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Less 178 JOSHUA'S LAST WORDS: A CALL TO DECISION

 
Joshua 24:1-33;

Lesson 178 Senior Lessons

MEMORY VERSE:  "I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7).

Joshua's Rehearsal of God's Blessings

Joshua assembled Israel at Shechem, and rehearsed God's blessings, Joshua 24:1; 23:2; I Samuel 10:19 The Lord called Abraham, Joshua 24:2,3; Genesis 11:26-32; 12:1; Acts 7:2-4 Jacob and his children went into Egypt; the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, and also sent plagues upon Egypt, Joshua 24:4,5; Genesis 46:1-6; Exodus 3:7-11; Deuteronomy 4:34 Israel was brought out of Egypt; the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, Joshua 24:6,7; Exodus 14:5-10 The Lord delivered Israel from their enemies and turned Salaam's curse into a blessing, Joshua 24:8-10; Deuteronomy 23:4,5 Jericho was delivered into their hands, and the Amorites were de¬feated, Joshua 24:11, 12; 6:1,2; Exodus 23:28 The Lord gave Israel cities, vineyards, and oliveyards, Joshua 24:13; Deuteronomy 6:10,11

II A Call to Decision

Joshua exhorted them to fear the Lord, Joshua 24:14; Deuteronomy 10:12; 18:13; Genesis 17:1 Joshua told them his decision: that he and his family would serve the Lord, Joshua 24:15; Ruth 1:15-17; I Kings 18:21; Genesis 18:19; Ezekiel 20:39; John 6:67 The people solemnly promised to serve the Lord, Joshua 24:16-18 Joshua showed them the holiness of God, and the danger of apostasy, Joshua 24:19,20; Matthew 6:24 The people promised obedience, Joshua 24:21-24; Genesis 35:2;
I Samuel 7:3; Psalm 119:173 Joshua made a covenant with the people, Joshua 24:25-28; Exodus 15:25; Genesis 28:18; 31:48; Deuteronomy 31:19,21,26; Judges 9:6; II Kings 11:17

III Death and Burial of Joshua and Eleazar

Joshua died at the age of 110 years, and was buried in Mount Ephraim, Joshua 24:29, 30; Judges 2:6-9 For a time Israel served the Lord as they promised, Joshua 24:31 Joseph's bones were buried in Shechem, Joshua 24:32; Genesis 50:25 Eleazar, the high priest, died, and was buried in Mount Ephraim, Joshua 24:33

NOTES

Shechem

We again find Shechem the gathering place for all Israel. It was to this place that Abraham came and built an altar when he first entered Canaan. Shechem was the scene of many sacred associations. The situation of the town was one of surpassing beauty. It lay in a fertile valley, protected by Mount Ebal on the north and Mount Gerizim on the south. Springs of water flowed from the mountainsides westward and made this little valley one of the garden spots of Canaan.

Joshua

Joshua, Israel's seoond great leader, was about to depart from the Land of Canaan to the heavenly land. His testimony could have been like Paul's who said: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).


We first hear of Joshua as Moses' young minister, going with him up the side of Mount Sinai. He remained there on the mountainside while Moses was with the Lord in the thick darkness on the top of the mountain for 40 days and nights. At the end of that time they came down the mountain together to find. Israel dancing around the golden calf. Joshua faithfully stood by Moses all through Moses' life, and at Moses' death became Israel's leader.

Joshua led the armies of Israel in their first battle and remained their general all through the conquest of Canaan. He was defeated but once, at the battle against Ai, when sin had entered the camp. When sin was put away, God gave Israel the victory they should have had previously.


On another occasion, when the great battle in the conquest of Canaan was being fought, Joshua was so intent on defeating the enemy that when he saw the sun going down he realized the day was not long enough to give complete victory; so, with a faith and courage no one had ever exercised before, he stepped forth before the people and said: 'Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon' (Joshua 10:12). Never before had the heavenly bodies obeyed the voice of man.


It seems that this last great gathering of Israel before Joshua's death was to draw them into a closer covenant with the Lord and also to give them a final warning against idolatry. We believe Joshua threw his whole heart and soul into his last address to the nation of people with whom he had come out of bondage, and whom he had seen the hand of the Lord guide across the desert into the land of their inheritance. Just as a pastor watches over every sheep in the fold of God and desires to help each one enter the portals of Glory, so Joshua had guided and cared for all Israel until every family had received their inheritance in Canaan.

