‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). Begin today with a time of confession and claim God’s promise of a fresh start.
12 ‘But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.
14 ‘Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. 15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. 16 If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.’
Compromise and inclusion are the order of the day in many western secular nations. Be distinctive, but not too much. Celebrate diversity, but within limits!
Joshua’s message to Israel’s leaders is a stark contrast. He warns them of the danger of intermarriage with those living in the land (v 12). Such an association will trip you up and ensnare you (v 13). Violate God’s covenant and, like your enemies, you will perish from the land he has gifted you (v 16).
Here we see a less familiar side of God. Yes, he is faithful in his promises to bring good (v 14). Yet he is willing to bring evil on those who compromise their faith (v 15). He is faithful in both grace and judgement.
Here is a challenge for today. New Testament writing reiterates the call, particularly for church leaders, to be holy and not conform to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:2). As one writer says: ‘An Israel – or a church today – that loses its distinctiveness loses its claim to be the people of God.’*
*David G Firth, The Message of Joshua, Bible Speaks Today series, IVP, 2015, p213
Jesus describes his disciples as salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16): distinctive in character; conveying God’s truth. What might this look like in your life this week?
Deeper Bible study
‘The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.’1
One of the greatest sadnesses in my Christian life has been to see people who seemed to be strong Christians fall away from the faith. As Joshua continues his final address, he warns the people who have seen God do miracles of that very danger. He uses disturbingly graphic metaphors (v 13). He puts it in emotive language, warning them that turning away from God would be to violate their covenant with God (v 16). The starkness of the consequences of not following God may shock us. Remember Susan’s question about whether Aslan was safe: ‘“Safe?” said Mr Beaver … “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”’2 Had Joshua just rehearsed the promises of God without warning of the dire consequences of rejecting God, he would not have been true to God’s message.
Joshua warns the people particularly of the danger of intermarrying with the pagan peoples around them. This is a particular danger because it is not just taking a foreign partner but becoming part of an alien family and culture. Many young Christians have married a non-Christian intending to remain fully committed to Christ, only to find that different priorities with regard to time and money make it impossible not to compromise.
For us, as in the ancient world, sex, power and material possessions remain the greatest temptations to our faithful walk with God. It is naïve to think that we are immune to their attraction. The daily battle to choose God is as real for us as for the Israelites. It is the same stark choice that Joshua will give to the people in tomorrow’s reading.
Consider any big decisions you have to make. How do you make sure that your decision draws you closer to God rather than hinders your Christian walk?
1 Matt 24:13 2 CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Geoffrey Bles, 1950, p75
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 2 Samuel 3–5; 1 Corinthians 3
Pray for Scripture Union
The Surf Break holiday for 11-to 17-year-olds in Devon, should have been running from tomorrow until Sunday. Pray for the young people who should’ve been attending, for comfort, peace and for opportunities for them to encounter Jesus.