104-1024-Joshua Chapter 24
It is possible that this farewell address is inclusive of the farewell that Joshua gave in chapter 23:1-16, or it may be another farewell given at a later time as a result of a greater message given to Joshua by the Lord. In the Chapter 23 farewell no specific location was given for that address but here we know that Joshua gathered the leaders at Shechem. Shechem was the location of the first affirmation of God’s covenant shortly after they had entered into the land of Canaan.
This passage may not be seen as a prophecy but it is. Prophecy is not always a statement of coming events in time. Prophecy is also a spontaneous word from God that is unique and direct. We have a tendency to overstate the meaning of the word prophecy. Prophecy is powerful but often works in a natural way. The word prophecy is defined as an inspired utterance of a prophet, viewed as a revelation of divine will, a prediction of the future, made under divine inspiration, such an inspired message or prediction transmitted orally or in writing, and the vocation or condition of a prophet.
This is also considered a prophecy because Joshua opens with the words, “Thus says the Lord.” Before the Lord issues His challenge to the people He reminds them of His faithfulness of the past. Remembering from where we have come in particular to matters concerning our relationship with the Lord is important to us and our remembrance is important to God. The word remember appears 121 times in the Old Testament. Joshua gives the people a brief history lesson that they should remember all the Lord has done for the Israelite people.
It is noticeable that the failures of the Israelite people are missing from the account of the history that Joshua reminds the people of. In Jeremiah we read, “And their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) In the history lesson that Joshua recites to the people their failures are omitted as God does not remember their sin. However, Joshua does remind them that their father Abraham started as an idol worshiper in the land across the Euphrates. Jewish history omits this fact and states that Abraham served the Lord form his youth. That Abraham went into his father’s idol shop and smashed all the idols. There is not Biblical Scripture nor is there historical evidence to support this so it is mere speculation.
For the Israelite nation serving the Lord God was not a blind leap of faith. Many of them were children when they were led by Moses out of the land of Egypt. They had seen the parting of the Red Sea, been fed on the manna from heaven, seen the parting of the Jordan River, and witnessed how God had delivered their enemies into their hand in the Promised Land. It would seem unthinkable that the Israelite people would worship any other God.
Yet, living in this world it is difficult to serve the Lord and Him only. The Israelites had received much blessing from God but the blessing can become a stumbling block in remaining faithful. The abundance of the Lord’s blessing can become a subtle enemy to the serving of God in a sincere and truthful way. “The best test of sincerity is not always the open hostility of foes, for this often braces up the energies of combat, while at the same time it makes the path of duty clear. Still less is it at the hour of triumph over our foes, then there is no temptation to rebel. The real test of our faithfulness to God is in most cases is our power to continue steadfastly in one course of conduct when the excitement of conflict is removed, and the enemies with which we have to contend are the insidious allurements of ease or custom amid the common place duties of life.” (Redpath)
The command of Joshua is to choose who they will serve not if they will serve. All will serve something or someone. In the grander picture we will serve either the devil, intentionally or not, or we will serve the Lord. There is no other option, all will serve one or the other.
Joshua provides the wisdom of his choice and in turn the best example for his people. Joshua states, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” It was also the responsibility of Joshua as the priest of his household to ensure that his whole house served the Lord. It is the responsibility of the husband, as the spiritual leader of the household, to represent the whole house before God. (1 Peter 3:7)
Joshua also shows his determination to secure his whole household in the will of God in spite of what others thought, in spite of whatever the pop culture of the people was, as his relationship with the Lord was not based upon the opinion of any man but on the Lord alone. Joshua was also making it clear to the people that he would serve the Lord and serve the Lord alone. There would not be any other gods in the household of Joshua’s family.
With Joshua revisiting the history and that the majority of the Israelite nation had lived through that history the people readily agreed to serve the Lord God. It would be well also for us to remember and meditate on the abundance of blessings that the Lord has given to us. God being faithful and true to His children how can it be that we at times fall away from our service to Him?
The Disciples of Christ also reflected this same attitude. (John 6:66-69) In this passage of Scripture Peter said, “You have words of eternal life.” When we find it hard sometimes to serve the Lord we should remember the alternatives.
Many people take serving the Lord too lightly and Joshua is trying to discourage this. The Israelite nation was serving the Lord under a covenant that they had agreed and promised to obey. If they were not faithful in their obedience to that covenant promise then they would be cursed for their disobedience. Our walk of faith with Jesus requires a full commitment to His service. In the Gospel of Luke we read this, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.” (Luke 6:26:32) Jesus wants all to follow Him but our following is not a decision to be taken lightly and our Lord does not want decisions that result in broken commitments.
The people of the Israelite nation reaffirmed their commitment to service the Lord and by Joshua’s word they were fully aware of the consequences of a failed commitment.
In the Law of Moses for a statement of truth to be accepted there had to be two witnesses. Joshua had made the people to reconfirm their commitment to serve the Lord and entered them into a covenant. This Covenant required that there be two witnesses. Joshua declared that the witnesses of this covenant was the people and a large stone. By this action the covenant was binding before the Lord. (Deuteronomy 19:15) By the same token it would be well worth the rededication of our own lives to the service of the Lord. In doing so we are re-establishing our own Covenant with the Lord. Our rededication to God, when needed and often is, becomes a powerful and wonderful experience.
Joshua, as Joseph, lived to be 110 years old. His body was laid to rest in the land of his inheritance. So powerful was the legacy of Joshua as the leader of the Israelite nation that they remained faithful to the Lord God beyond Joshua and as long as the elders lived which survived him.
Joseph had expressed that he wanted his remains buried in the Promised Land. The Israelites buried the bones of Joseph in Shechem as this was the land that his father Jacob had bought for one hundred pieces of silver. This may after all these years from the time of Joseph seen a moot point but it fulfilled the Scripture in Genesis. “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” (Genesis 50:25) The Lord God does not leave lose ends and His work is always complete. “By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.” (Hebrews 11:22)
With the death of the High Priest Eleazar the last link of the wilderness generation had passed away. Now the son of Eleazar became the High Priest who was Phineas.
From then till the time of Jesus the generations that followed were each challenged to conquer the Promised Land that God had given to them. Which they did as they placed close heed to the witness of Joshua.