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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Joshua 23

Verse 1

Joshua 23:1

At the death of Moses a sudden gleam of heaven, as it were, came over the elder Church. The law seemed for a while suspended as regards its threats and punishments; all was privilege on the one side, all was obedience on the other. Joshua led the people forward, conquering and to conquer; he led them into rest and prosperity. His history is made up of two parts: triumph and peace. Such a blessed season never returned to the Church of Israel till that Church was made glorious by the coming of the Sun of righteousness, and was brought forth out of the shadows and dreariness of the law into the fulness of grace and truth.

I. First, as is very obvious, Joshua is a type of our Lord Jesus Christ as regards his name, for Joshua is in Hebrew what Jesus is in Greek.

II. Joshua is a type of Christ in an act of grace which he exercised, and that to his enemy Rahab. Why have we at once a sinful woman spared and admitted into covenant on her faith, nay privileged in the event to become the ancestress of our Lord, except that in Joshua the reign of the Saviour is typified, and that the pardon of a sinner is its most appropriate attendant?

III. As Joshua answers to our Lord in his name and in his clemency, so, too, does he in his mode of appointment. Moses chose Joshua, who had no claim or title to be chosen; he consecrated him, not in a legal, but in a Gospel, way; he prefigured in him the ministers of Christ and soldiers of His Church. Joshua was chosen, not by the will of men, but by the will of God.

IV. In a special way God's choice ended in Joshua. He did not receive it by inheritance, nor are heirs mentioned to whom he left it. He who divided the land by lot, who gave to each his portion to enjoy, is allotted in the sacred history neither wife, nor children, nor choice possession. In this he was the type of the Lord Himself, who, "though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich."

V. We read of no lamentation of friends, no special honours being paid to Joshua, at his death. He was buried neither by his sons nor by the assembled people, as if to teach us to raise up our hearts to Him for whom no mourning was to be made, for He was the living among the dead; and though for a while He laid Himself down in the grave, He did it that, there lying, He might quicken the dead by His touch, that so first He and then they all might rise again and live for ever.

VI. Joshua did not accomplish all the work that was to be done, but left a remnant to those who came after him. And so in like manner Christ has done the whole work of redemption for us, and yet it is no contradiction to say that something remains for us to do: we have to take the redemption offered to us, and that taking involves a work. He has suffered and conquered, and those who become partakers in Him undergo in their own persons the shadow and likeness of that great victory. We advance by yielding; we rise by falling; we conquer by suffering; we persuade by silence; we become rich by bountifulness; we gain comfort through mourning; we earn glory by penitence and prayer.

J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 150.

Verses 1-3

Joshua 23:1-6.23.3 .

Joshua and St. John stand out as if in direct hostility to each other. We know that the Book of Joshua must have been read by the Apostle in his childhood, his manhood, his old age. Let us inquire how at different times of his life he must have regarded it.

I. We find him first as a Galilean fisherman. At that time the book of the wars of the Lord may have had some attraction for him. He would receive it as coming from Divine authority, but there was nothing which bound it to his actual human sympathies. What was there in what he saw and heard that could make any Jew feel that he belonged to a chosen, vigorous, triumphant people?

II. It is a common notion, suggested by his own words, that the Apostle was a hearer and disciple of John the Baptist. The immediate appeal of John's preaching was undoubtedly to the individual conscience. Each man was awakened to a sense of his own evil. He wished, first of all, for a baptism for the remission of sins. Such a thought absorbs for a while a man's being. The disciples of John would not in general have found leisure to think of the Book of Joshua.

III. Another period came. John was called to be Christ's disciple. Christ said that He was come to establish a kingdom, and His followers were sure that He did not deceive them; and now all that they had heard in the old Scriptures of a kingdom that was to put down the tyrants and giants of the earth came to life in their minds. They would dwell on the battles of Joshua and David with an earnest delight, with a confidence that they were battles fought on their behalf, in the like of which they might one day be permitted to engage, with a prospect of a more complete and permanent victory.

