God’s Covenant People (Joshua 23:1-14)
“God bless America, Land that I love.” We love America because of the privileges we have. Because we love America, we fulfill our obligations to her.
We are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). As citizens of heaven, we have privileges. As citizens of heaven, we have responsibilities.
This is Joshua’s farewell address. He is old and advanced in age–he had one final message for Israel. He called for all Israel–he had a message so important that everyone needed to hear it.
As God people, we keep:
Receiving God’s Blessings, vv 3-5
The Lord had blessed Israel. He had done good to them. God had sent other nations out of Canaan because of his people. God had fought for Israel. When Joshua was by Jericho, he saw the Commander of the Army of the LORD (Josh. 5:13-15). These nations were driven out by God’s power, not by the Israelites’ power (Josh. 24:11-12). Only when Israel sinned did they lose in battle (Josh. 7:11-12).
He had given them Canaan as an inheritance. This land flowed with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8). When Moses sent spies into Canaan, they cut down a cluster of grapes and carried it between two of them (Num. 13:23). This was good land they were receiving as an inheritance.
He would expel the other nations from the land. God would expel these pagan nations. God would expel these pagan nations because he promised to do so.
God has given us blessings has well. God has given us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). Every good and perfect gift is from above (Js. 1:17).
God’s Law, v 6
The Israelites were told to keep all that was written in the law. The Israelites needed to do what God had said, not just part of it.
We need to keep God’s law. Jesus told his disciples to teach new converts to keep all that he had taught (Matt. 28:20). Those who keep God’s word are blessed (Lk. 11:28). Those who do God’s will will enter heaven (Matt. 7:21). Some have a “cafeteria” attitude toward religion. Some think this way in regard to the church. Others think this way in regard to morality.
The Israelites were to turn neither to the right hand nor to the left. The Israelites could not turn from what God had revealed–they simply needed to do what God had revealed. We in the church need to turn neither to the right hand nor to the left. There is no place for liberalism in the church. There is no place for conservatives in the church. We can be neither liberal nor conservative; we need simply to do what the Bible says. We should not even think beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). We can neither add to nor subtract from God’s Word (Rev. 22:18-19).
Themselves Separate, vv 7-13
Instead of honoring the gods of those around them, the Israelites were to honor the true God. This would be in keeping with the first commandment (Ex. 20:3). The Israelites could not live like those around them. The pagans who lived among them would honor these gods. But, the Israelites had to live differently.
We, too, must live differently than the world around us. We are to have a higher standard of morality than the rest of the world. We can’t tell the same jokes everyone else tells. We can’t watch the same TV programs everyone else watches.
Some people want to “fit in” and do what everyone else does. Yet, the majority will not enter heaven (Matt. 7:13-14). Therefore, the majority isn’t a safe guide for our morality.
The Israelites were to honor God, for he had blessed them. All the nations had been driven out before them. God would fight for the Israelites. God has blessed us, and because he has blessed us, we must live differently.
The Israelites were not to marry the pagans. Marriage is the closest of human relationships–husbands and wives can greatly influence one another. If they did marry pagans, the Lord would no longer drive out these nations before them–The promise would be lost. The nations would torment the Israelites. This happened just like God said (Jud. 2:11-15). Solomon’s heart was turned away by his wives (1 Ki. 11:1-4).
We need to be careful about the company we keep. “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33). “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14).
Joshua told Israel that he was going the way of all the earth. Joshua here refers to his death. His point is that all people die.
When you go the way of all the earth, where will you be going?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.