Beginning in Joshua 23, the Bible records Joshua’s speech to Israel before his death. His final message is a charge to faithfulness as Israel renewed their commitment to their covenant with God. This final message includes his famous last words—perhaps the most memorable words in all the book of Joshua—found in Joshua 24:15, “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.” Israel had a choice. They could follow idolatrous tradition of pursuing the gods of their ancestors. They could soak up the culture around them and follow the ways of the Amorites in the land of Canaan. Or they could follow the one true God: Jehovah (Yahweh). Joshua highlighted the crossroads at which Israel found themselves. He impressed upon Israel their need to make a commitment. Serving the Lord will only come from a convicted exercise of their will.
Joshua made his choice clear that his household would serve Yahweh. He was going to practice the command of Deuteronomy 6:4-7. He would love God in his own life with all his heart. In loving God, he would diligently teach God’s commands to his children throughout each day. Christian fathers today have the command to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord instead of provoking them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4). To do this takes time and involvement. One cannot be an absentee father and please God. We need men like Cornelius, devout men who fear God with all their house (Acts 10:2). We are thankful for those fathers who strive with all their might to do just that.
After Joshua’s death, the Bible makes this sad note, “Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord” (Judges 2:10). Israel went from obediently taking the land God had given them in the days of Joshua (Joshua 21:43-45) to failing to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan (Judges 1:21, 28, 32). The book of Judges shows how Israel had grown to be more and more like their neighbors because they did not drive them out from the land (cf. Psalm 106:34-43). Just as Joshua warned, these neighbors would be a continual temptation causing repeated spiritual problems for Israel, “Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you” (Joshua 23:13). The next generation was in a snare spiritually because they listened to the world around them rather than the faithful who had gone before them (Judges 2:3). While Joshua was committed to making sure his household served the Lord, the next generation did not maintain that commitment. They soaked up the values of the Amorites that surrounded them. Whom will you and your household serve?
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