One of the memorable events of the Olympic Games is the Torch Relay. The Olympic Flame is lit at Olympia in Greece and then carried by relay to the host-city of the games. For the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the flame traveled 101 days through 17 cities and provinces in South Korea. It was carried by runner, cow, robot, hot air balloon, and helicopter. The Torch Relay symbolizes the passing of Olympic traditions from one generation to the next.
Nearing the end of his life, General Joshua is ready to pass the torch to the next generation. When the book opens, Joshua and Caleb are 78 years old. In chapter 14, they are 85 years old. Chapter 22 occurs that same year and peace is declared after seven years of fighting to conquer the Promised Land. In chapter 24, Joshua dies at the age of 110. Chapter 23, where Joshua passes the torch, occurs somewhere towards the end of his life, between 10-25 years after the events of chapter 22.
Joshua calls the leaders of Israel together (23:2). His message is simple and direct. Because God keeps his promises, we should obey his commandments. Since God has been faithful, we should be faithful.
Joshua begins by reminding the leaders of God’s faithfulness (23:3-5). Over the past seven years, they had been eyewitnesses of God’s power and miracles. They saw God part the Jordan River, bring down the walls of Jericho, rain hail down on the enemy army, and make the sun and moon stand still for the longest day of battle. Not only are these miracles cause for celebration, but they should instill confidence for the future.
In light of God’s faithfulness, we should stay centered on God’s Word (23:6-11). In 1:7-8, God told Joshua to obey and meditate on God’s Word. Now, Joshua instructs the leaders to keep and do God’s Word (23:6). As Joshua knew firsthand, it was the secret of success.
Joshua cautions Israel about not giving in to small compromises (23:7). Instead, they are to cling tightly to God (23:8). The word “cling” is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 to describe a marriage relationship. In the same way that a marriage is made strong by a husband and wife holding fast to each other, so we are to cling to God. Clinging to God will bring power and victory (23:9-10).
In addition, Joshua challenges the leaders to love God with all of their being (23:11). Centering your life and God’s Word, clinging tightly to him, and loving him with all your heart will protect us from falling away from God.
Joshua closes his charge by reminding the leaders of what will happen if they disobey (23:12-16). If they give in to the short-term pleasure of sin and choose to associate and intermarry with their neighbors, they will lose God’s favor and he will no longer fight their battles for them. In addition, their neighbors will become a snare, trap, whip, and thorns. And they themselves will ultimately perish.
Godly living is not accomplished by winning a single skirmish but by enlisting for lifelong service. For Joshua and Israel, the clashing of swords had stopped, but the need for a faithful, diligent commitment was greater than ever.
Because God keeps his promises, we should obey his commandments.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 13, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.