Joshua calls all of Israel together one last time. His days are ending on the earth and he needs to pass on the mantel of leadership. He charges the leaders with following God’s Law.
Joshua was around 60 years old when Israel first entered the Promised Land. He is nearing death at 110 years old. When Caleb came and asked him for his lot Joshua was about 65 years old. God called him “old and advanced in years” (Joshua 13:1b) at that time. God told him to assign the lots to the tribes at that time. The tribe of Judah and the tribes of Joseph’s descendants received their inheritance at that time too. But the remaining tribes procrastinated. We don’t know how long they waited or how long it took the scouts to come back with the completed survey. I would expect not more than a year had passed before the final lots were drawn, making Joshua around 66 at that time.
So when our first verse says “A long time afterward” (verse 1a) about 44 years had passed since Joshua had assigned the lots and sent the men from the eastern tribes home. During this time Israel had settled into their territory. Many skirmishes had happened on tribal levels so that the people could acquire more of the land they had been allotted. I don’t know if the tribe of Dan had given up on conquering their portion yet. Many of the tribes had decided to live with the original inhabitants and stopped fighting all together. But they were to remain separate at the very least.
God’s promises to the people had come to pass. Yes, there was still work to do but that was dependent on the people. It depended on their willingness to do the work and their willingness to follow God’s commandments. THEY had the ability to bring either the blessings or the curses with their own behavior.
Joshua was reminding them of this. “Since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as He promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God” (verses 10b-11). His time was ending and those that remained were going to have to make the choice without him.
Joshua has been their moral compass and firm anchor since they entered the Promised Land. Now that task will fully be passed onto the next generation. The leaders, judges and priests would no longer be able to look to him for guidance. We don’t know how much they were relying on him at this point but I wouldn’t doubt his input was sought fairly regularly.
God would see His people through this transition too. He wouldn’t leave them rudderless. He had given them His Laws. He had given them the priests. He had given them their leaders and judges. And He would continue to give them His direction. They only need listen and follow where He directed.
Thinking about this change brings to mind the events surrounding moving out of my parent’s home. The first time I did this I was 18 years old. My first move took me some 1,800 miles away. I didn’t have my mom to help me make daily decisions. I could still call her if I had something I needed her advice on but I had to rely on my ‘training’ to get me through my day to day life. My values that my parents instilled in me helped me make choices in how to live my life. Those lessons were my rudder. I am 55 now and still rely on those early lessons to guide me. I am fortunate that I can still call my mom and ask her advice. Someday that may not be the case. When that day comes I will be in the same position the people of Israel are stepping into.
Israel will no longer be able to speak to Joshua but they will still carry his memory. The memory of a man who loved his God with ALL his heart. The memory of a man who pointed them to that same God in ALL he did. But more than that, they will have the relationship they forged with God while under Joshua’s guidance. THAT relationship will never be taken from them by death.
Father God, thank You for our relationship! I would be lost without You! Thank You for my parents who introduced me to You. Thank You that I still have both of them here on earth with me today. Thank You that I KNOW that even when they do leave this earth that we will be together again with You. I pray I was/am at least half the parent to my children that they were/are to me.
My children seem so very far from You right now. I don’t know if it is my fear speaking here or if I’m simply stating the place they are in now plainly. My deepest desire is for ALL of them to return to You. AND to bring their children to You too. I hold fast to Your promises in this Lord. I place them again in Your hands. Repair the damage I did to their ‘rudders’ as they were growing up. I tried to guide them in their relationship building with You but only You know how well this went. You know their hearts. You know how to call to them when my voice can’t reach. Draw them Holy Spirit! Give them a desire to ‘come home’ to You. My family in Your hands Lord is ALL I need in this life.