Joshua's Farewell Speech
1The Lord let Israel live in peace with its neighbors for a long time, and Joshua lived to a ripe old age. 2One day he called a meeting of the leaders of the tribes of Israel, including the old men, the judges, and the officials. Then he told them:
I am now very old. 3You have seen how the Lord your God fought for you and helped you defeat the nations who lived in this land. 4-5There are still some nations left, but the Lord has promised you their land. So when you attack them, he will make them run away. I have already divided their land among your tribes, as I did with the land of the nations I defeated between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
6Be sure that you carefully obey everything written in The Book of the Law of Moses and do exactly what it says.
7Don't have anything to do with the nations that live around you. Don't worship their gods or pray to their idols or make promises in the names of their gods. 8Be as faithful to the Lord as you have always been.
9When you attacked powerful nations, the Lord made them run away, and no one has ever been able to stand up to you. 10 Any one of you can defeat a thousand enemy soldiers, because the Lord God fights for you, just as he promised. 11Be sure to always love the Lord your God. 12-13Don't ever turn your backs on him by marrying people from the nations that are left in the land. Don't even make friends with them. I tell you that if you are friendly with those nations, the Lord won't chase them away when you attack. Instead, they'll be like a trap for your feet, a whip on your back, and thorns in your eyes. And finally, none of you will be left in this good land that the Lord has given you.
14I will soon die, as everyone must. But deep in your hearts you know that the Lord has kept every promise he ever made to you. Not one of them has been broken. 15-16Yes, when the Lord makes a promise, he does what he has promised. But when he makes a threat, he will also do what he has threatened. The Lord is our God. He gave us this wonderful land and made an agreement with us that we would worship only him. But if you worship other gods, it will make the Lord furious. He will start getting rid of you, and soon not one of you will be left in this good land that he has given you.
Peace has come to the land and while much is left to be done, the old warrior and leader, Joshua is tired and ready to pass on. These are his last words, spoken deeply and powerfully by a leader who loves his people, but unfortunately also knows them. He knows they have short memories and he is aware that they have a tendency to want to rebel and choose other gods. He is already observing things in their lives that concern him. So, as any good leader on his way out would, he calls them together for one last hopeful call to be faithful and his words are helpful for us as well.
He reminds them that they have seen God at work and urges them not to forget. The short memories of the people of God in the Old Testament are legendary but we shouldn’t be surprised. We have short memories as well. So it is no wonder that he wants them to remember what God has done. He asks them to hold on to those times when God has been particularly present. We would do well to remind ourselves as well, and remember those times we so easily forget.
He also calls them to obey (v 6). Joshua is obviously concerned that the people will compromise their beliefs over the next years. The temptation to do so in this day and age is just as seductive. He is careful to point them to the consequences of turning from God but mostly he calls them to “stand fast.”
Yet one thing stands out in his final words to the people. It is a reminder that it is not blind belief that God is calling for, nor an obedience that simply comes out of fear of the consequences. It is something much simpler and much richer in its life-giving nature. Do it out of love! “So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” (v 11)
Faithful God, you have stuck with us through the journey of our lives. You have never forsaken or left us. We love you God, but our love sometimes is so fickle. Thank you for loving us in our carelessness and yet lead us to a place where that love continues to grow deeper and wider – never letting you go. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.