Joshua Calls Israelites on Failure to Obey

March 12, 2018 at 5:25 PM 2 comments

We dealt with aspects of Joshua’s life from Joshua 1 previously. We noted how almost flippant the Israelites were when they said they would obey the Lord in everything just as they claimed to have obeyed Moses in everything. We know this is not true, but as is often the case, when it comes to our own failures, we tend to have a foggy memory.

Throughout Joshua’s adult life from the time God chose him until the day he passed from this earth, Joshua was faithful to God. I cannot imagine being leader over people who were often so wayward and contrary. It would be frustrating at best and downright annoying/angering at worst. If we think of Joshua as a sort of “pastor” to the flock of Israel, it makes a bit more sense, though of course, he wasn’t preaching to them weekly. He was nonetheless, in charge of Israel as a nation, appointed by God to take Moses’ place.

After Joshua, things began to go quickly down hill. God resorted to appointing individual “judges” who would lead/inspire Israel to regain ground lost through their disobedience to God. As Joshua approached the end of his life, he took the time to remind Israel of their contrariness where God was concerned. He essentially told them that they needed to follow God in all things.

After Joshua reminds the Israelites of their history, how God formed them into a nation, how He led them out of Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, how God performed many miracles for Israel to prove His love and commitment to them, Israel continued to wander away from God. He reminds them of all these things in order to emphasize that they needed to look ahead and understand that their commitment needed to be to the Lord and Him only. Let’s take a look at it.

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15 ESV)

Here, Joshua is telling the people to make a decision. They need to choose either the Lord God or themselves. Joshua point-blank tells them that he and his house will continue to serve the Lord. Obviously, he’s hoping that Israel will do the same.

The people respond and it’s done almost rote. In fact, Joshua seems to think that it is an automatic reply.

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18 ESV)

It reminds me of being in church and simply repeating automatically a phrase to the pastor as he calls out another phrase. We often do these things without truly considering the import of what we are saying. Joshua tells the people of Israel that they need to choose whom they will serve. It seems like they gave no real thought to their answer but simply spit out what they thought Joshua wanted to hear. After hearing it, Joshua would have none of it.

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Joshua 24:19-20 ESV)

Joshua’s point seems clear. He tells them they are not able to serve the Lord. No matter what we do, our “goodness” or “righteousness” is seen by God for what it is – not good enough. Joshua is pointing out their duplicity. He notes that God is a “jealous” God. God will not forgive them. What does that mean? It means simply that if the people continue their wayward life before God, saying they will obey God, but walking in a way that makes them liars, God will withhold His forgiveness from them. He will hold them accountable for their hypocrisy and duplicity. This does not mean that if someone truly repents, God will fail to forgive. Joshua is saying that the people of Israel cannot simply give lip service to following God, but their hearts remain far from Him. In doing so, they will be racking up sin upon sin and God will not automatically forgive them just because they are Israelites.

Joshua is forcing the people to really think about what they are saying. It’s a good point for us as well. Do we often enter into promises with God that are made lightly? Do we fail to take all into consideration when we say we will “follow” Jesus? Our Christian life is a work in progress. On one hand, we are immediately justified through faith in Christ and His work on our behalf. Through faith, we embrace this truth. We “invite” Jesus into our lives as God, as Head of the Church. We begin to understand our need for Someone outside of ourselves to save us from ourselves and our sin. Our eyes open to that truth and reality. Upon receiving salvation, we are immediately justified and our filthiness is taken away, replaced with the righteousness of Jesus, which is literally imputed to our account. This is justification.

However, our sanctification is a life-long process. It will continue for as long as we remain alive on this earth. That sanctification process is often painful, frustrating, and can often catch us unawares because of our sin-plagued lives. Even though we are justified, our sin nature remains with us until God removes it after this life is over. The process of dying to our selfish wants, which produce sin, and conforming to the perfection of His character is what each and every Christian has in front of them until death.

Joshua was essentially telling the people that they – in and of themselves – were not able to “serve the Lord.” God is holy. He is jealous. He shares His glory with no one. He demands total allegiance and obedience. Joshua reminds the people that by serving foreign gods, they will run afoul of the Lord God. In the face of the fact that God had done so much for the nation of Israel, it would be reprehensible of them to forsake Him by worshiping other gods.

The implication is that the people of Israel needed to rely fully on God to remain faithful to Him. They couldn’t take Him for granted or simply assume that they would follow through on their verbal promise to obey and serve the Lord. Joshua was trying to make them really think about what they were saying, so he questioned their commitment.

