Summary: Joshua 24 is an important text because it reminds us of the challenges that lie before those who will follow the leadership of the Lord in their lives.
Introduction: Today I’d like for us to look at a passage of scripture that deals with the transition that God’s people faced as they possessed the Promised Land. The song we sang a few minutes ago was based on the verses we are going to be reading. Joshua 24 is an important text because it reminds us of the challenges that lie before those who will follow the leadership of the Lord in their lives.
Sometime after the major battles had been won, Joshua assembled the people at Shechem and challenged to take inventory on their lives. He challenged them to look back from where they had come, and to look forward to where God wanted them to go.
I. A History Lesson (24:1-13)
He traced their history from Terah to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob & Esau, on to Aaron & Moses through the exodus from Egypt to where there were then. That period of history was about 700 years.
The key verse is found in v.13 when Joshua says on the LORD’s behalf:
13‘I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’
The object of this history lesson was to realize how God had blessed them and provided for them year after year after year. Joshua then offered the people a challenge for the future and stated his personal commitment to the LORD.
II. A Challenge (24:14-15)
1. Fear the LORD—worship Him in reverence and awe which meant that they had to “put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt…(v.14).
2. Serve the LORD—be the people God had called them to be “special people” a holy people who would be kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
At the heart of this challenge of worship and service was the need to be rid of the idolatry of the past—to renew their commitment to worship and serve God alone. Joshua challenged the people just as Moses had: “Choose for yourselves, who you will serve?” Joshua revealed his own commitment when he said: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
The question that comes to me is why were they still serving foreign gods? Why were there idols still in their midst after all that they had seen the LORD do for them? Why as they gathered that day in Shechem was this problem still plaguing God’s people?
Joshua made his choice clear—“He was going to serve the Lord!” Let’s look at the choice of the people…
III. A Choice by the People (24:16-24)
We will! We will! And Joshua said—“You won’t! You won’t!” When the people insisted that they would change, Joshua once again told them that they must give their hearts fully to the LORD, and that they must “throw away the foreign gods that were among them.” Joshua reminded them that they were witnessed against themselves but the people replied: “We will serve the LORD our God and obey Him.”
Again the question comes to mind, “Why are they still serving foreign gods?” Even though Joshua had his doubts about the people’s commitment, he led them to make that choice a binding one between them and God. He did that by establishing a covenant between the Lord and the people.
IV. A Covenant at Shechem (24:25-27)
Joshua made a covenant for the people that day, and set up a stone monument as a reminder of the commitment that the people had made to the LORD. The stone was placed under the Oak at Shechem. That stone was to be a witness against the people to all that they had said. The question that I have asked several times already is: “Why were they still serving foreign gods?” And I want to offer you at least a partial explanation which I hope will lead us to make some applications for our lives today.
V. A Connection: The Significance of the Oak at Shechem (Genesis 35:1-4)
There is special significance to where Joshua gathered the people that day. To understand it we must travel back some 500 years in time. Turn with me to Genesis 35. In Genesis 35 Jacob was on his way back to the land of Canaan. He had been living in Haran where he had married Rachel and Leah, he had met his brother Isaac and had made peace with him. Now as they prepared to once again plant their lives in the land that the LORD had promised Abraham, Jacob gave instructions to those who were with him.
Look at what it says in verses 1-4:
1Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.