Sermon – September 17, 2017
The book of Joshua has much to say to us today. While primarily focused on the promise-keeping God, and his faithful servants, it was likely written at a time when those promises were somewhat in doubt, and servants to the most high God were few to be found. Therefore, the book isn’t just about building up faith in God, but about how the people of Israel were to maintain their relationship with this merciful and gracious God. To that end, the last three chapters surround three important meetings with the people and Joshua. In these meetings, we find that while the warriors have largely returned to their farms, the fight is not over.
1. Fight for holiness internally (Josh 22)
When the western tribes hear that those on the far side of the Jordan have erected an altar, they march out, prepared for war to stop the apostasy. The eastern tribes understand the action of the western tribes, but have concerns of their own, namely that their separation from the rest of the nation would lead those on the west to consider them as outsiders. On both sides, we can see the desire for the holiness of God’s people in worshipping God. We must protect our holiness before the Lord, whether that means going to battle to uphold the gospel, or proactively working to protect ourselves.
2. Fight for holiness externally (Josh 23)
While there are certainly dangers inside Israel, a great deal more exists outside. In one of Joshua’s last remarks to the people of Israel, he again warns them of the great danger that surrounds them – the foreign nations, who do not worship the true and living God. Such idol worship will pervert the Israelites if they do not cling tightly to God. We, likewise, are surrounded by people, cultures, structures, and philosophies that would rend us from God. While we cannot hide from the world, we must be careful to protect ourselves from it.
3. Fight for holiness daily (Josh 24)
Joshua, in his final address, after calling attention to the great gracious acts of God in providing the land to a family of idolaters, presses home the most important resolution the Israelites, and we, will make: “choose this day whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15). Joshua himself perhaps meant this as a onetime resolution, but we know that it cannot be that. Each day, so long as it is called “this day,” you must choose. Will you serve the living God, resurrected to life, Jesus Christ our Lord? Or will you serve other gods of your own making, with neither the power to save nor the power to give life?
Joshua is a book that centers on one primary thought: God is good to his promises; therefore, his people should rely upon him, trust him, and respond to what he says. This works for the good and the bad: God will bring blessings to those who trust and act, and destruction to those who stray in unbelief.