“If you disobey the Lord will no longer fight for you”
In Joshua’s last warnings to Israel, he repeats two concepts several times. The first, to remember what the Lord has done for them, in fighting for them to conquer many peoples and give them the land He promised them. None of the successes Israel experienced would have been possible without God being on their Side. The second, to strictly obey the Lord’s will. Without constant acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and turning from sin, Israel would be bound to lose their tight connection with God and ultimately get tangled up in their own folly.
The Message puts it plainly:
“Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off … know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They’ll be nothing but trouble to you—horsewhips on your backs and sand in your eyes—until you’re the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you.” (Joshua 23:11-13 MSG)
And this isn’t the first time the people of Israel have heard this warning – see also Leviticus 26, where Moses delivers sobering warnings that they will fall out of the Lord’s favor if they are disobedient.
Thankfully we are not under the same law that Joshua and the Israelites were at this time. For those of us living today, we have Jesus. Because of Jesus, it is possible for God to keep fighting our battles even when we mess up. We don’t need to take part in ritual sacrifices anymore now that the ultimate sacrifice was already made.
“But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.” (Romans 3:31 MSG)
No, for us living today, our job is to stop trying to save our own souls with our own human power and sincerely pursue relationship with God. He is the one with the wisdom and power needed to sanctify our lives. His glory is meant to reflect off us and into our dark world.