This seems like a happy ending, doesn’t it? We, along with that rock (vv. 26-27), are witnesses to what the Israelites claimed that day. “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods.” Even after Joshua pressed them a bit more, they stood firm that they would serve the Lord. The story of God’s people will continue with the Book of Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, and 1st and 2nd Kings. We will see for ourselves what “never” looks like and where the leaks in faith come about.
Joshua does a fine job of presenting God’s message to the people that day. God takes them down memory lane to remind them of his great power. They have the inheritance they do because of God. They are stirred with adoration and gratitude. It does us good, too, to remember God’s mercy and love. Those remembrances are what we can cling to when the going gets rough.
What does Joshua see when he looks back over his life? From his years being led and prepared for leadership under Moses, to conquering the Promised Land seeing God’s mighty hand at work, to resting and relaxing as his life was coming to an end. What a full life God has given him.
Joshua isn’t done. Just like Moses had done before him, it was time to make sure those left behind would carry the torch, so to speak. Joshua “came out of retirement” to meet with the leaders once again. He said to them, “I am now a very old man. You have seen everything the Lord your God has done for you during my lifetime.” Lest they forget, he reminds them of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises.
We’ve all made wrong assumptions in our lives, haven’t we? Sometimes such thoughts can have devastating outcomes, such as hurt feelings, lost friendships, etc. The one in this passage could have ended badly, too, but thankfully it didn’t.
Why do we do rush to make assumptions? Many times, it is simply a lack of trust, lack of information, or possibly a feeling of superiority. In today’s reading we see a how jumping to conclusions almost caused a war. What is one way to avoid these wrong beliefs? Communication is always key. Before we go down a rabbit hole of misunderstanding, we should ask questions to clarify the situation.
You’ll remember that the strong warriors from the “Eastern” tribes of Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh had been recruited by God to help with conquering the lands west of the Jordan. They have been separated from their families and loved ones this whole time. Now Joshua is giving them the green light to finally go home and rejoin their families.
Joshua praises them for their devotion and assistance. This is quite a tribute. “You have done as Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you, and you have obeyed every order I have given you.” I’m sure it was hard to be away from their families. I’m sure it was hard to fight for a land that wasn’t “their own.” Yet they were also connected as distant relatives to these people. They had a common ancestor, Jacob.
God’s promise to the Israelite people is finally realized. The selection of refuge cities had to happen first, followed by assigning cities and pastureland to the Levites. The Lord had commanded Moses in Numbers 35:6 to give the Levities six cities of refuge and 42 other cities. We see that played out perfectly here.
I thought it would be helpful to take a little historical break to consider the back story here. We’ve been reading about Eleazer, the priest. In case you missed it, like I did, he was Aaron’s son. Aaron was brother to Moses and was the priest being used by God in the wilderness. The tribe of Levi was made up of three branches: The Gersonites, the Kohathites, and the Merarites. Aaron and his descendants (the priests) were from the Kohath branch.