Joshua’s Farewell Address
Open Your Bible
Joshua 23:1-16, Matthew 22:37-40, Philippians 1:6
We’ve all seen it before in books or plays. Long lost relatives turn up out of nowhere. A bright blue sky conveniently starts pouring rain onto a parched, dry land. Eagles swoop in unexpectedly and save the day. These are examples of deus ex machina, a phrase referring to a story’s unexpected, sometimes unbelievable, turn of events. It’s a plot device that abruptly offers a way out of catastrophe as events unfold outside the existing logic of a story.
At first glance, the book of Joshua is one long string of seemingly unbelievable twists and turns. The sun stands still, the walls of Jericho fall, and the Israelites cross the Jordan River after it miraculously dries up. Too good to be true, right? Except these divine victories unfold perfectly within the book’s framework because this is the story of our faithful God fighting on behalf of His people—just like He promised (Joshua 23:3, 10). It’s too good not to be true.
Can you imagine the relief Joshua must have felt near the end of his life? Scripture tells us that by the time Israel found rest from their enemies, Joshua was “advanced in age” (Joshua 23:1). He had the satisfaction of seeing each of God’s promises to him fulfilled with his own eyes. While giving a final address to the Israelites, Joshua stood as a witness to God’s character and said: “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” (v.14).
Do we also know this with all our heart and soul? As we watch the Lord fight on behalf of His appointed leader, we see God’s primary promise was that He would never abandon Joshua. He was promising His presence. For those of us who are in Christ, we are promised the gift of God’s presence in the Holy Spirit, who is always with us (John 14:16). This is a promise we can count on for the rest of our lives.
I think one of the most encouraging things we can do in our journey with the Lord is read stories of God’s faithfulness in the lives of others. His divine victory is no fallible plot twist. We can expect it, believe it, and even petition for it with fervor because God is for us (Romans 8:31). He does what He says He will do. Historical narratives like the book of Joshua renew our trust in God and the promise of His presence as we trace His hand at work through the lives of His people.
We can remember and rejoice that our God always keeps His promises. “I am sure of this,” we can say along with our brothers and sisters, “that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).