Joshua 24

Sunday Evening Bible Study

September 19, 1999

Introduction

The book of Joshua is a book about taking the Promised Land. The Israelites have been delivered from the slavery of Egypt, but before they can settle into what God wants to give them, they have to conquer the land. They have now conquered the majority of the land, and itís time to send everyone home.

:1 to Shechem

Shechem is located 10 1/2 miles north of Shiloh, where we last saw the tabernacle.

It's located right between the two twin mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. This was where Joshua had stopped at the beginning of their conquering of the land, and had reminded the people to follow after the Lord:

Josh 8:30-35 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, {31} As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. {32} And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. {33} And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. {34} And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. {35} There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.

Lesson

Come back to the place of commitment.

Godís people are constantly being asked to renew their commitment. We can think it a little silly that some preachers keep calling people to take a stand for the Lord. But the truth is that we can all face the temptation to backslide and take it easy in our walk.

Jesus said to the church of Ephesus:

(Rev 2:4-5 KJV) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. {5} Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Calling the people back to Shechem is a little like calling them back to the place of the "first works", calling them back to choosing whether or not to serve the Lord.

Do you need to go back to "Shechem"?

:1 they presented themselves before God

JFB: It is generally thought that the Ark of the Covenant had been transferred on this occasion to Shechem.

:2 Thus saith the Lord God of Israel

Joshua is speaking prophetically, speaking as Godís spokesman. The gift of prophecy is when the Holy Spirit gives you a special message to speak to someone on behalf of God.

We need to be careful when we say, "Thus saith the Lord". Are you sure that God is speaking? Donít cheapen prophecy by making it a chance to simply exert your will over a person and tell them what you think they should be doing. Donít hide behind Godís name to just tell them your opinion. If you say "Thus saith the Lord", you ought to be sure about it.

In Jeremiahís day, there was a particular phrase that was used by the false prophets. They would say, "The burden of the Lord is Ö". It got to the point where God said,

(Jer 23:36 KJV) And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.

These people were speaking as Godís representatives, but they were just giving their own ideas, not the Lordís.

I think if youíre not sure about something, and you come to the conclusion that itís pretty serious, you ought to say, "I think that God might be saying Ö". We need to judge the prophecies as to whether or not they are of the Lord.

:2 on the other side of the flood

It is referring to the river Euphrates, beyond which the ancestors to Israel came from.

:4 I gave unto Esau mount Seir

Esau was given the wilderness in the south, on the east of the Jordan.

This would place him out of the way so Jacob could eventually inherit the Promised Land without displacing his own brother.

:5 but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt

This was due to the famine in Joseph's day.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.

Joseph rose to be the second in command over Egypt, preparing for the coming famine.

When the famine came, Jacob's entire family ended up in Egypt, under Joseph's care.

They stayed there for 400 years, multiplying from 70 people to about 2 1/2 million.

:7 when they cried unto the LORD

Lesson

Cry to Him.

Godís help is available. We just need to cry to Him.

Psa 116:1-4 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. {2} Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. {3} The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. {4} Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Psa 118:1-6 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. {2} Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. {3} Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. {4} Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever. {5} I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. {6} The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

Psa 120:1-2 A Song of degrees. In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. {2} Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

Donít underestimate what can happen in prayer. Donít let prayer be your token little "God thing" you do for a second and then go back to trying to solve your problems on your own. Are you in distress? Then call on Him. Cry to Him.

:9 called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you

Balaam was that rent-a-prophet guy. He seemed to be known as a guy you could call up and get to come over and curse some one for you.

We've also recently uncovered the ancient secret name of Balaam's donkey. Mr. Ed. J

:10 I would not hearken unto Balaam

The Hebrew here indicates literally "I willed not".

It was God's specifically willed purpose not to curse Israel.

Lesson

God doesnít pay attention to pointless curses.

(Prov 26:2 KJV) As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

If you feel like someone is out to "get you", perhaps theyíve even "cursed" you, you donít need to be afraid.

Just be careful not to give a "curse" a reason for landing on you.

Eventually Balaam counseled the Moabites to entice Israel into immorality, and the "curse" came on the people.

:12 I sent the hornet before you

I don't think he's talking about the old AMC car.

Possible theories:

1. Egyptian armies attacking Canaan before the conquest.

2. The fear the Canaanites felt when Israel got closer

3. Actual real insects.

:14 serve him in sincerity and in truth:

sincerity Ė tamiym Ė complete, whole, entire, sound. Our English word "sincerity" is based on the Latin meaning "without wax" (sin + cere). Wax was used by sculptors and potters to fill in the cracks of works that had been cracked or chipped. If you were a merchant looking to buy a statue or pottery, youíd ask the seller, "Is this piece sincere?". In other words, is it without wax? Are you hiding anything? Is it going to fall apart on the first hot day of spring?

