Joshua Lesson 5: “The Decision Dare”
Motivation: God’s grace is the theme of this Bible Study. We begin by looking at God’s provision (Phil. 4:19) through His grace, continue by understanding our proper response to His grace and conclude by seeing the means of confessing God’s grace.
I. Challenge to Remain Faithful (23:1-16)
A. The Occasion “Joshua was old, getting on in years” (1) Joshua lived to be 110 years old (24:29). If he and Caleb were about the same age, and this was near the time of his death, then the people had been at peace about 20 years. Joshua realized that the generation who had seen God’s mighty works was beginning to pass away. The greatest challenge to faithfulness is not persecution but prosperity. (Deut. 8:11-20; Heb. 13:5; Eph. 1:3) Joshua was fearful that with no compelling reason to depend on God, the people would grow slack in their faithfulness. Notice all God did for Israel: “It was the Lord your God who was fighting for you” (3); “the Lord your God will force them back on your account” (5); “you can take possession of their land as the Lord your God promised you.” (5)
B. The Order “be very strong and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the Law of Moses”. (6) “Do not call on the name of their gods, or make an oath to them; do not worship them or bow down to them.” (7) The book of Joshua began by God exhorting Joshua to be courageous. Now Joshua is passing along the exhortation to Israel. He makes it clear that obedience is a choice. (Josh 24:2, 15)
C. The Options
1. The Good News (8-11) “remain faithful to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day” (8) They should serve the Lord out of appreciation for His Faithfulness and blessings”.
· “the Lord has driven out great and powerful nations before you” (9)
· “no one is able to stand against you to this day” (9)
· “The Lord your God was fighting for you as He promised you” (10, 14)
· “Be very diligent to love the Lord your God for your own well being” (11)
2. The Bad News “for if…” (12) If love and appreciation is not enough of a motivation to obedience, Joshua emphasizes that there is a downside to disobedience:
· “They will become a snare and a trap for you.”
· “a scourge for your sides and thorns in your eyes until you disappear from this good land” (13)
· “He will bring on you every bad thing, until He has annihilated you from this good land” (15)
· “the Lord’s anger will burn against you” (16)
D. Outcome “you will quickly disappear from this good land which He has given you” (16b) Joshua’s exhortation became a prophecy as the children of Israel failed to drive out the pagan tribes, intermarried with them, worshipped their gods, and failed to follow YAHWEH. (Micah 7:2; 15a; Isa. 57:1) It’s sad to realize that while the Lord never fails and fulfills all His promises completely, His people take Him for granted and fail to be fully devoted. In spite of this, He loves us and continues to call us. With John, we can exclaim “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called Children of God!” (I John 3:1-3)
II. Challenge to Remember the Lord’s Faithfulness (24:1-13)
A. Genesis “your ancestors… lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshipped; and they served other gods” (2)
1. Origin of the assembly – Joshua called the people together at Shechem (cf. Abraham’s sacrifice there, Genesis 12:6-7). At the end of his life, Joshua wanted to ensure that the people understood where they had originated, what they had endured, and, most of all, what God had given them. (Rom. 8:18) This was to be an assembly of rededication, i.e. repent and resume.
2. Origin of the Jews – Abraham, the father of the Jews, was himself a product of grace. Called out of an idolatrous family, he sought to be fully devoted to the One True God.
3. Origin of Israel – Jacob was later called Israel (Gen. 32:28). All Jews are descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Note the contrast between the apparent blessings of Esau and the struggles of the children of Israel. (4) (Heb. 12:16, 17)
B. Gifts “Then I sent Moses. . .” (5)
History records many times when the followers of God were oppressed and seemingly unrewarded for their faithful service. God’s movement in history is seen in the phrase “But God”. Our own spiritual pilgrimage is detailed in Ephesians 2. Verses 1-3 detail the depravity of humanity; verse 4 says “But, God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . .” Note the personal pronouns which refer to God and His gifts to His children: (Col. 1:15-17; John 1:1-5; Ps. 100) “I took” (3), “I gave” (4), “I gave” (4), “I sent” (5), “I plagued Egypt” (5), “What I did there” (5), “I brought” (6), “He put” (7), “What I did to Egypt” (7), “I brought” (8), “I handed them over to you” (8), “I annihilated” (8) “I would not listen to Balaam” (10), “I delivered you” (10), “I handed them over to you” (11), “I sent” (12). What all these actions demonstrates:
1. Unmerited favor (Eph. 2:8) Even though the people had to fight for the land, Joshua helps them understand that everything they have is a gift from God (James 1:17).
2. Undeserved benefits (Eph. 2:9) The people were living in houses they had not built and enjoying benefits they had not earned. For that reason there was no reason for human pride, only glory for God. (John 12:12-13; I Cor. 10:31; II Cor. 4:17; Ps. 50: 14-15, 23; Matt. 5:16, 6:13, 23:37-39; Rev. 6:12, 7:9; Ezek. 43:1-7; Ps. 118)
3. Unmistakable choice (Eph. 2:10) Though given possession of the land, the people were surrounded by idolatry and temptation. Because they had not totally destroyed the existing culture, they had to make a choice to continue serving God for His purposes.
III. Challenge to Choose the Lord (24:14-28)
A. First Challenge: “But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worship beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” (15) If the people wanted to continue following Joshua, they must exclusively worship Yahweh and renounce all idols. Their response is in verse 18, “We too will worship the Lord, because He is our God.”
