A. Joshua recounts God’s great works on Israel’s behalf.
1. (1) Joshua speaks to the nation again, through its leaders.
Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
a. This may or may not be part of the same farewell described in Joshua 23. No specific place of gathering is mentioned in Joshua 23, so it could have been part of this same meeting at Shechem.
2. (2-13) Speaking prophetically, Joshua recounts the history of God’s faithfulness to Israel.
And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. Also I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to what I did among them. Afterward I brought you out. 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. So they cried out to the Lord; and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, brought the sea upon them, and covered them. And your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. Then you dwelt in the wilderness a long time. And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan, and they fought with you. But I gave them into your hand, that you might possess their land, and I destroyed them from before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand. Then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you; also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand. I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow. I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’“
a. This is prophecy, because Joshua begins by saying Thus says the Lord God of Israel. Yet, there is nothing predictive in this opening passage. Prophecy is not necessarily a prediction of the future. It can simply be a uniquely direct and spontaneous word from God.
i. We often want to “over-supernaturalize” the work of God. The gift of prophecy can operate in a powerful, yet natural way.
b. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River: Before God challenges Israel, He reminds them of His faithfulness. A brief history lesson is given, which declares this.
c. Notice what is missing from God’s review of Israel’s history: Their failures are strangely forgotten. Later, God said their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34). Here, He seems to have “forgotten” Israel’s past sin.
i. However, we are told were they all started - as idol worshippers, including Abraham. Jewish legends claim Abraham worshipped the true God from his youth, and have interesting stories about Abraham smashing all the idols in his father’s idol shop, but we have no Biblical reason to believe they are true.
B. Choosing to covenant with the Lord.
1. (14) The challenge: serve God exclusively.
Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!
a. Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth: This was not a blind leap of faith. They saw God’s works and experienced His blessings, so it made sense for them to exclusively serve a God who had done so much for them.
b. Serve the Lord! Yet, for us, this is the difficult part - staying faithful to God after we have received much blessing from Him; the ease that can come with blessing can be a subtle enemy of serving God in sincerity and truth.
i. “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)
2. (15) Choose God or choose your alternative.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of 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.
a. Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: Joshua commands them to choose whom you will serve, not if you will serve. We will all serve someone - either the devil (intentionally or not), or the Lord. We really are not left the option of not serving anyone.
b. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord: Joshua, as a wise man, sees the situation sensibly - he makes the intelligent choice to say as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
i. Joshua also understood that he, as the priest of his family, was charged with the responsibility to see that his whole house served the Lord. He had the job of representing his whole house before God.
c. But as for me and my house indicates that Joshua was determined on this course no matter what anyone else thought. His relationship with God was not based on any man, but on the Lord alone, and he would serve God no matter what anyone else did.
d. Inherent in Joshua’s declaration is that he would serve the Lord alone. He would not serve the Lord and someone or something else. There was one God in his life, and that God was the Lord.
3. (16-18) The nation gives a great response; they also will serve the Lord.
So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
a. For the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt: Significantly, their declaration is based on God’s past dealings with them. How could they not serve such a great God?
b. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God: This is essentially the same attitude reflected by Jesus’ disciples in John 6:66-69: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. If serving God sometimes seems hard, think of the alternatives.
4. (19-21) Joshua cautions against a lightly made commitment.
But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!”
a. You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God: Joshua is not trying to discourage their faith, but trying to discourage a light commitment to following the Lord. They need to be reminded that they are serving God under a covenant that promised they would be cursed for disobedience.
i. Jesus expressed the same kind of warning that following Him took total commitment in Luke 14:25-33. It isn’t that Jesus doesn’t want followers, but He does not want lightly made and easily broken commitments.
b. No, but we will serve the Lord! This was the response Joshua wanted: a commitment, but made with full understanding of the consequences.
5. (22-28) A covenant renewed.
So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. Then 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 oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.
a. You are witnesses . . . this stone shall be a witness: Joshua required that the covenant be confirmed by the testimony of two witnesses, the people and the stone. Therefore, this was a binding covenant before God (Deuteronomy 19:15).
b. We should not fall short in our own need to re-establish our own covenant with the Lord. Rededication to God can be a wonderful and powerful thing.
C. The death of Joshua and Eleazar.
1. (29-31) A beautiful epitaph for Joshua.
Now it came to pass after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Serah, which is in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.
a. Being one hundred and ten years old: Joshua dies at a ripe old age, and is buried in the land of his own inheritance.
b. Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua: This was the greatest legacy of Joshua. His godly influence was effectively communicated to and through the whole nation.
2. (32) The burial of Joseph’s bones.
The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.
a. The bones of Joseph: This may seem like an inconsequential point, but it fulfills Genesis 50:25. God likes to tie up lose ends. This is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:22 as an example of Joseph’s faith.
3. (33) The death and burial of Eleazar.
And Eleazar the son of Aaron died. They buried him in a hill belonging to Phinehas his son, which was given to him in the mountains of Ephraim.
a. And Eleazar the son of Aaron died: Eleazar’s death meant that another link with the wilderness generation had passed. Now Phinehas was High Priest.
b. As the generations pass, they are each challenged to conquer the land of blessing and promise that God has for them - and we will do it, as they pay close heed to our Joshua, to Jesus Christ.
© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission