Joshua 24=Farewell Address, Invitation, Challenge, Warning!
Bible Background: The book of Joshua is the first book beyond the Torah (1st five books, whose authorship was traditionally attributed to Moses.) A new generation of Israelites have settled in the promised land. God has been faithful. The future is always a bit concerning, at a time of transition. Joshua’s speech echoes Moses’ farewell speech at the end of Deuteronomy.
Digging Deeper: 1. We’ve leapt way ahead in the story from Moses and the Ten Commandments to the end of Joshua’s time as leader of the people. Joshua was largely a military leader. There have been battles, victories, setbacks. Much of the story of Joshua is unsettling because of all the genocide and destruction that God seems to be approving of. Many nations have a violent ‘birth’ to their story. Can we think of any that do not?
2. The setting is a ‘covenant renewal’ ceremony, where Joshua reminds all the people what God has done for them and for their ancestors, and asks the people to renew their commitment to God. (Some congregations have a ‘covenant renewal’ each year-asking members to recommit to the life and mission of the congregation!) What is so important about knowing history? Particularly your own people’s history? Why is it important to know all of it, and not just the ‘nicer’ parts of it? In the Bible, there are different slants on different parts of Israel’s history-just as there are different ‘takes’ on our nation’s history today. Who is telling the story? Why are different perspectives important?
3. Joshua challenges the people to “Choose this day whom you will serve!” Then he makes one of the more memorable statements in the book “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!” When parents bring a child for baptism, they make commitments (Bring them to the services of God’s house; teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten commandments….) And when a young person affirms their faith, they make commitments (Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with in Baptism?…….”I do, and I ask God to help and guide me!”) These are one-time events, that call for daily decisions: How will I serve God or choose God or honor God today?
4. Scholars believe the book of Joshua made it into its current form around the 7th century BCE. What was going on then? The people were in exile in Babylon. How did they understand their plight? They sensed that they/their ancestors had been unfaithful to God, and that if they were to have a future-or ever return to the land of Canaan, their generation needed to re-learn what it means to be faithful to God and committed to serve God. Centuries later, this rather difficult book still challenges us in these ways!