“Jehovah Our God We Shall Serve”
“As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—JOSHUA 24:15.
1. How does the book of Joshua serve for our encouragement and protection?
THE stirring events of the book of Joshua are recorded “for our instruction” and as “examples” to encourage and protect us “upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) Godly qualities, such as endurance, faith, and obedience, are highlighted. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who acted disobediently, because she received the spies in a peaceable way.” (Hebrews 11:30, 31) The faith of Joshua, Rahab, and other loyal ones back there should stimulate us to be courageous and strong, in order to finish God’s work today.—Joshua 10:25; John 4:34.
2. (a) How did Joshua show obedience even to the last detail? (b) What took place at the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim?
2 After the decisive victory at Ai, Joshua gave attention to the detailed instructions recorded at Deuteronomy 27:1–28:68. At Mount Ebal he erected an altar of whole stones, and there he carried out the command: “You must sacrifice communion sacrifices and eat them there, and you must rejoice before Jehovah your God.” Other stones were erected as a memorial, whitewashed, and the words of the Law were written upon them. Then the tribes were divided, one group standing on Mount Gerizim “to bless the people” and the other “for the malediction on Mount Ebal.” With raised voices the Levites pronounced the curses for disobedience, and all the people responded, “Amen!” Then the blessings for obedience were pronounced. But woe betide Israel if they failed to ‘carry out all the words of the law and to fear the glorious and awe-inspiring name of Jehovah God’!—Joshua 8:32-35.
3, 4. (a) What powerful lesson does Israel’s course provide for us today? (b) Why should we never tire of hearing the same things over and over again? (c) What is required in order to enter “the narrow gate”?
3 Did Israel keep on obeying ‘the words of the law’? Despite the oft repeated exhortations of Moses, and later of Joshua, they failed miserably. What a powerful lesson this provides for us today! Despite continual warnings, there are always some who think that they can flout God’s requirements, ‘go it on their own,’ and yet survive. What folly! In referring back to the experiences of Israel, Paul stated: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Corinthians 10:12; Ecclesiastes 2:13.
4 Some of God’s people have criticized warnings that have been given, saying that they get tired of hearing the same things over and over again. But these ones are often the first to fall into a trap of Satan. The inspired Bible book of Deuteronomy (in Hebrew Mish·neh’ hat·to·rahʹ meaning, “Repetition of the Law”) consists mainly of four discourses by Moses; these made it clear to Israel that they must obey Jehovah’s previously stated laws. Moses used over four times as many words in warning of disobedience and the resulting “curses” as he used in relating the “blessings.” At Mount Ebal, Joshua again put Israel on notice that they must obey. Does this not indicate to us how important it is to strive to “go in through the narrow gate”?—Matthew 7:13, 14, 24-27; 24:21, 22.
5. What confederation now faced Israel, and what corresponding situation do we see today?
5 A decisive showdown was now shaping up. The gateway city of Jericho had been disposed of, much as false religion will be devastated when the “great tribulation” starts. Ai had fallen. But now “all the kings who were on the side of the Jordan in the mountainous region and in the Shephelah and along the whole coast of the Great Sea and in front of Lebanon, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites . . . began to assemble themselves all together to make war against Joshua and Israel unanimously.” (Joshua 9:1, 2) In modern-day parallel to this, we find the nations of earth now banded together as a so-called United Nations. They are seeking peace and security for themselves on their own terms but “have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one,” the Greater Joshua. (Psalm 2:1, 2) What will be the outcome?
Acting With Shrewdness
6, 7. (a) In what did the Gibeonites show interest, and what strategy did they adopt? (b) How did Joshua adjudge the matter?
6 Like Rahab before them, other non-Israelites now began to show an interest in survival. These were the inhabitants of Gibeon, a great city to the north of Jebus, or Jerusalem. They had heard of Jehovah’s mighty acts and determined that they would seek peace and security on Jehovah’s terms. But how? They sent to Israel’s camp at Gilgal men carrying dry and crumby provisions and worn-out sacks and skin-bottles, and wearing patched garments and sandals. Approaching Joshua, these men said: “It is from a very distant land that your servants have come in regard to the name of Jehovah your God, because we have heard of his fame.” Hearing this, “Joshua went making peace with them and concluding a covenant with them to let them live.”—Joshua 9:3-15.
