Joshua and Judges: Joshua's farewell. A reminder of all that the Lord has done. Jos 23.
Title: Joshua and Judges: Joshua's farewell. A reminder of all that the Lord has done. Jos 23.
[Alfred Edersheim; Sketches of Jewish Social Life]
Eighteen and a half centuries ago, and the land which now lies desolate—its bare, grey hills looking into ill-tilled or neglected valleys, its timber cut down, its olive- and vine-clad terraces crumbled into dust, its villages stricken with poverty and squalor, its thoroughfares insecure and deserted, its native population well-nigh gone, and with them its industry, wealth, and strength—presented a scene of beauty, richness, and busy life almost unsurpassed in the then known world.
Palestine combined every variety of climate, from the snows of Hermon and the cool of Lebanon to the genial warmth of the Lake of Galilee and the tropical heat of the Jordan valley. Accordingly not only the fruit trees, the grain, and garden produce known in our colder latitudes were found in the land, along with those of sunnier climes, but also the rare spices and perfumes of the hottest zones. Similarly, it is said, every kind of fish teemed in its waters, while birds of most gorgeous plumage filled the air with their song. Within such small compass the country must have been unequalled for charm and variety. On the eastern side of Jordan stretched wide plains, upland valleys, park-like forests, and almost boundless corn and pasture lands; on the western side were terraced hills, covered with olives and vines, delicious glens, in which sweet springs murmured, and fairy-like beauty and busy life, as around the Lake of Galilee. In the distance stretched the wide sea, dotted with spreading sails; here was luxurious richness, as in the ancient possessions of Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim; and there, beyond these plains and valleys, the highland scenery of Judah, shelving down through the pasture tracts of the Negev, or South country, into the great and terrible wilderness. And over all, so long as God’s blessing lasted, were peace and plenty. Far as the eye could reach, browsed “the cattle on a thousand hills”; the pastures were “clothed with flocks, the valleys also covered over with corn”; and the land, “greatly enriched with the river of God,” seemed to “shout for joy,” and “also to sing.” Such a possession, heaven-given at the first and heaven-guarded throughout, might well kindle the deepest enthusiasm.
Yet it is most true, as noticed by a recent writer, that no place could have been more completely swept of relics than is Palestine. Where the most solemn transactions have taken place; where, if we only knew it, every footstep might be consecrated, and rocks, and caves, and mountain-tops be devoted to the holiest remembrances—we are almost in absolute ignorance of exact localities. In Jerusalem itself even the features of the soil, the valleys, depressions, and hills have changed, or at least lie buried deep under the accumulated ruins of centuries. It almost seems as if the Lord meant to do with the land what Hezekiah had done with that relic of Moses—the brazen serpent—when he stamped it to pieces, lest its sacred memories should convert it into an occasion for idolatry. The lie of land and water, of mountain and valley, are the same; Hebron, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, Nazareth, the Lake of Gennesaret, the land of Galilee, are still there, but all changed in form and appearance, and with no definite spot to which one could with absolute certainty attach the most sacred events. [end quote]
After recounting all that God had done for them, Joshua gives the solemn warning.
Jos 23:12 For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,
Jos 23:13 know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.
If they "went back and clung" to the other nations turned, meaning that they gave up the faithfulness that this generation had to this day displayed towards Jehovah, and attached themselves to the remnant of these nations, made marriages with them, and entered into fellowship with them, which the Lord had expressly forbidden, let them know that the Lord their God would not cut off these nations before them anymore, but that they would be a snare and destruction to them.
All of mankind have gone astray from God. As we saw on Sunday, Jesus willfully walked into a snare, trap, whip, and thorns in order to set us free from their imprisonment and to pull us out to safety.
God is our only protection. When we leave Him we are exposed and weak.
Joshua crowds his figures together to depict the misery and oppression which would be sure to result from fellowship with the Canaanites, because, from his knowledge of the fickleness of the people, and the wickedness of the human heart in its natural state, he could foresee that the apostasy of the nation from the Lord, which Moses had foretold, would take place but too quickly; as it actually did in the very next generation.
Beware, lest your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
In the second part of his address, Joshua sums up briefly and concisely the leading thoughts of the first part, giving greater prominence, however, to the curse which would follow apostasy from the Lord.
Jos 23:14 "Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.
No one besides God can claim infallibility of all promises. From time to time it is good to remind ourselves of the many prophesies that God has fulfilled.
Jos 23:15 And it shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.
Jos 23:16 When 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 burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you."
As God is faithful in blessing so He is in judgment and discipline. If we do not walk with Him we will lose the experience of the fruit of the Spirit.
The unbeliever will assuredly be judged. The believer who abandons fellowship with God will lose the experience of the fruit of love, joy, and peace in time.
I will always have the fruit of the Spirit for all of eternity, just like true Israel (believing Israel) will have all of their land in the future and will be a nation forever, though they are not now. Our losses when under the path of carnality is in the soul while for Israel it was a loss in the soul as well as a loss of land and government.
So we must soberly ask ourselves:
What do the other gods give that is worth selling our love, joy, and peace?
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
The false gods, idols, demons really, function in the four pillars of the world system and flesh: pleasure, fame, power, and wealth. We don't have to have a statue or actual idol in front of us, just lust in any of these four areas, or all four.
As we see here and will see in Joshua's second address to the people at Shechem, idolatry is a major concern for God's people. It is, has been, and always be all around us; sometimes very obvious and other times very subtle.
Jos 24: Renewal of the covenant at the National Assembly in Shechem - the place that Abraham received his first promise in Canaan.
It was at Shechem, on mountains Gerizim and Ebal that the law was read to this generation after they had entered the Promised Land. However, it is likely that the main reason for choosing Shechem was that Abraham received the first promise from God after entering Canaan.
Gen 12:6 And Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land.
Gen 12:7 And the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
Abram came from a wealthy, cultural center of idol worship, but God called him away from this and Abram became a believer of Jehovah and was given true righteousness from God.
Shechem was also the place that Jacob, upon returning from Mesopotamia, cleansed his house of their idols and Joshua is going to renew the covenant which involves the renunciation of idols.