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Following this, Joshua now an aged man, gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem to give them his last charge. He reminded them how God had called Abraham from Mesopotamia and set him apart, that through him all nations of the world might be blessed. It is evident from chapter 24, verse 2 that Abraham himself had been brought up in idolatry and belonged to an idolatrous family at the time that God revealed Himself to him. Joshua said,
Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood [that is, of the river Euphrates], even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
Abraham was not called out from the nations because he was inherently different from other people, but God in His sovereignty chose him from an idolatrous family and revealed Himself to him. They were His children. They knew how wonderfully the Lord had fulfilled His word to their fathers, and now they were responsible to yield implicit obedience to His word. Joshua recited briefly an account of God’s dealings with them under Moses in Egypt and in the wilderness, and then reminded them of recent events after they entered into the land. Everything Jehovah had promised was fulfilled. He had given them the land for which they had not labored and cities which they did not build. In these they dwelt securely with the vineyards and the olive yards which they had not planted but of which they ate. They were responsible, therefore, to fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth and put away the gods which their fathers had served on the other side of the flood and in Egypt and to serve the Lord alone (verse 14).
This is very illuminating and shows us that even in Egypt idolatry had a hold on some in Israel, even as we know was true in the wilderness, and now that they were settled in the land there were still idols to be brought out into the light and destroyed. So long as anything is given the place in our hearts that belongs to God Himself, there can never be the fullness of blessing that He would have us enjoy.
Joshua’s own steadfast purpose is emphasized in verse 15. After calling upon Israel to choose at once whom they would serve, whether Baal or Jehovah, he declares,
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
For the doughty old warrior who had seen so much of the mighty acts of the one true and living God there could be no thought of any other god. Nor would he allow for one moment that those subject to his headship in the family relation should take any other course. Jehovah was his God and the God of his household. His was an unflinching and unquestioning loyalty to the Holy One of Israel whom he had served for so long.
Responding to Joshua’s words, we are told in verses 16 to 18:
And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; For the Lord our God, He it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for He is our God.
All this sounded very good and no doubt at the moment those who made such protestations of loyalty to Joshua meant every word they uttered. But time was to prove how untrustworthy the human heart is. Joshua realized it and warned the people accordingly, as we read in verses 19 and 20:
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is an holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He hath done you good.
However, the people replied, “Nay, but we will serve the Lord.” And God called Joshua to witness against them that they had thus confirmed their devotion to Him. Again the command came (verse 23):
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.
The people protested their full intention to be obedient. So we are told,
Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which He spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
After such solemn adjuration the people departed to their homes.
The death of Joshua followed shortly after and he was buried in the borders of his inheritance in Timnath-serah.
In verse 31 we learn that Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders which overlived Joshua and which had known all the works of the Lord that He had done for Israel. The history that follows in later books tells us how terribly the people failed to carry out their part of the covenant which the fathers had made.
One thing remains to be noticed ere we close our present study of this book. We read in verse 32:
And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Before Joseph died, by faith he gave commandment concerning his bones, exhorting his brethren not to allow his embalmed body to remain in the land of Egypt, but to carry it with them to Canaan and bury it there. So when Moses led the people out of Egypt, we are told he took the bones of Joseph with him. All through the forty years in the wilderness when they were bearing about in the body the dying of Joseph, the memorial of death, the death of the one who had been used of God for their deliverance, who might be described as their saviour, was with them. Now that all had been fulfilled and they were settled in the land, they buried the bones of Joseph in the parcel of ground which he himself had indicated.
May we not learn from this the importance of always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in us until that day when, the wilderness journey ended, we shall enter into our final rest in the Paradise of God above.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Joshua 24". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany