The Harmful Things of the Lord

God blesses, but He also threatens.

Joshua 23 (6)

Read Joshua 23.15, 16

1.  You might like to review Deuteronomy 28 as background for this passage. God promises blessings and curses. How can we avoid the latter and obtain the former?

2.  What does it mean to transgress God’s covenant? Is it possible to transgress God’s new covenant?

Think about it.
Joshua reminds the tribes that they are a covenant people. God has entered a covenant with them in which He promises to bless them with His favor, make them a blessing to all nations, and by this means, glorify Himself and restore His world.

A covenant is a solemn bond, which Israel renewed just before they crossed the Jordan River to begin the conquest of the land. By circumcision and the Passover, the people of God acknowledged His gifts and promises, and pledged themselves to faithfulness in pursuing them.

Motivated in their mission by the vision of promises obtained, which God sketched out in Deuteronomy 28.1-14, Israel might have forgotten that the same God Who promises blessings for abiding in His covenant and will, promises curses for those who transgress against Him (Deut. 28.15-68). Flush with God’s promised blessings, Israel needed reminding that they would have to continue working hard to abide in those promises, by resisting the allure of paganism and its vain and fleeting promises.

We transgress God’s covenant when we set God aside and assume the role of god in our own lives, and then begin enlisting a bevy of lesser deities – things, status, wealth, power, whatever – to aid us in our pursuit of happiness and rest. With pagan peoples still in their midst, and pagan nations to their north, east, and south, Israel would be continuously faced with encouragement and enticements to serve other gods. Joshua sternly reminds them that, if they do this, they embark on a slippery slope that leads to judgment and the revoking of God’s blessing.

These are hard words to put before the people of God, but they needed to hear them then, and we need to hear them now.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  We don’t like to think of God warning or threatening us for straying from His path (cf. Heb. 12.3-11). Why? As the people of God, do we need such warnings? Explain.

2.  Quickly read Deuteronomy 28. Why do you suppose the section on curses is more than 3 times as long as the section on blessings? Should both blessing and sanctions be allowed to motivate our discipleship? Explain.

3.  How can we know when we have begun to set God aside in our lives so that we can be our own god in deciding how we should live? How can Christians help one another avoid this snare?

“The substance of his whole address amounts to this, that as God had proved himself true by his favors and the fulfillment of his promises, so his threatening would not be empty or vain, and he would certainly avenge the profanation of his worship by their final destruction.” John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua (1509-1564 AD)

Guard my heart and mind this day, O Lord, so that I may not…

Pray Psalm 101.

Use this psalm to bring to mind the activities of the day ahead, and to commit yourself to serving the Lord in them.

Psalm 101 (Jesus, I Come: Out of My Bondage, Sorrow, and Night)
I will of lovingkindness now sing – 
Praise to You, Lord! Praise to You, Lord! 
Justice and mercy, Lord, let me bring – 
Praise to You, holy Lord! 
I will the blameless way ever heed; 
No worthless thing my eyes shall impede. 
When will You come and care for my need? 
Praise to You, holy Lord! 

I will the works of wicked men scorn – 
Praise to You, Lord! Praise to You, Lord! 
They will not grip me, evening or morn: 
Praise to You, holy Lord! 
Separate every sin from my heart; 
Slanderers all from me shall depart. 
I will not suffer pride in my heart: 
Praise to You, holy Lord! 

Let me with saints and faithful ones dwell – 
Praise to You, Lord! Praise to You, Lord! 
He Who is just shall care for me well: 
Praise to You, holy Lord! 
Naught of deceit or falsehood shall be 
Ever allowed a place within me. 
Daily let sin and wickedness flee: 
Praise to You, holy Lord!

T. M. Moore

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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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