Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 3 2019 - Joshua 23:1-16 – Joshua's farewell

Yesterday we saw that the disobedience and deceit of one family resulted in the inability of Israel's army to defeat the inhabitants of the land. When that disobedience was dealt with and the Israelites listened to the Lord, they were able to capture the city of Ai (Joshua 8). They had to learn that it was not by their own power that the land would be theirs but only by God's power, by his presence with his people and by his gift.

The following chapters of Joshua almost give the impression that all of the inhabitants of Canaan were quickly defeated. Joshua 11:23 states, "Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions." Chapter 12 summarises how Moses defeated the Canaanite kings who lived on the east of the Jordan and Joshua defeated those who lived on the west. Chapters 13 to 22 then describe how the land was divided between the various tribes of Israel.

But we should not forget Moses' words to the Israelites, recorded in Deuteronomy 7:22, "The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you." Joshua may have won notable battles against the kings of Canaan and may have made detailed plans for the partition of the land, but full possession would take many more years of struggle – as we shall see in the books of Judges and Kings. Victories have been won, but God's kingdom had not yet been established in the earth.

Now we near the end of the book and come to Joshua's farewell. He knows that, like Moses before him, he is "about to go the way of all the earth" (23:14). Joshua reminds the elders and leaders of Israel that it was the Lord who gave this land into their hands and it would be the Lord who would enable the various tribes to take possession of what is promised them (23:2-5). If they are to enter into their inheritance they will need to be obedient to God's word, given them through Moses (v. 6). They need to be a people distinctively different from the peoples living around them and to be wholly and exclusively devoted to the Lord: "be very careful to love the Lord your God" (23:11).

In love God chose Abraham and promised to bless him and make him the source of blessing to all nations. Driving the other nations out of the land may not seem much of a blessing. But the Israelites are warned that if they become like the nations whose lands they are possessing, they too will be driven from God's land (23:15-16). There is no favouritism with God; he had chosen Israel that they might model what it means to be a people who know and serve God, to be blessed and be a blessing. Those numbering themselves with the God of Israel, whatever their background and nationality, will share in that blessing. Those turning their back on God, whatever their pedigree, will have no part in his kingdom.

Jesus, our greater Joshua, has won the definitive battle over the kingdom of this world. He calls us to live by every word that has come from his mouth: to love him, to listen to him and to follow him. He calls us to live lives distinctively different from those around us; not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but to be transformed as our minds are renewed by his life-giving Spirit. He pours out his blessing on an obedient people that we might be the means of bringing his blessing to others. We are to be engaged in a takeover of this, God's world, not with sword, firearms or violence but with the conquering power of suffering love. Only in this way shall we possess the inheritance that God has promised his people. This is the means by which the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.

Father God, it is our daily prayer that your kingdom may come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us then to live as children of the kingdom and as ambassadors for the kingdom so that its boundaries may be extended and its glories increased until the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Peter Misselbrook