Series: Conquest and Chaos - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 2, 2017
We are moving through our study of God a work in history. This morning we are at Joshua 24. To catch us up we have a very short review quiz which you all should totally ace - especially if you were with us last Sunday.
First Question: Overall, the Book of Joshua helps us to understand...
a. Trust self and get creamed.
b. Trust God and get victory.
c. God always fulfills His promises.
d. All of the above.
Answer is… D.
The book of Joshua is basically about God’s people conquering and dividing up the land that God had promised them. Also known as the... Promised Land.
While God’s people are doing all that conquering and dividing they’re learning to trust the God who is always faithful Who - by time we get to the end of the book of Joshua - God has fulfilled His promises to them. Trust self and get creamed. Trust God and get victory.
If we got that we’ve got the first 21 chapters of Joshua. The importance of trusting God Who is worthy of trust.
a. Joshua’s last instructions to God’s people.
b. Instructions on how to live trusting God.
c. How to live life west of the Jordan River.
d. All of the above.
Answer is… D.
Chapter 22 was the altar on the west bank of the Jordan River and the 2½ tribes on the east bank of the Jordan River. The importance of choosing to cross the river and not go back. Meaning choosing to trust God and not to turn back from trusting Him.
Then in chapters 23 and 24 Joshua gathers God’s people together in two different gatherings - and is challenging God’s people with what that choosing looks like in real time.
The first gathering - chapter 23 - is about choosing to pursue God with everything we are. Total heart level devotion - clinging to God - guarding ourselves from any influence that would lead us away from God.
Those messages are online for you to look and listen to.
Chapter 24 brings us to the second gathering. Which begins with Joshua’s History Lesson.
Verse 1: Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God.
Looking at the map… Shechem is up north - west of the Jordan River and just east of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. The location is ginormously significant.
Zooming in… The last time Israel was gathered together in that area Joshua had called the nation together into a large valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim - he’d called the people together - maybe 2 million of them - into this huge natural amphitheatre - for a service of worship.
Back in Joshua 8 - after the defeat and then victory at Ai - Joshua gathers the nation and divides them into two groups. About a million people are on the slopes of Mount Ebal - the other million are on the slopes of Mount Gerizim.
In the valley between is Joshua - the altar - the Levitical priest - priests - not just people from the tribe of Levi - but priest anointed - consecrated - to serve - to lead in worship. Then there’s the ark of the covenant - signifying God’s presence with His people.
Then in front of each half of the nation - in the expensive standing spots are the elders, officers, and judges of the people.
Sacrifices are offered on an altar of uncut stones.
The service is all about God - the relationship with God that He allows His people to enjoy. God is glorified - praised - honored. The people in humility bring themselves before God and surrender their lives to Him.
Here in chapter 24 - that Joshua gathers the people at Shechem is strategic - intentional. A poignant - visual - reminder of God’s relationship with His people. God at work.
Verse 2: And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.
600 plus years earlier - after God had established his covenant with Abraham - known as the Abrahamic… Covenant - God promising to give Abraham a land - to make Abraham a great nation - to bless all the peoples of the world through Abraham’s descendants - when Abraham arrived in the land for the first time - it was here - in this location - that Abraham built his first altar to the Lord.
Jacob dug a well here. Joseph’s brothers - when Joseph went looking for them and they threw him in a pit - sold him into slavery in Egypt - it was at Shechem that they were pasturing their flocks. The patriarchs dwelt in this land.
As Joshua is retelling Hebrew history and they’re surrounded by it.
You all were children and teenagers back then. You all saw God at work with your own two eyes.
Verse 8: Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand.
More history. Remember Balaam and Balak? The donkey who sees an… angel and talks back to Balaam. Balaam gets instructed by the angel and ends up blessing Israel rather than cursing God’s people. God at work delivering His people. (Numbers 22-24)
The hornet was a national symbol of Egypt. GV is the Cougars. Merced is the… Bears. El Cap is the… Gouchos. The Egyptians are the… Hornets. Go Hornets!
The Egyptian army - like a raging swarm of angry hornets - the Egyptian army was supposed invoke fear on their enemies. But Israel had defeated Egypt. Major upset. So when Israel went to conquer the Promised Land the people there feared Israel. That fear is symbolized here by “the hornet.” (Joshua 2:11; 5:1; 9:24)
God says, “I gave you that reputation.” “I mowed down your enemies.” “I gave you the land you dwell on.”
Grab God speaking through Joshua - the 1st person singular pronouns: “I took your father Abraham from beyond the river.” “I gave him Isaac.” To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.” I gave Esau the hill country of Seir.” “I sent Moses and Aaron.” “I plagued Egypt.” “I brought your fathers out of Egypt.” You saw what I did to Egypt.” “I brought you.” I gave them.” “I destroyed.” “I would not listen.” “I delivered you.” “I sent the hornet.” I gave you a land.”
The point of the history lesson - at this sacred place - at this decisive moment in their history - is to make sure that God’s people are in sync with what they’ve seen first hand - lived through - sweat through - what they’re surrounded by - that God’s people are absolutely clear on one foundational truth: It is God Who has done this for you.
