Joshua 23 (2)
Read Joshua 23.6-8.
1. Joshua uses the same words God used with him to charge the leaders of Israel. Why?
2. Why must there be no compromise with paganism? Is this still a valid message for God’s people?
Think about it.
I’m persuaded that the greatest need of the people of God today and in every generation is courage. This is why God sent His Holy Spirit – the Encourager– into our hearts, so that, in Him and His power, we might go beyond ourselves day by day in laying hold on the precious and very great promises of God which are in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1.20; 2 Pet. 1.4).
What the Spirit does for believers today, Joshua sought to do for the leaders and people who would succeed him in Israel.
Joshua called the leaders and people of Israel to “be very courageous,” for unless they were, they would give in to their fears, doubt God’s as-yet-unrealized promises, and just hunker down in their new homes and hope for the best. Courage is a disposition of the heart – from which flow the issues of life (Prov. 4.23) – which enables us to overcome fear, banish doubt, nurture hope and faith, and step forward into new challenges in the life of faith. The land of Canaan was conquered, but not yet subdued. As God had charged Joshua to be courageous and go forward in faith, so Joshua now charges the leaders of Israel to do the same.
They must hew to the path marked out by God’s Law, and not allow themselves to be lured or lulled into taking up the practices of unbelieving peoples. No place must be allowed for pagan religious practices, or even for mentioning the names of pagan deities. It would take courage to “hold fast to the LORDyour God” in the face of so much remaining work and so many lingering temptations, but they must seek the Lord and encourage one another, so that they might continue to lay hold on the promises of God.
Joshua’s farewell message comes in two parts. It’s not clear whether these – chapters 23 and 24 – were separate gatherings or part of the same gathering of God’s people (23.1, 2 and 24.1). My inclination is to see them as two parts of the same address and charge, each with a different flavor and flare, but each focused on the same end: “Be courageous!”
Meditate and discuss.
1. Do you agree that courage is the greatest need of God’s people today? Why or why not?
2. How does one become “very courageous”? What is the source of courage? Is there a connection between being courageous and “holding fast” to the Lord? Explain.
3. We live in a world awash in pagan – unbelieving – ways, culture, ideals, morals, practices, and priorities. How can believers and their churches resist the temptation to accommodate or conform to pagan ways?
“The expression, Be you very courageous, as has elsewhere been said, denotes serious study, because in the great weakness of our nature no man will set about the thorough observance of the Law, if he does not exert himself above his strength. Attention ought also to be paid to the definition of true obedience which is here repeated from Moses, (Deuteronomy 5:32) and said to consist in not turning either to the right hand or the left.” John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua (1509-1564 AD)
Lord, wherever I lack the courage to obey You, and to hold fast to You and Your Word, let Your Spirit encourage me, and I will…
Pray Psalm 104.24-35.
As you contemplate the power and magnitude of God’s works, and the courage-giving presence of His Spirit with you, sing and praise and meditate on God, and commit your day in all its details to Him.
Psalm 104.24-35 (Creation: Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim)
How many are Your works, O Lord,
Which You have created by Your Word!
The earth and sea with creatures teem –
They look to You to care and feed.
You give to them, they gather all;
You hide Your face, they fail and fall.
You take their breath, they gasp and die;
You send Your Spirit, they revive.
Lord, let Your glory long endure;
Rejoice! His works are ever sure!
He looks on earth, it quails and quakes,
As we our songs of praises make.
Lord, let our meditation rise
And bring great pleasure in Your eyes.
Consumed shall sinners ever be –
O, bless and praise the Lord with me!
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).