To introduce our study today I want us to consider two different approaches to this study.
1. What qualities would you use to describe someone who is “devoted”?
2. When you were thinking of these qualities, did you have someone in mind?
3. How has this person demonstrated devotion?
Oftentimes the devotion we acknowledge comes from the fruit of a person’s life. Joshua would challenge the people of Israel to remain devoted. That leads us to our Second approach:
Several colleges and universities provide a last lecture series. This is an ongoing series of lectures where professors and other academics are asked to present a lecture as if it is their final “talk.” The intent is for them to think deeply about what wisdom they would impart if they knew that the presentation they were about to make would be their last.
4. If you were asked to present such a lecture to a group of people, what key points would you want to make?
Joshua was faced with this exact situation as he addressed, for the final time, the people of God in a meeting at Shechem.
Setting the stage: Read Joshua 24:1-13
After reviewing what God had done for His chosen people, Joshua issued a challenge to the people.
The Example Set! Read Joshua 24: 14-15
The word “Therefore,” of course references verses 2-13 that recounts all that God had done to bring them to where they were on this day—the Promised Land God had told Abraham about.
1. How would you describe the way Joshua began his challenge in verse 14? (Joshua’s imperative for the people to fear God and serve Him was a call for their unfettered devotion to God.)
2. What do we learn of the people’s worship from Joshua’s statement?
3. Why does only God deserve worship? (See Ps. 86:9-11.)
4. What decision did Joshua place before the people? (Perhaps the people were trying to worship and serve both Yahweh and their other false gods.)
5. Why is not choosing the same as making a choice?
6. Why did Joshua emphasize the immediacy of their decision, “choose for yourselves today”?
7. Where do we commonly see the famous statement of Joshua, “As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.”? (In a home or on a door.)
In our culture today, there have been people who have made this verse more about art than about the significance of what it means. Even though it is a statement about the presence of God’s principles being established in a home, the verse focuses more on being either “in” or “out” in serving God. I have seen this piece of art work in homes in which there is no evidence of God being honored through the lives of those living in the home.
Joshua’s call demanded a response.
The People’s Reflection! Read Joshua 24:16-18
1. How would you describe the people’s response to Joshua’s challenge?
2. How did reflecting on past events move the people to conclude to serve God alone? (They recalled God’s deliverance from their Egyptian slavery, God’s mighty signs and preservation of them while they were in the wilderness, and that God brought them into the Promised Land.)
Just as we have been called to share the gospel, we should also be telling others about the work of God in our lives. Our testimony can help others to see the redemptive power of God and the forgiveness that he offers.
3. Would anyone like to share a testimony of the work of God in your life, either through salvation or some other event?
4. How has God revealed His faithfulness along your spiritual journey?
5. How does God’s past provision serve as motivation to remain faithful to Him?
Joshua’s call for the sole worship of God was clear, and the people affirmed God’s faithfulness and their desire to follow Joshua’s leadership. This led Joshua to give a warning of what would happen if the people desired to turn back.
These next few verses may seem odd but Joshua is challenging the people to examine what they were saying to be sure it wasn’t just “lip service” to God, but a genuine commitment.
A Somber Warning! Read Joshua 24:19-20
1. What did Joshua say about their ability to follow through with their commitment?
2. What adjectives did Joshua use to describe God? (“Holy” and “Jealous”.)
“Holy” means “utterly separate.” There is none like Him and He requires us to be “utterly separate!”
As for being “Jealous,” He will not tolerate any rival to His supremacy in our lives!
3. What did Joshua warn would be the consequences of not remaining faithful to God? (They would bring God’s judgment on themselves if they didn’t worship only God. Their punishment would be quite severe—as God had shown them much good, they would be abusing His grace.)
Later in the life of Israel we see that they did abandon their worship of Yahweh only and suffered greatly for it. First the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom around 722 B.C. and the Babylonians conquered the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C.
4. What reasons did they have for remaining faithful?
5. Read Matt. 7:13-14 and Luke 14:27-28. How do Jesus’ words reflect Joshua’s warning? The call for devotion is the narrow path!
6. What costs might a believer incur for remaining faithful to Jesus?
7. What are the dangers of approaching our spiritual commitments lightly or with little thought?
A Public Declaration! Read Joshua 24:21-28
1. Why do you think Joshua asked the people to publicly declare their commitment to God three times?
2. Why do you think Joshua emphasized that they had chosen to worship Yahweh in verse 22? (The point here is that Joshua did not force this decision on them, they made the commitment themselves, before each other!)
3. Why do you think Joshua set up a memorial stone there by the Tabernacle?
Memorials are significant because they serve as milestones or spiritual markers in life where we reflect upon God’s work and our commitment to serve Him.
4. Why is a public declaration of our faith so important?
5. Are we challenged to renew our commitment to God just as the Israelites were here? What do we call it? (Rededicate our lives.)
Summarize and Challenge!
1. What kind of idols do people put alongside worship of God today
2. How are Christians challenged in our culture to compromise our commitment to Yahweh alone?
The word “Tolerance” is used today in our culture to try to tell Christians we need to compromise our beliefs. To claim Jesus is the only way is not being “tolerant” of other belief systems. This idea has permeated all of our society—even TV commercials. Unless we are well grounded in Scripture we will find ourselves compromising in our own lives. Our youth are particularly at risk.
3. Evaluate your scope of influence and how you use that influence. Identify ways you can more readily influence others for the cause of Christ. What actions will you take to be a greater Christian in your family, your neighborhood, and your workplace?
Pray that God will give us strength to live faithfully for Christ and to have a positive influence for Christ in our culture!