Joshua 23-24:1 – How Israel May Remain in Canaan
1. The Word of God to Israel (23)
In the past, the Israelites were often assembled to discuss things together, or, more importantly, to hear the Word of the LORD. In ch.23 we read that the Israelites gather together again.
Question 1: When did they gather? (See vv.1,2b, and 14a.) Who exactly was called? (See v.2.) Why were they called? (See following paragraph.)
Joshua ‑ and he says so himself ‑ has become old and advanced in years. He has come to the final phase of his task as leader over Israel. For that reason he reminds (the leaders of) the people of what has taken place up until then.
Question 2: What two things does Joshua mention about the LORD? (See vv.3b‑5.)
Joshua urges the people to constantly serve the LORD their God and him alone, and to prove their dedication by obeying him in all aspects of life (vv.6‑8).
Question 3: The Israelites are exhorted to 'cleave to the LORD your God' (v.8). We encounter this expression in the Form for Baptism (below the third part; read this section). What does this mean? (Read v.12!) The Israelites are to do the same thing as Joshua had done. (Compare v.6 with 1:7‑9 and outline 1.3, fourth paragraph.) In connection with this, we should consider how to treat Holy Scriptures (Rev 22:18,19). What danger threatened the people? (See vv.7, 8 and 12.)
In vv.9‑11 Joshua repeats why they ought to serve the LORD. God's people must always reflect and meditate on God's mighty deeds in thankfulness (cf. Acts 2:11b).
Question 4: Examine why Israel has good reasons to love the LORD by first reading vv.9a and 10b and then vv.9b and 10a. On the basis of these facts, what is the conclusion? (See v.11.)
Joshua warns the people as well (vv.12‑13).
Question 5: What does Joshua warn them about? (See v.12.) What would be the result of their intermarrying? (See v.13.) Why is the timing of this warning crucial? (See vv.14a and 1a.)
Using even more forceful language, Joshua warns the Israelites a third time (vv.14‑16). The entry into Canaan has come to a completion. The LORD has fought for them. They had to follow him faithfully and obediently. For the remainder of their lives in Canaan it had to remain that way. They completely rely on the LORD, not only during the conquest, but also for always.
Question 6: What are the Israelites asked to do? (See v.14.1) What are we required to do? (Think about the third part the Heidelberg Catechism.)
2. Covenantal wrath (23:11‑13,15,16)
Either the Israelites are for the LORD or against him. It is either one or the other. The LORD is no different: either he is for them or against them!
Whether they want to serve the LORD or not, they must know how the LORD has helped them in the past.
As the LORD fought for his people in order to fulfill his covenantal promises, so the LORD will turn against his people if they turn away from him. (Read vv.15 and 16.) They live in Canaan due to the LORD's strength. However, if they turn away from him he will exert his great strength to remove them from Canaan in his wrath.
Through Joshua, the LORD here deals with his covenantal wrath. The covenant that the LORD made with his nation remains in force. Therefore, besides the promise and the obligation, the imminence of God's wrath if his covenant is broken, as well as God's grace, remain in effect.
Question 7: Can the church of the New Testament read about God's covenantal wrath in ch.23 and say that these are merely interesting historical facts? The letter to the Hebrews is especially clear about this subject. (Read e.g. Heb 4:8‑13; 8 and 10:26‑39.)
3. The renewal of the covenant (24:1)
In ch.24 we read that Joshua assembles Israel once again. All the people representing all the tribes come together at Shechem.
Question 8: Do you think that literally all the Israelites, young and old, were present there? See the next part of v.1: "...and summoned..." Yet, the emphasis is that the whole nation in fact was present and addressed. Why did they gather at Shechem? (See Gen 12:6 and 7.) What does it mean that they 'presented themselves before God'?
The reason why the LORD wants the whole nation to present themselves before him is even clearer at this meeting. All of God's people have to give him their answer. The LORD gave them the land of Canaan out of pure grace. Therefore, he alone must be worshipped as God. Through the renewal of the covenant, Joshua presents God's right to the people of Israel. All of the people must answer and show that they choose for the LORD, as he had chosen them. This matter is addressed in detail in ch.24.
Question 9: What was the great danger that threatened Israel in Canaan? (See e.g. v.20.)
In the next and last outline we will continue our focus on the renewal of the covenant when we deal with 24:2‑28.