Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week’s lesson dealt with the Nation of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land. Moses teaches them to observe the commands of God so that God’s instruction will not be forgotten when they cross into thePromised Land. In fact, they are to listen and learn so intently that their children and their children’s children will “fear the Lord and keep all the commands, so that your days may be long”. Moses is telling them, if you do what God is telling you to do, things will go well with you, you will multiply greatly, and you will have a land flowing with milk and honey just as God promised our ancestors and you.
Moses also cautions them. He wants them to understand there is but one God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. He admonishes them to keep these words “in your heart. Recite them to your children”, talk about them and essentially keep them foremost in every aspect of their lives. This week connects to last week with a familiar passage. Joshua asks the people to “choose whom you will serve”. It continues the theme of our love for God and God’s love for us. Joshua is now the successor of Moses and has taken leadership of the nation of Israel. Boyd’s and Townsend Title this week’s lesson “Choose to Love and Serve God”. Standard titles the lesson “Love and Serve God”. The Scripture text comes from Joshua 24:1-3a,13-15, and 21-24 (NRSV).
Joshua the son of Nun leads the nation of Israel after the death of Moses. Joshua’s name means “Yahweh saves” and from its Greek translation we derive the word Jesus. Although Moses brought the people to the border of the Promised Land, it is Joshua who leads them into the Promised Land.
The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the books of Law. The book of Joshua begins the twelve book section known as the books of history. After escaping Egypt and wandering in the wilderness, the first of these twelve books describe the invasion and occupation of the Promised Land. Finally, centuries after God promised Abraham, his descendants will have the land they were promised.
Joshua is situated in chapter 24 as an old man. He realizes blessings come from God when Israel obeys God’s covenant. They are in the land of promise but defeat and downfall is always a possibility if they turn from God. It is this realization that prompts him to write the sermon of our text today.
What takes place in this passage:
Joshua gathers the tribes of Israel to Shechem where he recounts how God has brought them across the centuries. He reminds them of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reminds them of Moses and how God miraculously brought them out of Egypt. And then he recounts the more recent history of how they traveled through the wilderness to arrive the promised land. Through it all, Joshua is sure to remind them “it was not by your sword or by your bow”. It was by God’s divine intervention that they have been blessed with this land. And now he skillfully reminds them that they need to decide whether they will be loyal to the God who has brought them thus far or if they will serve the gods of the land in which they now live. Finally, the people commit to serve the Lord God and no other god.
There are times in life when decisions must be made. We must choose. Crossroads at critical points are often life changing and have lasting consequences and repercussions. Those consequences can be either good or bad, so choosing right is important. The nation of Israel had been blessed across the centuries with the divine intervention of God. Now they have land they didn’t labor for, cities they didn’t build, and they eat from vineyards and olive yards they didn’t plant. Joshua knows if their blessings are to continue the Israelites must choose to serve the one true God and only this God. To do anything else is to invite Gods judgment.
Key Characters in the text:
The Lord God –
Joshua – He was the assistant of Moses. Joshua was groomed by God and Moses to succeed Moses. It is under the leadership of Joshua that the nation of Israel finally crosses the Jordan River and enters the Promised Land God pledged to Abraham centuries before.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
- Devotion – the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.
- Command – An explicit statement of God’s will.
Themes in this Lesson:
- Love of and service to God.
- Choices and choosing. Consequences and repercussions.
1. There were many false gods in the land the Israelites occupied. What is the consequence of them worshiping false gods and not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
2. What are examples of false Gods people worship today?
Some choices are easy and others are not, but all choices have consequences.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week Psalm 103 will show us how God cares deeply for each of us. In it David writes a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s goodness. God comforts us in our trouble and in turn we should acknowledge Gods care with love and worship.