4.12 Joshua -- the Greatest Generation
In many ways, the Book of Joshua is the story of Israel's greatest generation. This was a generation that encouraged Joshua and pledged complete obedience to him (Josh 1:16-18). And Joshua, who himself demonstrated perfect obedience (Josh 11:15), testified that the people had done so as well (Josh 22:2); they had "held fast" to the Lord (Josh 23:8). They continued to serve faithfully until their generation died off: Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel (Josh 24:31).
And yet none of this was enough. Even this generation flagged in zeal and failed to dislodge all of the Canaanites. The Book of Joshua records this failure repeatedly (Josh 13:13, Josh 15:63, Josh 16:10, Josh 17:12-18, Josh 18:3, Josh 19:47), and the Book of Judges denounces their failure as sinful disobedience (Judg 1:19-36, Judg 2:1-5). Joshua warned them that they were not able to serve the Lord, because He is holy and they were rebellious (Josh 24:19). The conclusion seems inescapable that even the best efforts of the finest human generation were not sufficient to keep a conditional covenant like the Law of Sinai. The "rest" that the Lord held out throughout the book (Josh 1:13-15; Josh 11:23; Josh 21:44; Josh 23:1, Ex 33:14) is fragile and evanescent, a moment-by-moment resting in Him, gone as soon as one breaks faith.