There was so much that stood out in today’s reading, but focusing on Joshua, I continued to see an example of strength and faithfulness. Yesterday he panicked and God told him to get up. He did get up and he faithfully led the Israelites into the Promised Land and into their inheritance.
From the time of their entrance into the Promised Land to the end of Joshua’s life is a span of about 30 years. He witnesses so many victories and he sees the faithfulness of God’s people. But, I have to think that in the back of his mind he is always remembering his commissioning and how God predicted the future apostasy of Israel. (see Deut. 31)
That is why the end of the book of Joshua landed with greater force on me today. Joshua knows the Israelites will fall away, but he doesn’t resign himself to it. Like the strong leader he is, he calls Israel to renew their covenant with Yahweh. He recounts their history and how God took Abraham from a pagan country and made a nation for himself. Then he puts the choice before them:
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond 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.”
The people respond saying, “Of course!! How could we not serve the LORD!” But Joshua obviously knows them too well. He says they are not able to serve the Lord. Perhaps Joshua thinks the people are drunk on their own success thinking that things will be easy now that they’re in the Promised Land. So again he gives them a warning to serve the Lord and put away foreign gods. But again the people assure Joshua that they will serve the Lord.
Joshua led Israel through a very high point in their history. But he knew the low points were coming. He knew that God was faithful to his promises, but that didn’t excuse the people from their responsibility to choose faithfulness to him. Every day, every month, every year, and every generation is another chance to choose faithfulness, to choose who we will serve.
Unfortunately, by the end of today’s reading, just one generation later, the people of Israel do not know the Lord or the work he had done for them.