Summary: Joshua picks up where Moses left off leading the Israelites from Egypt and slavery to the promised land
JOSHUA SPEAKS TO US TODAY
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
My bible shows a sub-title for this reading: The Covenant at Shechem. Okay, so where is Shechem and what is its significance.
1. Shechem is one of the capitals of the Kingdom of Israel. It is where Abraham erected an altar upon his arrival in the land of Canaan.
“Then, Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So, they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.”
And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” Genesis 12:5-7
2. Shechem is also where Jacob set up an encampment and purchased land for his fields.
“Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.” Genesis 33:18
And now, we read that Joshua made a covenant with the people of Shechem.
You see, Joshua has taken up the mantel of Moses The Israelites have journeyed out of Egypt and slavery to the promised land. This journey was fraught with hardships, doubts and fears. Most journeys to a new and unknown destination are. All along the way there has been rebellions of one kind or another, loss of faith in leadership and in God, hunger and not to be made light of boredom. These were basically peaceful folks like you and me. They were not accustomed to day after day trudging along dirty and dusty trails with meager sustenance.
When confidence in leadership begins to fade order and discipline soon follow likewise. Remember the “golden calf” that Aaron, the very brother of Moses cast to worship in the absence of Moses? What’s with that? Can any of us or should I say all of us not relate to some degree? When times get hard and we don’t see God come through for us lie we think He should, do we EVER rebel: do a little backsliding: seek comfort in available distractions that we know are unhealthy if not downright sinful? All these readings are meant for us to identify with in some way or another. They go beyond relating historical events and happenings.
So, Joshua, gathers all the tribes, all the leaders and judges and makes it clear that they are at a crossroads in life’s journey. He tells them to “put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Think back to that most memorable altar call! Think back to every altar call that you have been present at. This is Joshua’s altar call. He tells the Israelites that they cannot serve God and then turn around and forsake Him. Our God is a jealous God and will not tolerate any place in our lives but NUMBER ONE! Hearing this, the Israelites profess that they will serve the LORD. Joshua explains to them and to us, they (we) are witnesses against themselves (ourselves) that we have chosen to serve the LORD. What does that mean? That means that no one is going to be following them (us) around keeping tabs on us. We know when we are rebelling and not keeping God number one in our lives AND so does HE.
Next Joshua makes a covenant with them and a statute and an ordinance.
As we ponder all of this, one very good way to see how innocently we abandon God and our oaths/promises is to look back at all the vows that we made through the years. Most cannot even remember how many or what they were about. Yet they were vows, in the church made to God.
Have you been in the congregation during a baptism or receiving a new member into the church? Most churches include a portion of that service that provides for the people present as witnesses to vow support and example to the individual(s) being baptized or received. Can you name any much less share specifically how you show support and an example to that individual? I surely cannot, as I cannot even remember very many names unless I go to a register.