Joshua waited for the leaders from each tribe of this new nation of Israel to gather before him at Shechem. They’d been arriving for a week at his request.
He sat on a rock under an oak tree on a hillside. The leaders of the tribes assembled in the valley stretched out before him. His heart was glad every tribe was represented, perhaps they’d continue to follow the LORD after all.
His thoughts raced back to the last time he and Moses spoke with God at the Tent of Meeting. God’s voice echoed in his head, still. “My people will play the harlot with the gods of this land. They will pay the price before I re-instate them in this land.”
A new resolve brought him to his feet. The crowd silenced at once.
“I am old and will go the way of all men, soon. The LORD your God has driven out many mighty nations from here so you can enjoy living in cities you didn’t build. You’re eating from orchards and vines you didn’t plant as God planned for you.”
He turned and faced the forested slopes of Mount Gerizim. “As long as you and your descendants continue to follow the laws of the LORD you will continue to flourish. Don’t even speak the names of the gods of this land. God will continuously bless you as long as you obey His commands.”
He turned and faced the barren slopes of Mount Ebal. “But, if you forsake the LORD He will forsake you, also. You will be overtaken by another country and be carried off away from the goodness of God. He will fulfill His promise to have a people in this land after a time, but, this doesn’t have to be.”
As he turned and faced the crowd again a tear rolled down his left cheek.
He sniffled. “Terah, had two sons. They lived across the river and worshiped other gods. Abraham, your father, came in obedience to this very land you’re standing on now. God promised to make him as numerous as the stars in this land. To him was born Isaac. To Isaac was born Esau and Jacob. Esau was given the mountains of Seir to possess.
“Jacob and his sons went to Egypt. Moses and Aaron were used to plague Egypt until they let us go. We were led against the sea to experience God’s mighty power for ourselves. Since then we’ve experienced great victories over stronger nations because of God’s mighty hand.”
He paused and looked from Mount Gerizim to Mount Ebal. “You have a choice to make for yourselves today. You can serve the gods of our forefathers on the other side of the river, or, you can serve the gods of the land you’re going in to possess, or, you can serve the LORD our God who led us out of Egypt. Decide for yourselves whom you will serve. As for me and those living under my roof we will serve the LORD.”
A large cry rose from the crowd. “We will serve the LORD God, also. Far be it from us to give our hearts to any other god after what we witnessed since we left Egypt.”
Joshua found the strength to stand the rock up he sat on earlier. “This stone is a witness to your words today. Put away the gods of the people who live here. The LORD is a jealous God. You must serve Him only.”
Another cry arose. “We will serve the LORD God only.”
Joshua nodded. “You are free to return to your families.”
This contains what is quite possibly the most popular parting comment of any leader of all time. How many houses have a plaque or picture with Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house we will serve the LORD”?
The people who were ear witnesses to that quote left with a strong resolve to follow Joshua’s example. But, how long did that resolve last?
According to Judges 2:10 it ended when those very people died. Their children didn’t cling to their resolve after those who experienced God’s miraculous provision and victory died out. The remainder of the book of Judges shows a downward spiral of moral decline.
So, where did this decline actually start? A case could be made that it began with Joshua himself.
A look back at Deuteronomy 27 shows that while Joshua had the people at Shechem he should have carried out an important ritual from the two mountains overlooking that region.
Six of the tribes were to stand on the forested Mount Gerizim and pronounce the blessings of God while the other six tribes were to stand on the rocky slopes of Mount Ebal and pronounce the curses of God for disobedience. That never happened.
Not only was that observance not carried out, but, neither were any of the others God laid out for His chosen people.
In Deuteronomy 31:9-13 Moses told the Levites to read the law of God to the people every seven years when they gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s never recorded that they ever celebrated that feast even once.
Once the land was divided into each tribe’s area to live in everybody went their own way. God desired and designed for them to assemble together to remind each other of the importance of following His commands.
Without that consistency established the next generation was left adrift when it came time for them to choose whom they would serve.
I pray you aren’t repeating this mistake in your family’s legacy.
The Christian walk isn’t meant to be traveled alone. Assemble together regularly with fellow believers so you can carry each others’ burdens, share the scriptures and declare your stance to the world.
Sound doesn’t carry in a vacuum. Neither does a firm faith in the God of creation.
Show your children how you apply the Bible to your life’s circumstances so they can emulate that in their own lives.
It’s never too late to begin.
I’ll see you later. Wade