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19. Joshua 23: “A Warning About Regression”

Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 4/19/2012

(edited October 2019)

This passage of Scripture deals with the threat of spiritual regression in ancient Israel. Joshua, their leader, is very concerned that the People of God, having conquered the Promised land, will fall back into the ways of the world around them. He was right to worry.


Verses 1-2: “And it came to pass a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:”


This is the wisdom and concern of an older man, a seasoned believer. He is challenging the generation that will shortly be fully assuming his place:


Verses 3-4: “And ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is he that hath fought for you. Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.”


It’s not about what they will do, but what God will do for them.


Verse 5: And the Lord your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the Lord your God hath promised unto you.”


And their obedience to Him:


Verses 6-8:  Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.”


And their love for Him:

Verses 9-11:  For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God.”


Loving the Lord, remaining close to Him in bad or good times is a challenge for New Covenant believers, also (wouldn’t you agree?). We too must behold and appreciate His wonderful works in our lives. We too need to recognize His purpose and mission for us.


Verses 12-13:  Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.”


Joshua knew that the victory they had all been sharing would be threatened if the People got closer to the heathen around them than the God Who had delivered them. Intermarriage might seem harmless at first, or even natural, but it would bring defeat in the end. And, for them, it eventually did.


Verse 14:  And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.”


I sometimes try to remind myself, when confronting ideas or activities that seem to be spiritually questionable: Is this something I would choose or support if I knew for sure my life was nearing its end?


This is the stage that Joshua had come to in his life. One day, many years before, this man had been called to replace Moses as the leader of God’s People. As a servant of Moses for many years, Joshua had been groomed by the Lord for this assignment. He had learned humility and service as a servant, then boldness and victory (and recovery from defeat) as a leader. Now he’s reminding them all that Jehovah alone saves and keeps them. He fears they will forget that:


Verses 15-16:  Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the Lord your God promised you; so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.  When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.”


The Old Testament Jews would have to cling to the Lord, if they wanted to stay in their Land of Promise. In the end, Joshua was prudent to be concerned. They failed, regressed, reversed, backslide and the Promised Land fell.


Can a New Testament believer fail the Lord and see his promise of Heaven somehow rescinded? I don’t pretend to know it all here, but I do have thoughts about this. In fact, this issue brings a flood of New Testament passages to my mind. But, for time sake, I want to close tonight by focusing on just one of them in

I John 2:21-29.


“I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.  Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.  Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.  Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”


Long after Joshua’s time, the Apostle John found and followed The Messiah on earth, became an Apostle of the New Covenant, and then, he himself, grew old. In this passage John is admonishing the “New” Jews (believers in Christ now from all nations). And as a leader, like Joshua, nearing the end of his life John was concerned about the efficacy (the maintaining) of ALL the promises God had made to the New Covenant Church.


Today, a believer is not bound by their works as was the case with Ancient Israel (as in: if you sin you are lost and if you do neutral or good things you are saved). Rather, the person who accepts Christ as their personal Savior, is now adopted by the Father and made an heir of eternal life. A life in Heaven that no true believer can EVER lose. But, like Joshua, John admonishes us to be aware of seduction in our world and of the temptation we must daily face to turn away from Our God.


Good works and fidelity are no longer the substance of our relationship with God, but they still indicate the vitality of our relationship with Him. Let us pray that the New Israel, the Church, never fails! And may all of us, who openly confess faith in Jesus Christ, never fall.