Advice from Joshua
The Advise of Joshua
In our world today it can be so very easy for us to get lost and drift away from God. There is a constant bombardment of sinful influences on every side and seldom do we get a break. From the billboard to the small leaflet in the middle of a magazine we are surrounded like a fish in water. But like the fish who is unaware that it is in water we too can be unaware at just how much is out there in the world that is having an effect on us. This is why we must be continually working to maintain our relationship with God active and healthy because there is so much out there that would love to see a wedge driven between us.
The nation of Israel faced a similar world in the days of Joshua and Joshua had excellent wisdom for the nation to meet the challenges of their day and stay close to God. In Joshua 23:6-11 we find four key principles that helped them and are very much applicable today.
Give Attention to God's Word (Joshua 23:6):
There is a foundation that we must all lay down and maintain if we are to expect to have any kind of firm footing to withstand wave after wave of sinful influences. This foundation, naturally, is God's word. Joshua admonishes the people to "keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses...", so he is not talking about simply just knowing what God has to say on something but actively doing what He would have us to do! Because there are many in world you have a vast knowledge of religion and the bible, people who can quote the bible frontwards and backwards, but that knowledge alone has not saved them. Notice what James had to say about the word. He says "But prove yourself doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." But that's not all, look at the example he gives in verses 23-25. It be like if we all looked at ourselves in the mirror this morning, bad breath and all, saw all that was wrong and said "I'm ready to go". We saw what needing fixing, we had knowledge of it, but we did not fix it, we didn't do it.
Which reminds us of a key characteristic of God, that He never blesses disobedience (Lev. 10:1-3). Nadab and Abihu had knowledge, we can infer, but they did not use that knowledge, they did not obey what God had commanded, because of that they lost their lives. But compare this to Acts 10:35 where Peter tells us that "in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." And Paul makes us know clearly that it is the righteous that obeys God that is justified and blessed before Him (Rom. 2:13).
But, we do not simply do what God has commanded us because that's what He commanded us. We do what is written because it how we are to show our love for God. Jesus spoke to us saying that "If you love Me, keep My commandments." And John expounded upon this telling us "For this is the Love of God, that we keep His commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome. This is absolutely foundational, because if cannot find the time to pay attention to God's word then we are not going to be able to achieve these other three principles Joshua sets forth.
Avoid Pagan Influences (Joshua 23:7):
Note the connection here between this verse and verse six. The way to avoid pagan, or sinful, influences to first know what they are. If one does not know what poison ivy or oak looks like one cannot avoid it, and may be in for one terrible camping trip. The same is with our souls, if we are ignorant of what is sinful and don't know to avoid it then we too are going to be in for a terrible afterlife. Remember what 1 Cor. 15:33 says, "bad company corrupts good morals." Don't believe it? Do you do anything at all like your best friend, parent, or spouse? Maybe it's the way you say certain words or certain mannerisms. This is because they have had an influence on you! Now if they can have an influence on you on something that is inconsequential, imagine a immoral friendship or being around a sinful influence. The affects can be eternally damming.
This is why we must be willing to avoid these influences at all cost! Joshua went as far as to say don't even speak of them! we can very well extend that and say don't even think of them! Look at the Ephesians in Acts 19:19, they did not even want a small reminder of their previous lives. Some may say what's the harm in a book? A book has weight, has substance, one is less likely to throw away a book and one will be tempted at times to pick up that old dusty book and look at it. They were committed to not let anything hold them back from God, even if it meant finical loss.
Lot and Sodom:
Lot is an valuable lesson on why we need to avoid sinful influences even if we think we are strong enough to handle them. Look at Gen. 13:8-13. Lot was in a good and righteous environment. A family that honored God, worshiped God, and did not act or partake in the same way that the pagans did. He had the choice of where ever he wanted to go with his heard and family. But, he chose to go as far as Sodom. Many today do this, they go right up to the line of sin, or in some cases right on the line, and they see how far they can go without sinning. Lot went right up to the line. Now let's go to Gen. 19:30-36. By now Lot was living in Sodom, whatever had happened he had to move into the city, to the center of sin. There were consequences. His daughters had been affected to the point where they saw no problem with debasing their father. Lot was a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7), but that righteousness could only affect someone so much. Sadly it is far easier to drag someone down that to lift someone up. That is why it is best not even to go to places where the temptation of sin will be there in force. That is why the Christian would be ill advised to go to the dance, the bar, or the rated R movie. It is an influence or a place where sinful influence is in full force.
That is why Joshua is firm in his admonition to Israel. He knows what they pose and how they can be the ruin of God's people. Again that is why he says "associate with these nations... or make mention of them.". To make sure that it's not a problem don't even get involved to begin with.
So Attach Yourself to God (Joshua 23:8):
As God does in scripture when He tells us to remove something He gives us something to put in its place. If Joshua is telling us to remove or stay away from the pagan influences he immediately tells us who to associate with, who to speak of, and who to attach ourselves to, Jehovah God.
The word cling used in this verse is the same Hebrew word translated holdfast or joined. It is the same word used in Gen. 2:24 when God describes the relationship man is to have with his wife. "for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." It denotes a close, intimate, relationship between us and our God.
What does this look like?
- To trust in His promises 2 Peter 1:4
- To seek His approval Gal. 1:10
- To be devoted to Him first and completely Rom. 12:1-2
- and to always keep His praise on our lips Ps. 63:7-8
Develop a Deep Love for God in Every way (Joshua 23:9-11):
Joshua moves on to remind all that God had done for Israel to that point. Reminds them that He had driven off great and mighty empires, had given strength to their warriors to fight ten times the number of foes and normal man could. But above all he reminds them that it was not them, but God alone who did all of this. He then imparts the fourth principle, to love the Lord your God. He reminds them of all that God had done so as to show them that God is a God worthy and deserving of our love. One writer had this to say on this section of scripture. He said that
"The emphasis is on a relationship of intimacy: "I am yours and you are mine!" God is not just God. He is "your" and "my" God because of his desire to give himself to us in covenant loyalty. His passion for us is undying"
Consider this statement in addition to all that we know of His undying love to you and I. Romans 5:6-8, we were lost in sin, a wretched, weak, and frail race undeserving of any kind of mercy let alone redemption. And yet, we were shown mercy, we were given pardon, and felt the amazing love of God. Think of all that God had done for you and continues to do for despite our failings and weaknesses. He keeps the life spring open to all those who would come to Him repentant seeking forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
If we are wanting to get to know or grow a relationship with anyone, friends, family, our spouse, etc. we have to talk to them. Now God already knows us, He formed us and created us, so we are left with having to get to know God. We do this in part by paying attention to His word (Josh. 23:6). But the second half of that is through prayer. The act of prayer tells God, as well as ourselves, that "I cannot do this alone" that "I need your help". It helps us to put things in perspective. Look at the aspects of life that are covered in Matt. 6:7-13...
- God sovereignty
- Our daily needs
- Our weakness and need for a savior
- Our need for help in the fight against sin
These four principles will help us to stay true to God. However, if you are outside of Christ the first thing you need to do to be true to God is give yourself completely over to Him.