Joshua 23:1-13 The beginning of a blessed life is a covenant with God
Now it came about after many days, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side, and Joshua was old, advanced in years, 2 that Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders and their heads and their judges and their officers, and said to them, “I am old, advanced in years. 3 And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has been fighting for you. 4 See, I have apportioned to you these nations which remain as an inheritance for your tribes, with all the nations which I have cut off, from the Jordan even to the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun. 5 The Lord your God, He will thrust them out from before you and drive them from before you; and you will possess their land, just as the Lord your God promised you. 6 Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, 7 so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. 8 But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day. 9 For the Lord has driven out great and strong nations from before you; and as for you, no man has stood before you to this day. 10 One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you. 11 So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God. 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, 13 know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will 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.
After some years (probably 10 to 20 years), Joshua observes a growing complacency on the part of the Israelites concerning the threats that loom around them. The remnant of the Canaanites that lived among Israelites poses a clear and present danger that can send them down the path of apostasy. Joshua, the grand old leader of Israel seizes one last opportunity to admonish Israel concerning the timeless truths that bring blessings without end. In today’s devotion, we learn that the beginning of a blessed life is a covenant with God. And if man will keep his part of the covenant, God will keep His.
And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you.
The meeting attended by elders, heads of tribes, judges and officers was no doubt solemn. In the wake of Joshua’s imminent departure, he could do no more except to remind them of the age-old principles that had brought them thus far. Joshua opened his address with the most important truth: it is God who fought for Israel and dispossessed the nations from Canaan. The fact is, Israel and her prowess were inconsequential to the conquest of Canaan as the nations were much bigger than they were. Throughout their military campaigns, God empowered every Israelite soldier to rise above his enemies: One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you.
Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses.
In the light of God’s faithfulness in time past, and God’s continual favour in the future, Israel must keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses. Israel’s future prosperity hinged singularly on her obedience to God’s laws. The truths singled out by Joshua in this exaltation concerns:
a. Israel’s relationship with the other nations: you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you. God disallowed fellowship with people of other nations because He was familiar with the weakness of the Israelites which was their tendency towards apostasy. The nations of the world during that time (unlike the nations of today) were steep in sin and cruel practices; child sacrifices, occult, promiscuity and prostitution were rampant. God’s salvation plan for the world necessitates the protection of Israel in preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. In order to scuttle God’s salvation plan, the devil sets out to cause Israel’s destruction by infiltrating their culture with sinful practices of the nations.
b. Israel’s loyalty towards God: you will not … mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. Bowing down to other gods is tantamount to disowning God and breaking the covenant. Not only will that arouse God’s jealousy, it breaks His heart. The devil attempts to bring sorrow upon God by tempting His people to break their covenant with Him. When man bows down to other gods, evil spirits enter him binding him to the dark pleasures of the world. Idolatry is most destructive to the spirit of man, it subjects him to the full spectrum of sinful bondages and curses.
Know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you.
God’s favour and protection over Israel are contingent on their love for God and obedience towards His laws. Joshua admonished them, “So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God.” Love is not just an emotion of affection or gratitude, it produces commitment to obey His instructions. The consequences for disobeying God’s laws are harsh: they will 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. Whoever enters into a covenant with God to love Him and to obey His laws will prosper. But, whoever does not will be subjected to the harsh elements of the world. In no way was Israel forced into loving God and obeying His laws. Nevertheless, Israel, during the tenure of Joshua’s rule loved God and they benefitted immensely from God’s favour. The future is predictably prosperous for Israel as long as they continue in His ways.
The beginning of a blessed life is a covenant with God.
Any reader would notice a marked difference in treatment between the Israelites and the Canaanites. God had set a mark on Israel and carved out the land of Canaan as their inheritance. But why did God help Israel, and not the Canaanites? As we know it, the Israelites were no more righteous than the Canaanites. The answer lies in the covenant that God had with Abraham and his descendants. During the time of the old testament, one’s lineage and heritage determine his destiny. However, in the new testament, one’s covenant with God in Christ determines everything including his citizenship in God’s Kingdom. As ancient Israel was blessed because they were Abraham’s descendants by birth. Those who make a covenant with God through Jesus are considered descendants by faith. Through Christ’s blood, believers make a covenant with God to love and to obey Him. It is through this covenant that believers are appointed as sons of God to prosper in His Kingdom.
Many churchgoers today were given the impression that making a covenant merely involves a sufficiently accurate understanding of the mechanism through which man is saved. And he only has to understand and believe in the power of the cross. However, one is not saved by acquiring right knowledge or by partaking baptism or in the holy communion but by covenant demonstrated through a regenerated life. Many suppose a little flushing of the skin, a racing of the heartbeat signify love. But, not until a couple demonstrate unwavering commitment towards each other despite external and internal challenges can they consider the relationship a marriage covenant. A covenant is not unilateral, but a bilateral agreement with each party reciprocating and demonstrating commitment to one another.
Therefore, the covenant of blessing and man’s adoption as sons require an acknowledgement of God as their Lord and Father. That acknowledgement and covenant is demonstrated by man’s commitment to love God and to obey His will albeit many struggles and setbacks.
If man keeps his part of the covenant, God will keep His.
As any covenant, when it involves two parties, it can be broken by either party. Man can rebel against God or disown Him as his Lord breaking the covenant of salvation in due process. Many churchgoers, by their frequent prayers and attendance in weekend church services suppose they can ingratiate God into blessing the work of their hands. They hold God ransom for His irrevocable promise of eternal life while perpetuating their self-centered lifestyle. Joshua said to the people,
“For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, … know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will 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.”
In no uncertain terms, God warned that if His people did not keep their end of the covenant, God would not keep His. Nevertheless, whenever man repents from his self-centred ways, God restores the covenant of blessing.
Therefore, in our moments of weakness, in the times of dire distress, we must remember God’s everlasting love and our covenant with Him (Jeremiah 31:3). Whenever we face immense challenges, take a rest in the assuring words of God, but do not quit on Him. As God said to Joshua, He is saying the very same words to you today,
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:
If God could use a small nation of Israel to within seven years conquer the nations of Canaan, think of what God could do through you in the power of His Spirit who dwells in you. The promise of the New Covenant brings the infinite power of God into every believer empowering them to accomplish great and impossible exploits. On the day of the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent elevating mere men to the stature of gods doing what Christ had done and even more. Jesus said to His disciples,
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do. John 14:12-13
If every believer would lend their full weight behind the covenant of Christ without doubting, life would not only be abundant but meaningful impacting future generations to come.
Did you have a covenant with God or are you just trying to live a “Christian” life? A covenant with Christ involves a full commitment to love Him and to avail time to do God’s work. Beware of the idols of our life; career and family can pose as distractions to our covenantal responsibilities and scuttle God’s calling for us. The believer’s obligation is first and foremost towards God, then towards others. The psalmist wrote of the necessity to remain in covenant with God,
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Psalm 127:1-2
Dear Lord, I thank you for bringing me thus far. I will not take your blessings for granted. I renew my covenant with you, to love you and fulfill your calling for me. Continue to bless me and use me for your kingdom’s purposes. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.