This is Joshua's farewell speech and we can see here summarized the themes that are found in the rest of the book. This is a weighty moment in the history of Israel - Moses made his farewell speech - recorded in Deuteronomy - the people referred to it often. Now Joshua is going to make his farewell speech and his words were revered by Israel's succeeding generation. This is a very momentous occasion.
Let's begin (vs. 1). In verse 2 the river spoken of is the Euphrates, Terah was Abraham's father. The reason you are here is not because you are so special, nor were your forefathers so wonderful - they came from beyond the River Euphrates - and they were even idolatrous. Right off the bat God is telling these people through Joshua that they are chose by God's mercy - not because they deserve it.
In doing this Joshua is bringing up a theme that is very prominent in the pages of this book. We think of Rahab, the prostitute. God not only blessed her and accepted her, he also chose to use her in a great way. She's an ancestor of God's messiah - none other than Jesus Christ. Likewise in chapter 8 it is not only for Israel, but also for the strangers who lives in your midst.
I. First Theme - God is like this - He is reaching out to everyone. It says He is looking to and fro to find a person whose heart is open towards Him (II Chronicles 16:9). It doesn't matter what your background is: sordid like Rahab or strangers to God like Terah was - God is always reaching out to bless and relate with all people.
II. There's more: (v.3-13) the theme here is the things God has done in the past - remarkable facts and miracles which He has done in their very midst. So God not only calls to people from all sorts of backgrounds, but he also provides a basis for putting their belief in Him. God says remember I did this and this and this and because of these objective acts which you saw me do - now I ask you to believe in me and trust me and follow me.
Here once again we find a theme that has come up several times in this book. In chapter 1 they were to be strong in the Lord, and have courage. Why? Because of the things he had done before. They had seen those miracles with their own eyes. Likewise in chapter 3 and 4 when they experienced the waters of the Jordan being piled up so they could walk across on dry land. What did God have them do? He had the erect a monument so they could remember what He had done. A refrain in the book of Joshua "Remember the things which had gone before."
So that when God asked them to do some pretty strange things they could say to one another, "Remember what God did before when we trusted Him." This is a dynamic that is very consistent with God when He works. He's not the uninvolved God who says take a "blind leap of faith" and just believe in Me. That's no the way God is. Instead He provides a foundation of evidence which points towards the reasonableness of believing in Him. God does this today. He provides massive evidence as a foundation for us to place our faith in Him.
Example: Biblical prophecy - God stakes His reputation on it. It takes up 1/5 of the Bible. In Isaiah 41, God says He foretells the future 100% correctly. He challenges anyone else to do that and He challenges us to check out His predictive prophecy, for example, Christ.
Example: Christ's resurrection upon which He based His claim to be God. It's reasonable to believe in the God who created the universe. He's given us ample factual evidence by what He has done.
This is the conclusion which Joshua draws in verses 14-16. On the basis of what God has done, have a profound and deep respect for God. That's what the "fear of the Lord" really means. In Joshua's view, to have a deep respect for God excludes worshipping these other false gods. These are antithetical viewpoints. This is why Joshua calls on the people to choose - choose who you will worship: (a) those false gods, or (b) this God who has done all these mighty miracles on your behalf.
III. Here is another theme. V. 14-16 The people had to make a decision to serve God or not to serve God. This is the position of the Bible - God's word to us.
- You can choose to serve the God of the Bible, or
- Those other false gods over there,
- But you cannot serve both.
Do you realize how unusual this is? Most religions are very inclusive. The Egyptians had many gods, the Babylonians have it woven right into the theology. The view today hat all paths lead to god, there are many ways to worship and we are open to them all.
Not so with the God of the Bible. He says these other gods are no gods at all, created by man in man's image. He will not play second fiddle, in fact, it's like a marriage to God. It's you and Him and no affairs on the side. It's a black and white decision, a complete commitment to Him or not at all.
There's hardly a word that could be more relevant to our culture today "choose". Choose today who you will serve (Acts 4:12) "no other name." If the God of the Bible exists (and I believe He does) then He is the only God and we are forced into a decision for or against Him. He leaves no other path open to us. One freedom we do not have is to not choose at all. In God's perspective to not choose at all is to reject Him.
