Inductive Bible Study on Joshua 24 – Free Series for Small Groups or Personal Study
- Verse 1 says “Then Joshua gathered…” What came right before this?
- Who did Joshua speak to in this chapter?
- On whose behalf was Joshua speaking?
- Why did he review the history of Israel? What lessons could they (and we) learn from their history?
- What can we learn by reviewing the histories of our and our family’s lives?
- What conclusion did Joshua reach based on their history (see verse 14)?
- What choice did Joshua give them in verse 15? Why is this verse famous?
- What attitude does Joshua show in this verse with the words “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?”
- Do we have such a choice? What choices are people choosing between today (For example they might not choose between an Ammonite idol and the Lord, but would choose between something else and Him)?
- Have you made your choice? When? Is making this choice once enough? Are you doing it?
- What does Joshua mean in verse 19 when he says, “You will not be able to serve the Lord…?”
- What would be the consequence of turning away from the Lord?
- What did they have to do to show their obedience to the Lord over and above just saying they would serve Him?
- What was the covenant that was made?
- How did the Israelites do after Joshua died?
- Why were Joseph’s bones buried in the land?
Genesis 12:6 – Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Numbers 22-24 – The story of Balak.
Numbers 22:21-39 – The story of Balaam.
Deuteronomy 6:10-11 – When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied.
Joshua 24:13 is a fulfillment of the above promise.
1 Samuel 12:24 – But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
Malachi 3:18 – And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
John 4:34 – My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Galatians 1:10 – Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Proverbs 1:10 – My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Joshua first spoke to the rulers and now he would speak to all the people – It was important to speak to both groups. The leaders had a special responsibility to shepherd the congregation to follow the Lord. But everyone had a personal responsibility to follow the Lord themselves. The personal responsibility is reflected in the fact that Joshua wanted to talk to everyone.
2. This passage is quite similar to a Hittite suzerainty treaty – These treaties were typically made between a king, dominant party, or sovereign party and his vassals. In this case, God is the sovereign party. These treaties generally consist of several parts, a preamble (introduction), a prologue (in which the previous relationship is outlined including the history of the sovereign’s care on the subjects’ behalf), stipulations, blessings and curses, divine witness and sometimes an annual reading is prescribed and a sacrificial meal is eaten.
Joshua’s meeting would have therefore been quite familiar to the people at the time. They would have recognized that it was a form of oral contract they were entering into. Therefore they would not have lightly agreed to the stipulations. Here they were binding themselves to obey the Lord and no other gods. They were agreeing that He was a faithful Lord and they would be His subjects alone. This is the same terms that we must come to today if we want to have a personal relationship with God (Acts 4:12). We must agree that Jesus is the only way. There is salvation in no other. We will worship God and God alone.
3. Review of Israel’s past and the lessons we can learn from it – Joshua reviewed what the Lord had done for them. He had cared for them. He had shown mercy to them. He had done many miracles on their behalf. He had saved them from Egypt and helped them conquer foreign armies. He had promised to give them a land. And He did it. We see that God chose Abraham and decided to make of Abraham a great nation of His chosen people. It wasn’t because of Abraham’s goodness. His family were idol worshipers. It was because of God’s own decision, which reflected His character of grace and love. Israel’s history also teaches us of God’s great patience and long suffering.
Application: Like Abraham we were in our sins, lost and wandering far from God, when He found us. He brought us into His family. He saved us from our sin. He has done many marvelous things on our behalf. He has filled our life with blessings and poured out His grace and mercies on to us. He has been patient and long suffering with us as He was with them.
4. God’s promises were fulfilled (13) – See Deuteronomy 6:10-11.This promise was made to them decades before it was fulfilled. The original promise was made to Abraham over four hundred years before it was fulfilled. It may take time, but all of God’s promises will be filled at just the right time.
Application: God’s promises to us will be fulfilled according to His own timing. Often that timing may not coincide with ours. We are normally in a hurry. We want what we want and we want it now! But God’s promises don’t work that way. Many times He wants us to wait to learn lessons while we are waiting. He wants to build our faith and increase our dependence on Him instead of our reliance on ourselves. Do you patiently wait for His promises to be fulfilled? Or do you get upset at the long wait and try to get what you want on your own?
5. Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve – Joshua presented the Israelites with a clear choice. Serve God or serve idols. Obey God or not. They could not serve two masters. They could not keep one foot in God’s kingdom and one foot in the world’s. It was time to commit. Were they willing to go all in? Nobody could make this decision for them. Joshua could not make it for them. Neither could the elders. Neither could the group make it for the group. Each person was faced with the decision on their own. The principle seen in this verse is why we often say that God doesn’t have any grandchildren. Each person must choose to have personal relationship with God on their own. In light of all God had and would do for them, to choose not to follow Him would have been very foolish. And yet that is the same choice that billions of people around the world make each day.
Application: Today we are called to make the same choice. If Joshua was here today, he may say the same thing to you, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” Will you serve God or this world? Will you serve God or pleasure or money or parents? Nobody can make this decision for you. If you come from a Christian family, you must still decide to follow the Lord yourselves. Neither can your Bible teacher or your church or your fellowship decide for you. So what will it be? Will you serve the Lord? If you will serve the Lord, how will you do it? Is there something new which you need to do to serve the Lord better than before?
But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord – Joshua is in essence telling the people that “No matter what you choose, my choice is to follow the Lord.” Even if all of them rejected the Lord on that day, Joshua would not. He had made his choice. His convictions were his and nobody could change them.
Application: We can choose to serve the Lord even if those around us do not. There will be peer pressure. Culture may be a strong tide against our convictions. Family members may disagree or even persecute us. But no one else can force you to make decisions. No one can make you turn away from God. We have a personal responsibility to make the decision to obey God no matter what anyone else does, says, or thinks.
7. God has done so many good things for us (verse 17)– This chapter has a list of many of the things God did for Israel. What has God done for us? Let every person in your group share something good the Lord has done for them in recent weeks or months.
8. We cannot follow God perfectly on our own (verse 19) – Here Joshua reminds them that God is a holy God. Nobody could fulfill all of His standards. Relying on themselves would be a recipe for failure.
9. There are consequences of disobeying God (verse 20) – This section is a typical part of a suzerainty treaty. The subjects would be reminded of the consequences of breaking the covenant. While God was good and gracious, He was also just. Disobeying His stipulations would result in harsh consequences. They should not presume that God would continue to lavish blessings on them even if they refused to fulfill their side of the obligations.
10. Joshua reminded them that true faith would be accompanied by action (verse 23) – The people made a commitment to serve the Lord. They verbally pronounced their affirmation that they would serve the Lord alone. Yet Joshua reminds them a verbal affirmation is not enough. Here we are reminded of what James would write about over a thousand years later that faith must be accompanied by action or it is dead. If they said with their mouths that they followed God and yet kept idols in their own houses, they were liars. Obedience to God meant giving up their worldly attachments.
Application: Today we have agreed that we choose to serve the Lord. We affirmed it verbally. What do we need to give up to serve the Lord better? What is something that is like an idol in our lives which is distracting us from following God or pulling us in two directions? If something comes to mind, then that is what you need to deal with and submit to God.
11. They wrote down the covenant and made a memorial so that no one would forget (26-27) – Joshua and the people knew their tendency to forget. If people did not have this tendency then God would not have repeated the same concepts in the Bible so many times. Today we also have the tendency to forget. We can write reminders for ourselves (prayer calendars, Bible reading plans, etc.) to help remind ourselves of things to pray for or things to thank God for so that we never forget what He does for us.
12. The peopled honored Joseph’s request that his bones be buried in the Promised Land (Genesis 50:25) – Joseph had great faith in the Lord. He believed that God would one day give the Promised Land to his family. At the time this promise seemed to be an eternity away from being fulfilled. His family had just left the Promised Land and immigrated to Egypt. Not one of them remained in Canaan or seemed to have any immediate plans to return. And yet Joseph believed that they would return. He believed in God’s promises even though He could not see them being fulfilled. God wants us to have faith like this.
Application: Throughout this book, we see the theme of obedience over and over again. Based on what you learned in this study of Joshua, what do you need to obey?
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