Today - when we’re living in the blurring of reality and virtual - the overstimulating Niagara Falls like cascade of information and images and entertainment - a universe at our finger tips. When we’re able to travel pretty much where we want - when we want - to purchase or to experience or to do pretty much whatever we want - it is very easy to become self-focused in all of that and loose touch with what is foundational to life - meaning the truth of Who God is and what it means to live trusting Him. Life is about God not us.
When we are hugely blessed by God we tend to loose focus on that reality.
Sometime this week take time to write out all of how you’ve seen God at work in your life. Let that reality shape how you approach the world you live in. God’s people - it is God who has done this for you.
Verse 14: “Now therefore - because we’re all in sync with the reality that it’s God Who has done all this - 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 - if you don’t want to serve God - 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.”
This is pretty familiar. Yes. Let’s be careful we’re tracking with Joshua. Notice three things:
Thing one: The choice being offered.
There are options here - a list of gods to choose from. The gods our fathers served - meaning back in Mesopotamia - Ur. Or the god’s of Egypt that you grew up with. Or, the gods of the Amorites. You could just adopt the local gods as your own.
Choosing one of these gods means serving that god - to gain its favor - its protection - to appease its wrath. Temples need to be built. Altars need to be constructed. Rituals must to be performed. Human sacrifice. Sexual perversion.
Or you could choose the God who’s defeated all of those other gods and given you this land. To choose the God means fearing and serving Him.
To “fear” is the Hebrew “yare” which has the idea of standing in awe of God - totally respecting and reverencing Him because of Who He is.
“To serve” translates the Hebrew word “abad” that has the idea of slavery with a whole lot of passionate devotion.
The Apostle Paul describes himself as a “servant” of Jesus Christ. “Servant” translates the Greek word the Greeks used to translate the Hebrew word Joshua uses. Unquestioning obedience coming from a heart of utter passionate devotion. Which is what we are to be to Jesus - God.
Thing two: The choice is exclusive.
In verse 14 when Joshua says to “put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt” he’s saying that because some of God’s people were still trying to hang on to gods they’d been carrying around with them since back in Egypt.
“We saw all that God did. The conquest of the Promised Land thing. But just in case this doesn’t work out we’ve got these other gods in reserve.”
We can see all that God has done in our lives - be in sync with the history lesson. We get the “trust God” thing. And yet we can slip back into trust self mode real easy. We can still hang on to our own self-will - our own clever plans and solutions to our lives - to things and people - trusting them rather than God.
“Serve” in Greek translates the word Joshua used for serve. Same idea. There is no way to have unquestioning total obedience coming from a heart of utter passionate devotion divided between two masters.
Either we live serving God or we’re not. Either we’re serving God or we’re serving ourselves. Because service - comes from the heart - the core of who we are. Service demonstrates who it is that deep down we’re really trusting with our lives. Who we really are fearing and reverencing.
Third - notice the choice Joshua made.
The most viewed video of all time on YouTube is what?
“Gangnam Style” - 2.88 billion views and counting.
Anyone know what “Gangnam” means? Gangnam is an affluent neighborhood in Seoul. So in the video Psy - this rapper - is describing the kind of man he is and the kind of woman he wants and what the culture of Gangnam is like. Which is this wealthy neighborhood where young people go to party.
I though about showing the video. But it’s 4 minutes long…
In contrast… a few years back Time Magazine published Billy Graham as their cover story - focusing on Billy Graham’s relationship with 11 Presidents. Quote, “Perhaps more than anyone else, he had shaped the contours of American public religion and had seen close up how the Oval Office affects people.” (1)
Time - as a secular magazine - was incredibly respectful of Dr. Graham.
See if you would agree with me on this. Billy Graham is respected. Not because he’s a great speaker and evangelist - which he is. Not because of his leadership or the organization he’s founded. But because of his integrity and his humility. The theme of his life is not to draw attention to himself - but to God. The day-to-day choice to fear and serve God.
Joshua is how old? About 110. He’s seen it all from slavery in Egypt to the dessert wanderings. Seen the failures and successes of God’s people. Been apprenticed by Moses. Set apart and spoken to by God. Seen God at work first hand. He’s been the leader of a nation of 2 million people as they conquered the Promised Land. That is an impressive resume.
And yet… Joshua with the position he held as the esteemed - respected - leader of Israel - doesn't go on to establish a dynasty with Joshua as the first king. In fact - no where in Scripture is there a record of Joshua’s descendants. Joshua himself is the son of Nun (none). Bad pun. (1 Chronicles 7:27)
With all his success - here at the end of his life - Joshua is respected as a man of integrity - humility - who has continually pointed the people - influenced them - towards God - who’s demonstrated for a nation what it means to walk faithfully with God - what it means to serve God.
These words - famous words: “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” - those words are the summary of that life - a plea to the nation to follow his example and to do the same. I made the choice - no other gods but the God. I will fear and serve Him.
Which is a challenge for us. Unless there is some miraculous intervention by God - children will not grow up to be heart level passionate about fearing and serving Jesus if their parents are not heart level passionate about fearing and serving Jesus. In reality - parents who are distracted and serving the god of self are a stumbling block for their children.
