Joshua 24:14–25 comment (0)
June 28, 2012
By Douglas K. Wilson
Related Scripture: Joshua 24:14-25
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Dean and Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
Joshua lived a long and full life. He served as a commander in Israel’s army, a long-standing understudy to Moses and administrator over the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land. He knew men who had been entrusted with responsibility and had seen many of them collapse under its pressure. Joshua had also seen men like Caleb, who determined to follow God’s lead wherever He directed. As he anticipated his own end, Joshua assembled the elders of Israel together to challenge them. They must decide to remain faithful. They must choose to follow Yahweh.
Take a Stand (14–15)
Polytheism was commonplace in the ancient world. Rejection of the one true God led to replacement with gods that looked like the created world and acted like humanity. The Egyptians were inventive in their cultic practices, creating gods with a combination of animal and human components and attributing divine status to the Pharaoh. Israel had already become enamored with fertility gods in Moab (Num. 25:1–3) on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The army had also conquered a number of Amorite towns in Canaan named Beth-Shemesh (house of the sun), in which the sun was revered as a deity (Josh. 15:10; 19:22, 38). Jericho was likely named for its worship of the moon as a god.
Joshua called for the Israelites to reject idol worship. Many of the polytheistic cultures of the ancient Near East practiced idolatry, in which they kept household idols as representations of the gods themselves. Joshua confronted Israel, commanding them to put away such idolatrous practices. Unlike the surrounding peoples, the 12 tribes had no option to include Yahweh in their pantheon. Choose the one true God or choose other gods. Make a decision; take a stand.
Jesus addressed the issue as well, teachiing on monetary wealth as an idol. No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and your accumulated possessions. You will end up loving one and hating the other. If Jesus is your Lord, there are no other masters. When you serve your employer, you do it to serve Christ (Eph. 6:6–7, 9). When you study a subject, you study to show yourself approved to God (2 Tim. 2:15). When you honor an authority, you honor the One who grants authority (Rom. 13:1–3).
Make the Commitment (16–18)
When confronted by Joshua the people immediately responded positively. Of course we will serve Yahweh. After all, He led us out of Egypt. He demonstrated His power and presence through His mighty works. He made the way for us to settle in this Promised Land. We will serve Yahweh, for He is our God.
They had all the right answers. They knew their history. They knew their heritage. They knew to give honor to Whom it was due. Unfortunately, knowing and doing are often unrelated. James warns believers: “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Would the Israelites follow through with their commitment?
Count the Cost (19–25)
Imagine the following scenario: a pastor extends the invitation at the close of his message. He invites listeners to trust Jesus as their Savior and Lord. In one accord, the congregation voices their commitment to follow Jesus. Now the pastor further challenges them: “You cannot serve Christ. You are incapable of following Him.” “But we will,” they plead. “If you fail to follow Him, you are witnesses against yourselves,” the pastor responds. “We are witnesses, and we will follow Jesus.”
This scenario reflects the events of Joshua’s farewell address. Joshua calls Israel to decide, they respond, he confronts them and they further commit to follow Yahweh. Joshua then provides a written witness in the Book of the Law, followed by a memorial stone as a reminder of their covenant to follow Yahweh. Verbal affirmation is not enough. We must count the cost and follow the Master.