IV. But there came a fourth stage in St. John's life. After he had leant upon his Lord's breast at the Last Supper and had stood beside His Cross, his strong belief in Christ as a Conqueror through suffering may for a time have made him unable to understand the triumph with which the old Israelite leader records the discomfiture and extinction of the Canaanitish hosts. But this feeling would be accompanied by two others: (1) with a distinct acknowledgment that Joshua's battles were tending to the establishment of a righteous kingdom upon earth; (2) that the Christian man is in as literal a sense a warrior as the Jew ever was.

V. In his old age, as he sat alone in the island of Patmos, may not St. John have found in the old leader of his country's hosts a teacher and a friend? He could learn from him that there is a Divine and gracious purpose in that which looks darkest and saddest: he was told that nations are not swept out of the earth for nothing, that the earth is God's, and that He will reclaim it from those who lay it waste and make it a den of robbers.

F. D. Maurice, Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 305.

Verse 8

Joshua 23:8

I. It could be only in a limited sense that this praise could be given to the children of Israel; their great crime through all periods of their history was that they did not cleave unto the Lord their God. But probably during that score of years which intervened between the entrance into Canaan and the death of Joshua the Hebrews were more true in their allegiance to their heavenly King than at any other period. As yet they had everything to preserve them in their steadfastness, and there was no strength of temptation to allure them to rebellion. While Joshua lived they did cleave as fully as they ever cleaved to the Lord their God.

II. Our only safeguard in facing the snares and temptations, the malice and opposition, the craft and cunning, of the devil, the world, and the flesh is to cleave unto the Lord our God. "Keep innocency and take heed unto the thing that is right," and you will find the boldness of evil abashed and the designs of evil powerless before you. Cleave unto God quietly, but resolutely and consistently. "Take good heed to yourselves that ye love the Lord your God." Fear will never induce you to cleave to Him. Love will. And if you cleave unto the Lord, none shall be able to stand before you, or to gain the mastery over you.

F. E. Paget, Sermons for Special Occasions, p. 115.

Verses 11-15

Joshua 23:11-6.23.15

I. In this speech Joshua once more presses upon the people their true character as the chosen people of the Lord God. He is able now to appeal to facts in evidence of the truth which had once been matters of faith; he is able now to point to what God has done, to call the people themselves to witness that all the promises of God have come to pass, and that not one good thing hath failed of all those which the Lord their God had promised them.

II. Joshua found in his old age nothing to retract of what he had said in former times concerning God and the people, and the relation of the one to the other. He next implores the people to guard against backsliding. He says: Go on as you have begun, and God will bless you; your shame, and misery, and damnation will be if you turn back from following the Lord.

III. Once more, looking forward to the future, Joshua declares that, in case of the Israelites going back from their high position as God's people, God would punish them as severely as hitherto He had blessed them bounteously. The possession of the land had been the reward of obedience; the loss of the same would be the punishment of disobedience.

All the points in Joshua's speech might be applied by a Christian minister to a Christian congregation. Consider: (1) whether you are sufficiently alive to your high calling, and profession, and privileges; (2) whether you are guarding against backsliding in your religious course; (3) whether you think sufficiently of the danger of offending God and of the awfulness of that judgment-seat before which the living and the dead must alike one day stand.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 108.

References: Joshua 23:14 . J. Vaughan, Sermons, 10th series, p. 256; A. Raleigh, Thoughts for the Weary, p. 81.Joshua 24:4 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1718. Joshua 24:9 , Joshua 24:10 . Expositor, 2nd series, vol. v., p. 407; H. Thompson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 1st series, p. 26. Joshua 24:13 . J. Vickery, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 133.Joshua 24:14 . G. Woolnough, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 307. Joshua 24:14 , Joshua 24:15 . J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 116.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Joshua 23". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/joshua-23.html.