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Chapter 24

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ch. 24:1-27    ch. 24:28-33

The Covenant Renewed At Shechem (ch. 24:1 - 27)  

In Joshua 24 Joshua is acting as a prophet of God.  He says in verse 2, "this is what the Lord God says".   He is not only a general of an army, He is a prophet of God.

From verse 2 through to verse 13 God speaks through Joshua and reminds Israel of their past.  In brief, this is a short history lesson. 

The Lord God goes as far back as Terah, the father of Abraham, as seen in verse 2.  Note the word "river" in verse 2.  This is the Euphrates River.  Abraham's family originated east of the Euphrates River. 

We note that Abraham's family, before being called by God, worshipped "other gods".  They were polytheistic, meaning, they worshipped more than one god.  The moon god was the predominant god they worship.  I believe, as many do, that Islam is really a product of this religion, which is called the Sumerian Religion.   

Note in verse 5 that God states that He inflicted the Egyptians, which He certainly did.  Along with inflicting the Egyptians, for the first few curses He put on them, Israel herself suffered along with the Egyptians.  They were spared when it came to the last few inflictions.  There is something to this in relation to Christians and the events leading to the end of this age.  I believe that Christians will suffer the same kind of infliction as God judges the nations of the world, but when His pure wrath is poured out on the nations of the world, Christians will be spared, possibly through the rapture of the church.

All the things God speaks about in the first 13 verses here are the positive things that He did for Israel in their past history.  Of course, He did some negative things to Israel as well, but He does not comment on them here.  This is meant to be an encouragement to Israel so they will follow in His ways from here on out.  But that seldom happens.  Their frailty, their fallenness, takes over time and time again.  It only goes to show you that we are fallen people, who live in a fallen world, and are in bad need of a Saviour.  This is one important lesson that we learn from the history of Israe.  Paul teaches on this in the book of Romans.  It does not matter who we are, we are sinful, we cannot attain God's salvation on our own, we need Him badly.

Joshua admonishes Israel in verse 14 "to fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness".  The word "faithfulness" is key here because that is exactly what Israel hasn't been.  So, if we aren't faithful, we can't serve the Lord and we won't fear Him.  Being faithful simply means that we have trusted our lives with the Lord, and we continue to trust Him all of our lives.

In verse 1 4we see two sets of gods mentioned.  One set are the gods beyond the River, meaning the Euphrates River.    The other set of gods are those of  Egypt, which Israel got caught up in.  In verse 14 we see a third set of gods mentioned, and they are the gods of the Ammorites, in the land they are presently living in.  So we have the gods beyond the Euphrates River , those in Egypt , and those in Canaan, the land of the Amorites.

Also in verse 14 Joshua is throwing out a challenge to Israel.  He says that if serving the Lord doesn't seem to be the way Israel wants to go, then they must  choose who they will serve.  This shows us the free will of man.  We have the choice who we will serve.  God does not make us to anything we do not want to do.  This reminds me of what Jesus told those who belong to Him in the city of Laodicea, in Revelation 3.  These people were luke warm when it came to their relationship to Jesus.  He didn't like that.  Jesus preferred them to be either hot or cold.  That's interesting because you would think that He'd prefer us being luke warm over being cold, but that's not the case.  As Joshua states here, either choose to stand with the Lord or against Him.  Being in between is not acceptable.

Verse 15 is a well known verse.  Joshua states his position on the matter.  He says that for he and his house, they will serve the Lord.  Notice, it's not just Joshua who will serve the Lord, but his whole house.  Some believe in what is called "household salvation" which means that if the father is a believer, or is saved, then the whole house is saved.  I don't believe that.  Everyone is responsible for accepting and choosing the Lord for themselves.  That being said, I do believe that if the father is a believer, and if he is walking with the Lord, all of his family will be walking in the blessing of the Lord, that is, until the children go out on their own to have their own family.  At that point, the second generation family must decide on its own whether they will choose the Lord and His blessings or other gods.

In verse 16 through 18 it is the unanimous choice of Israel to serve the Lord their God for all of the good things He has done for them.  But, like their forefathers, even though they make this positive confession, they can't stick to it, and for that reason judgment falls on them. Again, this shows us the frailty of man.  No matter how hard we try, we will fail to please the Lord.  We can only please the Lord through Jesus, because He has been, and still is, the only one who really pleases God.  Our trust in Him is what saves us.  Our trust in Him alone is what pleases God.

Joshua's response is very interesting.  What he says just backs up what I have just said.  In verse 19 he says that Israel is unable to serve the Lord.  He is too holy and they are too sinful.   The Bible simply teaches that the heart of man is deceitful and wicked, and we don't even realize it.  How true.

In verses 19 and 20 Joshua says something that some might find hard to understand.  He says that if Israel fails to obey God, He will not forgive their sins, but He will bring disaster on them.  This simply means that God will judge Israel for their sin as stated in the Law of Moses and He will certainly bring disaster on them, which He did.  He will not just forgive or overlook their sin.  He will do as He said He will do.  He will not break His promise.  He will indeed bring disaster on Israel.  This has nothing to do with the cross of Christ and the forgiveness the He brings to us through His cross. That is a different issue altogether.  The point here is that God does not, and still doesn't, overlook or even forgive sin without repentance and faith in Him.

