Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15b)
Joshua was the very leader who successfully led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Under the leadership of Moses, Joshua and the people of his generation had a chance to get into the land, but they were scared in fear of the people already occupied the Promised Land. In the land, they saw the strong people lived in the fortified cities surrounded by the wall reaching heavens. Even the formidable giants, who never defeated, lived in the land. For them, it was suicidal to go into the land ad to occupy the land. They were just bunch of ex-slaves just released from Egypt. Yes, it was impossible to occupy the land although it was promised by God. They complained to God. God had to send back the entire generation to the wilderness. While wondering the wilderness, all of the unbelieving generation perished due to their disobedience. Thirty-nine years later, Joshua came back with the new generation of Israel who was born in the wilderness. Joshua returned the same place, and the situation was not changed. The insurmountable impossibility was still waiting for Joshua and the new generation of Israel. Taking over the Promised Land was impossible because the stronger people and the fearful giants were still living in the land.
Only was the difference the obedient new generation in faith. Under the leadership of Joshua, they walked into the land, not because they were stronger than the older generation, but because they quietly followed the faithful servant of Joshua. Joshua always put God first and followed God, the LORD. Then the entire new generation followed Joshua.
When they actually arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, it was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. Joshua instructed them, “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you.” Yes, the Israelites had never crossed the Jordan River before, and indeed, the Promised Land was on the other side crossing the river. The priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of the Israelites. As soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over to the Promised Land.
Finally, they stepped in the Promised Land, but the reality hit. They found that they were surrounded by the strong people. Jericho was right next to them, which was big, strong and well protected by the wall reaching to heavens. What would be the first thing that would you do? Yes, an ordinary leader would organize the people to protect against the stronger people, and plan how to attack the first city – Jericho. Joshua was different. He was absolutely obedient to God. Following God’s command, he called the people and tell them to be circumcised. In fact, none of the new generation was circumcised because they were born in the wilderness while wondering in the wilderness for forty years. All the males had been circumcised, and they had to rest in the camp until they were healed. It was the most stupid thing that any person would do. While waiting for healing, nobody could defend the Israelites. They were surrounded by the stronger enemies, and they practically disabled themselves to follow God’s command. Joshua was faithful to God, and the people was also.
Then following God’s command, they just circled the wall of Jericho for seven days. On the seventh day, at the shout of the Israelites in faith, the strong wall collapsed. It was not the Israelites, but God destroyed the wall by His almighty power. Yes, God fought for the Israelites, who were faithful to Him.
However, Joshua was not perfect. Soon, he sinned twice before God, and learned hard lessons. He took the matters into his own hands without asking God first. He attacked Ai, which was far smaller than Jericho with confidence. He sent few, but they were utterly defeated. He humbled and God helped. He defeated Ai. Soon after this lesson, Joshua accepted Gibeonites and made treaty without asking God first. He was being deceived, but he did not know. After he realized this deception, he humbled again before God. Then Joshua never forgot God. He asked God first by humbling himself before God. For the rest of his life, he continuously led the people of Israel with humility and courage while faithfully following God with all his heart. Under the leadership of Joshua, the people of Israel increasingly expanded their territories. In the middle of this expansion, the formidable giants were defeated, and many kings and cities fell before the Israelites. However, the God’s promise was yet to be fulfilled. Joshua became old and about to return to God. So far, about 1/3 of the Promised Land was occupied by the Israelites. The 2/3 of the land were still waiting for the Israelites to be conquered.
Joshua, who was now very old, called together all the elders, leaders, judges, and officers of Israel. Joshua, who was a man of faith against many kinds of impossibilities, shared his faith with the entire Israelites before he returned to God.
Joshua said to the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:
Long ago your ancestors, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River, and they worshiped other gods. But I took your ancestor Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him into the land of Canaan. I gave him many descendants through his son Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir, while Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I brought terrible plagues on Egypt; and afterward I
brought you out as a free people. But when your ancestors arrived at the Red Sea, the Egyptians chased after you with chariots and charioteers. When your ancestors cried out to the LORD, I put darkness between you and the Egyptians. I brought the sea crashing down on the Egyptians, drowning them. With your very own eyes you saw what I did. Then you lived in the wilderness for many years.
Finally, I brought you into the land of the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I destroyed them before you. I gave you victory over them, and you took possession of their land. Then Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, started a war against Israel. He summoned Balaam son of Beor to curse you, but I would not listen to him. Instead, I made Balaam bless you, and so I rescued you from Balak.
When you crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I gave you victory over them. And I sent terror ahead of you to drive out the two kings of the Amorites. It was not your swords or bows that brought you victory. I gave you land you had not worked on, and I gave you towns you did not build—the towns where you are now living. I gave you vineyards and olive groves for food, though you did not plant them.”
Yes, God promised them to give the Promised Land with the vineyards and olive groves for food, though the Israelites did not plant them. What a blessing! Yes, God is always faithful and keeps His promise. We also need to truly faithfully follow God and His promise. God always wants to provide what he has promised and even more. Why does God always want to give more? This loving and generous heart of God is not much different from that of our human parents. Our human parents, although they are not perfect as God, always want to give something good, better and more to their children. Then how much more so for God, who is our perfect and ever-loving Father? Throughout his life, Joshua had experienced the loving God who was always faithful.
Then Joshua opened up his mouth, and told them, “So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.” He himself experienced the power of idols, which was ever tangled in his life. In the end, the most formidable idol was himself. Joshua had never defeated by any enemies but himself. He escalated himself higher than God, and then fell. The most important one in his life was to serve God alone.
Then he warned the sinful human nature of being constantly enticed by idols, and said, “But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15b). “
He concluded that “But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD”, which was his true confession and faith that was gained out of the lifelong lessons before God. Joshua was the champion among the entire Israelites in faith in God, but he also struggled before his sinfulness. The true answer was not far away. He could summarize every struggle, victory in God to one sentence, “But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” He fought against the sheer impossibilities in the name of God while leading the people Israel, because his heart was always and completely fixed on God and serve Him in all situations.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:1-8)