An Exhortation to Faithfulness
“Be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day” (vv. 6–8).- Joshua 23
Obedience to the Lord in one generation does not guarantee obedience in the next. When the faith is not passed down to those after us and when they are not exhorted to continue in faithfulness to God, we cannot be surprised if we see people falling away from the truth. Every generation must be exhorted to continue following the Word of God (Ps. 78:5–8).
As we see in today’s passage, Joshua gave such an exhortation to Israel when he was close to death. As good a leader as he was and as much as he led Israel into a situation where they experienced some rest from warfare, Joshua did not complete the possession of the promised land before his death (Josh. 13:1–7). The job was not yet done, and the only way it would be accomplished was if the people drove out the rest of the inhabitants of Canaan after Joshua’s death. And the only way that would happen was through their continuing faithfulness to the Lord. If they stopped following the law of Moses and allowed the Canaanite pagans to remain in the land, the nations that the Israelites failed to drive out would entice them into apostasy (Josh. 23:1–16).
Joshua reminded the people of this truth, and he called them to persevere in faith and obedience. He instructed them in the faith, reminding Israel of all that God had done for them in the initial conquest (v. 3). He called them to continue in their covenant commitments, exhorting them to obey the Mosaic law so as to avoid the punitive discipline of the Lord (vv. 6, 14–16). In particular, Joshua focused on not adopting the ways of the Canaanites, not intermarrying with them and not joining them in their worship of false gods (vv. 12–13). We can learn from this guidance today, separating ourselves from the worship of false gods and from marrying unbelievers. As John Calvin comments, we must “beware of allowing ourselves to become involved in fellowship with wickedness, by not keeping at a sufficient distance from it.”
The rest Joshua provided to Israel was only temporary. It would take a new and better Joshua—the Lord Jesus Christ—to bring full and final rest to God’s people, to deliver the death blow to God’s enemies. However, while Christ has accomplished a greater deliverance for us from sin and death, we have not yet entered the fullness of His rest. We are called to continue in the faith so that we will enjoy that full rest in Christ’s consummated kingdom (Heb. 3:7–4:13).
Jesus has done everything necessary to secure our final rest from sin and death. However, He has not yet fully applied the benefits of His work. We will enjoy those benefits by trusting in Him alone for salvation, continuing in the faith all the days of our lives, and exhorting others to do the same. Let us continue trusting the Lord this day, and let us encourage the generations that follow us to do the same.
Passages for Further Study
2 Timothy 2:12