“14 ‘Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.'” … “23 He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.’ 24 And the people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.'” (Joshua 24:14-15,23-24–ESV)
gods were not dead 1
Remembering the history
This page was put together as a backdrop to events soon to be revealed in the book of Judges. Chapter 24 is considered a renewal of the covenant of Israel with God. That happened, but upon peering more deeply into what Joshua said in verses like those excerpted above one see that much more is going on than renewal. More is going on than Joshua’s farewell.
Before we see what his eyes fell with concern on let us follow him down memory lane.
Joshua assembled the tribes. From the tribes he called the leaders, elders, judges and officials of Israel to a meeting. That meeting would be before God.
Joshua reiterated the history of their nation beginning with Abraham. He spoke of the trip to Egypt then jumped on to Moses and Aaron whom a number of those present would have been able to personally recall. Many of them would have known the afflictions wrought upon their parents by Egyptians. Likewise, many would have known the afflictions wrought upon the Egyptians by the plagues which their rescuing God brought.
Many would have remembered an intensity of fear as they became entrapped by the Red Sea. They could not have forgotten the release of that fear by their miraculous escape across the Red Sea.
All was not rosy though and Joshua spoke of the wanderings and conquerings that happened of their time in the desert.
In the 11th to 13th verses of Joshua 24 is recorded the more recent history of Israel in Canaan and there he stopped with the historical and moved to the personal and the spiritual.
Addressing the personal and the spiritual
Two commands arrive in verse 14. The people were told to fear and serve in sincerity and faithfulness. He does not stop there, though. The second half of this verse exposes private idolatry. Joshua told them to throw away their accumulation of idols. Some were from the desert wanderings and some from Egypt. There we see that the false gods were not dead.
Verse 15 tells them to make a clear choice. If they were not willing to discard the idols then serve them, choose them, openly reject Jehovah, make a clean break from Jehovah and become full fledged pagans..
The people stated that they would never turn from Jehovah. The reader today must not overlook that Joshua told them that they were unable to do this. They said that they were able. 2 They made themselves witnesses before God that they would and then Joshua re-tells them to discard the foreign gods and yield their hearts to Jehovah (verse 23). Joshua saw something among his leaders that was very troubling and he did his best on the way out the door to mitigate that spiritual adultery, the cancer that was eating and disfiguring them.
Public allegiance / Private idolatry
Private idolatry while publicly declaring allegiance to Jehovah would prove to be as damaging to Israel as affairs are to marriages we see around us. Neither the wife nor the mistress wants to share the man. It is no different with God. Eventually a choosing happens.
Those chickens come home to roost. It does not take one long to delve into the passages of Judges to see it. The spiritual atrophy will be revealed in national demise…and no good thing for Israel.