Explore The Bible Study: Challenged

7:30 AM

What would happen in your church if your pastor asked you to publicly make a commitment or to recommitment to follow the Lord? We live in a time when the public commitment seems to be missing in many churches, but this is not the case with Joshua and the people of Israel. In LifeWay's Explore the Bible Study: Challenged, Joshua lays down the gauntlet, draws a line in the sand, and calls for a public commitment from the people of God as to their intentions regarding following the Lord.

Here are some ideas that could help you engage a strong discussion regarding the value of commitments.

LOOK UP: Getting focused on the text.
  • Direct (Once group arrives): Name some of your relatives and describe some of their accomplishments. What are some things your family keeps that commemorate their accomplishments?
  • Ask: How have the accomplishments of your family or relatives affected your life? How have their mistakes motivated you to do better?
  • Introduce: We are coming to the end of our study of the book of Joshua. Joshua led the Israelites from the eastern side of the Jordan River, through it, over Jericho and Ai, and throughout all of Canaan. Seven years of war and twenty-three years of settling into the land have taken place. Walls have fallen; altars have been built; the sun stood still; cities were constructed; and civil war was narrowly averted. Now at approximately 110 years of age and about to pass on to his heavenly reward, Joshua gathers all Israel and their leaders at Shechem for his final words to them.
  • Transition: In chapter 24:1-10, Joshua reviews the history of their relatives and reminds them of all God has done to get them to this point. He also points out the mistakes their relatives made and how they should avoid making those same mistakes. He challenges them to respond to God’s blessings with a renewed commitment. Let’s look at the challenge Joshua gives.
LOOK IN: Unpacking the text.

Joshua 24:14-15
  • What mistakes did their “fathers” make? (worshiped other gods) What did Joshua challenge them to do? (Get rid of the gods of their fathers; worship Yahweh; choose now whom they were going to worship)
  • Joshua told them to get rid of other gods but what did he say to replace with it? (worship of Yehweh)
Discuss: What happens when we only say “stop doing something” without replacing it with “follow the Lord”? What can we learn from the wisdom God gave Joshua about giving instructions to those who are rebelling against God? If someone thinks that Joshua’s challenge was unrealistic, what does this reveal about their commitment to God?

  • Who are the gods of today? What are the things that divide our loyalties? (Examples: materialism, sports, recreation, pleasure, comfort, success, careers)
  • How did Joshua demonstrate his commitment to God in these passages?
State: Joshua didn’t say, “if you will, then I will follow the Lord.” He drew a line in the sand and said “choose.” He was determined to follow God, even if he and his family were the only ones who would make this commitment.

  • Did Joshua’s challenge in verse 15 mean that either choice would be fine? (No) What was he communicating with them? (Joshua was stating that the people could not worship and serve both.)
  • Discuss: How can one person’s faithfulness challenge and influence others for the cause of Christ? (PSG, p. 65)
Transition: Today it seems we avoid challenging people to make choices as if it is something that is offensive, or we rationalize that it is a “private matter.” Joshua didn’t approach his challenge to the people this way. Joshua expected a visible and very public response from the people.

Joshua 24:16-18
  • State: Immediately the people answered that they stood in unanimous agreement with Joshua and would never serve other gods. They reviewed God's leadership in their nation and blessing upon their lives and loudly proclaimed two things – We will not abandon the Lord to worship other gods, and We too will worship (serve) the Lord, because he is our God.
  • Discuss: How has God revealed His faithfulness to you over the years? How does His work in your life in the past challenge you to live for Him in the future?
  • Personally Evaluate: Based on what you know about yourself, would you have responded to Joshua’s challenge in this way? Would you have complained that he expected a public response? Would you have accused him of asking too much?  What does your response reveal about your willingness to do whatever it takes to avoid abandoning God?
  • Transition: You would think that Joshua would have celebrated at this point, but it seems as if he wasn’t convinced. Or, maybe he wanted them to realize what this commitment meant. Nonetheless Joshua repeats the challenge with greater emphasis and some warnings
Joshua 24:19-24
  • Identify: What are some of the adjectives used to describe God in verses 19-20?
  • Analyze: Does the warning given by Joshua sound harsh? Does anything about how God is described trouble you? Why? Should we ignore the warning given here if we think it is harsh? (No) How would you respond to God if you truly believed this would be the result? Do you believe God expects this kind of commitment from believers today?
  • Discuss: Read Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 14:27-28. Ask: How do Jesus’ words reflect Joshua’s warning? 
  • State: Like bookends, Joshua reiterates in verse 23 what he said in verse 14 – Get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel. It wasn’t just a challenge to get rid of something but to embrace God with their hearts.
  • Transition: Joshua now asks the people to make a public commitment for the third time!
Joshua 24:21-28
  • Why do you think Joshua asked the people to publicly declare their commitment to God three times (vv. 16-18,21,24)? 
  • What is unique about this public commitment?
  • What is significant about this covenant being recorded in the book of the law of God?
  • What was significant about the stones? (They would serve as spiritual reminders, markers)
Discuss: Memorials are significant because they serve as milestones or spiritual markers in life where we reflect upon God’s work and our commitment to serve Him.
  • What markers in your life demonstrate your commitment to God? 
  • How does this passage help you understand why it is important to make your commitments to the Lord, especially salvation, public? 
  • What do public commitments provide for you? For others who observe your commitment?
LOOK OUT: Responding to the text.
  • Summarize: As we reflect upon God’s goodness in the milestones of life, our focus should be on seeing God’s call for devotion and choosing to serve Him daily. He is worthy of all our worship! He doesn’t just ask us to remove things from our lives, but we are to replace those things with Him! We are to serve God alone, but we aren’t alone in serving God!
  • Evaluate: Is there some type of commitment you need to make to the Lord? Is there a commitment you need to renew?
  • Ask: How can we hold one another accountable in faithfulness to Jesus? How can we support one another in our commitments to Him?

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