We understand then what the God of the Bible wants:
- He wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to accept all people, to be as inclusive as possible, regardless of background or race. He wants to have a relationship with all people.
- He gives lots of factual evidence, a foundation for the reasonableness of believing in Him.
- And then He requires that we believe in Him and Him alone. He is worthy of investigation if you haven't made that decision.
IV. v. 21-22 There is one more principle I want to consider. This is a principle that places Joshua in the context of the rest of Scripture and establishes the role of this book in the content of Scripture.
I want to point out first of all that the people of Israel made this decision - the right decision (v. 16). They take Joshua's advice, they choose for God (v. 29-31). This is what is called a Happy Ending, or is it? Turn to Judges 2:6-12. The writer brings Joshua back again to spell out the result of (v.12) - "They did not know the Lord nor yet the work which He had done for Israel," so they worshipped the Baals. This new generation did not know the Lord or His mighty works. Why?
The fourth principle is that each and every person of each and every generation must have a first hand experience of God in his/her life. Every person must know Him personally and have experienced His mighty works. Everyone who would be faithful to God, who would serve Him must be an eye witness of God's works and have first hand experience of Him in their own life.
Here in the Bible we have chronicled over and over again how when the people did not know God they'd turn away to other gods, get wiped out by their enemies, turn back to God, get to know Him and His power first hand, defeat their enemies by His miraculous power, then their kids would not know him, turn away to other gods--the cycle repeats itself.
Why is it we can't maintain our commitment? We get complacent, we compromise. Church history is rife with this tragedy. To illustrate this down hill slide let's image 3 chairs here. These 3 chairs represent 3 generations of people, or 3 stages of the history of a certain church.
- Chair Number 1 (Joshua 24:14-18) is Joshua sold out for God.
- Chair Number 2 (Joshua 24:29-31) is the elders of Joshua's day, god-wardness - mental assent, complacency.
- Chair Number 3 (Joshua 2:7-12) is the next generation; godlessness - did not know God or His works, compromise.
Chair Number 1.
This is the chair we should desire to be in. When you are sold out for God there is nothing left in your life but God, and then He is free to answer your prayers and fulfill your life's goals. When you are committed and sold out to the Lord, your children, both physical and spiritual children, will see and experience commitment in your home, in their contact with you, and they will want for themselves. They are attracted and challenged by your sold out life.
Chair Number 2.
Let's talk about complacency. This is a person who is a is a Christian but they don't know God in a personal way. They don't demonstrate action in their life (i.e. God working through them). Why doesn't God work through them? Because they are so filled with selfishness. The mark of this complacency is conflict. Conflict comes all over the place as you try to balance your selfishness and love of the world system over and against your Christian life. Your friends, your disciple, your kids know it. They watch you and this drives them to chair number 3.
Chair Number 3.
Your kids won't know the Lord nor the things He has done. Do you see why? Because you aren't sold out to Christ you have nothing vital to share with them or show them in your own life. So why should they believe in God, or His mighty works? They are not interested in the Lord because they don't see His life or His works in their own so-called Christian parents' lives and home. This applies also to the singles who are discipling others or trying to reach their friends. What do the people around you understand about your priorities, what chair are you sitting in and does your heart reveal that?
The slide from commitment to complacency to compromise is a very common cycle. Is it possible to stay in chair number 1 generation after generation, year after year? Absolutely! The first chair remains for those who are sold out for the Lord and are living their lives in an intimate relationship with Him.
Which chair do you sit in? If you are in chair number 2 or e it's very important for you to move to chair number 1. Christ has a program which will bring you to chair number 1, the chair of radical commitment to Him. First, let's study some examples from the scriptures of persons living in the 3 different levels of commitment.
The Curse of Compromise
In the story of Lot we have a striking illustration of these three categories:
- Commitment - faithful Abraham
- Complacent - Lot moving away from Abraham to Sodom
- Compromise - Lot's choice of complacency and comfort like Egypt moving on to compromise and wickedness in Sodom.
