In Joshua 23-24, Joshua addressed the Hebrew leaders in a speech that had poignant meaning for all of them. It was full of encouragement, yet not without warning. He revisited their victories and reminded them how God took care of them. He did not leave out the sinking sand warnings of idolatry. The culture that surrounded them could easily dupe them into accepting so much less that what God desired for their life. It had the potential to cast a shadow on the riches of God’s grace and desire for all individuals.
There is a direct call to monotheism rather than the worship of pagans gods:
14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood (Euphrates), or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15
The gods they had been exposed to belong to three groups: The Chaldeans, Egyptians, and the Canaanites. Joshua gave them the choice and told them about his own choice. The last part of verse 15 is a much-quoted verse. It means so much more when it is quoted within the context of what was said. Joshua was saying “I choose God and that is who I serve.” He also made the point that you can’t mix it up with pagan gods and serve the one true God at the same time.
Each tribe was responsible for his own dominion. At the end of the speech, Joshua sent “every man unto his own inheritance”. ‘One man shall chase a thousand’ is another much-quoted verse (23:10) in this speech. Again the context within which this diamond sits is an encouraging thought. He saw them as doers, not pew sitters. That was the kind of leader Joshua was.
Joshua was a type of the future Christ. Joshua in Hebrew is Jesus in Greek. Joshua led the Hebrews to a physical military victory. Jesus leads to the spiritual victories of the New Covenant. They both were catalysts to those around them. Joshua’s victories related to the physical and temporal, Jesus’s to the spiritual and eternal.
Joshua was an amazing leader (I really prefer the word ‘catalyst’ for ‘leader’). Idolatry exists in the world today just as it did back in his time. We see it in religion, politics, entertainment, family and educational culture and ethics, just to name a few areas where it seeks to hide. Idolatry hides today behind political correctness and tolerance. Jesus Christ’s purpose was to flush out and expose even the most subtle tentacles by which it seeks its power. Jesus Christ is the head of the church that we belong to today. Understanding this not only opens our eyes; it gives strength, comfort and resolve to deal with things around us.