Gospel Unity. Missional Urgency. (Joshua 24)

MOTIVATE

Our families have a few mottos that we use often

  • Everyone gets a vote but Dad’s and Mom’s vote counts as 5 (it’s changed depending on # of children; so we can be equal but never be outvoted solely by kids). If you think that’s unfair or being dictator parents, then I would agree. Fathers and mothers are called to be parents not pals. Parents who try merely to be their kids friend are taking the path of least resistance to give them what they want instead of what they need. I don’t want to stray into another topic/message, but a parent has the God-given responsibility to instruct and influence their child in God’s ways more than the child’s own way.
  • One rule: Respect.
  • Work for it don’t whine for it. PS Unnecessary whining is different from necessary crying.
  • Reeses Required.
  • “Be strong and courageous” – going to drs (never watch the needle!), dentists (multiple kid surgeries but I promise we brush!), school tests, early morning swim practices in a cold pool, eating vegetables (my kids have perfected the art of drowning veggies with ketchup), or a number of other circumstances.

This last phrase comes from the book of Joshua 1:6-9 where the LORD gave this instruction to Josh and the Israelites after Moses died. Moses lived to be 120 years old and with God’s guiding power led Israel for over 40 years to escape slavery and enter a promised land. Though Moses was unable to enter the land due to age and attitude, his assistant Joshua became the new leader. Through Joshua, God reassured His presence to be with them, His promises to be faithful, and His power to be dependable.  

The book of Joshua is one of conquest and commitment. As a nation transitioned from wandering in the wilderness to establishing homes and cultivating cities, they were challenged to renew their focus and their faith. The end of the book reveals at least three keys to spiritual renewal for God’s people.

EXAMINE      Joshua 24

  1. Know your roots.

Joshua assembled all the nation with its leaders at Shechem. This wasn’t just a random location but a special place for the people of God. It was at Shechem that God’s covenant began with Abram (Gen 12:6-7) and reaffirmed with successive generations (Gen 33:18-20). It was here that God called the people to advance into the promised land (Joshua 8:33; 21:20-21). Shechem became the capital of the Northern Kingdom (1 Ki 12:25).

Joshua recalls Israel’s roots with its founding fathers of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and later Moses (Josh 24:2-13). We should note the emphasis of God’s personal work among the people “I took… I led… I made… I gave… I sent… I brought… [I rescued and empowered].” The capstone is 24:13 “You enjoy a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.” God was personally involved in guiding them to safety and profoundly faithful among an undeserving nation.

Spiritually speaking, these individuals were the giants of the faith. People may not know about all the events, but they’ve probably at least heard the names Abraham and Moses. For us it might be like referencing Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, David Jeremiah, and Tony Evans – or – internally at SPBC the likes of Charles Barnes, Lawrence Baylot, and Conrad Burch. To call upon Israel to remember these individuals is to say the same God who used these individuals to accomplish great things in our history is the same God who saved us, filled us with His same Spirit, and calls us to a great purpose.

  • As Christians, our roots are deep. We can give thanks to God that our faith is not just experience rich but historically accurate. That does not mean our entire history is perfect. Yet, we can be proud to know that our faith is not based on cleverly devised myths (2 Pet 1:16) but the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
  • A Christian’s individual roots are in Jesus Christ. We do not need a mediator like Joshua, Moses, or Abraham – Jesus is the fulfillment of all these (1 Tim 2:5). The gospel grants us immediate and all-inclusive access to call upon the grace of God in our time of need (Heb 4:16).
  • Yet, as Christians with roots, there are likely people and places who have blessed our faith history. Mentors and monuments can be gifts from God for our spiritual growth.
  • How many of you have a spiritual mentor? Consider reaching out to thank and encourage a spiritual mentor or pastor – ministry can be lonely and discouraging. Many church experts say that 2022 will have a tidal wave of churches with pastor resignations.[1]
  • Roots in a spiritual place. It may be in this church building or another church campus, or a retreat center, or somewhere else. But, consider returning to this place or simply talking with your small group about such a place to refresh your spirit with memories of God’s faithfulness but also His future call upon your life.
  • Consider prayerwalking the church building and campus.  

2) Kill your idols.

The books of Joshua-Judges are some of the hardest Bible books to accept. The reason is because there is so much violence happening. Earlier it was mentioned this book is one of conquest. The Israelites were entering a land that was occupied and they were not volunteering to leave. So, why does God command Israelite conquest?[2]

The answer, in short, has to do with 24:14-15 “fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity [completeness or wholeheartedness] and in faithfulness. Put away the gods… and serve the LORD… choose this day whom you will serve…”

The command to fear God is not about rules but relationship. Our fear of God does not push us away but draws us close. It’s awe, reverence, and admiration. Fear of God is helpful and not harmful.

  • Fear of the LORD makes us wise (Prov 1:7).
  • Fear of LORD makes wholesome/pure (Prov 16:6 evil departs)
    • Remember Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife’s seduction
  • Fear of LORD makes us powerful (Prov 14:26 “one has strong confidence; his children have a refuge”)

The command to fear God is not about rules but relationship. Our fear of God does not push us away but draws us close. It’s awe, reverence, and admiration. Fear of God is helpful and not harmful.