Although we think of Sodom as totally depraved, what God says about their sins is rather surprising. In Ezekiel 16:49-50a, "This was the guilt of Sodom, arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus, they were haughty and committed abominations before Me." This sounds pretty much like the America, "arrogance, abundant food and careless ease"; it inevitably leads to "not caring for the poor and needy" and then to abominations", i.e. every kind of sin and perversion.
Abraham was a man who, at the call of God, left his idolatrous home and land (very much like Sodom) and in the obedience of faith he went to the land in which God had told him to live. There he found himself among strangers, potentially dangerous enemies, the Canaanite and the Perizzite (Gen. 12:6; 13:7). But we find they never attacked Abraham but instead they called him "lord", such was God's protection of Abraham he was safe in the hands of the Lord as long as he followed Him trustfully and obediently.
Lot, Abraham's nephew, had also left all to follow the Lord. He must have been just a committed as Abraham, at least it looked that way, he lived with Abraham until Abraham leads Lot to the top of a mountain and lets him choose his flocks' grazing land, i.e. his inheritance.
Lot was a man accepted by God, called a "righteous man" in the New Testament. But he chose what looked good "like the land of Egypt" and the consequences were tragic. His path away from the Lord began as he moved closer and closer to Sodom until he finally moved into the city and even sat at the city gate (where the leaders of a city sat to make municipal decisions). Lot obviously bought into the world system even though he was upset by the ungodliness of Sodom.
When the five kings raided Sodom and carried Lot off Abraham rescued him, but refused to be paid by the King of Sodom with the "goods" he had captured. Lot, however, didn't withdraw from his entanglement in the values of the world system. He became a complacent believer who enjoyed the important role he had in Sodom. Even worse, he was allowing the sins of Sodom to enter his own house. Apparently his daughters were engaged to men of Sodom. And, remember the sins were arrogance, ease and abundant food. He didn't participate in the grossly perverted sins, which most of his fellow Sodomites were living in, but he didn't stand against the sins either.
Compromise shows up clearly when he offered his daughters to the men of Sodom to keep them from sexually abusing the men sent from God. He still had a conscience because he invited the two angels into his home and hospitably fed them. I thin Lot recognized the angels' godly character and was ashamed of Sodom and its depravity, so he was trying to protect them from seeing how terrible it was and how compromised he was.
But when the Sodomites tried to forcibly enter to have sex with the two angels Lot called them "brothers" trying to reason with them. Of course, the Sodomites turned on him and were going to treat Lot worse than the angels, "this one came in as an alien and already he is acting like a judge, now we will treat you worse than them [the angels]" Genesis 19:9. So all his compromising lifestyle did not protect him rather they despised him even though he sat at the city gate.
It took a miracle and the power of the angles to rescue Lot from the Sodomites, blinding them and throwing them back from battering the door in. Lot, even though a believer, was so compromised that he carried no weight at all for God with his neighbors, he was such a hypocrite.
But surely his family would respect him and listen to the message from God delivered by the angels. No, the men betrothed to his daughters received his message of judgement as a joke (Gen. 19:14). Why would they believe Lot when he had never spoken God's truth into their lives or lived it out before them? The next morning even when the angels urged Lot to take his wife and daughters and run for the hills, he hesitated. The angels had to drag the entire family out of Sodom because the "compassion of the Lord was upon Lot" (Gen. 1916). Lot's compromised life affected his whole family. All his position, money and ease had to be left behind to be destroyed by God's judgment. All Lot ended up with was two ungodly daughters who slept with him while he was drunk, and they began the tribes of Moab and Amnon, the enemies of Israel hundreds of years later.
Lot's wife looked back and became a pillar of salt; she is remembered as Christ warns his disciples to "remember Lot's wife" as He talked about the day of the Lord.
It is appalling to see how far Lot drifted away from his beginning walk with God. In the meantime, Abraham was growing closer to Jehovah God and had been renamed Abraham, "father of faith". Lot did make choices which placed him at risk in his relationship with God, but the compromised life is fairly easy to drift into. The world system seduces us daily and unless we are proactively building our relationship with the Lord daily, complacency and then compromise will "naturally" occur. Our "body of sin" is drawn to the worlds' values and our Enemy is a brilliant strategist convincing us to gradually sell out to his schemes.