In verse 21 Israel is convinced.  They say they will serve the Lord.  It's like they are trying to convince Joshua that they won't stray from the Lord.  I wonder if Joshua knew in advance that they really would fall away.  It would not surprise me that he did know of the future failure of Israel's faith.  Still, it seems to me that Israel is simply speaking from pure humanism.   We can muster all the human strength we can, but still that will not make it possible to serve the Lord as we should.  We need His help.  Or, we can just get on the bandwagon when the good things are happening.  This isn't real faith or service either.  Lots of people have gotten on the Christian band wagon because it seemed to be the good and right thing to do. 

Joshua responds in verse 22 by saying that Israel will be their own witness. That is to say, they will remember this promise that they made when they break it.  I think by saying this, Joshua knew Israel would fall from faith.

Of course, in a spirit of pure humanism, so I think, Israel agrees.  They are their own witnesses.

In verse 23 Joshua responds to Israel's response to him.  He tells them to throw away their foreign gods.  That suggests to me, that even in this early stage in Canaan, some Israelis had foreign gods in their possession. Joshua was simply saying, "if you really mean what you say, put your money where your mouth is throw away the gods".   The words "throw away" suggest to me an immediate and drastic response.  Just throw them away right now.  Don't think further about it.  Just do it now.

If some Israelis didn't have other gods with them, these words of Joshua was meant for future reference.    That being said, I believe that even after the victories the Lord led Israel through, there were some in their midst that gave themselves to other gods which probably was evident in certain idols they had in their possession.  It just goes to show the fallen nature of man.  Even in the midst of God's blessings, we can give into temptation.

At this point Joshua writes up a covenant and actually adds it to the Law of Moses.  This is one seldom mentioned covenant, and in context, God is involved in the covenant.  Joshua has just spoken in the first person on behalf of God to Israel.  God, through Joshua, has challenged Israel to serve Him and Israel agreed. In one real sense of the word, this was a spoken covenant, and now Joshua puts it in writing and includes it as a corollary to the Law of Moses. This covenant simply states that Israel will serve the Lord in faithfulness, and if they don't, they agree to the disasters that will come their way as a result.  So now we have the third covenant the God makes with Israel.  First we have the Abrahamic Covenant, then the Mosaic Covenant, and now the Joshuian Covenant.  

Concerning the real lesson that modern day Christians can learn from this chapter, I'd to copy an article I wrote into this section of my commentary.  

Just before Joshua died he admonished Israel concerning the pagan practices of the Canaanite community they were now living among.  He said,  " be careful to obey everything that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not evoke the names of their gods and swear by them.  You must not serve them or bow down to them Be careful to love the Lord your God.  But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you.  Instead, they will become snares and traps for you until you perish from this good land". (Joshua 23:6 13)       

 

Canaanites were historic enemies of Israel.  Therefore, Israel was not to ally themselves with them, serve, worship, or evoke the names of their pagan gods.  If Israel did any of these, God would no longer protect them from the Canaanites.  The Canaanites would rise from within their midst, become a snare to them, and defeat Israel from within.  Israel would then perish from the good land God gave them.  All this eventually came true because Israel ignored Joshua's admonition.  

 

The apostle Paul gave the elders of Ephesus a similar admonition.  He said, " I know that after I leave savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will rise and distort the truth". (Acts 20:29 and 30)  This came true when men rose from within the Ephesian Christian community teaching false doctrine and leading people astray.  About 3 decades or so after Paul's warning, Jesus Himself, in Revelation 2:6, warned these Ephesians to repent or else they would lose their candlestick.  History tells us that in subsequent generations, the Ephesian Christians ignored these warnings by Paul and Jesus.  The community of believers eventually perished.  An Islamic community rose from the ashes of a defeated Ephesian church. 

 

Both Israel and the Ephesian Christians ignored the Word of the Lord.  They gave themselves to false teaching and pagan practices.  I suggest that parts of the Evangelical movement are doing the same today.  For the sake of unity and tolerance, which is a non-Biblical worldly philosophy, many Evangelicals are allying themselves with other religions and participating in their pagan practices.  This is evident in the Emergent Church movement, and more recently in the Chrislam movement that seeks to find common ground between Christianity and Islam.  If Joshua and Paul were here today, I think they'd be screaming their heads off in holy anger, commanding such people to repent.

 

Men like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Rick Warren, are teaching people to do what Joshua told Israel not to do.  In the name of unity, these men both teach and practice an unbiblical alliance with other religions.  They "evoke the names of other gods" in so-called joint worship services.  Like Israel and the Ephesian Christians, the end result of this union is death.  They and their following will perish from the good land God once gave them.  As Jesus put it in Revelation 2:6, "they will lose their candlestick".  The witness from the light of the Holy Spirit will depart from them and they will join the apostate church of these last days.     

 

Paul called these false teachers of the last days, teachers of demonic doctrine. (1 Timothy 4:1) The time has come for those who take the Word of the Lord seriously to call these teachers to repentance and warn the Christian community about them.  If they don't repent, we do as Paul teaches.  "Have nothing to do with them".  (2 Timothy 3:4-5)

Burial In The Promised Land (ch. 24:28 33)  

The book of Joshua ends with his death at the age of 110.  Also, as was requested by Joseph, Joseph's bones that Israel had been carrying around for years was buried in Shechem in the plot of land that Jacob bought for his and his families burial site.

The book of Joshua ends and the book of Judges picks up where Joshua's account ends.  From here on out, the story of Israel is an up and down affair.  They can never seem to serve their Lord with any consistency.                  

 

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