Scripture: Joshua 23:1-16
Joshua is now an old man and feels that he is soon to die, v2, 14. Towards the end of his life he convenes two national assemblies, the first of which is recorded in this chapter, where he addresses the elders of the people. He has serious matters to set before them.
A long time, v1 has passed since the victorious end to the first phase of the conquest of Canaan. There are still enemies to be fought and territory to be occupied, v4-5. There is still work to be done and still a need for God’s people to experience the power and triumph of God’s presence and grace among them.
I THE VICTORY THAT GOD GIVES HIS PEOPLE.
Joshua would have these men keep before them the victory that God’s people may enjoy as He works in power among them. In a nutshell, this is what he wants them to continue to experience after his passing. God’s people should ever have a burden to see the blessing of God they have enjoyed continue and increase after they are gone.
- Past experience, v3-4, 9, 14. They already have some experience of what God can do for them. Joshua is not discussing theoretical matters but something they have seen and experienced at first hand. The invincible power of God had been at work among them. While not every generation of saints gets to experience God personally in the way these men did, a look back at Biblical history will reveal what God can do and has done for His people. We must not allow that to be forgotten! Cp Rom 15:4. God reveals Himself to His people today principally in terms of what He has done in the past.
- They needed to have this experience again in the future, v5, 10. Facing what they did in Canaan they could not afford to be without the experience of God they had known previously. Past blessing needed to continue. Joshua has a burden to see them continue to enjoy this. His passing need not terminate this! God’s presence and power among His people is not linked exclusively to any one man.
II TO CONTINUE TO ENJOY THIS EXPERIENCE OF GOD THEY NEEDED TO MAINTAIN FELLOWSHIP WITH THE LORD.
It is Joshua’s purpose here to impress on these men the means by which they could see this blessing continue. An experience of the power of God is always connected to our relationship with Him. This becomes critically important.
- Positive actions required to maintain fellowship with God.
- Courageous obedience, v6. Obedience to the written word is of primary importance. The nature of the obedience is described as ‘vehemently/passionately strong’. Courageous > ‘to tie, bind fast’. Here is an unshakable conviction, a sense of strong obligation, a man girded for work and war in the matter of obeying God. Cp 1 Cor 16:13. There is an undeviating adherence to Divine truth. The presence and power of God may be enjoyed by those who so give themselves to His service. Cp Deut 28:1-2, 13-14.
- Cleave to the Lord, v8.Cleave > ‘to be glued to’. It is employed to convey the idea of closeness in various contexts. We are to pursue after God in this way. The covenant relationship in view here—your God—is to lead to close fellowship with God. The potential is to be realized in experience.
- Careful love of God, v11. Joshua refers here to their souls—your selves = ‘your souls’. Their very life was to be an expression of love for God. They were to be very careful and diligent in this matter. Good = very, v6—passionate, vehement etc. This is still the duty God requires of His people, Matt 22:37-38.
- Negative actions necessary to this end. There is an emphasis throughout this passage on separation of various kinds, v7, 12, 16. Neither on a social, family or worship level was there to be close connection to the heathen. Note the two uses of cleave, v8, 12! It must be one or the other. Cp 1 Cor 10:20-21, 2 Cor 6:14-7:1. To be on the Lord’s side so as to secure His continued blessing, presence and power required them to distance themselves from all that was opposed to God.
- This is an old message. Joshua is speaking here to these elders as God had spoken to him at the beginning of his ministry, 1:6. Going on in the old way to enjoy the old blessing is a priority for these men in their future ministry. There is no new fangled idea about obtaining the presence and power of God! These thoughts come through in Paul’s final exhortation in a similar vein to Timothy, 2 Tim 4:1-5. This is ever the way to obtain the well done of Christ before His judgment seat.
III A SOLEMN VIEW OF GOD’S FAITHFULNESS.
- God keeps his word, v5, 10, 14. The past and future significances of the promises of God are cited for their encouragement and instruction.
- The fact that God has faithfully done them good infers faithfulness to the threats He makes against sin. Cp v15-16. This is a matter that they can be absolutely certain about, v13. God means what He says about the consequences of either obedience or sin.
- A serious price attached to failure to continue in obedient fellowship with God, v13, 15-16. What misery and trouble we bring on ourselves when we incur the displeasure of God by disobedience.