Joshua 24: Joshua's Farewell
Moses before his death had talked to the people very earnestly in the plain by the Jordan before they crossed the river. (Deut. 11, and later chapters) He recalled with them the Lord's mercies in the trials through which they had come together, and charged them to be faithful to the Lord. Joshua also before his death talked in the same way to the people. They came together at Shechem to hear his last words.
Joshua in his talk went far back in the history to the Lord's call of Abraham from his first home at Ur in the land of Babylon, and then from Haran, to come into the promised land. Do you remember Abraham? Who was Abraham's wife? Do you remember Isaac? Who was Isaac's wife? Do you remember Esau and Jacob, their two sons? How was it that Jacob and his sons and their families came into Egypt? And you all remember how the Lord helped Moses to lead the people out of Egypt and to bring them to the promised land. They must worship and obey the Lord who had done so much for them, and never worship idols.
Read now the last verses of the chapter, 29 to 33. Joshua died, and was buried in his home in the tribe of Ephraim, a little south of Shechem. (Joshua 19:49, 50; Judges 2:9)
Does everyone remember Joseph? I am sure you do remember how his brothers were unkind to him and sold him to be taken into Egypt, but how he became ruler of Egypt and stored up food which kept the Egyptians and his own brethren alive in years of famine. Joseph died in Egypt, and he made his brethren promise that when the Lord should lead them out of Egypt and to the land of Canaan they would take his bones with them to be buried in that land. So his bones were buried in the parcel of ground near Shechem where Abraham lived and Jacob, where Jacob dug his well, where Joseph once came looking for his brethren, a place of many precious memories. Jacob before his death in Egypt had given this piece of ground to Joseph. The Lord once rested there. You can go there today, and looking across the green field you see a little building which marks the place of Joseph's tomb.
When Moses was old and about to die, he spoke words of farewell to the people in the plain on the east side of Jordan, reminding them of all the Lord's goodness and telling them to be faithful and obey the Lord. (Deut. 11, and on) Now Joshua grew old and he too spoke farewell words to the people, very like the words of Moses.
They gathered together at Shechem in the valley between two mountains near the middle of the land. The mountain on the north is Mount Ebal and that on the south is Mount Gerizim. It was the same place where the tribes had gathered soon after their coming into the land, to answer to the blessings and the curses.
Now Joshua went back to the Lord's first call of Abraham and reminded the people of the Lord's care through all the years. The few words that he spoke recalled the story which all the people knew, and as we read them each verse brings to mind much that we have learned.
Have the last chapter of Joshua before you. Verse 2, which mentions Terah and Nachor, takes us back to Gen. 11:27 and the beginning of the journey from Ur of the Chaldees toward the land of Canaan. Verse 3 reminds us how Abraham was called again from Haran, and of his several camping-places in the land of Canaan, at Shechem, at Bethel, at Hebron and Beer-sheba. Verse 4 brings back the story of the two sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and how they parted from each other, how Esau lived in Edom southward of the Dead Sea; and how Joseph and afterward his brethren and his old father went down into Egypt. A long story and a beautiful one is recalled by this verse.
Verse 5 brings to mind the bondage, and how Moses was sent as a deliverer, how he was saved in the ark of rushes and how the Lord spoke to him at the burning bush, and how Moses and Aaron did signs in Egypt. Verse 6 reminds us of the first Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea; and the last line of verse 7, which speaks of dwelling in the wilderness a long time, reminds us of the journey to Mount Sinai, and afterward to Kadesh, and of the forty years. As we read verse 8 we think of the coming toward the Jordan and the victories over the kings Sihon and Og. Verses 9 and 10 bring back the story of Balaam and how the king of Moab sent for him to curse the people, but the Lord gave only blessings.
