And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
These were the brave and faithful words of a brave and faithful man—words that were brave as regards men, words that were brave as regards God. Joshua, the great leader of the army and the people of Israel, having won for them secure possession of the Promised Land, just before his approaching end, gathers the people together to tell them what is the only true condition on which they can continue to hold this land. He tells them that national prosperity and national safety depend upon national religion, and then, knowing the feeble nature of the people he is addressing, he tells the assembled multitude that they may make their choice, rejecting the worship of the Lord if it seemed to them evil to serve Him, but that as for him and for his, the choice was made, and made unalterably.
I. These words not only express a great and high purpose, but they express a great and an infinitely precious idea and fact: they express for us the idea of family religion, as distinct on the one hand from personal religion and on the other from national religion. They reveal to us the family as what in truth it is and what God designed it should be—the home and citadel of religious faith in the heart of the nation.
II. God has His great work for individuals to do. He places a Moses upon the mount to bring down the law. He sends a Paul out to preach the Gospel. He sends an Augustine to defend it, a Luther to reform it, and a Wesley to revive it. But mightier than all this, deeper than all this, though more hidden than this, is the task God confides to every religious and believing household upon earth. It is the task of taking the seed that these great sowers of the word have sown and cherishing it beneath the tender, and gracious, and mighty influence of home. Such is God's will and God's purpose for the preservation of His faith. The family is its safe hiding-place, its true nursery, that none can invade or desecrate.
Bishop Magee, Sermon Preached in Peterborough Cathedral, July 1st, 1880.
References: Joshua 24:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1229; J. Kennedy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 289; W. Anderson, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 309; H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., pp. 423, 439, 456; J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 219; E. Irving, Collected Writings, vol. iii., pp. 217, 231; Bishop Walsham How, Twenty-four Practical Sermons, p. 250; Sunday Magazine, 1877, p. 88; R. Heber, Parish Sermons, pp. 435, 448; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 124; Parker, vol. v., p. 288; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, p. 369; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 354.
Joshua 24:19We find here that Joshua offers a repulse to men who wish to avow themselves on the side of God. There is every ground for believing that he was under Divine direction, and as there was no evidence that the people were insincere in their promise, there must be some reason for the manner in which they are met.
I. This procedure on the part of God is not unusual. A number of instances might easily be found in the Bible of obstacles thrown in the way of men who offer themselves to the service of God. There are many terrible threatenings, many dreadful judgments against sin and sinners, which have in them all the language of the text. Many profess Christianity with far more irreverence than others keep aloof from it. There are thoughtful and self-distrustful natures which have long and deep shrinking because their eye has seen the purity of God and the poverty of self. Within certain limits the feeling is true and most becoming. It is God repeating in a humble heart the words of Joshua, "Ye cannot serve the Lord, for He is an holy God."
II. Having sought to show that this procedure on the part of God is not so unusual, we may now attempt to find some reasons for it. (1) It sifts the true from the false seeker. We refer here not to arriving at the profession of Christianity, but at the principle of it in the heart. The Gospel comes into the world to be a touchstone of human nature, to be Ithuriel's spear among men. No one will be able to complain of any real wrong from these obstacles. The false seeker is not injured, because he never sincerely sought at all. The true seeker is not injured, for never was such a one disappointed. When the flickering phosphorescence glimmers out, the spark, although as faint as in the smoking flax, lives on and rises to a flame. (2) It leads the true seeker to examine himself more thoroughly. It is very good for a man, when he is in danger of too hasty acquiescence, that he should be compelled to examine himself both about his view of God's character in the pardon of sin, and what this requires of him in the way of self-surrender to God. (3) It binds a man to his profession by a stronger sense of consistency. God will beguile none of us into His service by false pretences. He tells us the nature of the work, what His own character gives Him a right to expect of us; then, if we still go forward, He can say, "Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen the Lord, to serve Him." (4) It educates us to a higher growth and greater capacity for happiness. If we are to rise to anything great in the spiritual life, it must be, not by soft, indulgent nurture, but by endurance of hardship and pressing on against repulse. The delay which Christians have in gaining a sense of acceptance with God arises often from making the sense of acceptance the main object of pursuit. But there is something higher: to serve God whether we have the sense of acceptance or no—to have this as the one great purpose of life and end of our being,—"Nay, but we will serve the Lord."
J. Ker, Sermons, p. 56.
References: Joshua 24:19.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes, p. 48; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 274. Joshua 24:24.—G. Woolnough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 307. Joshua 24:25.—W. Morley Punshon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 56; Old Testament Outlines, p. 59. Joshua 24:26, Joshua 24:27.—J. Foster, Lectures, vol. ii., p. 396; H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 63; J. Van Oosterzee, Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 408; Parker, vol. v., p. 289. Joshua 24:19-29.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 399. Joshua 24:29, Joshua 24:30.—J. R. Macduff, Sunsets on the Hebrew Mountains, p. 36. Joshua 24:32.—J. Kennedy, Sunday Magazine, 1876, p. 810; Expositor; 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 299.
And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.
And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:
But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.
And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;
For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.
And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.
And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.
And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.