Joshua had a tri-cultural experience. He spent his childhood in Egypt, lived in the wilderness where he moved forty or more times, and entered Canaan, where he camped in a number of places before he and his family finally moved into their tribal territory.
Joshua was hungry for God and lived in Moses' shadow throughout the wilderness travels. The leadership baton could not have been passed to a better man. Joshua loved the Book of the Law. He began his leadership by obeying God's Word. He circumcised all those who had not been circumcised in the wilderness. He celebrated the Passover. He met the commander of the army of the Lord. He saw Jericho collapse at the shouts of Israel. He directed Israel to deal decisively with sin and taught them the fear of the Lord. He led Israel in one successful military campaign after another.
Joshua began his leadership with a high commitment to Bible literacy and ended his leadership position with that same commitment, "Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or the left" (Josh. 23:6). Joshua reviews Israel's history, beginning with Abraham's call and promises from God. He completes his history lesson by imploring Israel to throw away their idols and to fear and serve the living God. He promises, "If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good" (24:20).
The book of Joshua ends with a summary of Joshua's leadership: "Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the LORD which He had done for Israel" (24:31).
During Joshua's tri-cultural experience he saw human behavior at its worst and its best. During his 110 years Joshua developed a rich theology:
Joshua discovered that a life fed by meditation on the Word of God and lived in accordance with the promises of God brought true blessing, fulfilling purpose, and rich reward. At the end of his life, he declares, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (24:15). God's way starts with difficulty and ends with joy (Prov. 4:18), while the way of sinners starts with ease and ends with sorrow (Prov. 14:12). Joshua has chosen to live in God's Word and walk in God's way; what choice will you make?
In Numbers 32, Moses had commanded that the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh cross over in front of the other tribes and not return to the east side of the Jordan until all Israel had received their inheritances. How has God been faithful to these 2 1/2 tribes throughout the years of conquest?
What does Joshua's final speech reveal about his understanding of God? Of sin? Of people?
What will it cost the people to serve God? How will they benefit from serving God?
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