Take heed. Be careful. Be watchful.

Joshua 23:11-16

Joshua commanded the people of Israel and the leaders: Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you (verse 11,12)

This portion is like a gold mine of wealth.

These words were spoken by Israel’s leader, their general, Joshua. He spoke thus at the end of his life, when he was going to heaven and he would see God face to face. “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth… (verse 14) Often people see things in a different perspective in their last hours. Winston Churchill said at the end of his life, ‘What a fool I have been.’ Voltaire, one of history’s best known atheists and sceptics, often boasted that by the time he was buried, the Bible would be extinct. His last words were: ‘I am abandoned by God and man. I shall die and go to hell. I shall die and go to hell, alone. Oh Christ, Jesus Christ.’ Joseph Stalin, who murdered many millions of his countrymen, while on his deathbed, as related by his daughter, Svetlana, suddenly sat up, groaned and shook his fist at the ceiling as if he could see beyond it, fell back and died.

Joshua reveals the secrets and mysteries of God regarding godliness and how to be successful in our Christian life and walk so that we will reach the goal.

The first point: Take heed. Be careful. Be watchful. If we want to stay on God’s way, not be deceived and not be taken off the way – we must take heed. When God starting teaching us about spiritual life, He stressed these three points – take heed, be careful, be watchful. If we do not, we will be wounded or lose out on blessings. Many people have been wounded, ruined and lost and they have died spiritually. They have been maimed, crippled and became spiritually abnormal because they did not take heed of these three words. They lost out on blessings. How heartbreaking it will be for you one day if God shows you all that He had planned for you and wanted to do through you but could not. Esau will not be alone in having thrown away his birthright. Many others have rejected theirs as well. God hated Esau for doing it. Before Esau’s birth and before the foundation of the world, God knew Esau would sell his birthright for a plate of soup. Esau did not care until the day he looked for it with tears but he could not find it.

Now God puts before the nation, the way of life and success and the opposite way of destruction and failure. If you want to be successful and reach the end – be careful and watchful. The opposite is to be careless, to sit down and do nothing. Woe to the one who is careless concerning his own spiritual life, for he will be wounded and lose out.

What must we take heed of? There are many things, but especially, take heed that your inner man is not defiled by sin and the world but that you stay pure and clean – snow white.

The second step which Joshua tells the nation is in verse 11. Be careful to love the Lord your God. We need to take great care about the love we have towards our God. There are different kinds of love. The first kind of love is the love for the opposite sex. Some even leave God’s way and reject the Lord for the sake of that love. This love can take a person out of heaven and put him into hell. The second type of love is filial or brotherly love, like the love between David and Jonathan. It is a love that does not seek its own but is prepared to lay down its life for a brother. Even though Jonathan suspected that David was going to be the future king and this was a challenge to his own position as the son of King Saul, he was not jealous of David but protected him from the wrath of his father. The third love is the love of God. It surpasses all of these. This godly love is the highest kind of love. Do you love with this love? This is the final love that surpasses every other kind of love. Take heed and make sure that you love God with this love. What do you feel for God Himself? Do you feel more for Him than anyone else? Does your love for Him surpass every other love which you have towards anyone else? Our whole lives should stem from this love which should be our foundation and roots.

We read in John 21:15-17, how Jesus asked Peter, ‘Peter, do you love me more than these?’ Actually, Jesus said, ‘Peter do you love me with the love of God?’ Peter answered that he loved Him with the love of a friend, not the highest love, the love of God. The Lord’s commission starts with the requirement to love God. Then Jesus said, ‘Shepherd my sheep.’ The commission to shepherd the flock – the Lord’s people is preceded with a love for God. If we do not take heed of this love, we will fall and fail in the Christian walk. Otherwise a relative might hinder you and stand in your way or a cheap girl might rob you of what God has given you.

Jonathan could not be stopped by his father because of his love for the anointed of God. Do you experience this love of God? The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:22 “Cursed is the person who does not love the Lord”. I remember a man of God in Germany who said, ‘If I hear or speak or write down or think of the name of Jesus, it grips me. I am electrified. I feel something in my body.’ What do you feel towards the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit? What does the Triune God mean to you? Do you have the love which surpasses every other love, the greatest love for Him?

There is a terrible danger of falling away and backsliding. We have read how Joshua warned Israel of this. It is fatal to lose your love for God and fall away and backslide. There is no other way, if you lose this love, you will without a doubt, meet up with the fatal consequences that Joshua mentions: 

 …know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you. (verse 13)
…if you transgress the covenant of the
Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you. (verse 16)

The love of God always draws one forwards and upwards. If one loses it, one backslides and goes downwards and backwards.

There are a few signs of backsliding. One notices such a person by certain characteristics:
Firstly, he becomes friends with the enemies. He starts being friends with those who are enemies of God. He enjoys their company and gets used to the morals of those who were driven out of the Promised Land because they served other gods. If you do not kill them they will kill you. This is the danger if you live among them, you get used to them, learn their language and socialize with them and eventually you want to marry them. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16. Take heed of your own spiritual life and purity. If one does not take heed, eventually one will start serving their gods. You can begin by heeding God’s laws, however, slowly but surely things creep in and you compromise more and more until those things have completely taken over.

Secondly, you serve other gods. You compromise and live a half-life where you mix things and hide things – especially hiding things when your minister or certain spiritual people are present.

There are tragic consequences of backsliding. If you lose your love for God and start serving other gods, things will happen which you never thought possible. Sins will grow and turn against you. The very inhabitants which you did not drive out will turn against you. Those sins which you thought were small and not so bad, will grow. For example, that little bit of irritability – do not think: we are still in this world; God will understand; it is not so bad; we are only human and thereby excuse your pet sin and start loving it. Satan is very dangerous when he comes in this attractive and beautifully decorated way. Those survivors will be a trap and snare to you. You will be walking and the next moment your foot will be caught in a trap which is painful and hurtful and someone will have to set you free. This could happen daily in your spiritual life. You will be tortured by those things and they will become whips on your back, harassing and troubling you. They will become thorns in your eyes and then your eyes are closed and blind and you are unable to distinguish between day and night. Are there things like this is your life – something you must confess ever so often? Then one might as well stop confessing this sin because it does not help. You are no longer sensitive if the thorns get into your eyes and flies sit on your naked eye. You even start feeling that the next person is at fault. The survivors will even harass you at night. You will not be able to sleep because your enemies (for example, the lusts of the flesh) give you no rest. They give you no rest because they have not been dealt with. This leads to terrible things, for example, a man will leave his family and live with a loose woman and care for her illegitimate children. Satan will give you no rest, sin will give you no rest, until you do not know what to do. You will backslide until you have no love for God but only for these things.

It would have been better if it was only the nations against you but the Bible says that God Himself eventually becomes your enemy. What will you be with enemies on all sides and God Himself turns against you and brings curses on you?

The only way to escape is to take heed so that there is spiritual apartheid between light and darkness, heaven and the world. Woe to the person who mixes things and becomes used to the things of the world. The Bible says be holy, be separate, set apart for the Lord. Do not allow the little things. They will harass you and you will quickly lose the land of blessing where you stay. You will find yourself in a place that you do not want to be in. May it be that Joshua is not speaking to deaf people.

In conclusion:  But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you… (verse 15), especially those who experience the fulfillment of God’s promises and are in a wonderful land, must take heed to love God, keep His covenant and keep themselves pure so that they might be successful and not be destroyed by God.

May every sin be dealt with in each life here today, as well as everyone who is listening. We must take heed of these things – that we love God, keep His covenant and keep ourselves pure.

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