Sunday, July 04, 2010

As for Me and My House--Scripture and Part 1

As for Me And My House
Joshua 24: 1-5; 14-28
1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River[a] in old times; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. 4 To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 Also I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to what I did among them. Afterward I brought you out.********
14 “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 16 So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17 for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. 18 And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” 22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” 23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.”

24 And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” 28 So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.

It was not an easy day for Joshua. There were very few after Moses passed away and passed on the leadership of Israel to him. God had blessed them with a miraculous victory in battle in Jericho. Then they marched into Ai. In Ai many of their men died in battle. They were trounced. They were defeated in battle because one man, named Achan, and his family betrayed the instructions of God by holding back some of the spoils of battle for themselves.

That day Joshua gathered the people, and he had them go to the town of Shechem. Shechem was a town that was at the entryway to a mountain pass. It had two mountains on either side of it. On one side was Mount Ebal. On the other side was Mount Gerazim. Half of the people climbed one mountain. Half of the people climbed the other mountain overlooking the city. With hundreds of thousands of people on each side of the mountain pass of Shechem the read the covenant in Deuteronomy….all of it…as a responsive reading. The people in the valley below must have been impressed. All of the people of Israel did this. Men…women…children. They renewed their covenant with God and one another. And they went about entering the promised land. All of this happened around Joshua 8.

Fast forward. Israel has finished their battles. They are about to take possession of the land that was promised. There were still people occupying some of the land that they had been promised. But they were disbanding as an army and moving from being a nomadic people to being a people owning and tending a land. The word came out to the people that they were gathering in Shechem again. Once again to renew the covenant. Then to go and take possession of the promised Land.

The mountains around Shechem were the place where Abraham was buried. It is probably the place where Jacob meets Esau, fearing for his life after wrestling with the angel on the other side of the River. It was also along a major trade route. It was the area where Jacob settled for several years. Where Joseph was sold to merchants who took him to Egypt. Now, as escaped slaves from Egypt, they stand above it. They look at this land of history. They look at the land of Promise. The land that had been promised to the children of Abraham, that land was being claimed by his decendants half a millineum later. With Joshua as their leader. Joshua meets with the elders. Then with the people.

Bible scholars and Hebrew tradition agree that they once again renew the covenant over those two mountains. Some traditions say that they read the cursings from one mountain, and the blessings from the other. This is very interesting, because one of these mountains is a fertile easy mountain climb with creeks flowing through it, while the other mountain is full of prickly pear and jagged rocks. If the people are faithful, they have one kind of ascent discovering the presence of God. Beautiful and fruitful. If they take another direction, jagged rocks and prickly pear with a steep slope. Painful and rough.

They stand to make their commitment. All of them, in this massive crowd, climb the mountains again. All the idol worshippers watch in the valley below. Joshua recounts their history. The decision that is before them. That decision was that as a nation they could choose to follow God, submit to him, and obey his word. Or, as a nation, the people could choose to follow the gods of Egypt and of the people of the land. Joshua tells them that if they commit to a covenant with God, then they need to remember that there is a blessing for doing it, but that it will be awful for them if they choose not to follow the Word of the Lord as stated in His Law.

He tells them that they have an option to do as they please. Then Joshua utters these famous, brilliant words that we have heard many times, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.

No comments: