Joshua ends his book as Moses ended Deuteronomy with a sermonic exhortation to faithfulness.
Chapter 23 opens with the note that God had given Israel rest from all her enemies. But how can this be? Israel has not removed the Canaanites from the land.
It becomes obvious that Israel lacks the faith to do this. That doesn’t mean Israel is not confident she can. Faith involves more than confidence. It also involves desire. Israel has done about all she is going to do. She has subjected the land – or rather, as Joshua says, God has subjected it, and the inhabitants have decided to accept their conquered status. Peace is the order of the day.
This rest was promised by God in Joshua 1 and occurs several times here at the end of the book (cf. 21:44; 22:4) thus another way of saying God fulfilled His promises (“not one of the Lord’s good promises failed” – 21:45; 23:14).
But Israel has a choice.
She can allow these nations which still live among her to influence her and she can assimilate herself within them, or she can remain aloof. If she assimilates, the very people she was to destroy will become the destruction of Israel. Additionally, even though the Canaanites remain, God himself will see to their eventual removal. All Israel must do is refuse to allow them to influence her and remain faithful to God.
She didn’t of course and five hundred years later, David would write that Israel had not truly entered the intended rest of God (Psalm 95:11). The writer of Hebrews picks up on this notion and tells his readers this rest remains as a promise for the children of God – for us. It is ours if we, unlike Israel’s example, are faithful to God and refuse to be compromised by following the ways of the world.