1. A SOLEMN GATHERING
a. What condition did Israel finally enjoy for some time? Of what did Joshua then remind the people? Joshua 23:1–4; 24:11–13.
b. With what assurances did Joshua exhort them? Joshua 23:5–10. What should we learn from the commitment required of them?
“[The people] were to form no allegiance with the idolatrous nations that God had appointed to utter destruction. They were forbidden to manifest the least respect for the gods of the heathen. . . . They were warned that familiarity with idolatry would remove their abhorrence of it, and would expose them to God’s displeasure.”—The Signs of the Times, May 19, 1881.
“If we love the things of the world and have pleasure in unrighteousness or fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness we have put the stumblingblock of our iniquity before our face and have set up idols in our heart. And unless by determined effort we put them away we shall never be acknowledged as the sons and daughters of God.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 164.
2. A WARNING AGAINST MIXED MARRIAGES
a. What warning did Joshua give as a key factor to help God’s people reduce their chances of slipping into idolatry? Joshua 23:11–13.
b. How is this solemn warning repeated in the Christian era? 2 Corinthians 6:14–18; 1 Corinthians 7:39.
“Ask yourself: ‘Will not an unbelieving husband lead my thoughts away from Jesus? He is a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God; will he not lead me to enjoy the things that he enjoys?’ The path to eternal life is steep and rugged. Take no additional weights to retard your progress. . . .
“As a child of God, a subject of Christ’s kingdom, the purchase of His blood, how can you connect yourself with one who does not acknowledge His claims, who is not controlled by His Spirit? . . . Though the companion of your choice were in all other respects worthy (which he is not), yet he has not accepted the truth for this time; he is an unbeliever, and you are forbidden of heaven to unite yourself with him. You cannot, without peril to your soul, disregard this divine injunction.
“I would warn you of your danger before it shall be too late. You listen to smooth, pleasant words and are led to believe that all will be well; but you do not read the motives that prompt these fair speeches. You cannot see the depths of wickedness hidden in the heart. You cannot look behind the scenes and discern the snares that Satan is laying for your soul. He would lead you to pursue such a course that he can obtain easy access to aim his shafts of temptation against you. Do not give him the least advantage. While God moves upon the minds of His servants, Satan works through the children of disobedience. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. The two cannot harmonize. To connect with an unbeliever is to place yourself on Satan’s ground. You grieve the Spirit of God and forfeit His protection. Can you afford to have such terrible odds against you in fighting the battle for everlasting life? . . .
“Remember, you have a heaven to gain, an open path to perdition to shun. God means what He says.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 363–365.
3. OBEDIENT LOVE TO GOD
a. Why is inordinate affection a problem? Isaiah 5:18–21; Colossians 3:5, 6.
“One of the greatest dangers that besets the people of God today, is that of association with the ungodly; especially in uniting themselves in marriage with unbelievers. With many, the love for the human eclipses the love for the divine. They take the first step in backsliding by venturing to disregard the Lord’s express command; and complete apostasy is too often the result. It has ever proved a dangerous thing for men to carry out their own will in opposition to the requirements of God. . . .
“As a rule, those who choose for their friends and companions, persons who reject Christ and trample upon God’s law, eventually become of the same mind and spirit.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 2, p. 1000.
“There is in the Christian world an astonishing, alarming indifference to the teaching of God’s word in regard to the marriage of Christians with unbelievers. . . . Men and women who are otherwise sensible and conscientious close their ears to counsel; they are deaf to the appeals and entreaties of friends and kindred and of the servants of God. . . , and the friend who is faithful enough to utter a remonstrance is treated as an enemy. All this is as Satan would have it. He weaves his spell about the soul, and it becomes bewitched, infatuated. Reason lets fall the reins of self-control upon the neck of lust, unsanctified passion bears sway, until, too late, the victim awakens to a life of misery and bondage.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 365, 366.
b. Explain the cause-and-effect reality Joshua presented. Joshua 23:14–16.
“God’s plan for the salvation of men, is perfect in every particular. If we will faithfully perform our allotted part, all will be well with us. It is man’s apostasy that causes discord, and brings wretchedness and ruin. God never uses His power to oppress the creatures of His hand. He never requires more than man is able to perform; never punishes His disobedient children more than is necessary to bring them to repentance; or to deter others from following their example. Rebellion against God is inexcusable.”—The Signs of the Times, May 19, 1881.
4. CHOOSING GOD
a. What appeal did Joshua make? Joshua 24:1, 14, 15. How can this inspire us?
“The worship of idols was still to some extent secretly practiced, and Joshua endeavored now to bring [the people] to a decision that should banish this sin from Israel.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 523.
“If the favor of God was worth anything, it was worth everything. Thus Joshua had decided; and after weighing the whole matter, he had determined to serve Him with full purpose of heart. And more than this, he would endeavour to induce his family to pursue the same course. . . .
“The oft-repeated warnings against idolatry addressed to the Hebrew host, are no less applicable to us. Everything which leads the affections away from God is an idol, and betrays us into sin. If we serve God willingly and joyfully, preferring His service to the service of sin and Satan; if we choose Him, openly and boldly turning from all the attractions and vanities of the world, we shall enjoy His blessing in this life, and shall dwell forever in His presence in the future life.
“The Lord our God is a jealous God. He is just and holy. He will not be trifled with. He reads a deceptive heart. He abhors a double mind. He hates lukewarmness. We cannot serve God and mammon, for they are antagonistic.”—The Signs of the Times, May 19, 1881.
b. What did God want the Israelites to realize about their frailty? Joshua 24:16–20. Are we any different?
“Before there could be any permanent reformation the people must be led to feel their utter inability in themselves to render obedience to God. . . . While they trusted in their own strength and righteousness, it was impossible for them to secure the pardon of their sins; they could not meet the claims of God’s perfect law, and it was in vain that they pledged themselves to serve God. It was only by faith in Christ that they could secure pardon of sin and receive strength to obey God’s law. They must cease to rely upon their own efforts for salvation, they must trust wholly in the merits of the promised Saviour, if they would be accepted of God.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 524.
5. REMARKABLE VICTORY
a. What remarkable pledge did Israel make before Joshua in the sight of God? What was done as a memorial of this pledge? Joshua 24:21–27.
b. How was the closing period of Joshua’s life filled with dedication to God? Joshua 24:29–31. How did the people react under reproof when their experience wavered? Judges 2:1–5.
“No stain rested upon the holy character of Joshua. He was a wise leader. His life was wholly devoted to God. . . .
“Joshua was loved and respected by all Israel, and his death was much lamented by them.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 351, 352.
“[Judges 2:1, 2 quoted.] The people bowed before God in contrition and repentance. They offered sacrifice, and confessed to God and to one another. The sacrifices they offered would have been of no value if they had not shown true repentance. Their contrition was genuine. The grace of Christ wrought in their hearts as they confessed their sins and offered sacrifice, and God forgave them.
“The revival was genuine. It wrought a reformation among the people. They remained true to the covenant they had made. The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen the great works of the Lord.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 2, p. 1001.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. On what condition do the people of God enjoy His special protection?
2. What happens when a person is enticed into marriage with an unbeliever?
3. Why is it so difficult to reason with a person infatuated with an unbeliever?
4. How liable is human nature to slip into idolatry? Why?
5. What makes the era of Joshua’s leadership outstanding in Israel’s history?