I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Joshua 24:1-3a & 14-25
C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday, November 6th in Ordinary Time
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1 The leaders were summoned. Presumably the leaders brought the people with them as Joshua had just given his farewell address to the leaders.
2 Transition from other gods to the LORD was made with Abraham. (Why not use Abram to represent his prior alignment with other gods and his new name to represent alignment with the LORD?)
3 The phrase “made his offspring many” is a convenient substitute for the more complete history that follows.
4-13 Our ability to look backwards determines our ability to look forward.
14-15 Joshua exhorts the people to make the same transition that Abraham had made from other gods to the LORD. But was that not the purpose of the sojourn in the Sinai? Obviously the problem of other gods is something people continually struggle with. In this age, New Age Spirituality, astrology, self-reliance, the stock market, and Paganism call some to worship other gods.
16-18 When confronted, people do not turn away from their spiritual home. The Israelites recognize the LORD’s working in their sojourn through the Sinai and taking of the Promised Land.
19 Where does Joshua get the idea that the LORD will not forgive their transgressions?
20 Is this the same as the “unforgivable sin” of blaspheming the Holy Spirit as cited by Jesus?
21-23 Three fold pledge to God. What if we were similarly challenged when we joined the church? Would some decline?
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Cuts out an overview of the exodus.
- As soon as Joshua has the people put away their foreign gods (idols) he sets up a stone as a witness against the people which had heard all of the words of the LORD.
- Lops off Joshua recording the pledge in the book of the law and setting up a memorial stone (Ebenezer).
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
- Some scholars include Joshua with the Pentateuch, referring to the entire set as the Hexateuch, and have discerned verses of J,E,P, or D origin. It connects the Pentateuch with the narrative history that continues in Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Some of the etiological stories may have originated long before they were codified.
- This comes at the transition between leaders (Joshua’s death). It also marks the transition from being conquerors of the land to a people with a land.
- In Judges, the people repeatedly fail to keep this covenant: “Again Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” Or: “There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The latter should be of significance to Americans with our strong self-reliance and individuality.
- This speech is probably a literary construct of what the writer thought, by the Holy Spirit, Joshua would have said on this occasion.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- Exodus 24 – Israel dedicates itself to follow the LORD on receiving the law. The dedication in Joshua follows receiving the land.
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
- Work/serve – this verb is the root for servant/slave.
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
III. Question the text.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Serving God absolutely, as promised in this passage, is impractical. Yet it is the only possibility.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- This is like a pep rally where the students are confident of victory, while the coach reminds them of the power of their foes.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Joseph R. Sizoo, The Interpreter’s Bible, “The Book of Joshua: Exposition” (Abingdon: 1953). “Nations are great not in proportion to their military prowess, but in proportion to their dependence upon God and moral leadership. … We bristle with self-importance saying, ‘my country – my land,’ as if we had brought it into being and made it secure. Perhaps the trouble today is this: people are unable to trace God’s hand at work in the movements of history and in their lives. At best to them history is the story of [humanity’s] discovery of God, but not of God’s revelation to [humanity].”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?