The command to put away other gods was necessary. The Canaanites (et al) worshiped multiple idols with demonic practices, not least of which were sexual immorality and human sacrifice (cf Deut 9:5; 20:18). Polytheism was the cultural pattern, therefore the basic response was celebration not choice, as separation was unnecessary in their eyes.[3] However, Joshua calls Israel to make a choice.

You see, God could take Israel out of slavery, but it was up to them to get the slavery out of Israel. They frequently were looking backward in an unhealthy manner. On occasions, they foolishly wanted to return to known slavery in Egypt instead of the unknown stretching of comfort zones in Canaan (cf Ex 16:3; Num 11:4-6; 14:4).[4]

God could take Israel out of slavery, but it was up to them to get the slavery out of Israel.

  • Reflect on the LORD.
    Isa 33:6 “He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the LORD is his treasure.”
  • Remove idols.
    • Vague repentance gets vague forgiveness. You’ll never have confidence that God has forgiven you or given you the tools to grow.  Being specific with our sin gives us confidence before our Savior.
    • Repentance is more than regret but removing the influence entirely and moving to agreement with God about the item/issue. It’s turning away from wrong and turning toward what is right.  

Vague repentance gets vague forgiveness. You’ll never have confidence that God has forgiven you or given you the tools to grow. Being specific with our sin gives us confidence before our Savior.

  • Replace influence. If we do not replace the void left by what we have removed, then another idol will take its place and likely something even more troublesome and threatening (cf Lk 11:24-26).
    • Syncretism is worse than rejection. Israel adopted pagan idols and accommodated worldly culture to become equal with their commitment to God.
    • This is why so many who drift away from church also drift away from Christ.

3) Keep your commitments.

Joshua understood that following the LORD would continue to have its challenges. He called them to renew their covenant with God. As a leader, he set the example saying, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15).

The people responded, “We also will serve the LORD, for he is our God” (24:16-18). Yet, Joshua cautioned, “you will not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy and jealous God” (24:19). The people were thinking in terms of religion – performance-based deeds; we will check the boxes! But Joshua warned them that God did not want religion but relationship; He would not settle for having a part of their life but their whole heart. God is not easily pleased with songs and sermons, for He desires surrendered lives. This is why seeker-sensitive services are not our aim – the goal is not a worship service but wholistic discipleship. This is the repeated theme throughout the OT

  • Ps 51:16-17 “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
  • Isa 66:2 “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
  • Hos 6:6 “I desire mercy/steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (cf Mt 9:13)
  • Amos 5:21-24 “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

God is not easily pleased with songs and sermons, for He desires surrendered lives.

After the people reaffirm their commitment, Joshua does two actions:

  1. Calls them to accountability: “‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’” (24:22-23)

  2. Creates a covenant symbol: “Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and put in place statutes and rules for them. Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us.” (24:25-27)

As Christians, our accountability is the local church with spiritual elders, and our covenant symbols are baptism and communion. Believer’s baptism declares our starting position in Christ as saved by grace through faith. Communion declares our sustaining posture of being sanctified by grace through faith.

  • In addition to the ordinances of baptism and communion, you may have a symbols that inspires your spiritual growth: Ebenezer rocks, Bibles/books/journals, Songs/Psalms, or other mementos.


Church Covenant: GOSPEL
God: We are worshipers.
Others: We are family and friends.
Sanctification: We are thermostats.
Prayer: We are spiritual warriors.
Evangelism: We are sent.
Legacy: We are growing godly generations.

APPLY/THINK

The closing of the book of Joshua says the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the word that the LORD did for Israel (24:31). Yet… after that generation died, “there arose another generation who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served idols.” (Judges 2:10-11)

As Christians, and as a local church, we must not stop making disciples who make disciples. A large aspect of that is our small group model – not just a classroom but spiritual community making an impact in our church and through our neighborhoods.

Ultimately, the book of Joshua is not about tribalistic hype or violent conquest. It points us to the need for a greater Yeshua who would cross tribal, ethnic, and cultural boundaries to offer love and grace. Joshua won victory at the expense of his enemies’ blood, but Jesus wins victory for his enemies at His own suffering and shedding of blood. Jesus is the true conqueror who invites us to a greater kingdom that provides peace and justice for every tribe and nation.


[1] See with its points and source links: https://jasonalowe.com/2021/01/27/experts-predict-a-surge-in-pastor-transitions-here-are-9-reasons-why-they-might-be-right/, see also https://twitter.com/daneortlund/status/1440331603683659776,

[2] For more discussion see: https://bibleproject.com/blog/why-did-god-command-the-invasion-of-canaan-in-the-book-of-joshua/

[3] Butler, T. C. (1984). Joshua (Vol. 7, p. 273). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] These ten times: https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2014/what-is-meant-by-these-ten-times-in-numbers-14-20-23

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