From Joshua 22-24
Near the end of the Joshua’s life he exhorts the people of Israel to be strong and keep and do all that is written in the book of the Law of Moses. He recognises he is about to ‘go the way of all the earth’ (Jos 24.14) and reminds them again of the LORD’s faithfulness to his promises. In light of this he warns them against transgressing the covenant and serve other gods. If they do the LORD will bring upon them evil things and destroy them. This is where our passage picks up.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
24 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. (Jos 24:1)
He brings all the people together. There must have been a large number of people in attendance. They present themselves before the LORD. Presumably around the tent of meeting.
Joshua then retells their story.
2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. (Jos 24:2-4)
He tells the story of their people in Genesis. Starting with Abraham, he talks about his calling and movements through Canaan. The LORD was faithful to his promises and gave him a son. Isaac. Isaac in turn Jacob and Esau. Then they took a turn for the worse. Joshua skips forward to Egypt.
5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out. 6 “ ‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. (Jos 24:5-7)
Joshua tells the story of Israel in Exodus. Their escape from Egypt, being defended by the LORD and the destruction of the Egyptian armies that pursued them. Then they stayed in the wilderness a long time. Because they refused to believe they could take the promised land, and because they rebelled against the LORD a number of times.
Why do you think Joshua is telling their story? What effect would it have on them?
8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. (Jos 24:8-10)
Joshua tells their story in the book of Numbers. He’s moving through the Torah. During their time in the wilderness Israel faced a few challenges. The LORD protected Israel through them all.
11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’ (Jos 24:11–13)
Joshua tells their story in taking the promised land. What this book describes. The LORD gave the inhabitants into their hand. They took the promised land for themselves.
What is your story? From the first time you knew the LORD till now?
In light of their dealings with the LORD and his faithfulness to them. Joshua now delivers his exhortation.
14 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Jos 24:14-15)
He probably does so because he is about to die. The LORD has not chosen a successor. Joshua commands them in the light of their story to fear the LORD. To hold him in reverence and respect. To serve him honestly and faithfully.
To serve the gods of the defeated peoples around them. The gods they still carry around with them.
He asks them to make a choice. We all have to make a choice.
Whatever they choose, Joshua and his house will serve the LORD.
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, 17 for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (Jos 24:16-18)
In light of their story the people realise how bad it would be if they turned their back on the LORD after all he has done for them.
19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Jos 24:19-20)
Joshua tests them. It seems like he does not believe them. The LORD is a holy God, he requires fear, sincerity and faithfulness. But their behaviour at times has led them to serve other gods. The LORD is jealous and will not forgive them. If they turn away again he will punish them.
21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” (Jos 24:21)
They persist in saying they will serve the LORD.
22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” (Jos 24:22)
Joshua seems to be satisfied. But he holds them to their word. They are witnesses to their own testimony.
23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” (Jos 24:23-24)
In light of their oath, he commands them to put away the foreign gods they have been carrying around with them. To listen to the LORD through the priests who should be teaching them.
They persist in saying they will serve the LORD. They say they will obey his voice.
25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” 28 So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance. (Jos 24:25–28)
Story of Israel
The next book we will read through is Judges. Anyone who knows Judges, knows the people’s devotion to the LORD is short lived. They will serve other gods and the LORD will punish them for it. But the LORD is ever faithful. When they cry out the LORD will raise a Judge, who will rescue them.
Sometimes God’s people were discouraged about the lack of faith around them. Elijah was discouraged. He thought he was alone and everyone else worshipped other gods.
13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Ki 19:13–18)
The LORD encouraged him. He raised up his own. They to chose to serve the LORD.
Story of Jesus
When Jesus came people constantly questioned who he was and if he was worth following. They had to make a choice.
25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” (Jn 7:25–31)
Some believed, some didn’t.
We have to choose whether or not Jesus is the Christ and if he is worth serving as King.
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