What sober warnings can we learn from Lot's life? What positive principles should we follow to keep a radically committed, effective life?
Warnings from Lot's Compromised Life
- If we insist on compromised God lets us alone. He will not force us further than our stubborn wills when we spurn His purpose and His love for us. Lot begged to stay in the valley at a little town called Zoar, he couldn't bear to leave the world system completely. But we see that he was afraid to stay in Zoar, so he climbed up to the mountains and lived in a cave.
- In the cave Lot's two daughters lived out the immorality they learned from the men of Sodom. They made their father drunk and committed incest with him (Gen. 19:31-38).
- Lot's compromised life ended in bitter misery, loneliness, sorrow and degradation. We wonder why Lot didn't take his daughters and return to Abraham's camp, getting back in fellowship with his godly uncle and walking with Jehovah God. Lot would have been welcomed back into Abraham's camp and Lot's daughters probably could have been restored and had good marriages. Complacency easily slips into compromise and always ends up not knowing God in a personal way, and often, actual rejection of God is the result.
What godly principles should we live out to keep a radically committed life?
Philippians 3:13 "But One" in original Greek: it means ONE Christ, ONE goal
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"
If we have Christ as the ONE in our life ten we will be irresistibly drawn to consecrate our whole life to His goal: the reward of "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". Paul set his face, set his body, soul and spirit, his whole being towards ONE goal: to know Christ, have Christ's righteousness, Christ's power, Christ's fellowship. Paul pressed on toward his one ambition; Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ. Paul's life ambition should inspire us to imitate him so that, by the grace of God, we will experience the life of joy, peace, power and fulfillment that he did.
We live in such a great blessing of God's love and forgiveness and a wonderful future how could we be content to be complacent towards Christ? Just sneaking into heaven through Christ's blood while still sold out to the world system and it's values?
Notice that Paul gave up "all things" for the ONE and he had it all before he met Christ" power, position, material prosperity, prestige, a brilliant future and now some thirty-three years later, facing death, he forcefully says those "all things" were "dung" compared to knowing Christ. He lived out Jesus' definition of being His disciple "denying himself" and giving up all that he had, i.e. the world systems values and goals, as Jesus said this is "gaining his life" and Paul agreed with Christ.
What are the advantages of the committed life which we can truly participate in today?
- "I have learned the secret" - Paul says (Phil. 4:12) the secret of being content in any and every circumstance presupposes learning to trust and depend on the Lord. Paul was in prison when he wrote these verses, and we have hardly suffered at all. Yet we often complain about minor discomforts and inconveniences. An attitude of thankfulness is necessary before we can be content, and counting it all joy to serve Christ.
- The next step is "I can do all things" (Phil. 4:13). Here is where we can avail ourselves of Christ's power to strengthen us and do His work through us. This power, available as we "abide in Christ", produces the "fruit that remains". The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in our own life, and we are empowered to reach others and disciple them to disciple others. That is miraculous power, Christ's power, which He promised us as His committed disciples.
- Finally, "My God shall supply all my needs" (Phil. 4:19). He's my god and He has all riches so there is no doubt about His promise and His provision.
"I have learned the secret" -- contentment
"I can do all things" -- with Christ's power
"My god will supply" -- and God's bountiful provision
This privilege is yours, the decision is yours, you must settle it with Christ, i.e. that your heart and soul, your very being, must be sold out, consecrated to Christ. If you will, then you will be a committed believer, sitting in Chair Number 1 all your life. And everyone around you will know Christ, especially your children and disciples. Unbelievers will either accept Christ and life eternal or reject Him because your "aroma of Christ" is so powerful and persuasive. They will see the "works" of God in your life, and experience Him as they live beside you. Your children will not be able to walk away from Christ because of your agape love for them and life of Christ-like integrity as you interact with them and all those around you. Your fruit will be a powerful incentive for them to know and experience Christ and His power. They will want to become committed Christians like you are, and they will follow your example.