As we come to chapter 23, we can’t be sure how long the conquest has been going on but we know that Joshua was 110 when he died (Joshua 24:29). Just as Moses gave final instructions to the nation before he died (Deuteronomy), so Joshua gathers the leaders of Israel and gives them his final words. I noticed several points of focus in Joshua’s speech:
- The Lord was the one who had been fighting on behalf of Israel. (v. 3)
- Separation from the occupying nations was necessary to preserve loyalty to God. (v.6-8)
- God’s continued favor and victory was conditioned upon Israel’s obedience. (v. 11-13)
- God had kept his promises for blessing and would do the same for his curses. (v. 14-16)
All this seems pretty straight-forward as it would apply to Israel under the Mosaic covenant. But what about Christians? First, I would note that we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss these warnings by reasoning that we are no longer under the law. The book of Hebrews sets forth a number of warnings that I believe, are God’s means of keeping true believers from ever falling from the faith (see especially Hebrews chapters 3, 6, and 10). Paul sets forth a warning to Gentiles in Romans 11 to the effect that if God grafted us into the olive tree of true believers, and he can just as easily cut us off (see Romans 11:21). And as far as separation, we know that the gospel has broken down the wall of hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile. Yet there are commands for the New Covenant people to remain separate, at least to some degree and in some situations, from unbelievers. Believers are only to marry believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). We are not to think the way the world thinks (Romans 12:2). We are to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-15; 1 John 2:15-16). Even this side of the cross, there is a separation that honors Christ.
But there is a major difference between the Israelites in Joshua’s day and followers of Christ today. What they hoped for, we have received. What the law and sacrifices pointed to, we have seen fulfilled. Jesus is the one who mercifully fulfills all covenant conditions on our behalf. Christ has obeyed where Israel failed. Christ was loyal where Israel was idolatrous. Christ has obeyed the law, borne the curse, and assured God’s favor for those united with him in faith. He has achieved the victory over our enemies; sin, death, and the devil. Thus, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Are we sufficiently aware and thankful for what is ours in Christ? Will we remember all that God has done for us in his Son, and pass this on to the generations to follow? Be amazed! Be overwhelmed! Be a witness!