7 However, Israel soon learned that the Gibeonites were in fact ‘dwelling in their very midst’! How did Joshua now regard their ruse? He honored the oath previously made to them, ‘to let them live, and become gatherers of wood and drawers of water for all the assembly.’—Joshua 9:16-27; compare Deuteronomy 20:10, 11.
8. In what ways do the Gibeonites foreshadow the “great crowd”?
8 Many of the Nethinim, who in later years served at Jehovah’s temple, were likely of Gibeonite extraction. Thus the Gibeonites may well foreshadow the “great crowd” that are now rendering God “sacred service day and night in his temple.” (Revelation 7:9, 15) Though living in a Canaanlike world, these at heart are “no part of the world.” Formerly, they had to put up with “crumby” spiritual provisions, such as are found in Christendom’s churches, and they had no “wine” of joy. Coming in contact with God’s people, they have recognized that Jehovah is performing mighty acts through his witnesses. They have made the long trek from Satan’s world in order to exchange tattered ‘garments’ for a new identification as humble servants of Jehovah, clothed with the new personality.—John 14:6; 17:11, 14, 16; Ephesians 4:22-24.
9. (a) What crisis next arose? (b) How did Joshua respond, and with what assurance?
9 When Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, got to hear that the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel, “he became very much afraid, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, . . . and all its men were mighty ones.” He joined forces with four other kings, and they laid siege to Gibeon. Immediately, the Gibeonites appealed to Joshua: “Come up to us quickly and do save us and help us.” At once, Joshua responded, and Jehovah reassured him, saying: “Do not be afraid of them, for into your hand I have given them. Not a man of them will stand against you.” Joshua and his valiant mighty men marched up “all night long” so as to take the enemy completely by surprise.—Joshua 10:1-9.
10. (a) What kind of action today parallels the siege of Gibeon? (b) What determination do modern-day Gibeonites express?
10 Like those five kings, some heads of government today become angry at seeing so many of their people—even “mighty ones”—taking their stand for the Greater Joshua and his global Kingdom of righteousness. These rulers believe that nationalistic boundaries should be retained, even though nations are constantly quarreling and fighting one another. Hence they try to cut off supplies of spiritual food from the peace-loving “great crowd,” to ban meetings where they partake of this “food,” and to stop them from speaking to others about spiritual matters. But these modern Gibeonites stand loyally with spiritual Israel, saying: “We will go with you people.”—Zechariah 8:23; compare Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29.
11. How do Jehovah’s Witnesses handle crises today?
11 When the “great crowd” appeal to their “mother” organization for help, this is given instantly and in good measure. The alacrity with which Jehovah’s Witnesses get things done is seen also in many other ways—as in setting up relief measures immediately after natural disasters and in quickly building needed Kingdom Halls and other places of assembly for dispensing “food.” When a convention was scheduled this past June at Yankee Stadium, New York, an army of volunteer cleaners moved in at midnight after a baseball game; that stadium never looked more spick-and-span than it did during the four days that followed. Responsible elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses move quickly, also, to handle crises that arise over preaching the good news.—Philippians 1:6, 7.
Jehovah Fights for Israel
12 But look, now, at Gibeon. Jehovah is throwing those enemy forces into confusion. Israel is pursuing them with a mighty slaughter. And what do we see hurled down from the heavens? Great chunks of ice! More are being killed by these huge hailstones than by the warriors of Israel. Now, listen. Joshua is speaking to Jehovah, and what does he say “before the eyes of Israel”? This: “Sun, be motionless over Gibeon, and, moon, over the low plain of Aijalon.” Another awesome miracle! “For about a whole day,” the sun illuminates that battlefield, until God’s vengeance is completely executed. It is not for us to debate how Jehovah performed that miracle, any more than we question how he ‘made’ two great luminaries to shine through on his fourth creative “day.” (Genesis 1:16-19; Psalm 135:5, 6) The record is conclusive: “No day has proved to be like that one, either before it or after it, in that Jehovah listened to the voice of a man, for Jehovah himself was fighting for Israel.”—Joshua 10:10-14.
13. How does Joshua further encourage his commanders, and with what final result?
13 Mop-up operations are climaxed by the slaying of the five kings, at which time Joshua says to his commanders: “Do not be afraid or be terrified. Be courageous and strong, for it is like this that Jehovah will do to all your enemies against whom you are warring.” This has already proved to be true with regard to seven kings of Canaan, and it continues to be true as another complete number of 24 kingdoms are overthrown. Then only, after six years of warfare, does the land have rest.—Joshua 10:16-25; 12:7-24.
