Joshua 23: Lessons from Joshua’s Farewell Address

Introduction: Chapter 23 includes part of Joshua’s farewell address to the Jews. He was blessed to live until he was 110 (Josh. 24:29). Moreover, only He and Caleb lived to see all of God’s miracles in Egypt, the wilderness, and His deliverance of the Promised Land. From Joshua’s farewell address, God reveals seven lessons in wisdom for maintaining your walk with Him.

First, through Joshua’s reminder to the Jews about all that God had done, God reminds believers to never forget all that He has done for them. Second, from Joshua’s reminder of the inheritance that the Jews had in the Promised Land, God reminds believers to put their hope in the Promised Land to come. Third, from Joshua’s call for the tribes to remain obedient, God reminds believers that they must also remain obedient toward His Word, His Commandments and the Holy Spirit. Fourth, from Joshua’s command for the Jews to cling to God, God reminds believers to depend upon Him. Fifth, from Joshua’s command for the Jews to love God, God reminds each believer to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind. Sixth, from Joshua’s command for the Jews not to be joined together with foreigners, God reminds believers that they should not to be joined together with unbelievers. Finally, from Joshua’s warning about curses that come from disobedience, God warns that there are consequences for sin.

1. Faith: Trust in God’s Promises. Josh. 23:1-3.

  • God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises. Before his death, Joshua tried to encourage the Jews to have faith in God by reminding them of all that He had done for them. After 400 years of bondage, struggle, and war, He gave the Jews rest from their many enemies and their own land: “1 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.’” (Josh. 23:1-3). God kept every one of His promises to the Jews. He freed the Jews from Egyptian bondage (Ex. 7:6-11:10). He crushed the Egyptian army (Ex. 13:7-15:21). He defeated the Amalekites in battle (Ex. 17:9-12). He made water come out from a rock at Horeb (Ex. 17:6). He also transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:22-27). He then provided both manna and quail after they grumbled about their food (Ex. 16:1-8). He provided meat when they grew tired of His manna (Nu. 11:4-6, 32-33). He then provided for them in the wilderness (Dt. 2:7). Near the end of their journey, He also caused the waters to gush out of a rock at Meribah (Nu. 20:10-11; Ps. 81:16; 106:41; Isa. 48:21). He also guided the Jews by a visible pillar of light both by day and by night (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). He even protected the Jews’ feet from swelling (Dt. 8:4). Before the invasion of the Promised Land, He also defeated three enemy kings in Jordan. These included: (1) the Amorite King Sihon (Nu. 21:23-31; Dt. 2:24-37); (2) the Amorite King Og (Nu. 21:32-35); and (3) the Midianites (Nu. 31:7-11). He then defeated the enemy kings of the Promised Land. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Cor. 10:11). Thus, believers can learn from His faithfulness to the Jews.

Let God fight your battles1

  • Jesus will also keep His promises to you. Just as He did for the Jews, Jesus will also care for you in the wilderness (Hos. 13:5). He is your manna and food (Jo. 6:35; Matt. 6:31). He is the “rock” who gives you the water of contentment in your spiritual wilderness (Jo. 4:14; 6:36; 7:37-38; 1 Cor. 10:3-4). He clothes you (Matt. 6:30). He is also “the rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1; Dt. 32:3-4; Isa. 26:4). Likewise, He is a rock and a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Ps. 18:30; 2 Sam. 22:3, 31). He tells you not to worry about your provision (Matt. 6:34). He promises to forgive your sins when you repent: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Most importantly, if you believe in Him and confess Him as Lord and Savior, He will bring you to the eternal Promised Land: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Ro. 10:8-9). “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;” (Lk. 12:8; Matt. 10:32; Jo. 3:16). He has “also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Cor. 1:22). Are you trusting in Him when you are feeling under attack? If you are grateful to Him, what are you doing with your life to thank Him? (Ro. 12:1).

  • Praise God for your provision. As a humble leader, Joshua did not take credit for the victories under his command. As an example to all believers, he instead gave all the glory to God to encourage the Jews to have faith in Him during their future battles and struggles. Are you giving God the credit for all His provision and victories in your life?

2. Hope: Put Your Hope in His Spiritual Inheritance for You. Josh. 23:4-5.

  • God’s inheritance for His people. Among His many fulfilled promises, God was faithful to give the Jews an inheritance in the Promised Land: “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.” (Josh. 23:4-5). On many prior occasions, God promised this land for the Jews: “For all the land which you see [Abraham], to you will I give it, and to your seed forever... for I will give it unto you.” (Gen. 13:15, 17; 15:4-7). “This is the land which I swore unto Abraham,... saying, I will give it unto your seed.” (Dt. 34:4; Josh. 1:3-4; Ps. 105:8-11). By the end of Joshua’s life, God fulfilled His promises: “So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.” (Josh. 21:43). The fact that God was faithful to keep His promises to the Jews means that you can trust Him to keep His promises to you as well. What He offers is better than anything of the world. Are you putting your hope in the joy of the world to come or in this world?