Christians who are not heart level passionate about fearing and serving Jesus are actually a hindrance to the church and to a community that needs Jesus.
Joshua’s choice - his challenge to the nation - is pure arrogance unless he’s consistently lived the life that supports it. Joshua is our example. If we want to live fearing and serving God - live life like Joshua lived life fearing and serving God. Live life where God alone gets the glory.
Verse 16 brings us to Joshua’s Warning.
Verse 16: Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
“Yahweh! Yahweh! He’s our God! These guys are pumped. “We’re gonna serve God!”
Verse 19: But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”
Whoa - talk about a downer. Joshua’s response is not a feel good - warm fuzzies - kind of statement. But, it is a needed reality check warning. How can sinful man serve the holy God? He can’t. And, there are consequences for failure.
Verse 21: And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.”
Verse 22: Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”
Verse 23: He said, “Then - because you’ve chosen God - Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
“If that’s your choice then this is what you must do...
First - Choose: “Put away the foreign gods.”
“Put away” translates the Hebrew word “sur” which literally means “to cut off.” The word was used to describe beheading someone. That’s a pretty permanent - all in - cutting off - without any possibility of getting reattached to our sin. Once for all choose and don’t go back.
Second - Pursue: “...incline your heart to the Lord.” “Incline” is the word “natah” which means to stretch towards - extend yourself towards. Turn towards God - pursue God - with everything you are because your life depends on Him. Life is about God.
The warning is clear. This is not optional. You’ve got to turn from your sin by turning to God with everything you are.
Verse 24: And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey.”
Three times the people affirm their desire to serve God - a dialogue that Joshua reminds the people that God has been listening too. Now, there are no more words that can be said. Joshua sets up a memorial of their pledge - writes their words in the book of the law of the Lord - sets up a large stone to be a reminder to them.
The dialogue between Joshua and the people is like Peter telling Jesus: “Jesus. If everyone else deserts you, I won’t. I’d rather die first.” (Matthew 26:33,35)
There’s a degree of spiritual arrogance and ignorance here. They’re not hearing Joshua. They’re not listening to his warning. There is a danger that they are going to run off into the Promised Land thinking that they’ve got what it takes to live up to this commitment that God is going to hold them accountable to.
Verses 29 to 33 expose us to Joshua’s Generation.
Verse 29: After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old. And they buried him in his own inheritance at Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.
Verse 32: As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.
Verse 33: And Eleazar the son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of Phinehas his son, which had been given him in the hill country of Ephraim.
Joseph was 110 years old when he died. As he was dying Joseph made his brothers swear an oath - that when God took them back to the Promised Land that they’d take his bones and bury him there. So Joseph was embalmed and put in a coffin. Moses took the bones into the Exodus. Joshua took the bones into the land - where Joseph was buried.
What was promised to the previous generation was fulfilled.
As Aaron served Moses - Eleazar served Joshua. Phinehas - Eleazar’s son - is the next priest to serve. We’re watching generations pass the baton forward.
At the age of 110 Joshua died and was buried. The example his faith and service was followed while he lived and in the generation that had known him.
Point being: The generation that these men of faith belonged to is passing away. It is the time for the next generation - the one making this commitment - it’s time for next generation to rise up and to faithfully choose to pursue and to serve God.
Which is a cliff hanger. Will they or won’t they? Come back next Sunday - same time - same sanctuary.
Processing all that for ourselves...
Takeaway number one: We are generation next. Either we’ve chosen God or we haven’t.
The point of the history lesson for Israel and Joshua’s warning is the same for us and our need to be reminded of Jesus’ work on the cross - the communion we shared earlier - the point is that it is God who has done this for us.
How does sinful man faithfully serve and live devoted to the holy God. We can’t. We don’t have what it takes. If we did, we wouldn’t need Jesus and His work on the cross. The only solution to our hopelessness is God’s solution.
We cannot choose - pursue - or serve the Holy God - unless the Holy God enables us. And when we fail - forgives us. Our relationship with God is not because of what we’ve done. It’s because of who God is.
Ephesians 2:8: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Each of us needs to choose to turn from our sin and turn towards God to welcome by faith what He, by His grace, has done for us in Jesus. Not to stand in arrogance and proclaim how we will faithfully serve God with utter devotion or to try to pretend before others and ourselves that we are.
These days what does that look like for you? Are you repulsed by your sin - cutting yourself off from it - turning from it or dabbling in it? Are you extending towards God with everything you are or trying to balance on the fence?
Takeaway number two: We are not generation last. There are generations here that are following ours.
With all his success - here at the end of his life - Joshua is respected as a man of integrity - humility - who’s continually pointed the people - influenced them - towards God - who’s demonstrated for a nation what it means to walk faithfully with God - what it means to serve God.
Joshua’s resolution: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” is the summary of that life - a plea to the nation to follow his example and to do the same.
These days, what does that look like for you? There are generations that are watching us - watching you. Does your life pointing them to God or somewhere else?
1. Time - 08.20.07
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.