Joshua 24: 1-26
Joshua 24: 14,15
14 ‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’
Here’s a bit of Bible nerdiness you might find interesting:
In the Hebrew script, the name Joshua looks like this: יה ֻשׁ ַע.
Forty years ago, after my one and only Hebrew class in seminary, I could have read that for you. These days, just like you, I have to rely on the experts.
In Hebrew the name sounds something like “Yeshua” or “Yehoshua” and it means “Yahweh (the God of Israel, that is) brings salvation”. “Joshua” is our English pronunciation of this Hebrew name.
When the Hebrew Bible—our Old Testament, was translated into Greek in the 2nd and 3rd centuries before Christ, the name Joshua looked like this: Iesou and was pronounced “Yesou”. And here this gets real interesting, to nerds like me, anyway.
Our New Testament was also originally written in Greek. Do you remember what the angel Gabriel said to Joseph when Joseph was about to divorce his young wife Mary and send her away? He said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…She will bear a son and you are to name him Yesou—(Joshua), for he will save his people from their sins”. Where ever you come upon the name Jesus in the New Testament, you see, you can substitute the name Joshua; they are one and the same.
So why do our English Bibles give the son of Mary the name Jesus instead of Joshua? I’m glad you asked, because that’s interesting, too.
The Bible was translated from Greek into Latin in the centuries after New Testament times. The Greek Yesou becomes Iesus (pronounced Yesus) in Latin. Centuries later still, and possibly under the influence the German language, the initial I was replaced with a J and “Yesus” became the the familiar “Jesus”.
A couple more centuries passed before the Latin Bible was translated into English. Those translators decided to keep the Latin name “Jesus” for Jesus, the son of Mary, and to use the Hebrew name “Joshua” for the Old Testament character Joshua. They did this, in part anyway, to avoid confusion between the Old Testament Joshua, the son of Nun, and the New Testament Joshua, the son of Mary.
And that move by the translators was, in my very humble opinion, a mistake.
It was a mistake because in the Bible, names matter; they matter way more than names do in English. Bible names tell stories about a person’s character and calling; about their purpose in life. So the fact that Joshua, the son of Nun, and Joshua, the son of Mary, share the same name might just be important.
Remember the meaning of the name Joshua—“The Lord brings salvation”. You see, in being given that name, the old Joshua, the son of Nun, and the new Joshua, the son of Mary, are called to the same purpose—to bring salvation to God’s people. So we might want to look at how they each fulfilled their calling. The differences in message and methods between the two may also tell us something important.
But first, there is another word we have to get a handle on before we can go further —“Salvation”.
In the Bible, “salvation” does not refer to getting your own poor soul into heaven. I know most of us think that’s what it means, but it isn’t. In Scripture, “salvation” and “saved” are words that describe health, but health in a very broad sense—physical health, but also mental, emotional and spiritual health. To be saved, in Bible terms anyway, means to find yourself on this earth but in a state emotional and spiritual well-being; a state of wholeness, of completeness. That’s why Jesus often said to people who had been healed, “Your faith has saved you”.
Now, I’m not saying you’re not going to heaven. I’m just saying that’s not what this word means.
Back to the Joshua’s
So both Joshua’s, the son of Nun and the son of Mary, are called to bring God’s people to a place of wholeness; a place where they are physically healthy and spiritually complete; where they will know safety and peace. Let’s look at how each followed his calling.
Joshua, the son of Nun, like every other character in the Bible, was a person of his times —thoroughly immersed in the culture, values and politics of the ancient world. He saw himself, his God and his mission pretty much the way everybody else in his community did.
This Joshua leads God’s people through the Jordan River and into the land promised to Abraham—a good land, the Bible says; a land flowing with milk and honey.
But much like every other leader of his day, Joshua believed the world was full of enemies. No foreigner could be trusted. Their gods were fake Gods. His people must never mingle with those people. Israel’s sons must never marry those women. Joshua’s job was to keep Israel free from profane influences—free from people who believed the wrong things and behaved the wrong way. Religious freedom is what he was after—Israel’s religious freedom.
If that sounds similar to the religious liberty arguments being made today by evangelical Christians, it should. The faith of Israel, Joshua believed, was under assault and had to be defended. Modern evangelicals are fighting the same battle.
The problem was, of course, this “promised land” was chock full of Amorites, Hivites, Jebusites and Canaanites—it was their country, after all. The promised land would have to be cleansed before Israel could settle down in safety. So, for the first Joshua, salvation for Israel meant the extermination of their enemies.
Believing he has the blessing of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Joshua lays waste to town after town. Jericho, Ai, Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish and many others cities fall to his soldiers. He orders his men, in the name of God, to slaughter every man woman and child; and sometimes every donkey goat and sheep; to take everything of value and burn the rest to the ground.
This was holy war. War crimes, we would say today; genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism.
This, according to Joshua, the son of Nun, was the way to salvation for his people.
Joshua, the son of Mary—Jesus the new Joshua, also goes through the Jordan River—but in baptism. He rises from the river to lead God’s people into a new sort of promised land. Or, to put that another way, this new Joshua gives the people a new way of seeing the promised land they are already in; a new experience of spiritual and emotional health right there in the middle of the life they were already living.
