Joshua Chapter 23

The role of a prophet, in ancient times as well as today, has been to “act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will.” (see Bible Dictionary: Prophet) What we read of Joshua up to this point, includes the directions he gave from the Lord, to fight their enemies, and to settle the promised land. I am sure that along the way, Joshua was frequently delivering messages of doctrine to the Israelites as well, but those words would most likely be found in the laws and commandments given through the prophet Moses. In this chapter, I believe we receive the parting words of the prophet Joshua to the people. It reads as follows:

1 And it came to pass a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.
2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:
3 And ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is he that hath fought for you.
4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.
5 And the Lord your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the Lord your God hath promised unto you.
6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;
7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:
8 But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.
9 For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God.
12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:
13 Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.
14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.
15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the Lord your God promised you; so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.
16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.

I believe that the tradition of the time, was for a man to gather his family together before he passed away, to deliver a final message to his posterity, and oftentimes to leave them with a blessing. It seems that this same tradition occurred with the prophets to the people of the Lord as well. Joshua grew old when Israel had received rest in the promised land. In his age, he gathered the elders and leaders of Israel together. First, he reminds them of the blessings from the Lord. It was the Lord, who had given them this land by subduing their enemies and delivering them into the hands of Israel. They are reminded that the land had been divided and given to them for an inheritance, and also, that the Lord would continue to dispel their enemies so that they might continue to gain the land of promise. However, this is not without an expectation of the people of Israel.

Joshua gives and exhortation to the elders, that they lead the people in righteousness. He tells them to be courageous and keep the commandments. He tells them that they need to avoid being part of the other nations that still remained in the land. They should not mention or worship the gods of those other nations, but they should continue to love the Lord by cleaving to Him. He reminds them, that they have been promised that the Lord would fight for them and make them mighty and strong. No nation could stand against even one man with God on His side. They needed to love the Lord wholly, or else they would turn to the false gods of other nations. If they did this, they would begin to marry people of these other nations, even those that remained among them. If they chose that path, the Lord would no longer fight for them. Instead, the Lord would allow those nations to be a temptation in their lives, until the Israelites were removed from the land. Joshua reminded the elders, that God had fulfilled all that He had promised them. All the good that they had been promised, had been given to them. Because they knew this, they could know that everything bad that had been promised if they would be disobedient, would also be given to them.

It takes courage to keep the commandments of God, especially when the ways of the world are so far from them. It takes courage to follow the prophets called to lead us today. I believe as time passes and we draw nearer to the second coming of the Savior and the millennium, that it will take greater courage than ever before. We are preparing for the day when all the wicked will be done away, and the Lord will reign on this earth. Only those who can live in this world, but avoid becoming part of the world, will be able to stand at that day. This message for the ancient Israelites, is the message that all of us need to hear. If we desire to be called the people of the Lord, we must be willing to give up the pleasures of the world and give our whole hearts to the Lord. If we do not follow His commandments and love Him, He will allow us to experience greater temptations. I think that I have enough temptation in my life now, and hope to be able to have the courage to do what is right, so that the Lord will help me to fight my personal enemies.

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