Joshua 23

2 Joshua senses that he is about to die, so he calls the leaders of Israel together for some final words of reminder, instruction, and encouragement.
3 On Israel's first approach to the Promised Land, Joshua was convinced that God would help them take the land. He kept that belief all his life. He lived to see it fulfilled. Even with his last words, he gives God all the credit for the victories. We must live the same way. We can be confident that God delivers on His promises.
4 Since God was winning all the victories, Joshua's primary task was making sure that the Israelites all received their portion of the Promised Land.
5 There was still much work to do. The nations of Canaan were not all displaced in Joshua's lifetime. The Israelites would have to carry on without his leadership. They were to depend on God to lead them and have faith that they would continue to have victories without Joshua's presence.
6 When God appointed Joshua to be the leader of Israel, He commanded him to be strong and courageous. Joshua passed that commission on to the leadership of Israel. Joshua makes it clear that following God takes strength and courage. We can draw strength and courage from the promises of God, and we can ask Him to provide for what we lack. Joshua also encourages them to obey all of God's commands. Many of the national promises to Israel (e.g., for place, peace, and prosperity) depend on their obedience to Him.

Moses and Joshua were both important leaders in Israel at a time when they needed a central, human leader. During their ministries as leaders, they made it abundantly clear that Israel's real leadership came from God. Moses and Joshua merely served as mouthpieces for God. During Moses' time of leadership, he established a hierarchy of leadership throughout Israel. Disputes would be settled at lower levels unless a higher authority was needed. Ultimately, Moses could ask God directly about a particular case. However, it is clear that this period of centralized human leadership was going away. The hierarchy of leadership remained. Higher questions would go to the priests, who would find the answers from God, but the priestly duties did not emphasize political authority. However, if the people followed God's leadership through His word and His priests, there would not be a need for a centralized political figure.

A government ruled by God is called a theocracy. The book of Judges records the history of Israel's struggle with faith in following God as their leader. The sin in this world makes it difficult for theocracy to flourish, but there will come a day when God takes sin out of the world and assumes His rightful throne. He will establish a kingdom that will last forever.

7 If they did not keep their focus on God, they would be influenced by the pagans around them. They were not even to mention the names of pagan gods, lest they give credence to them and fool themselves into thinking there is benefit in worshiping such things or observing pagan practices and superstitions.
8 From the time Israel entered the Promised Land until some time after Joshua died, they remained faithful to God. Long time spans of complete national obedience to God were rare. Joshua had seen both sides, and encouraged Israel to continue in their relationship with God. There are both short term and eternal benefits on personal and wide spread levels in having a good relationship with God.
10 One man may chase a thousand, but only if God is helping him. One must not think that he could do such a thing in his own power. God made it clear from the beginning that He would spread fear throughout Canaan before Israel got there. When they did arrive, the enemies were already defeated by their fear.
11 Joshua again emphasizes that Israel's status as a nation and as a military power depended directly on their relationship with God.
12 In a marriage, each partner must accept the other completely. This includes their belief systems. If an Israelite married a pagan, the implication is that the Israelite accepts the pagan belief and is willing to be influenced by it. This is an affront to God. Further, children raised in such a family would have to choose between the two belief systems as if they were equally valid. Such a compromise of faith is deadly, and easily leads to complete apostasy.

Intermarriage with surrounding nations would also risk the loss of national identity. Israel could have easily been absorbed into Egypt if they had not held to the promises to Abraham and kept themselves a distinct people. Even now, they could be absorbed into the surrounding pagan cultures if they neglected their relationship with God. Of course, the same principle still applies to Christians today. We are to influence the society around us, but we can not compromise our relationship with God that sets us apart from them. We invite them to know God, and if they do then relationships that are more intimate are possible. If they do not, then there must be, by necessity, a limit to our intimacy.

13 Joshua makes it clear that if Israel does not keep their promise to follow and obey God that He is by no means obligated to continue driving the pagan nations out of the land. Consequently, Israel would become weak and apathetic. They would begin to adopt pagan practices and beliefs. This would do them great harm. Spiritually, they would lose their relationship with God and suffer eternal consequences. Physically, God would punish them because He demands that His chosen people remain faithful to Him. The Israelites had obligated themselves and succeeding generations to a covenant relationship with God. They had also reinforced this by voluntarily pronouncing the blessings and curses upon themselves.
14 Their entrance into the Promised Land was an unprecedented time of faithfulness, obedience, and blessing. God had shown what good things He was willing to do with and for a people who were obedient to Him.
15 If they now turned away from God and became disobedience, the victories He had given them would amount to nothing. Certainly, instead of receiving His blessings they would receive His wrath. Their continued presence in Israel was not a matter of wealth and power. They could only stay in the land by faith in God.
16 Punishment for disobedience would be quick and obvious. In the history of Israel, punishment was usually dispensed within the lifetime of the people who were disobedient. Furthermore, God often appointed judges and prophets to make it clear that the punishment was the result of particular sins of the people.