The instruction manual for life (Joshua 23)

Every family comedy has that scene where the parents are headed out for date night, and the babysitter has just arrived, and the mom is frantically shouting last minute instructions as the dad drags her out the door.

The joke is that moms are so protective that it’s hard for them to leave their kids for even a night.

But it also depicts a mother’s love. She doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her kids. She wants them to have everything they need to be happy and healthy, even if it’s just for a little while.

In Joshua 23, another authority figure is leaving their family – but this time, it’s permanent.

Joshua is about to die. Following in the footsteps of Moses before him, he gathers the children of Israel around to give them some last nuggets of advice before they are on their own.

So what was the advice? And is there anything in there for us and our brothers and sisters in Christ, as we wait for our Father to come home?

How to live

I imagine Joshua smiling a worn smile as he gazes out at the faces of his people. Old and young. Men and women. Leaders and lay people.

Then he opens his mouth. His words aren’t flashy or dramatic. They’re not even all that poetic. His instructions are simple:

  1. Love God (verses 8, 11)
  2. Obey God (verse 6)
  3. Do not worship false gods (verse 7)
  4. Believe that God is on your side (verse 10)

These were Joshua’s last words before the Israelites started settling down into their inherited land.

I’m preparing to move into a new place right now, and if before I moved in, all I was told was love God and obey Him, I’d probably roll my eyes just a little bit. I know. Now tell me something practical.

But these words, simple, redundant, and obvious as they might seem, are our foundation. It’s where we start. It’s where we should look first if we start to see problems in our lives. It’s how we know we’re on the right path.

It’s how to live, period.

I think Joshua kept his words brief (especially compared to Moses) because he knew that if the Israelites followed those instructions, they’d be just fine.


God, through Moses, gave us instructions. “This is how you live.”

Then through Joshua, He repeated them.

He repeated them again in His messages to the kings of Israel.

And again, several times, throughout His many prophets.

He gave them to us again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Somehow, every time we hear them, we become like the dad in the family comedy, dragging his wife out the door. We know this already. We don’t need to hear it again. We’re fine.

Yet God sticks his head in the door one more time. “This is how you live.”

He does this over and over again because this stuff is gold. No, it’s platinum. It’s priceless.

This is literally, exactly, how to live life joyfully and abundantly. Love God. Obey Him. Don’t serve other gods.

But we keep skipping steps. We keep ignoring the first half or the second half. And as a result we struggle and suffer and feel like God has deserted us and we cry and we blame Him and He tells us again how to live and we refuse because it’s too legalistic or it’s not really possible or going through the Christian motions should be enough, right?

And imagine how our Father feels. All He wants is for His children to be happy. All He wants is to keep them from harm. The instructions, the lifeline, the answers are right there. What would True Love do, but keep repeating them? Keep trying to get our attention? Keep telling us how to live?

I want to listen. I’m tired of stumbling around, hurting myself and others around me, all the while ignoring the instructions my Father left for me. I want to live, like really live.

I want to love God, obey Him, and turn away from other gods. I know He’s on our side.

Let’s get started.

What do you think? What do you like about the message Joshua gave to the Israelites in this chapter?

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