Text: Joshua 23:1-16, Joshua 24:1-33, Matthew 11:28-30, Hebrews 4:1-13
Even the greatest leaders die. As Joshua prepared for the end of his life, he addressed Israel—those people of God who had followed him through impossible circumstances to an improbable reward.
“I am now going the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the good promises the Lord your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed.”
- Joshua 23:14
It was time for Joshua to go. In keeping with his steady voice as their leader, Joshua’s farewell address was a plea for Israel to do three things: Remember what God has done. Obey Him courageously and completely. Worship Him alone.
I like to picture the scene as Joshua stood there in front of the tribes, relaying one last message from the Lord. I like to imagine the passion in his voice as he recounted their treacherous journey—how God rescued His people from generations of idol worship and multiplied their descendants, how He rescued them from slavery in Egypt and sustained them in the wilderness, and how He ushered them into the promised land, handing them every victory along the way. This line is my favorite:
“I gave you a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build, though you live in them; you are eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.”
- Joshua 24:13
The Lord did it all. And Joshua, with all the earnestness his 110 years could muster, was asking Israel to remember, to obey, and to worship the God of the Rescue.
This was not a call for arbitrary emotion or passive intention. This request was active and specific. Joshua gave the people instructions specific to their time and circumstance, but his admonition echoes even to us: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship Yahweh” (Joshua 24:22). In other words, Don’t just say this. Mean it. Do it.
“We are witnesses,” they said back to him.
“Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 23).
I like Joshua’s style: “Okay then. Get on with it.”
Joshua was a good leader. But even he did not perfectly fulfill the promises he solicited from the people. Even Joshua was a sinner in need of a savior. He was used by the Lord to secure a tangible inheritance for his people. But, like Joshua himself, that inheritance was only temporary. The rest from war would not last.
Not even Joshua could bring God’s people salvation.
Joshua couldn’t, but Jesus did.
Jesus obeyed perfectly and followed the Father faithfully. And when we did not and could not? Jesus satisfied God’s wrath for our sin and granted us the eternal benefit of His perfect obedience (Romans 3:25-26). Jesus has gone ahead of us into the very death that was ours and conquered it on our behalf (2 Timothy 1:10). Christ secured for us an inheritance that is eternal, a rest that will last (Hebrews 4:9).
Here in the last chapters of Joshua, as we look back over the epic story of what God did for His people, we lean in and listen to the wise old man’s words: Remember what God has done. Obey Him courageously and completely. Worship Him alone.
Be faithful to the God of the Rescue. And when your faithfulness fails, lean wholly on the grace of Christ.