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Reminded by a Rock

Key References: Joshua 23; 24; Patriarchs and Prophets, chap. 49, pp. 521-524; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 3, pp. 102-104; Our Beliefs, nos. 12, 3, 14

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“It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

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We respond to God’s grace by obeying Him out of love.

Have you ever noticed the faraway look in the eyes of your grandparents when they start telling stories of long ago? This must have been the look that the old man Joshua had on his face as he began reminding the people of God’s care through the years he had been alive. He was nearly 110 years old. That’s a lot of years to remember God’s leading!

Long ago, when Joshua had been a young man, he and his friend Caleb had been two of the 12 spies sent to check out Canaan—the land God had promised to His people.

The people had wanted to know, first of all, if the land was as rich and abundant as they had heard, if it really was “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). And before they started dreaming, they wanted to know if conquering it was really possible.

Of the 12 men sent on the mission, only Caleb and Joshua believed that God would give them all the wonderful things they saw—houses, well-established farms, vineyards, goat herds. It was another 40 years before God did give Canaan to the Israelites, since so few at that time believed His promise.

But with God’s help the children of Israel had finally conquered Canaan and now lived in those farms and houses on the fertile land. The Bible says that God had given them peace. Joshua wanted his children and grandchildren to continue to live in peace and prosperity, so before he died, he gathered everyone together near the tabernacle and offered his last words of wisdom and advice.

Joshua began by reminding the people of all that God had done for them. They had received the land of Canaan as inheritance by God’s power, not their own. Jehovah had guided them all along the way. Joshua warned the people to not make friends with the idol worshippers in neighboring countries. The best advice was to stay away from them. Then Joshua shared an important lesson with the people. Once they would become friends with evil, it would no longer seem so evil. Trying to be friends with both God’s followers and Satan’s followers is impossible.

Unfortunately, Satan’s followers become like a trap. Joshua warned the people that those traps would lure them on for more. The evil practices would become like blinders over their eyes so they wouldn’t be able to see what was wrong. Eventually the land of Canaan would return to its original owners if the Israelites forgot God.

Joshua wasn’t threatening the people. He was calling their attention to the natural sequence of cause and effect. If an Israelite woman married a Canaanite man who worshipped idols, their oldest son would inherit the property when his parents died.

If that child married another Canaanite, it was not likely that they would honor and worship God. That family would gradually adopt the sinful practices of the idol worshippers. As a result they would lose their identity among God’s people, choosing rather to associate with the Canaanites.

But suppose God’s followers married only God’s followers. Suppose all the Israelites continued to worship God and followed His guidelines for happiness. Then the land would continue to belong to God’s people. The Israelites would then continue to enjoy peace, happiness, and freedom.

At the end of his speech Joshua told the people they would have to decide. They could keep the land if they chose to follow God’s leading and worship only Him. But they had to get rid of the idols. Then, every day, they must decide whom they would worship—the true God, or idols. Such decisions have two parts— facing one way and turning one’s back on another way. When people follow God, they turn their backs on Satan. Then Joshua told them what his own choice would be. He and his family had decided to worship God.

The people said they had made the same choice. Then Joshua took a stone and rolled it near the tabernacle. “ ‘See!’ he said to all the people. ‘This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God’ “(Joshua 24:27).

Joshua died soon after that, at the age of 110. But if ever people had second thoughts about their decision, all they had to do was to go to the tabernacle and look at the huge stone, a reminder of their decision to worship only the living God and to follow His guidelines for happiness.