Many years ago in Bible College I took a class called Hebrew History and the book of Joshua was our starting point. I don’t remember much of that class’s content, but I do recall the texture of wonder in my soul as musings of the text were considered, both in class and in my study.
According to Schaeffer, a major theme (and I agree) is the significance of our choices. The book of Joshua centers on this reality of our “choices.” Between the God Who is There or the idols that surround us, we are to choose whom we will serve. God’s faithfulness to his promise to the fathers of Israel possessing the land was realized, but there was much to be gleaned by the “choices” God’s covenant people made—either negatively or positively.
Joshua before his death distributes the land to the different tribes of Israel and finally gives them his last “speech” (Joshua 24: 14-15):
14 “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
The focus is not on their “stuff” but on their “loyalties” whether it is Godward or Manward—their worship is the ultimate issue. And their worship like ours is seen in the choices that they daily made. In Chapter 2 Joshua chose to recognize that Israel’s true leader was the Captain of the host of the LORD who was before him. Chapter three focused on the national portion of the Abrahamic covenant. The Jews chose to cross the Jordan—from that time until now, their choices would either result in blessing or cursing (i.e., the conditional aspects of the covenant). Chapter 4 and 8 show how Rahab and the Gibeonites chose to deceive in order to become part of the people of God—they knew and heard of the renown of God’s name.
In chapter 5 two memorials were erected: one of stones and another of circumcision, both of which were signs of remembering and obeying the God of the covenant however impractical it seemed to the eye. Chapter 6 shows how Achan’s choice to disobey God’s command lead not only to the temporary defeat of Israel’s army but also brought death to him and his kin. Moreover, in the chapter 7 at Mt. Gerizim and Ebal blessing and cursing was established within the covenant—choose life Israel. Chapter 9 Caleb once again shows himself faithful to God while standing opposed to Israel’s disobedience of taking the rest of the land. He chose God, as he had done 40 years prior.
Chapter 10 the two and a half tribes that returned east of Jordan chose to serve the living God and those west of the Jordan lovingly and passionately entreated them thinking that they had turned to serve the gods of the land. In chapter 11 the cities of refuge are set up and the one who has accidently committed homicide has a choice to run and be safe from the avenger of blood in this place.
The whole book demonstrates how choice—our choices effect history in a deep way; our family, our affiliations, our nation. We are not to “Forget who we are” as Scripture constantly reminds. We are not machines, but created in God’s image and we must choose rightly, not like Adam, but like Abraham.
What struck me here is that we can’t make a choice in the present that we are not in the habit of making in the past. The little choices are not little in the least bit, instead they are monumental and oh the blindness within that argues contrarily. Joshua understood this so well that at the end of his life both his “life” and “words” matched his professed convictions. Israel knew it. What a man, what a Great God he served. What will you choose with the little time left on earth believer? The God of creation or the idols that promise so much but can’t deliver? Whose word will you ultimately bank your life on? The Creators or the creatures?