Unifying a People

MEMORY VERSE: “The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will be obey.” —Joshua 24:24

JOSHUA 24:1-7, 14, 15, 24

VOLUNTARY obedience to God’s righteous and just laws always has been and always will be the principal standard by which he judges his people. The motivation for such obedience, however, becomes the crucial test in the long run, for it is only obedience motivated by a supreme love for God and his righteous principles that will endure.

In our lesson today, Joshua, at the end of a long and fruitful life, desired to leave with the children of Israel an exhortation to faithfulness and obedience that would long be remembered and unite them as a people. He recalled to their minds the many demonstrations of God’s overruling providences on their behalf, how he had brought them out of Egypt, and how he had delivered into their hand all the nations round about who opposed them, even sending hornets on one occasion against the Amorites “which drove them out from before you. … And I have given you a land for which ye did not labor, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat.”—Joshua 24:12,13

All of these demonstrations of favor by God were because of the obedience of the Israelites, and his promise was that he would continue to bless them if they remained obedient. On the other hand, “If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.”—Joshua 24:20

It was their faith and obedience to God that separated them from the idolatrous nations round about. This was the real unifying force that they had as a nation. They were the people of God. (Deut. 7:6-8; Amos. 3:2) We know that as a nation they vacillated between faithfulness and unfaithfulness until their final test was their failure to recognize and accept their Messiah, Jesus.

Because of this they were cast off as a nation and they lost the long-cherished promise of being the seed of blessing. (Matt. 23-38; Rom. 11:7) Jesus, speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, said, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”—Matt. 21:42,43; Rom. 9:30; 10:19,20

The Apostle Peter picks up the theme of this transition, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. … But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”—I Peter 2:3-10

This new nation, unified unto God under the banner of faith, is composed of both Jews and Gentiles. These are those who have come to know that it is impossible to obtain salvation by works of the flesh. (Rom. 3:19,20) They realize that it is only through faith in the blood of Christ that their goal is obtainable.—Rom. 3:28-30

This unification unto God under the headship of Christ is expressed by Jesus in his prayer recorded in the 17th chapter of John: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth. As thou hast sent me unto the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. … neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”—vss. 17-21

The members of this new nation of “Israelites indeed are made one with the Head because of their love for God and his righteous purposes, and their heart’s desire to be obedient to his laws and precepts.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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