The Book of Joshua begins with the death of Moses and ends with the death of Joshua. Over the last two chapters Joshua exhorts the nation: first his leaders in chapter 23, then the tribes of Israel in chapter 24. If it was not already physically apparent, he told them explicitly: “I am about to go the way of all the earth (Joshua 23:14)” – their leader was dying. However, Joshua’s concern was not his own death, but the nation’s spiritual death. To the leaders he warned of the dangers of serving other gods – the consequence being the kindling of the Lord’s anger, and perishing from their promised land (see 23:16).
As the nation’s tribes gather before him, Joshua introduces his exhortation in a manner that announces its source and nature: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel. (24:2)” These words are the prophetic words of God. What follows is no human eulogy; the lack of human sentiment in often noteworthy at times such as these in the bible. The theme is service: the verb to serve occurs 15 times in the final chapter. The question is, “whom will you serve?” The object of true and fruitful service is God and God alone (God or Lord occurs nine times in the text).
Something to See:
Frequently, the people of God are challenged to affirm whom it is they will serve. It is always striking how plain the choice appears in context – and yet the question is still asked, and the people always reminded of context and consequence. In this case which god(s) will you serve, the foreign ones, or the one I remind you of in vv3-13 – the one who vanquished your enemies and gave this land “on which you had not laboured and cities that you had not built … and vineyards and olive orchards you did not plant.” Never underestimate the attraction false gods and idols have upon our lives. This week we will consider some of the characteristics of faithful covenantal service