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AN APPEAL ON THE BASIS OF GOD'S FAITHFULNESS
Many years had passed now that Joshua calls for all Israel, elders, heads, judges and officers, and tells them he is old and advanced in age (vs.1-2). Shortly after coming out of Egypt Joshua was said to be "a young man" (Exodus 33:11). If therefore he might have been about 30 when leaving Egypt, then when entering Canaan he would be about 70. So that his address to Israel now would be about 40 years after entering Canaan, since he died at 110 years.
But his spiritual energy and exercise are beautiful to witness in this appeal to Israel. His concern for them did not diminish because he was leaving them, for he was a true man of God. He seeks to draw their hearts in reality into the Lord's presence, reminding them that they themselves had seen all that the Lord had done in defeating all the nations who opposed Israel (v 3).
Joshua tells Israel he had divided to them by lot, not only the property in the land, but "these nations that remain to be an inheritance for your tribes" (v.4). Thus the nations had not been totally expelled, though they had been subdued. There remained therefore work for Israel to do in siding with God to have these inhabitants expelled, so that Israel might fully possess the land (v 5).
Joshua almost verbally repeats to Israel what God had told him personally many years before in chapter 1:7 "Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all this is written in the Book of the Law of Moses" (v.6). How often we need to be reminded to have courage to act on all that is revealed to us in God's Word! For us today this is not the Law of Moses, but the more wonderful truths of the New Testament.
The Word of God would be their one real protection against mingling with the unbelieving inhabitants of the land (v.7), and they are warned not to even make mention of their false gods, not in any way to acknowledge them, but to continue to hold fast to the Lord God (v 8). For the Lord had already proven His faithfulness by driving out before them great and strong nations, and none had been able to stand before Israel. Let them remember this. Also, they may still depend on His grace and strength to enable one man to chase a thousand, certainly an amazing accomplishment! (v.10). This was however conditional upon their taking careful heed to love the Lord God (v.11). If not, and they declined morally to mix with the nations, intermarrying etc., the tables would be completely turned: instead of driving out the nations, they would find them to be snares and traps, scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes, so that Israel would be expelled from the land (vs.12-13).
Israel would no longer have Joshua to depend on, for as he tells them, he was going the way of all the earth, into death. However, he strongly reminded them that they knew in their hearts and souls that not one thing had failed of all that the Lord God had promised them: all had been fulfilled (v.14).
Though he has been exhorting them, his words become more prophetic in verses 15 and 16. He says that just as God had fulfilled His word in blessing to them, so He would in the future bring on them harmful things culminating in their destruction from the land which in grace He had given them (v.15). He does not say, "If you have transgressed," but "when you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them." Nor was it long after Joshua's death that this disintegration began, though God was most patient with Israel, seeking all through the history of the Judges and of the Kings to draw Israel back from their idolatry, until eventually their stubbornness became so determined that the nation was carried away from their land. Even then, God worked to restore Judah from the bondage of Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:22-23), bringing a remnant back, but that remnant became guilty of the enormous wickedness of crucifying the Lord of glory, and now for nearly 2000 years Israel has borne the solemn results of their rebellion.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 23". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent