Snares and Traps

Joshua admonishes the tribes.

Joshua 23 (4)

Read Joshua 23.12, 13

1.  God will not fulfill His promises to people who refuse to obey His Word. Why not?

2.  What would it look like if Israel were to “cling” to the pagan peoples and their ways? 

Think about it.
This is pretty stern stuff. God is serious about His people clinging only to Him and not dallying with pagan peoples or practices. We saw why early on in our study of the book of Joshua, since pagan ways were so diametrically opposed to God’s ways and the ways of neighbor love. 

Joshua tweaks the noses of the people of Israel with that phrase, “these that remain among you.” Already, it appears, the people of Israel were getting used to having pagan peoples in their midst. No big deal?

Joshua knew better. Presence leads to familiarity leads to acceptance leads to inter-marriage leads to spiritual and moral compromise leads to God withdrawing His blessing from Israel leads to the destruction of His people and their nation. 

Sounds like a preview of the rest of the Old Testament, doesn’t it?

The way of unbelief is strewn with traps and snares and scourges and thorns. Why would anyone want to depart God’s path of blessing to travel such a treacherous route? Why do we do so?

Israel had been motivated by the promises of God to enter the land and subdue it. But if they became complacent about those promises and settled into a “good enough for me” way of life, God would withhold His promises and, ultimately, remove His people from the land of promise itself.

Joshua’s closing words to Israel focus on the faithfulness of God and warn God’s people against fickleness in clinging to Him. They will hear him, and even assent to his admonition. But their hearts are not where they ought to be.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  Why are Christians tempted to “go back, and cling” to their old ways of thinking, talking, being, and doing? How can we know when we are departing God’s path to walk this one? What should we do then?

2.  Securing God’s promises depends on loving and obeying Him. Is this a form of salvation by works? Explain.

3.  Why is “snares and traps” and “scourges and thorns” a good way to think about the path of compromise with unbelief? How should Christians help one another keep to the high road and avoid the alluring “short cuts” of sin and unbelief?

“It is now proper to consider how far this doctrine is applicable to us. It is true a special command was given to the ancient people to destroy the nations of Canaan, and keep aloof from all profane defilements. To us, in the present day, no certain region marks out our precise boundaries; nor are we armed with the sword to slay all the ungodly; we have only to beware of allowing ourselves to become involved in fellowship with wickedness, by not keeping at a sufficient distance from it. For it is almost impossible, if we mingle with it, spontaneously to avoid receiving some spot or blemish.” John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua (1509-1564 AD)

Let there be no sin or moral compromise in me, Lord, but lead me along the righteous path so that today I…

Pray Psalm 139.23, 24.

Listen as the Lord searches your soul and life. Confess any sins and repent as the Lord leads. Devote the day ahead to walking the Lord’s path and resisting every byway of sin.

Psalm 139.23, 24 (Ripley: Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
Search my heart, O Lord, and know me, as You only, Lord, can do. 
Test my thoughts and contemplations, whether they be vain or true. 
Let there be no sin in me, Lord, nothing that Your Spirit grieves. 
Lead me in the righteous way, Lord, unto everlasting peace!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click hereAnd when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.

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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).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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