Joshua 23:13 they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides
We saw already how dangerous intermarrying with the neighboring peoples was for Israel. Remember Balaam’s treachery when he advised the Moabites and Midianites to send their daughters to seduce the Israelites in following other gods? The plan worked to satanic perfection (see commentary for Numbers 31). The abomination of Baal-peor made Moses so indignant that he declared: “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor… And those that died… were twenty and four thousand.” (Numbers 25:1-9) A drastic punishment indeed, but Israel was not strong enough to mingle with the idolatrous neighbors.
Now, they have settled in Canaan, but they have not quite driven all the others out. What problem will that present? Like Lamanites to the Nephites, the nations of Canaan would be “a scourge unto [Israel], to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction.” (2 Ne 5:25)
And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
… And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. (Judges 3:5-14)
One of the greatest kings of all of Israel was Solomon. World-renowned wisdom could not keep him from making the mistake warned about so long before. He made the mistake of loving “many strange women… For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.” (1 Kings 11:1-5)
Joshua 24:15 Choose you this day whom ye will serve
Howard W. Hunter
Here was a great statement of full commitment of a man to God; of a prophet to the desires of the Lord; and of Joshua the man to his God, who had many times previously blessed his obedience. He was telling the Israelites that regardless of how they decided, he would do what he knew was right. He was saying that his decision to serve the Lord was independent of whatever they decided; that their actions would not affect his; that his commitment to do the Lord's will would not be altered by anything they or anyone else would do. Joshua was firmly in control of his actions and had his eyes fixed on the commandments of the Lord. He was committed to obedience.
Surely the Lord loves, more than anything else, an unwavering determination to obey his counsel. Surely the experiences of the great prophets of the Old Testament have been recorded to help us understand the importance of choosing the path of strict obedience. (That We Might Have Joy [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 155-156)
Neil L. Andersen
The words of Joshua ring with such relevance today, and yet how we demonstrate our decision to serve the Lord seems to change with each generation. Thirty-five hundred years ago as Joshua spoke, it meant leaving behind false gods, going to battle against the Canaanites, and following with sharp attention the words of the Prophet. We can almost hear the whining of the skeptics as Joshua announced his battle plans for taking the city of Jericho. First, he said, they would quietly, without any speaking, circle the city one time for each of six days. Then on the seventh day they would compass the city seven times. Following, the priests would blow the trumpets, and at that time all the people would shout with a great shout. Then, Joshua assured them, the walls would come down (see Josh. 6). When the walls came down, the skeptics were quiet.
In our world today, one thing has not changed since Joshua spoke: Those who choose to serve the Lord will always listen attentively and specifically to the Prophet. In modern Israel, serving the Lord means carefully following the Prophets. (“Prophets and Spiritual Mole Crickets,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 16–17)
Joseph B. Wirthlin
The Lord has left no doubt in defining His side and where the Saints should be in their thoughts, words, actions, and practices. We have His counsel in the scriptures and in the words of the prophets. To ancient Israel, the Lord said through Moses: “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” (Deut. 30:15.) The Lord counseled His prophet Jeremiah to instruct the people: “Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” (Jer. 21: 8.) That is the contrast; that is the choice. Either we are on the Lord’s side of the line or on the side of the adversary. Nephi declared, [we] “are free to act for [ourselves]—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.” (2 Ne. 10:23.) Yes, “men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:27.)
The line between those who are on the Lord’s side and those who follow the adversary has been with us from the beginning. Even before the creation of this world, the children of God divided themselves into two groups with different loyalties. One-third of the host of heaven followed Lucifer, separating themselves from the presence of God and from the two-thirds who followed the Son of God. (See D&C 29:36–39.) This division has persisted throughout the history of mankind and will continue until the day of judgment when Jesus comes again in His glory. We read in Matthew that all nations will gather before Him, and He will
separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. …
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. (See Matt. 25:32–34, 41.)
The Prophet Nephi tells us why many choose the wrong side of the line: “Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.” (3 Ne. 6:15.)
The Lord has given us prophets to guide us and keep us from evil if we will accept and follow their instruction. The Lord would say to us today as He said to the ancient Israelites:
Be not afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s. …
The Lord will be with you. …
Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. (2 Chr. 20:15, 17, 20; emphasis added.)
In our conferences, we sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. The Lord has appointed them as watchmen to warn the people (see Ezek. 2:1–8; Ezek. 33:6–7) and as the “servant[s] of all” (D&C 50:26). He said, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)
One latter-day prophet, President George Albert Smith, said: “The spirit of the adversary is the spirit of destruction. There are two influences in the world. The one is the influence of our Heavenly Father and the other is the influence of Satan. We can take our choice which territory we want to live in, that of our Heavenly Father or that of Satan.” President Smith then said, quoting his grandfather: “ ‘There is a line of demarcation, well defined. On one side of the line is the Lord’s territory. On the other side of the line is the devil’s territory. … If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness can not cross that line.’ What does that mean? It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, striving to keep all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with his advice and counsel.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, pp. 5–6) (“The Lord’s Side,” Ensign, Mar. 1993, 69–70)