B. Second Challenge: “If you abandon the Lord and worship foreign gods, He will turn against you, harm you, and completely destroy you, after He has been good to you.” (20) The people’s response: “No!” the people answered Joshua. “We will worship the Lord.” (21) HCSB, p. 382-3: 24:20 “If the people chose now for God and changed their minds later, God would completely destroy them, just as they did their enemies in lands they now inhabited (2:10). This warning is the closest chapter 24 comes to pronouncing curses. For a vassal to enter into a treaty obligation and after to break it was considered an act of treason worthy of death. So it is here for Israel.”
C. Third Challenge: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship Yahweh.” (22) People’s response: “We are witnesses” (22b). The rule of the law was that confirmation came at the testimony of “two or three witnesses” (Deut. 17:6). The people were willing to be legal witnesses against themselves if they broke the covenant! (John 15:16).
D. Fourth Challenge: “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (23) People’s response: So the people said to Joshua, “We will worship the Lord our God and obey Him.” (24) HCSB, p. 383: 24:23 “Joshua charged Israel to get rid of the foreign god’s that are among you. The people made their promises, but the report does not indicate that they did away with their gods, unlike their ancestor Jacob. He buried the gods in his possession at Shechem, the same place where his descendants now stood.” (Gn. 35:2-4)
E. Covenant (24:25-28)
1. Accountability “On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people” (25) This is not to be confused with the covenant God made with Abraham Isaac and Jacob. The covenant, statute and ordinance that Joshua made was a means of accountability between equal parties. The people had already made a promise to God; here, Joshua says in effect “make a promise to me that you will be faithful to God.”
Accountability to other believers is a good thing. It helps us to be honest with ourselves as well as to God. Many accountability groups meet on a regular basis within our body. People make commitments to God and check up on those commitments by asking tough questions to each other. Such accountability groups both help guard against sin as well as mutually bear burdens (Gal. 6:1-2).
2. Archives “Joshua recorded these things in the book of the Law of God . . .” (26) (Ex. 17:14) Commitments should be made publicly (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32). These commitments should also be recorded. Journaling is a discipline many Believers use to record and archive spiritual commitments, joys and burdens.
3. Awareness “this stone – it will be a witness. . .” (Luke 19:40) (27) Obviously, the stone could not talk. (Hab. 2:11) The verbal witness was given by the people themselves (22). The stone was to be a reminder of the covenant. Underlining Scripture verses, taking sermon notes, displaying Bible verses or writing down commitments in our Bibles can all be means of providing reminders of our walk with the Lord.
IV. Challenge to Leave a Positive Legacy (24:29-33)
A. The Burial of Joshua (29) Joshua led the people to conquer the land of promise. What an epitaph for this great leader: “Israel worshipped Yahweh throughout Joshua’s lifetime” (31)
B. The Burial of Joseph (32) Joseph’s burial is the ending scene of a life of faith. Joseph’s request to be buried here was the ultimate statement of faith in God’s promise (Gen. 50:20, 24-26; Ex. 13:19).
C. Burial of Eleazar (32) J. Vernon McGee (Thru the Bible, vol. 2, p. 42) “Aaron was the first priest to die; Eleazar was the second. The Book of Joshua is bound by death. It begins with the death of Moses and ends with the deaths of Joshua and Eleazar. The thing that interests me in this verse, however, is the fact that they buried Eleazar in the hill that pertained to Phinehas, his son, which was given him in Mount Ephraim. The question is, ‘Where did Phinehas get this land?’ The priests were given no land, and yet this man had acquired a nice little piece of real estate. Here is a beginning of departure from the living and true God, which will become obvious in the Book of Judges.”
1. God’s grace provides rewards not tied to our ability or worthiness. (Heb. 6:10)
2. God’s grace requires commitment not tied to the world’s allure or works.
3. God’s grace demands confession not restricted by the world’s allegiance of expectation.
Explore the Bible Leader Pack Item 8: Poster: Famous Last Words
Illustrator: no Illustrator article this week
Notes: **You may access David’s Lesson Preview in MP3 format at: www.hfbcbiblestudy.org
Dates 2012: 5/31 – 8/2 – METRO Live, Thursdays; 6/25-29 – VBS; 7/1 – Patriotic Service, normal sched.; 7/4 – July 4th Holiday, church offices closed; 7/8-13 – Houston Project; 7/15 – Lord’s Supper in all Services; 7/16-20 – Summer Week of Choir; 7/21-28 – Rush Week; 7/27-28 – First Place Summit; 8/1 – Summer Rush Celebration; 8/2 - MetroLIVE ends; 8/17 – Daycation ends; 8/19 – Back to school Sunday; 8/20 – FBA Orientation; 8/21 – FBA Classes begin; 8/24 – Parents Night Out; 9/2 – Labor Day Weekend, norm. sched; 9/3 – Labor Day Holiday, church offices closed; 9/9 – Parent Commitment; 9/9 – Make it Your Church Orientation; 9/14 – Summit Celebrates @ 7:00, chapel; 9/16 – Fall LBS Leadership Lunch; 9/21-22 – Men’s Ministry Special Event; 9/28-29 – KHCB 50th Anniv. Celebration; 9/28-30 – SPF Camp.