In verse 11 Moses has died and Joshua has become leader. We recall the crossing of the Jordan, the taking of Jericho and Ai, and the victory over the southern kings gathered at Gibeon and over other kings in the north. It was important that the people should remember that their successes had been from the Lord and not from their own strength. The Lord had sent the hornet, it is said, against their enemies, and we remember hail at Gibeon. The people were enjoying a land for which they had not labored, cities which they had not built, vineyards and olive yards which they had not planted. They were the Lord's gifts. Were the people ready to put away all idols and to serve only the Lord?
The family of Abraham in the land beyond the Euphrates had worshiped idols. We even remember that when Jacob came from Haran, Rachel was bringing idols which she had stolen from her father. (Gen. 31:34) Again they had been among people in Egypt who worshiped idols, and now the native people of Canaan were the idolators. The children of Israel too easily and too often forgot the Lord and fell into this evil worship. You remember the golden calf at Sinai. Joshua put the question squarely before them, whether they would serve idols or the Lord who had done so much for them. Joshua promised for himself and his family, and all the people promised that they would serve the Lord. Joshua set up a great stone "under an oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord," as a witness to help the people to remember their promise. The sanctuary does not mean the tabernacle - that was at Shiloh -but Shechem had long been a sacred place, and altars had been built here by Abraham and Jacob and by Joshua. Years afterward "the oak of the pillar that was in Shechem"" is mentioned. (Judges 9:6)
So Joshua died and was buried in his own piece of ground. Eleazar also died. Do you remember him? (Num. 20:25-29)
The chapter also tells of the burial of the bones of Joseph. You remember how he died in Egypt, but the people promised that they would carry his bones with them to the land of Canaan. (Gen. 50:25-26) And they did so. (Exod. 13:19) Now we learn where they were buried, in the beautiful meadow of so many holy associations, which opens to the eastward from the mountains Ebal and Gerizim.
1. Who were Terah, Nachor, Esau, Balaam, Eleazar?
2. What two things does our lesson tell us happened at Shechem? Where is Shechem?
3. What must the people remember in regard to the victories they had gained? What must they remember in regard to the blessings of the land which they enjoyed?
4. Who can tell me the story of Joshua's life?
5. Upon what would the happiness of the people in their good land depend?
It is often interesting in a journey to look back over the way which we have traveled, and it is interesting to remember events and experiences through which the years have brought us. Sometimes in old age people enjoy the memory of past years, especially recognizing the Lord's mercy which has led them. They see it now in events which at the time seemed hard. Such memory of the Lord's goodness in the past should make us grateful and should lead to stronger resolutions to be faithful to the Lord.
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve." This appeal of Joshua reminds us of Elijah's appeal on Mount Carmel: "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." (1 Kings 18:21) Both tell us that we make life weak and ineffective by indecision and delay, by attempting to compromise with evil. We should decide promptly and entirely and once for all to serve the Lord. Such decision makes life strong and effective. The lesson is powerfully put in A. 6138.
The children of Israel must remember that they had not gained their victories in their own strength. In fact, the native people of the land were never wholly destroyed; they constantly needed the Lord's help against them. The land and the good things which they enjoyed they had not labored for; they were the Lord's gift. It is very important in spiritual life to remember that all power to resist evil is the Lord's and that if we forget dependence upon Him we immediately are weak. For all good things, on the other hand, we must remember to be grateful. Find this same lesson in Deut. 6:10-11; Isa. 55:1; P. 79; A. 5488.
Joseph among his brethren in the Holy Land represents a living sense of the Lord's presence, such as was very real and very precious with the early Christians. Joseph is in Egypt and finally dies in Egypt when such a sense of the Lord's presence is lost in the church and religion becomes a matter of memory and then of mere form and ceremony. Such a condition is pictured by the body of Joseph embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. But Joseph looked forward to burial in the Holy Land, and charged his brethren to take his bones with them when they were released from Egypt. The burial of Joseph in that land, and especially in the plot of ground associated with Abraham and with Joseph's own shepherd life, contains a beautiful promise that the consciousness of the Lord's nearness which was with the early Christians is not something forever lost; it will live again and renew the life of the church. (A. 1854, 6499, 6516, 6592)