  • Seize your spiritual inheritance. Every believer in Christ has a spiritual inheritance in Him: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Eph. 1:3). You have an inheritance in heaven that is so great that it cannot be adequately described: “[B]ut just as it is written, ‘Things which the eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’” (1 Cor. 2:9). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Ro. 8:18). You have also been blessed with “gifts” of the Spirit as part of your inheritance (1 Cor. 12:1-11). Are you developing the gifts of the Spirit that He has given to you for His glory?

3. Obedience: Obey God’s Commandments. Josh. 23:6-7.

  • Joshua’s charge for the tribes to remain obedient. Just as he did for the tribes who lived to the east of the Jordan River (Josh. 22:5), Joshua reminded the tribes inside the Promised Land of their obligation to remain obedient to God’s Law: “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.” (Josh. 23:6-7). Joshua began his address to the Jews with a similar call to obedience: “‘7 . . . be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.’” (Josh. 1:7). Obedience was a command that Moses also gave frequently (e.g., Dt. 6:3-4; 9:1; 20:3). Believers are to be obedient even if they do not understand. God’s thoughts and His ways are greater than our own (Is. 55:8). Joshua explained that obedience would keep the Jews free from becoming entangled from the sin of the idolatrous people around them (Josh. 23:7). Obedience to God will also protect believers today. Believers must not veer to either the left or the right in their walk: “They must not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, because Satan doesn't care which extreme he gets us off to. Either legalism or licentiousness please him.” (David Guzik of Joshua Chapter 23).2

  • Obedience will protect you from sorrow. Jesus also says that, if you love Him, you will keep His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His Commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the Law out of love instead of obligation is a test for whether you really know God: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3; 1 Cor. 7:19). Jesus did not call upon believers to be obedient for no reason at all. Instead, like the Jews, He calls upon believers to be obedient to protect them from the sorrow that comes from entanglements with sin. This can include the sorrow that comes from addiction or a carnal lifestyle. Is there any rebellion in your walk that would give Satan an opening to enslave you to sin?

4. Dependence: Depend Upon God for Protection. Josh. 23:8-10.

  • Joshua’s command for the Jews to cling to God. One part of obedience involves clinging to God’s Word, even when its purpose or timing seems unclear: “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.” (Josh. 23:8-10). Moses also told the Jews to “hold fast” or “cling” to God in reverent fear: “But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you.” (Dt. 4:4). “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.” (Dt. 10:20; 11:22). “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Dt. 13:4). The word “hold fast” in Hebrew “davak” was first used in Genesis 2:24. There, Moses stated that a “man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined “davak” to his wife.” This concept of clinging to God also has application for believers today.

Trust God to fight your battles3

  • Cling to Christ. Christians are also commanded to be joined with Christ: “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor. 6:17). To those who refuse to hold fast to Christ, He will respond when they approach Him: “I never knew you;” (Matt. 7:23). When you cling to God, His Spirit can speak to you and direct you (Jo. 14:26). When you are independent, it is harder for God to direct you. Do you cling to God throughout the day? Or, does He only occasionally occupy your thoughts?

  • When you cling to Him, He will bless you with protection. Joshua promised the Jews that those who cling to God would also see their enemies flee (Josh. 23:10). Moses made a similar promise: “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). For those who are obedient and take refuge in God in the face of the enemy, He promises to be a shield against the enemy’s fiery darts: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5(b); 2 Sam. 22:31). With God’s help Jonathon killed 20 enemy soldiers (1 Sam. 14:14). Likewise, it was God’s blessing that allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). God also used Gideon’s small army of only 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 enemy Midianites (Jdgs. 7:16-22; 8:10). Another type of protection that God offers is protection from the enemy’s attacks on your health: “And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Ex. 15:26; Dt. 7:15). Are you clinging to Jesus when you need protection?

5. Love: Love God With All Your Heart and Soul. Josh. 23:11.

  • Joshua’s command for the Jews to love God. Lasting obedience does not come out of obligation. It instead comes out of love: “11 So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God.” (Josh. 23:11). Legalism or ritual was not a path that would lead to Him. Instead, Moses advised that the person needed to search for God with all their heart and soul: Moses repeated this commandment many times: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dt. 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 30:6). The Psalmist exhorted the people to actively seek God out of love: “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.” (Ps. 105:4; 63:1; 42:1-2). So did the prophets (Is. 55:6-7; Amos 5:6). This commandment also applies to believers.

