The conquest of Canaan was complete. Under Joshua’s command and by the Lord’s hand, the Canaanites had been dispossessed and all the Israelite soldiers had gone home. “The Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies” (v.1). Joshua, who had likely reached his 110th birthday by that time, was “old and well advanced in years” (v.2).
The godly old warrior convened a leadership summit, gathering the elders, judges, and military officers from each tribe. Joshua’s agenda was clear: he meant to guide the national consciousness to a place of renewed commitment to the Lord. His speech was both encouraging and challenging, and it included a serious caution against breaking faith with God.
The gist of his speech could be summarized like this: “The battle for your new homeland is over, but the battle for your hearts has just begun.” During the conquest the enemy was easy to identify, but now they would fight the invisible enemies within — pride, self-sufficiency, lust, and disloyalty. Israel had passed the test of loyalty to God in times of hardship and warfare; now they would face the test of loyalty in their peace and prosperity.
Joshua wanted the people to remember that the Promised Land was not gained by their own effort, but “the Lord your God has fought for you” (v.3). He called upon them to renew their commitment to obeying God’s Word (v.6), to “cling” to the Lord (v.8), and to “be very careful to love the Lord” (v.11). And then Joshua warned them about the consequences of not doing those things (v.13-14). If they broke faith with the Lord, the enemies they had defeated would rise up and defeat them. If they failed to obey the Lord, the land they took would be taken away. If their love for the Lord grew cold, His protecting grace would turn to anger and they would be wiped off the map of Canaan.
Although we serve the Lord on the other side of the Cross, we would do well to heed Joshua’s warning. Once we have been delivered from the Egypt of our sinfulness and crossed over the Jordan River of God’s grace into the Promised Land of salvation, we should love and obey the Lord more passionately than ever. The temptations of Canaan (the world around us) are strong. Only when we cling to the Lord are we assured of His protection and blessings (v.8). If we cling to the world instead, we break fellowship with Him and miss out on the abundant life He wants for us. The Lord will fight our battles for us, but if we choose to shut Him out and fight on our own, we will lose every time.