The interaction between Joshua and the people is very interesting.
Joshua basically told the people, “I don’t care what you folks decide, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
When the people insist that they too will serve the Lord faithfully, Joshua responds, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God.”
But again the people insist, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
“You are witnesses against yourself that you have made this promise.”
“Yes we are witnesses.”
Joshua then charged them to throw away what idols they still had (it’s amazing to me that any of them would still have some hidden away), and when the people again reaffirmed a fourth time that they would follow the Lord, Joshua reaffirmed the covenant with them.
I read this and think about Peter. How Jesus told the disciples that they would all fall away, and Peter insisted, “Even if everyone else abandons you, I will not.”
And when Jesus told him, “You will deny me three times,” Peter insisted that he would not, and so did the other disciples.
But like the people of Israel, Peter and the others fell. When the emotion and fervor of the moment fell away, so did their faithfulness.
For Peter and the disciples, it was a matter of hours. For the Israelites, it lasted as long as Joshua and the other elders were alive. But eventually, all of them fell away.
And that’s why we need a Savior. Because despite all our fervor, despite all our promises, we all fall.
For Joshua, however, all he could do was encourage and admonish the people to follow the Lord, and to set an example for them.
But Jesus did more. He went to the cross to pay the price for our sin. And now he has given us his Holy Spirit so that we can obey him.
Moses clearly laid out our problem when he said to the Israelites,
You saw with your own eyes the great trials and those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear. (Deuteronomy 29:3-4)
But then he told them,
The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live. (30:6)
And that’s what the Holy Spirit does for us. As Ezekiel put it,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Jeremiah says basically the same thing.
“I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Lord Jesus, thank you that while I was still powerless, utterly incapable of keeping your law, when I was still your enemy, you died for me. I thank you that you don’t just tell me, “Here’s what you need to do. Do it.” Instead you have given me your Spirit so that I can obey.
Holy Spirit, circumcise my heart. Give me a heart that loves and follows you. I desire to obey. Now grant me the power to do so. I can’t change myself. But you can. Help me to fall more in love with you each day. In Jesus name, amen.