  • Christians are also called upon to love the Lord. Jesus restated this rule when asked to identify the greatest of the Ten Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul . . . ” (Lk. 10:27; Matt. 22:37-38). For those who love the Lord with all their heart, mind, and soul, He promises that the believer will find God: “He who seeks, finds.” (Lk. 11:10). If you love Him with all your heart, mind, and soul, you will want to obey Him out of gratitude. Are you diligently seeking Him each day? Or, do you only call out for help when something is wrong?

6. Sanctification: Don’t Be Joined Together With Nonbelievers. Josh. 23:12-13.

  • Joshua’s command for the Jews to avoid entanglements with nonbelievers. In order to keep the Jews on their walk with God, Joshua reminded them of their obligation not to be joined together with non-believers in marriage, business, or in foreign affairs: “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.” (Josh. 23:12-13). Moses gave a similar commandment to the Jews: “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.” (Dt. 7:3; Ex. 34:12-16). Like Joshua, Moses warned that a believer could be pulled off his or her walk if a believer became yoked together with a nonbeliever: “For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.” (Dt. 7:4). Solomon paid the price after failing to follow God’s Law. Out of lust and coveting, he took 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11:3). These included pagan-worshiping foreign wives who turned his heart away from God: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kgs. 11:4). These lessons also apply to believers today.

  • Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers. A person who marries becomes one flesh with the other person (Matt. 19:5-6). Thus, believers are not to be joined together with unbelievers: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnerships have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 15-18). Your heart cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). If you marry a non-believer, your heart may over time be pulled away from God. Some business arrangements might also pull you off your walk. Are you in a personal or business relationship where you are unequally yoked?

7. Reverence: Fear God By Hating Evil. Josh. 23:14-16.

  • Joshua’s warning of the curses under the Law. Joshua had previously reminded the Jews of the blessings that came with obedience (Josh. 22:6-9; 1:8-9). Here, he reminded the Jews that God would also keep His promises to use the curses under the Law as a tool for discipline if they turned away from Him: “14Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. 15 It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. 16 When you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you will perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you.”’ (Josh. 23:14-16). God has more penalties for disobedience than blessings for obedience (Lev. 26:14-39; Dt. 28:15-29:28). Thus, “[t]he fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; Ps. 111:10). “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil . . ..” (Prov. 8:13). If you find yourself wandering in a spiritual desert, ask for God to reveal any rebellion in your heart (Ps. 139:23). Unless you fear the Lord by hating evil, you may drift into rebellion like the Jews did. Are you tolerating evil in your life?

Trust in God’s Word4

  • Satan shows you the thrill without showing you the bill. For everything that is good, Satan has created a counterfeit. The Bible says that sin is pleasurable “for a season.” (Heb. 11:25). But that pleasure never lasts. If you are sinning in secret, God warns: “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23(b); Gen. 4:7). Although your salvation is not tied to your obedience, a lifestyle outside the protections of His Commandments can lead to the following 40 progressively severe curses: (1) resistance / opposition (Dt. 28:16); (2) scarcity (Dt. 28:17 ); (3) infertility (Dt. 28:18); (4) failure (Dt. 28:19); (5) rebuke (Dt. 28:20); (6) hardships (Dt. 28:21); (7) illness (Dt. 28:22); (8) drought (Dt. 28:23-24); (9) defeat (Dt. 28:25); (10) fear (Dt. 28:26-27); (11) disease (Dt. 28:28); (12) confusion (Dt. 28:28-29); (13) stolen spouses (Dt. 28:30(a)); (14) stolen property (Dt. 28:30(b)-31, 33(a)); (15) stolen children (Dt. 28:32); (16) oppression (Dt. 28:33(b)); (17) mental illness (Dt. 28:34); (18) sores and lost beauty (Dt. 28:35); (19) idolatry (Dt. 28:36); (20) being vilified (Dt. 28:37); (21) insect plagues (Dt. 28:38-39); (22) a seared conscience (Dt. 28:40); (23) enslaved youth (the second curse against children) (Dt. 28:41); (24) barren lands (Dt. 28:42); (25) indebtedness (Dt. 28:43-44); (26) destruction (Dt. 28:45-6); (27) captivity (Dt. 28:47(a)); (28) suffering (Dt. 28:47(b)); (29) invasion (Dt. 28:49-50); (30) pillaging (Dt. 28:51); (31) being besieged (Dt. 28:52); (32) self-destruction (Dt. 28:53); (33) husbands turning on their wives (Dt. 28:54-55); (34) wives turning on their husbands (Dt. 28:56-57); (35) unending plagues (Dt. 28:58-59(a)); (36) unending diseases (Dt. 28:59(b)-60); (37) other calamities (Dt. 28:61); (38) population collapse (Dt. 28:62-63); (39) exile (Dt. 28:64); and (40) despair (Dt. 28:65-68). When you step outside the protections of the His Commandments, you leave yourself unprotected from the attacks of the enemy and the curses that God may allow to discipline you. Are you living outside of God’s protections?