Verses 1-15: Joshua’s burgeoning departure from this life causes him to restate the importance of serving God to the Israelites. He recounts, as a prophet speaking the words of God, the history of Israel and their long journey from bondage to plenty. Joshua takes special care to stress how the Lord blessed them and helped them all along the way.
Starting in verse 14, Joshua pleads his case to the people and encourages them to “Serve the Lord!” The Israelites had tempting choices of other false gods and idols in the theologically crowded environment they find themselves in. Remember that they did not rid Canaan of all of the indigenous people, so that their corrupting influence remained. Joshua left his intention clear: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Verses 16-33: The people are adamant in their intention to serve only the true God. However, we know what will befall them: the temptation of the other false gods will prove to be too much for them in the future. As Bible students, this knowledge disappoints us when we read their conviction. It is a powerful lesson for those of us that talk big and don’t follow through with action. Their example is embarrassing and should teach us to be very thoughtful not only about the words we speak, but also about the true depth of our dedication to the Lord. Verse 19 says: “You cannot serve the Lord,” which is an indicator of how difficult it truly is to do so. Verse 20 should serve as a stern warning to us, ineffective as it was for the Israelites.
Joshua leaves a large stone as a memorial to the directives of God and as a witness to their dedication to Him. In Joshua’s death, he left a most powerful and singular example of what it means to fully rely on God.
Make a pledge for yourself, for your family tonight, just like Joshua did: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”