rebellious children. They intermarried, which God had forbidden them to do; their worship and sacrifices became a stench in the nostrils of God, for their hearts were far from Him. They resisted His gracious warnings and finally experienced His divine judgment. Because of their disobedience and failure to obey what God had told them, the inhabitants would become snares and traps for them, whips on their backs and thorns in their eyes, until they perish from the good land. Even though this address was given to the Nation of Israel, thousands of years ago, it is still very relevant for us today as individuals and as a Nation.
In (2 Kings 16:1-9), the Israelites had done the unthinkable; they had fallen into the immoralities of their pagan neighbors. In addition, they had made a treaty with Assyria rather than relying on the Lord to protect them against their enemies. The prophet Isaiah said they were worried about the wrong things. Instead of fearing their enemies, they should have been thinking about the Lord (Isaiah 8:12-13). The Lord promised that He would be a sanctuary for those who put their trust in Him. However, to those who rejected His offer, He would be “a stone of stumbling” and a hunter’s snare. We who profess faith in Christ need to make sure God is the one we fear. Our challenge is to fear the Lord above everyone else, and to show it by what we do and say. Ecclesiastes 12:13 tell us, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” This is what the Israelites should have done instead of becoming like the inhabitants of the land in which they were to conquer.
Joshua 23:16, If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you”
In the covenant of the LORD Israel had bound themselves to Him as their Supreme Sovereign, and have sworn to love and serve Him and to obey His commandments. They agreed only to offer sacrifices at the central sanctuary, or at places where God was pleased to record His name and reveal Himself, and to gather at the covenant festivals to worship Him. They swore to abjure idolatry and the ways of the Canaanites. However, if they turn aside from this and seek and serve other gods, then they will have broken their covenant vows, and Yahweh’s just anger will be roused and He will bring judgment upon them, the covenant will lost its effect and they will be removed from the land. Joshua is once again telling the Nation of Israel the same conditions that God told Moses to tell the Israelites, which is recorded for us in Exodus 34.
The idea that we are not accountable to anyone, not even to God, appeals to so many people today. However, it contradicts the deep-down feeling that there are things we ought to do and things we ought not to do. The Bible calls that inner conviction our conscience. In Romans 1:18-20, the apostle Paul stated that the voice of conscience reveals God’s standards in the hearts of those who’ve never even heard the Word of God. Moreover, Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 declares that God has placed a sense of eternity in everyone’s heart, a conviction that what we do has everlasting consequences. Thus, to violate the Commandments found in God’s Word will surely bring His discipline to individuals as well as His judgment to Nations.
Although the Lord will not disown believers who fall into disobedience, He will certainly discipline and He will most assuredly bring down Nations. It would therefore be far better to obey and enjoy His blessings rather than to disobey and experience His discipline and judgment. I submit to you that the words spoken by Joshua in his final farewell address to the Nation of Israel is just as relevant for us as individuals and as a Nation, as they were then. I am so thankful that the Bible, God’s breathed Word, tells us about the One (Jesus Christ) to whom we are accountable and that it clearly defines what is right and wrong. But I’m also so thankful and grateful that God offers forgiveness to us through faith in Jesus Christ, so we don’t need to fear His judgment (Acts 17:31).
Whether you want to believe it or not, His judgment is coming. It is recorded in God’s Word that people will not only talk to rocks, they will cry out to them. It’s described in Revelation 6, when the sixth seal of God’s judgment is opened. During the first four judgments, the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride forth. When the fifth seal is opened, the martyrs in heaven ask God how long until their deaths are avenged. When the sixth seal is broken, a mighty earthquake shakes the earth, and violent celestial disturbances involving the sun, moon, and stars take place (vs. 12-13). World leaders and ordinary citizens cry out to the rocks and mountains, “Fall on us and hide us from … the wrath of the Lamb!” (v. 6).
My friend, this passage is describing the future day of God’s wrath when He will punish the nations for their wickedness. “Who is able to stand?” asks the writer (v. 17). The answer, “No one.” God is compassionate and patient (Psalm 86:15; Romans 2:4); however, one day His wrath will be unleashed with such fury that not even the rocks will be able to hid those who deserve His just punishment. So, like it or not, we are all accountable to God and one day we will stand before Him and give an account of what we have and haven’t done! In order to avoid God’s wrath and punishment, you must:
(1) Admit to God that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
(2) Believe that Jesus died for you (1 Corinthians 15:3)
(3) Call on the living Christ to save you (Romans 10:9)
To escape God’s wrath, embrace His love.