Sunday morning we read about Joshua’s last public words. You can read them yourself in Joshua 24.
Joshua was the leader of Israel who followed Moses. He came after Moses, but he also followed Moses.
Joshua was born in Egypt, learning the stories of a God who had chosen people and promised them a land. And Joshua heard those stories while he lived as a boy in Egypt. As had his family, and his family’s family, as far back as they could tell. We don’t know what Joshua thought about the stories.
Suddenly Moses interrupted everything and Joshua and his family and all the rest of the families they knew left Egypt and end up in the wilderness.But out in wilderness, many people, including Joshua’s dad’s generation, don’t have much hope. They look around at the situation and believed that God still hadn’t done much.
Joshua held onto the stories.
Somehow, he became an assistant to Moses. Or maybe an apprentice. Whatever his precise role, Joshua was partway up the mountain when God gave the commands to Moses. Joshua sat in the presence of God. Later, when Moses would go the tent in the wilderness and meet with God and then go to the people, Joshua would hang back at the tent, sitting in the presence of God.
That devotion to God gave Joshua the courage to do God’s work and to speak God’s words all through his life, in the face of much argument and doubt. Joshua is the commander of the army. But I have the sense that he’s not a warrior who asks God to bless and protect him. Instead, he seems to be a worshipper who is sent with God’s protection.
So at the end of his life, Joshua talks to the people and says, “You have to make a choice to follow God or not.” And Joshua points to his life and says, “I chose following.” That little boy in Egypt became the old man in the promised land.
And then, when the people say, “we will follow” he says, “No, you won’t.” Four times they have this exchange. Joshua wants them to be sure.
Because Joshua knew that obedience wasn’t about the words, it was about the pattern of your actions across the decades. Obedience to God started even when you weren’t sensing evidence that God was being obedient to himself.