An aged warrior summoned the nation of Israel to the village of Shechem for a final word of exhortation. For many years, this man Joshua, Moses’ successor, had led the Israelites to victory after victory as they conquered the Promised Land. Under his leadership, the Israelites had marched around the mighty city of Jericho for seven days and then attacked when the massive walls of Jericho had fallen. Joshua had fought with the Israelites in the valley of Ajalon where he had ordered, by the will of God, for the sun to stand still. This brave leader obeyed God and had led the Israelites on the successful lightning strike against Jabin’s army at the waters of Merom. Now Joshua, the captain of Israel, had gathered together the nation once again.
Who was this man? Born into slavery in Egypt, Joshua the son of Nun had spent the early years of his life engaged in the backbreaking toil of making mud bricks for Pharaoh. He had witnessed God’s wrath upon the Egyptians during the ten plagues and the Lord’s redemption of the Israelites on the first Passover. When the waters of the Red Sea had parted to allow the children of Israel to pass through on dry ground, he had crossed over too. Journeying onward, Moses trusted Joshua to be the military commander of Israel. Joshua led the Israelites to their first dramatic victory over the Amalekites while Moses prayed with his hands stretched toward heaven (Exodus 17:9–13).
Later, Joshua had been with Moses on Mount Sinai. He was at Moses’ side when the two of them had descended together from the mountain to see the idolatrous golden calf created during their absence. He had seen the chastisements of the Lord upon the disobedient people in the wilderness. This man was one of the two faithful spies who trusted in God’s promise to deliver the Promised Land to the Israelites. Undaunted by walled cities and mighty giants, Joshua had agreed with the other spy, Caleb, that “we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).
After forty long years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua had been chosen by God to be the man who replaced Moses as Israel’s leader. The new leader had been given this encouraging promise from Jehovah: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:5–6).
God had been faithful to that promise. Joshua could tell the people of Israel, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Joshua 23:14). Likewise, the Lord could say of His servant Joshua, “He left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15).
Now, as Joshua is “old and stricken in years” (Joshua 23:1), he has gathered the nation together for a farewell address. It is significant that he called the elders of Israel to Shechem. Last week, we looked at the important moment when Jacob the Patriarch called his wives and children to surrender their hidden graven images. Under an oak tree in Shechem, Jacob had called his family to surrender their idols. At this very same spot, in Joshua Chapter 8, Joshua the commander had brought Jacob’s descendants, the nation of Israel, to the twin mountains, Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. There, from those two mountains, the people had shouted the blessings and curses as commanded by Moses. This time at Shechem, which lay between the two famous mountains, Joshua had erected an altar to Jehovah and had engraved in stone a memorial of the Law of God.
It is now here at Shechem—at the very same spot where Jacob called upon his family to surrender idols—that Joshua calls the sons of Israel, several million strong, to give up their idols again. “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. 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, 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, emphasis added).
Every Christian man and father must make this same commitment. If we desire true and lasting victory, then we can receive it only God’s way. Let us resolve in our hearts and say with Joshua, the victorious captain of Israel, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”