14. With what attitude and confidence should we face Armageddon?
14 Today, as we face the final war of Armageddon, may we be courageous and strong as were Joshua, his mighty men, and all the vast encampment of Israel. We can be confident that, just as Jehovah brought several million Israelites unscathed into the Promised Land, so he can perform further awe-inspiring miracles in bringing the millions of his fearless people through Armageddon into his new system.—Revelation 7:1-3, 9, 14; 19:11-21; 21:1-5.
15. What kind of assignments can the “other sheep” expect in God’s new system?
15 Though he was now approaching 90 years of age, Joshua was faced with another big task—that of apportioning the land among the tribes of Israel. This did not mean that life would become easy for the Israelites. In fact, Caleb asked for a territory at Hebron, where the giant Anakim lived; he wanted to continue expending himself in routing out the last of Jehovah’s enemies. This is no indication that during the Millennial Reign of Christ over the earth there will be human enemies. But there will be work to do. In the new system of things, we should not expect an easy, lazy way of life. After receiving their assignments in the “new earth,” the Lord’s “other sheep” will have work aplenty in the colossal project of beautifying the earth and transforming it into the literal Paradise.—Joshua 14:6-15; Mark 10:29, 30; Romans 12:11.
16. What today is pictured by Jehovah’s arrangement of “cities of refuge”?
16 In assigning out the land, Joshua set aside six cities of the Levites to be “cities of refuge,” three on each side of the Jordan. This was Jehovah’s arrangement for protecting the unwitting manslayer who might flee to one of these cities. Such a manslayer had to prove that he had a clean conscience before God, and this he did by remaining in that city until the death of the high priest. Likewise, because of their former associations with this bloodguilty world, the “great crowd” today must seek a good conscience with God. They gain that good conscience by confessing their sins, repenting, turning around, making a dedication to Jehovah, and undergoing water baptism. Then they must maintain that stand. The “great crowd” are required to remain in the “city” until Jesus dies figuratively with respect to his high priestly work, at the conclusion of his Thousand Year Reign.—Joshua 20:1-9; Revelation 20:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 25, 26.
17. What joyful outcome do we anticipate today?
17 How wonderfully Jehovah had blessed his people Israel! The way had been hard, and the trials many. But finally they had come into the Promised Land and were settled there. How their hearts must have welled up in thankfulness to Jehovah! And in proving faithful to our God, we may have similar joy as we enter his new system, which includes the “new earth.” Indeed, it will be true of us, as it was true in Joshua’s day: “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.” (Joshua 21:45) May you have a happy share therein!
18. (a) What did Joshua recount to the elders of Israel? (b) What desire should we have with regard to Jehovah’s new system?
18 Finally, at 110 years of age, Joshua gathered the older men of Israel. He recounted to them the marvelous way that Jehovah had blessed his faithful people from Abraham’s time down to that day. Jehovah now told them: “Thus I gave you a land for which you had not toiled and cities that you had not built, and you took up dwelling in them. Vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant are what you are eating.” With this abundant provision, surely Israel would want to “fear Jehovah and serve him in faultlessness and in truth” for all time. And looking just ahead to Jehovah’s glorious new system for this earth, surely each one of us should have a like desire.—Joshua 24:13, 14.
19. (a) What choice did Joshua now put to the people, and how did they answer? (b) We should want to be like whom? (c) What choice should we make, and with what resolve?
19 Then Joshua put it plainly to the people: “If it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. . . . AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSEHOLD, WE SHALL SERVE JEHOVAH.” Can these words be echoed by each of us individually, by believing members of our families, by our congregations, by the worldwide “household of God”? Surely they can! (Ephesians 2:19) The people in Joshua’s day answered him, saying: “Jehovah our God we shall serve, and to his voice we shall listen!” (Joshua 24:15, 24) But, sadly, in later years they failed to do so. We do not want to be like those who failed. We want to be like Joshua and his household, like Caleb, like the Gibeonites, and like Rahab. Yes, “WE SHALL SERVE JEHOVAH.” May we do this courageously and with complete confidence that nothing “will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:39.
What Do We Learn From the Book of Joshua—
◻ As to benefiting from repeated admonitions?
◻ As to caring for the modern Gibeonites?
◻ As to how Jehovah will fight at Armageddon?
◻ As to the need to flee to a “city of refuge”?
◻ As to choosing whom we must serve?