Joshua’s Farewell to the Leaders (23:1–16)
12–13 Joshua (and Moses before him) knew that the greatest danger facing Israel was apostasy—the worshiping of false gods. And as had happened before(Numbers25:13), this temptation would come through association with ungodly nations—in particular, with the women of those nations. If Israel persisted in associating with such nations, God would no longer drive them out, and they would become snares and traps for the Israelites.68
14–16 Joshua reminded the Israelite leaders that God had been faithful in fulfilling His promises to Israel; not one of them had failed (see Joshua 21:45). But for that very reason, the Israelites should know that God would be equally faithful in fulfilling His threats—if Israel were to violate the covenant by serving other gods (verses 15–16). If the Israelites continued to keep God’s covenant, they would continue to receive His blessings (see Leviticus 26:313). But if the Israelites failed to keep His covenant, they would surely receive His punishments (see Leviticus 26:14–39).
Let us summarize Joshua’s speech. For Israel to continue to enjoy God’s blessings in the promised land, they needed to do three things. First, they needed to obey God’s word (verse 6). Second, they needed to separate themselves from ungodly influences (verse 7). And third, they needed to give themselves to their Lord in love—to love Him with their whole being (verse 11). We, too, must do these same three things if we are to continue to experience the blessings we have been given in Christ.
We usually think of Joshua as a great soldier. But in this chapter we also see him as a great shepherd. His overriding concern was that the Israelites not lose the blessings—the inheritance—they had received from God. The Apostles Paul and Peter had a similar concern (Acts 20:17–31; 1 Peter 5:1–4; 2 Peter 1:12–15). And that same concern should be foremost in the mind of every Christian leader today: namely, that those under them might be built up in the Lord—taught, exhorted, admonished—so that they remain faithful and do not lose their inheritance in Christ.