Joshua 24:17-18 “It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our forefathers up out of Egypt, from the land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land.”
Israel’s aged hero Joshua, now over 100 years old, had asked the entire nation to gather together one last time before he died. What did Joshua wish to say to them? He reminded them of God’s goodness and faithfulness. As he wrote a few chapters earlier, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” He warned them about their rebellion and sin. He hoped to turn their thoughts and their hearts to the Lord one last time before he died.
The people remembered God’s goodness in his salvation. The Lord had set them free from slavery in Egypt. He had rescued them from the Pharaoh’s plans to destroy them as a people. He had preserved the special promises he gave to them through their forefathers.
And the Lord hadn’t done this in some quiet corner, secretly working where no one could see. He did it all with great signs and wonders. There were the ten plagues. There was the parting of the Red Sea. It was clear to all the world that this people Israel was the apple of his eye and the treasure of his heart. God’s salvation had brought them this far.
Of course, all of this prefigures and foreshadows an even greater deliverance the Lord has given us in his Son. Think of all the slaveries from which we have been set free because of Jesus’ death and resurrection! We have been freed from guilt. God no longer holds us responsible for our sins. We have been liberated from death. We will never be separated from God’s love, for on the day our heartbeats stop, our souls will be joined even closer to him in heaven. Someday that body will rise to live again. We have been released from the power of sin. Our bodies are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. By his power we are free and able to serve. Sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law but under grace.
There was still more to the goodness of God Israel remembered. “He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land.” The word protected might better be translated “kept.” God’s keeping of Israel through the wilderness certainly included protection, but it involved so much more. He fed them with bread from heaven. Six days a week manna simply appeared on the ground to collect. For forty years their clothes and shoes did not wear out. When they entered the promised land, the walls of Jericho simply fell over for them. As long as they trusted in him, the Lord gave them victory. He saw to it that they had everything they needed.
Can we fully appreciate how much more of God’s goodness we experience today when he meets our daily needs? Sometimes we long for the good old days, but the good old days were not always better. My high school English teacher always reminded us to be thankful for the way the Lord blesses us now. He remembered the “good old days” as a time during WW II when he couldn’t find a store that had a men’s dress shirt for sale. Those were times when churches held many more funerals for children than they do today. If you visit an older cemetery, check the dates on the tombstones. I think that you will find he was right.
Then look at the food and clothing choices we enjoy. When Joshua’s people went to their closets, they didn’t have to spend time deciding what to wear. They took the only thing available. Most of our own great-grandparents probably didn’t have the privilege of agonizing over what to wear for an occasion.
Look at the medicines which lengthen our lives. Look at the relative peace our nation has enjoyed. When we consider God’s providence, and his protection, the evidence of his goodness is undeniable. The crisis of the moment can blind us to the good things we have enjoyed, and still enjoy. Take a moment to pause, and to remember.