21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” (Joshua 24:21-24 ESV)

Joshua reminds the people that they are their own witnesses. They have made the promise to serve God, which also means that they were promising to forsake all other gods. Joshua tells the people that they have become witnesses against themselves and the people agree.

Satisfied, Joshua made a covenant with the people and used a large stone under a terebinth (oak) tree as a reminder to them of their promise. Joshua wanted to the stone to be a reminder to the people of their promise to God; something tangible that they could see and be reminded of their promise.

As Christians, we have something the Israelites did not have. We have the Holy Spirit living within us. He seals us unto the day of redemption and nothing can break that seal, not even our puny “free will” (Ephesians 4:30). God the Holy Spirit also empowers us to live a life whereby our words, thoughts, and actions bring great glory to God. Would you agree with me that even with the Holy Spirit within us, it is often difficult to live the life that God requires? Yet, we must persevere. As Paul says, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Of course, Paul is not saying we must work for our salvation. He is saying we must work or cooperate with God as His character is being formed in us in this life. The results of our salvation are what need to work out in and through us. It is a process called sanctification that must happen for each and every Christian.

In order to accomplish this, several things must happen. First, the person must be authentically saved. They must actually possess salvation. That is the first step. Without it, there is no eternal life, nor is there any process in sanctification. Second, the person who becomes authentically saved – a Christian – must put forth effort to submit him/herself to God’s will in all things. This is undeniably the most difficult part of being a Christian. Nothing is automatic.

Within Christendom, there are many who profess to be Christians. They do things that make them appear to be religious. They hang with the right people. They use verbiage that makes them sound Christian. Outward appearances point to the possibility of them actually being a Christian. However, they might not be and only God can see that. There are many people in the world that some might call “good.” They are called that based on externals. We cannot judge internals because we cannot see that, which is why Jesus said to not judge (internals).

Looking at someone like Judas Iscariot for instance, might have caused some to think he was actually a “saved” individual. My goodness, he was one of our Lord’s original twelve apostles! He spent three years following Jesus as part of that inner circle. Yet, it appears that Judas never understood his need for salvation. In fact, on the night before Jesus died, Satan entered into Judas and used him for his malevolent purposes. Judas was probably mistaken by people as being truly saved. It seems clear enough from Scripture that he was not saved at all. Yeah, he experienced remorse at what he did when he realized how he had betrayed Jesus, but unsaved people can experience remorse. That does not translate to saving faith. Judas didn’t lose his salvation because he never had it and because Scripture tells us it cannot be lost.

Folks, let us endeavor to follow our Lord wherever He leads us. It takes a firm commitment to go where He goes, to follow where He leads, and to serve Him all the days of our lives. Let us not be like the Israelites who seemed almost flippant in their quick response to Joshua. Did they really understand what they were saying? Joshua didn’t seem to think so, so he pushed them on it.

We need to strive to be like Jesus who at every turn, committed Himself to the Father’s will. Nothing short of that was good enough.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Demonic, devil worship, Emotional virtue, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , .

Transhumanism on the Rise The Ups and Downs of Israel in Judges

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rutnerh  |  March 12, 2018 at 10:25 PM

    Dispensationally the Jews in OT times lived in a Theocracy in the presence of our Holy God demanding absolute obedience from everyone one of His Chosen Ones…without exception or all would suffer. And later under Law, God promised them earthly prosperity in a land flowing with milk and honey…but again only if fully obedient as spelled out in Deut 28 in the 15 blessings, and if not, in about 50 following curses under which the Jews have now lived for nearly 2500 y. The Jews were seduced by culturally superior Canaanites among them who worshipped pagan gods providing visibly greater prosperity with fewer strings attached….and that obviously appealed to the Jews and led to their decline and later dispersion.

    In contrast Christians, living in the 2000 y long 6th dispensation of Grace under our loving and forgiving Lord Jesus, were never promised earthly blessings. Iinstead, as transient earthly pilgrims, Christians receive rewards in heaven ( or as atheists might say, pie in the sky, not here and now)….but again only if obedient to God as true born again disciples of Jesus who gave us His divine commission to plant salvation seeds to rescue a “few” souls among the lost multitudes. Or the “many”, in Jesus’ words who defiantly or by default will precede Satan into eternal damnation in a literal hell, again as validated by truthful Jesus. At death we ALL will face a then merciless and stern Judge Jesus sending us either to heaven or to hell, both eternally.

    I believe premill dispensationalist Scofield perfectly spelled out our largely failed Christian com-Mission in his brief essay The Biggest Failure of the Church, written more than 100 years…. still valid and an eye opening free download and guide to heaven.


    • 2. modres  |  March 12, 2018 at 10:30 PM

      Yes, thank you!



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