Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the August 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Lesson Aim: Be strong and courageous; serve the Lord faithfully.
By Mark Scott
T.S. Eliot wrote, “For those who serve the greater cause may make the cause serve them.” A remarkable deception of the enemy is in duping believers into thinking they deserve God to serve them (cf. Luke 17:10). But everything good that happened for Israel (or the church, for that matter) occurred only by the grace of God.
We come to the end of this book of conquest. After God’s judgment on Achan for his covetousness (Joshua 7), the land finally was settled by the tribes of Israel (chapters 8–21)—though not all of the enemies had been defeated. The two and one-half tribes from the eastern side of Jordan had returned home (chapter 22). Joshua made his farewell speech (chapter 23), and the covenant was renewed (chapter 24). But with Joshua soon to be gone, would Israel serve the Lord?
Serve Him with Faithfulness
Joshua 24:1, 14, 15
The place where Joshua chose to renew the covenant was significant. Abraham built an altar in Shechem the first time he ever passed through Canaan (Genesis 12:6, 7). Shechem was where Jacob stopped to bury the foreign idols when he returned home (Genesis 35:4). And Shechem was where Joshua renewed the covenant with Israel the first time (Joshua 8:30-35).
So, Joshua got everyone together—the elders (ancient ones), the leaders (heads or chiefs), the judges (defenders or avengers), and the officials (rulers or overseers). Joshua reviewed the Israelites’ history (24:2-13); he spoke of the wandering of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt.
Serve is the key term in these verses and in this lesson. The word appears at least a dozen times in the lesson text and 290 times in the Hebrew Bible. Joshua called on the people to fear and serve God with all faithfulness (truth). The way this faithfulness would be evident was in Israel’s “throwing away” (a phrase that appears again in 24:23) foreign gods. Idolatry was in their DNA (via Abraham before he heard God’s call, while being tempted in Egypt, and in their current experience with the Amorites).
Joshua placed before Israel a challenge. If it seemed undesirable (evil) to them to serve the Lord, they could elect to be idolaters. But in a moment of tremendous self-disclosure, Joshua famously announced, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Even if he were the only one, Joshua would remain faithful (cf. 2 Timothy 2:11-13).
Serve Him in Contrast to Others
This part of our text is a dialogue between Israel and Joshua. They spoke, and then he spoke, and then they spoke, etc. Joshua had warned the Israelites against being idolaters. They said they would not worship idols. Then Joshua told them they could not serve God (because God was holy, and they were not). They replied, “No! We will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said, “OK, you are witnesses against yourselves.” They said, “OK.”
Israel said they would not forsake (loosen or depart from) the Lord. Israel acknowledged that God had redeemed them out of the land (house) of Egypt, performed miracles, provided for them in the wilderness, and drove out (threw out) the nations from their homeland. Israel agreed to serve God because God was God.
Joshua reminded the people that Israel’s God was holy and jealous. Their God would not take lightly to rebellion (transgression) and sin. In fact, if Israel forsook the Lord and served idols, then God would bring disaster (evil) on them. Israel claimed loyalty to God by pledging (establishing a witness) to serve the Lord. Joshua told them a second time to throw away the foreign gods and yield (extend or stretch) their hearts to the Lord. Israel agreed to obey (hear) God.
Serve Him in Covenant
Joshua 24:25-28, 31
Joshua renewed God’s covenant with Israel for a second time. He reaffirmed (put in place) the decrees (commandments) and the laws (judgments) at Shechem. Joshua did two things to underline this moment. First, he recorded (wrote) these things in a book. Second, he buried it by an oak tree under a stone. He even personified the stone by saying the stone had heard this renewal of the covenant. Then Joshua sent the people home.
In verses 29 and 30, we read of Joshua’s death. He lived to the age of 110. Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and of those Joshua equipped to lead. But next came the book of Judges.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.