Do you serve God with sincerity? Are you trying to hide anything from Him?

truth Ė 'emeth Ė firmness, faithfulness, truth; sureness, reliability.

Lesson

Sincere and reliable.

God is looking for servants that are faithful, servants that are reliable. When He hands out rewards Heíll say,

(Mat 25:21 KJV) His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Iím not sure God is looking necessarily for the most talented servants. Heís looking for ones that consistently show up to do their job. They may not be the best that has ever done the job, they may not be particularly inspiring, but theyíre there. God isnít necessarily looking for those big name home run hitters who get temperamental and donít get along with their managers or fellow players very well. Heís looking for the "iron men", the guys who just show up for every game. They may not hit home runs, but theyíre there doing their job.

:15 choose you this day whom ye will serve

Joshua lays before the people the big challenge - make your choice!

Jesus said that you have to make a choice.

Matthew 6:24-AV No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

You're either for Jesus or against Him.

Matthew 12:30-AV He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

To be undecided is to be decided. Itís deciding against.

Lesson

Make your choice

Illustration

Remember the uncertain soldier in our Civil War who, figuring to play it safe, dressed himself in a blue coat and gray pants and tip- toed out unto the field of battle. He got shot from both directions.

-- Paul Harvey News

:15 as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord

Joshua doesn't wait for the people choose, he makes his own choice first.

Lesson

Take the spiritual lead at home

This should be the heart of both parents. It's one of the biggest areas we struggle with as families.

Illustrations

The late J. Edgar Hoover was once asked, "Should I make my child go to Sunday school and church?" His reply was both Scriptural and practical. "Yes," said the former head of the FBI, "you certainly should, and with no further discussion about the matter. You may be startled by my answer, but what do you say to Junior when he comes to breakfast on Monday morning and announces he isnít going to school anymore? You know! He goes! How do you answer him when he comes home covered with mud and says, ĎIím not going to take a bath.í Junior bathes, doesnít he? Why all this timidity, then, in the realm of spiritual guidance and growth? You say youíre going to let him wait and decide what church he wants to go to when he is old enough? Quit your kidding! You wouldnít wait until heís grown up to choose whether he wishes to be clean or dirty, would you? Do you let him decide for himself whether to take medicine when heís sick? Do you? How shall we respond, then, when Junior says he doesnít want to go to Sunday school and church? Thatís easy! Just be consistent. Tell him, ĎSon, in our house we ALL go to Sunday school and church, and that includes you!í Your firmness and example will furnish a bridge over which youthful rebellion will then travel into many rich and satisfying spiritual experiences."

:19 ye cannot serve the Lord

Joshua isn't going to make it easy for the people.

There would be plenty of evangelists who would love to just stop at verse 18.

The people have said the right words.

But Joshua wants to make sure the people know what they're saying and doing.

In a way, Joshua might be saying:

Don't follow God if you're not willing to be holy.

Don't follow God if you're not willing to forsake all other gods.

Don't follow God if you're going to cheapen His grace by sinning while you are thinking that God doesn't mind, and you'll just ask for forgiveness later.

:22 Ye are witnesses against yourselves

He's placing the responsibility for their choice firmly in their court.

It's their responsibility who they choose to follow.

:23 put away said he, the strange gods which are among you

It seems that despite all the things that the people were saying, they still hadn't quite gotten it all together yet.

Lesson

Commitment requires action

I'm going to ask you to make a choice today also.

But if you make a choice, it has to be followed with action.

It's not important how religious you seem.

It's important whether you let God change your life or not!

:31 Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua ...

This is quite a testimony to the ministry of Joshua.

We can look at the peopleís remarks of verse 21 ("Nay, but we will serve the Lord") kind of cynically when we think about how the people fell away over and over again in the Bible.

But keep in mind, the people present here before Joshua DID keep their word.

In fact, their following after the Lord even seemed to go a generation after Joshua:

(Judg 2:7 KJV) And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.

It wasnít until after that generation that the people began to fall away.

:32 the bones of Joseph ... in Shechem

Most likely Joseph's body had been mummified and placed in a coffin. This is apparently what Joseph did to Jacob when he died (Gen. 50:2).

Joseph had told his relatives that the day would come when they would be brought out of Egypt. He made them promise to take his bones with them and bury them in the Promised Land. (Gen. 50:22-26)

400 years later, when Israel was leaving Egypt on the night of the Passover, they remembered their promise, and took Joseph's bones with them (Ex. 13:19). Now theyíre buried.