Joshua's Last Words

Children stand around the bedside of departing parents to catch their last words; and just so, we believe, Israel lent a listening ear to the last words of their beloved leader. He rehearsed the many blessings the Lord had bestowed upon them. He reminded them that God had brought them out of Egyptian bondage, across the Red Sea, through the terrible wilderness, and at last into the promised Canaan land.


Joshua also used this excellent opportunity to dissuade the people against idolatry. He knew their weaknesses and seeming readiness to conform to the manner of life of the nations around them. He reminded them of God's goodness to Israel, from the call of Abraham to their now happy establishment in the land of promise.


Joshua told Israel that they were indebted to God for their national existence, not through any merits or virtues of their own, but through the free grace of God. Their fathers who had dwelt on the other side of the flood, the other side of the river Euphrates, were idolaters. But the Lord had called Abraham and led him through Canaan and multiplied his seed, and had given him the promise of that land for an inheritance; and now the Lord had established them in that goodly land — a land for which they did not labor, with cities which they did not build. They were eating from oliveyards and vineyards that they did not plant. All this they had inherited because of the free grace of God.


The blessings that came to Israel. in the natural, are typical of the spiritual blessings given to us in this Gospel dispensation. There is not one thing we can do to merit salvation. It comes from God's bountiful hand as a free gift, purchased for us on Calvary. But just as Israel's blessings depended upon their obedience to God's law, so our spiritual blessings depend upon obedience to God's Word today.

Joshua's Call to a Decision

After having enumerated many grounds for national gratitude, and while they were assembled, Joshua called on them to declare in a solemn manner whether they would be faithful and obedient to the God of Israel and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; or 'If it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve' (Joshua 24:15). It was a solemn moment in Israel's national life. It is also a solemn mo- ment in every one's life when the Spirit of the Lord calls him to make a decision for Christ. Some have felt that they were hearing their last call. This was Israel's last call by their great leader, Joshua. He felt the seriousness of the situation and challenged them by setting an excellent example and by saying: 'As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.'

Crossroads

We sometimes speak of coming to the 'crossroad' in one's life. Ruth and Orpah came to the crossroad in their lives when they followed Naomi, their mother-in-law, out of their city to go to the Land of Canaan. They came to a turning point. The question before them was: Would they go to the Land of Canaan and serve the God of Israel, or would they go back and serve the gods of Moab? Many are making the same choice Orpah made — to serve the gods of this world. But Ruth clave to her mother-in- law and spoke some truly immortal words, 'Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God' (Ruth 1:16), which have stirred many souls to seek and serve the Lord. The prophet Joel caught the import of the time of decision in his prophecy: 'Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision' (Joel 3: 14).

Elijah's Call to Backslidden Israel

More than 500 years later, Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and sent out a challenge to backslidden Israel: 'How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him' (I Kings 18:21). The people did not answer him a word; but when Elijah proved to them who the true God was, they fell on their faces and said: 'The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.'


Have you answered the call of Christ to your heart? Have you turned your back on the world, the flesh, and the devil, and from your heart have said like Joshua: 'As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD'? In Jesus' time, when the way became too narrow for many of the people and they turned back from following Jesus, He turned to His disciples and said, 'Will ye also go away?'' Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life' (John 6:67, 63).

Stones as Monuments

In ancient times it was a custom to erect stones as monuments of public transactions. Joshua took a great stone and set it up under an oak by the sanctuary of the Lord, as a witness unto Israel that the Lord had heard the words of the Covenant. When we make a covenant with the Lord, He sends His Spirit to bear witness with our spirit that the covenant has been made, that our prayer has been heard.

The Burial of Three Great Men

Before Joseph died in Egypt, he told his brethren that the Lord would surely visit them and bring them out of Egypt into the land which He sware He would give unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 'Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence' (Genesis 50:24, 25). He had wonderful faith in God's promises. In all their journeyings from Egypt to the Promised Land, they had carried with them the bones of Joseph in a stone coffin. And now that the Lord had established them in the land, they buried Joseph's bones in Shechem, and it became the inheritance of the Children of Joseph.


This chapter records the death and burial of Joshua and also of Eleazar, the high priest. We are told that the people obeyed the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua. The Lord called Joshua to Heaven at the age of 110 years. He was a type of Christ, and stands among the great men of the earth. 'When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn' (Proverbs 29:2).

QUESTIONS

1 Name several events that made Shechem an important town.
2 Why did Joshua gather all Israel at this time?
3 Where is Joshua first mentioned in the Bible?
4 What was Israel's besetting sin?
5 Tell some of the things that Joshua enumerates in his last words.
6 What was the challenge Joshua gave to Israel?
7 What decision was Israel called to make that day?
8 Why did not Joseph want to be buried in Egypt?

 
   
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