As we begin this week’s study in the latter part of the Biblical book of Joshua, we know that the wars are over, and Joshua is now an old man. He had led the Nation of Israel into the Promised Land, and the people are living within its’ borders. Joshua begins his final address to the Israelites, and we open in Joshua 23:2-13. “I am now old and well advanced in years. And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the LORD your God promised you. Therefore, 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. For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you wand make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.” (ESV)
It is clear that his intentions are to encourage the Israelites to stay true to the LORD. I am struck here by his leadership given in the beginning of what one could call his retirement speech. He simply opens with the fact that he is old and probably won’t be around much longer. He then immediately drives to the point. He immediately drives to the LORD. He doesn’t speak of his success in leading this huge military series of engagements. He speaks of the LORD’s accomplishments. This is true Godly leadership. He turns the focus off of himself, and places it squarely on the shoulders of the LORD where it belongs. The LORD has big shoulders. I think he builds his humility to the LORD in what could be viewed as a comparison. He gives God full credit for winning the battles, and Joshua tells the people it was for them that He did this. However, this is contrasted with Joshua giving the allotments of the land. It is almost as if he is saying: “The LORD did all this for you, and all I did was take care of the smaller matters.” Again a fine example of servant leadership as a servant of the LORD.
He then gives a glimpse of the things to come, but it is conditional. The LORD will finish driving out the remainder of people in the land, if the people cling to Him. This word “cling” is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 describing the relationship between a husband and wife. What is interesting here is Joshua uses this word twice in our text today. He says you should cling to the LORD in verse eight, but also says that you shouldn’t cling to the remnant of the nations that were still in Canaan in verse twelve. I find that Joshua left no room in the middle. This is not a spectrum in his mind. It isn’t 65 percent cling to the LORD and 35 percent cling to the remnant. It was to cling to God or cling to the remnant.
Some people today desire lower percentages of God’s influence in their lives. Some only look for about 15 percent or so, and they are good with taking the rest for what they want. There is a problem with that. It’s math. Some take a higher road and desire 60 percent God’s influence in their lives and the rest is theirs. There is a problem with that as well. There is no percentage system in Joshua’s understanding of being a servant of the LORD. It is simply you are His or your are not His. You follow Him or you follow something or someone else.
I want to encourage you all this week to allow God’s influence in your lives to be total. Let us allow His wishes in our lives to take full and complete precedence over anything else. This doesn’t mean that we are all called to seminary, but it does mean that we are called to listen, obey and serve our God as people who were created by Him. As we do this let us gently lead our brothers and sisters into this understanding as well. If we believe Scripture to be true and love our brothers and sisters it naturally follows.
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Joshua 23:11 – “Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.”