This new Joshua doesn’t declare holy war; he proclaims the holiness of lovingkindness—the God of Israel, he says, is for everyone. He doesn’t build walls against those who are different in color or race or religion. He opens his arms wide in welcome. He refuses to see a country full of enemies. And even those who see themselves as enemies are treated with kindness.
“You have heard that it was said” he tells the crowds listening for his word of salvation, “‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”
This is the salvation of God, according to Joshua, the son of Mary; according to Jesus, the second Joshua.
So, it would seem that when Joshua, the son of Nun, called the people to “choose this day whom you will serve”, he was saying more than he thought at the time.
Choose? You didn’t know you had a choice, did you. But you do.
And here it is.
You can choose to see God the way the first Joshua did—as a warrior God who sanctioned bloodshed and genocide to conquer someone else’s homeland. This, by the way, is the god many, many people believe in today—even those who profess to believe in no god at all. This is the god who tells his followers to fly airplanes into buildings, to build border walls against their neighbors and to warehouse brown children in desert tent cities in Texas. You can choose to serve that god. You won’t be alone if you do.
Or—you might consider this:
The second Joshua, the son of Mary, gives the same advice, “Choose this day…” but offers a very different set of options.
You gotta’ serve somebody, he says. How about the God whose very name is Love—or as we heard last Sunday, Lovingkindness; who’s other name is Peace. How about the God who is the breath of salvation for you—the salve of healing wholeness; whose abundance in both the gifts of Creation and the gift of grace exceeds anything you could ever ask for or imagine. How about the God who brings you into community with your neighbors of every color, nation and religion, so that you can open the door of neighborliness to them as wide as this God has opened the door of heaven to you.
Why not choose the God who also carries the names Kindness, Generosity and Service; who calls those who serve to be kind and generous and giving—to care for the young and the old, to respect women no less than men; African, Mexican and Syrian neighbors no less than American neighbors. Why not choose the God who calls you to kindness toward the earth itself.
“You gotta serve somebody”. Why not choose the God who has loved you more than you know, healed you more than you can feel and calls you a life more abundant than you can imagine. You won’t be alone in that choice, either. And the neighbors?—they’re pretty easy to get along with, too.
You gotta serve somebody, Joshua said.
Who’s it going to be.
October 7, 2018
The story for this week jumps ahead from Mt Sinai to the end of Joshua’s rule as the first judge of Israel. Joshua had been 2nd in command to Moses during the journey through the wilderness. When Moses died it was Joshua who led the people across the Jordan River and into the promised land.
In today’s passage, Joshua recounts those first years of Israel’s experience and calls the people to a choice—renew the covenant the Lord their God invited them into at Sinai, of go off to serve other gods. It’s important to note here that they do have that choice. They can go one way or the other. They cannot do both.
Read the story several times and go on the the questions that follow.
Joshua 24.1-26 (Notice the word Lord is is all capital letters in this passage. This indicates the formal name of the God of Israel, as distinct from the gods of the other nations.)
1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; 4and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out. 6When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7When they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. Afterwards you lived in the wilderness for a long time. 8Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I handed them over to you, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9Then King Balak, son of Zippor of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent and invited Balaam son of Beor to curse you, 10but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I rescued you out of his hand. (This is the talking donkey story from Numbers 22) 11When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites (The tribes in the land Israel conquered); and I handed them over to you. 12I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.
14 ‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’
16 Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore 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 or your sins. 20If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.’ 21And the people said to Joshua, ‘No, we will serve the Lord!’ 22Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’ 23He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.’ 24The people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.’ 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. 26Joshua 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 in the sanctuary of the Lord.
A. Verbs are action words. They describe what is being done by someone or something or what is being done to someone or something. Underline all the verbs you can find. (You will probably miss some. Don’t worry about it).
B. This week we will answer the first 2 of our 6 questions:
1. “What’s the place in the text that fascinates you, bothers you, troubles you thrills you, haunts you, angers you, gladdens you or otherwise jumps up to meet you?” (Rehearsing Scripture, pg 86). Write out that word, phrase or verse here: ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________
2. Why does it get you? Why the strong reaction? Hint: It might be because you’ve been in a similar situation, made the same mistake, felt the same blessing. Pay attention to your feelings and answer the “Why?” question here: ____________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________
This week we’ll pay a little more attention to the particular verbs that caught our attention
2.a Write out the verbs in that part of the story that grabbed you _________________________
2.b Indicate the tense of your verbs? (past, present or future—did it happen, is it happening now, is it going to happen?) ______________________________________________________
2.c What feelings or emotions do your verbs evoke in you? (Think about times or places in your own life when you experienced these verbs—these actions)_________________________
Don’t over think this process. It should be fun, rather than difficult. All you’re doing in this first week is looking at the words in the text. You’ll do the interpreting next week.
Bring the results of your study to class on Sunday and we’ll start talking over what we find before moving into the second half of our study on October 14.