Today's reading is RICH and deep! Get ready.
24:2-3 Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. `Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. Especially in the more literal translation (NASB), I see a picture here! First of all, Abraham's relatives were living "beyond the River" serving other gods. Do you see it? Jesus is the River of Life, the Living Water. Abraham's relatives turned away from Him to serve other gods. BUT! Before we applaud Abraham, notice that it does not say Abe was an upstanding guy and chose a different route on his own. God says, "I took Abraham...and led Him." Who are we to ever think we would choose God on our own? Consider a couple verses:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
"There is no one who does good, not even one." Psalm 53:3
"You did not choose Me but I chose you..." John 15:16
Consider the apostle Paul. He was persecuting genuine Jesus followers. He nodded approval at the commencement ceremony of the first Christian martyr in history (Stephen). Did Paul go looking for God? No! He was chosen by God, then "blinded" on his way to Damascus and given sight-a faith that changed the course of his life. Acts 26:15-16: "And [Paul] said, `Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. `But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness..."
No one on this earth would come on their own to a saving, believing faith in Jesus unless it were given to him/her: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." John 6:44. We find that salvation is really not something any of us would choose on our own...it is God's will for each of us in our time and season. I see that the ones who are judged more harshly are those whom God has revealed Himself to, given the opportunity and empowerment for faith, but who have responded with self-righteous contempt, ego, arrogance, and corruption. The rest do not have the ability to believe because it has not become their time yet. This explains to me why Jesus did not spend His time talking to the Gentiles while on earth—it was not their time yet (1 Cor 15:23). And it helps me understand why He did not ever condemn the sinners, but only the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day who had been offered "The River of life," yet had no idea about His grace or love because their egos got in the way. Here's a cool verse in John 12:32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." The Greek word for "draw" (helkuo) is actually "drag." We actually have to be dragged to Him in order to believe.
I love how the Westminster Confessions of Faith (used by many denominations) even gets this free will thing:
Chapter 9, Concerning Free Will:
3. Man fell into a state of sin by his disobedience and so completely lost his ability to will any spiritual good involving salvation. Consequently fallen man is by nature completely opposed to spiritual good, is dead in sin, and is unable by his own strength either to convert himself or to prepare himself for conversion.
Peter Hiett, a pastor in Denver, Colorado, offers his perspective on free will:
I think we have underestimated the sufficiency and power of Christ's work of redemption on the cross. In American Evangelicalism we do this in the name of "free will," which I believe then diminishes the sovereign and gracious choice of God. In this way we claim merit for our own redemption.
I want us to not idolize our selves and our "free will." I am concerned that we American believers have come to view life as a great competition. We say that we are saved by grace, but what we mean is that we are saved by our "good choices" or the quality of our will. I don't believe that we have "free will" until God grants us "free will" through his grace. When we view life as a competition and judgment as the finish line, when we compare ourselves to each other and measure ourselves against each other, when we judge each other and our selves, when we suspect that God grades on a curve, we need losers so that we can feel like winners. We need failures to define ourselves as successful. We need scapegoats. We already have a scapegoat. One has lost that we all might win.
If only more spiritual leaders had Peter's conviction:
I have faith that the Truth sets us free and that we can only arrive at the truth by being truthful. I do not believe I serve the Kingdom by hiding my questions, but by being honest. I also believe in the "Priesthood of all believers." All believers are called to wrestle with The Word. I do not need to protect the church from The Word.
24:12-13 It was not your swords or bows that brought you victory. I gave you land you had not worked on, and I gave you towns you did not build—the towns where you are now living. I gave you vineyards and olive groves for food, though you did not plant them. God prepares the way for you when He takes you into a new land of His promise. I also love the Millennial Kingdom prophecy here! We know this because the whole picture of the "Promised Land" was that it was the inheritance of God's faithful Jews (and later Gentiles) and a picture of a future Kingdom of Jesus reigning on earth. What a land of provision it will be.
24:14 "Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD." What a picture! Beyond the River and in Egypt-do you see it? Vs. 15: choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
24:16, 21 The people answered and said, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods...The people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the LORD." If you know how these people really act from here on out, this verse in Isaiah 29:13 describes these verses in Joshua to a T: And so the Lord says, "These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. And their worship of me amounts to nothing more than human laws learned by rote.
24:23 "Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel." If they really wanted to serve God only, why did they have idols in their midst? Why do we?
24:26-27 ...[Joshua] took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the [Tabernacle] of the LORD.Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God." I believe this "stone" that would be a witness was symbolic of "The Rock (Jesus)." Consider the words of Micah: Hear, O peoples, all of you; Listen, O earth and all it contains, And let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple [Tabernacle]. Micah 1:2
21:24 ...and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. About this verse, David Guzik says:
The Israelis took possession of Jerusalem in 1968, but the holy mount is still Arab property, under Arab rule. As far as God is concerned, the most important piece of real estate in Jerusalem - and prophetically speaking, the most important in the world - is still trampled by Gentiles. "Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled": What happens when the times of the Gentiles are over? Then, His particular dealings with Israel begin again, and the last seven-year period of Daniel 9 begins (The Tribulation).
Whew! We covered a lot of ground today. Good job!