Editor’s Note: Below is a cleaned-up section of my notes from the “phone-based” Sunday School lesson prepared for August 8, 2020. I had found multiple good lessons in Joshua 24, and this one ended up sounding like a good start to an article.
In the 24th chapter of the book of Joshua, we find a successful leader of the Israelite people delivering what we might consider to be a “farewell address”. However, if we read through it, we find that Joshua didn’t just leave the people with a catchy speech, or an inspirational message. He took them through a process that – I believe – is probably representative of all who move from a life away from God, into a life of service with Him.
Joshua starts out this dialogue with a message from God (see verses 2-13), where God recounts His faithfulness to the Israelites. This includes a number of historical events where – among other things – God brought the Israelites out of slavery and helped them move into the Promised Land (which is where they were at this point).
Next, Joshua puts forth a challenge to the people. He doesn’t just teach them history, which they probably already knew. He also explains that they have a choice to make in verses 14-15. In addition, Joshua gives us a great example of leadership, proactively committing himself and his family to serving God. Have you ever been in a group – maybe a Bible Study – where no one wanted to be the first to answer a question? Here, Joshua doesn’t just put out a challenge to the Israelites, he steps up and puts himself and his family first in line.
In verses 16-24, the leaders of the people follow Joshua’s example, and pledge themselves to Jehovah: the God who had delivered them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. They acknowledge what God had done for them, and commit to serving Him. Joshua pushes back a little bit, knowing that the bar is high for those who wish to follow the true God in the right way, and that they are going to fall short (not just making mistakes, but in blatantly leaving God to worship idols). He isn’t going to let them get away with making an easy decision, without understanding what they are agreeing to.
With this commitment in place, the covenant is formally recorded (see verses 25-28). In addition to this documentation, and the people agreeing to be witnesses to this agreement (see verse 22), Joshua establishes another witness: a big rock! A rock might not be able to testify in court, but it could serve as a reminder to the people that they must remain faithful to their agreement, or else they would be in violation of their promises.
This was Joshua’s legacy. When we learn that Joshua died at the age of 110 (see verses 29-30), he had come a long way from when he was one of the spies who checked out the Promised land decades earlier (before the people had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years). He had left the people with clear instructions, and he heard their commitment to serve the Lord. I think that we could agree he had lived a full life.
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.
Joshua 24:31 NIV
This could be the epitaph on Joshua’s grave marker, and if the testimony of our lives (even while we are still living) is that those around us followed God (and that we did, too), I don’t think that we could ask for anything better!
Tomorrow, let’s take a look at what this process might look like for us, and for the generations after us.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.