The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 49: The Last Words of Joshua
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By Joshua's direction the ark had been brought from Shiloh.
The occasion was one of great solemnity, and this symbol of
God's presence would deepen the impression he wished to make
upon the people. After presenting the goodness of God toward
Israel, he called upon them, in the name of Jehovah, to choose
whom they would serve. The worship of idols was still to some
extent secretly practiced, and Joshua endeavored now to bring
them to a decision that should banish this sin from Israel. "If
it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah," he said, "choose you this
day whom ye will serve." Joshua desired to lead them to serve
God, not by compulsion, but willingly. Love to God is the very
foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from
hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing. Open
apostasy would not be more offensive to God than hypocrisy and
mere formal worship.
The aged leader urged the people to consider, in all its bearings,
what he had set before them, and to decide if they really
desired to live as did the degraded idolatrous nations around
them. If it seemed evil to them to serve Jehovah, the source of
power, the fountain of blessing, let them that day choose whom
they would serve—"the gods which your fathers served," from
whom Abraham was called out, "or the gods of the Amorites, in
whose land ye dwell." These last words were a keen rebuke to
Israel. The gods of the Amorites had not been able to protect
their worshipers. Because of their abominable and debasing sins,
that wicked nation had been destroyed, and the good land which
they once possessed had been given to God's people. What folly
for Israel to choose the deities for whose worship the Amorites
had been destroyed! "As for me and my house," said Joshua,
"we will serve Jehovah." The same holy zeal that inspired the
leader's heart was communicated to the people. His appeals [p. 524] called forth the unhesitating response, "God forbid that we should
forsake Jehovah, to serve other gods."
"Ye cannot serve the Lord," said Joshua: "for He is a holy
God; . . . He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins."
Before there could be any permanent reformation the people
must be led to feel their utter inability in themselves to render
obedience to God. They had broken His law, it condemned
them as transgressors, and it provided no way of escape. While
they trusted in their own strength and righteousness, it was
impossible for them to secure the pardon of their sins; they
could not meet the claims of God's perfect law, and it was in
vain that they pledged themselves to serve God. It was only by
faith in Christ that they could secure pardon of sin and receive
strength to obey God's law. They must cease to rely upon their
own efforts for salvation, they must trust wholly in the merits of
the promised Saviour, if they would be accepted of God.
Joshua endeavored to lead his hearers to weigh well their
words, and refrain from vows which they would be unprepared
to fulfill. With deep earnestness they repeated the declaration:
"Nay; but we will serve the Lord." Solemnly consenting to the
witness against themselves that they had chosen Jehovah, they
once more reiterated their pledge of loyalty: "The Lord our God
will we serve, and His voice will we obey.
"So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and
set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem." Having
written an account of this solemn transaction, he placed it, with
the book of the law, in the side of the ark. And he set up a pillar
as a memorial, saying, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto
us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which He spake
unto us; it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny
your God. So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his
Joshua's work for Israel was done. He had "wholly followed
the Lord;" and in the book of God he is written, "The servant of
Jehovah." The noblest testimony to his character as a public
leader is the history of the generation that had enjoyed his labors:
"Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of
the elders that overlived Joshua."
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