The Most Important Chapter in the Bible (Maybe)
Joshua 24 might be one of the most important chapters in the Bible. First, it starts off with a recap of Israel’s history that provides an excellent summary. Second, we get a hint at the troubles Israel is about to face and why they should have known better. And Lastly, we see the end of a great life as Joshua passes from this Earth.
1–13 Recap of Israel’s History
Boy o’ boy I wish I could unpack every verse. My wife already fusses at me for having long Jumpstarts. It is sufficient to say that as much time as you’d like to invest studying these verses would not be wasted.
I’ll make one quick point; this is a history lesson from God’s point of view—notice all of the “I’s” in this passage. Notice also verse 2 speaking of Abraham et al, “and they served/worshipped other gods.” This reminds me of Romans 5:8–11:
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
We understand Abraham’s salvation through Christ by grace through faith, which is made clear elsewhere in Romans. The point is this. Abraham and his father Terah were idolaters living in a land of idolatry. They did not know Yahweh God, nor did they seek him in any way. God invaded their lives. Because of Abraham’s response in faith, he has been blessed as the father of nations, and our spiritual ancestor (if not our literal one). God is the one who calls and redeems, our responsibility is to respond in faith.
14–28 You Are Witnesses Against Yourself
In these verses Joshua lays down some hard truth. Yet, the people call out, “we will serve the Lord” (21). Joshua then tells them, “You are witnesses against yourself,” to which the people say, “We are witnesses.”
Think of this in terms of a legal proceeding. All of this is very official, and similar to the kinds of treaties we see in the ancient world between nations. These treaties, like was spelled out in the law tell both parties what they are obligated to contribute. In Israel’s case, God only required faithfulness.
29–33 The End of the Road
These verses recount the end of Joshua’s life. He lived a life of faith and is among the remarkably few biblical personalities who ended well. Bear in mind that upon entering the promised land only he and Caleb were alive at the time of the Exodus. This is because while all the spies agreed that the promised land was very good, only Joshua and Caleb believed that God could uphold his promise to deliver them into the land. He was Moses’ right-hand man and stayed a faithful servant of Yahweh until the end.
However, part of the reason for Joshua’s strong words in Joshua 24 is that he saw the writing on the wall. As we discussed in chapter 17, Israel had begun to cut corners in dealing with God’s commands. Instead of driving all the people from the land, there were a great number remaining. The consequences for not doing things God’s way were disastrous. Judges 2:10, after recounting Joshua’s death, says, “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.” This point marks a spiraling nose-dive for Israel. The time of the Judges is a period where things continually go from bad to worse—but they can’t say they weren’t warned.
This passage illustrates how God moves in history and in our lives. How is God at work in your life and what things do you need to continue or cut-out so that, like Joshua, you might finish well?
By: Tyler Short