When read in isolation, Joshua 24 looks like a climax for the budding nation of Israel. Indeed, this is a high point in their history. God has long delivered Israel from their many years of wandering in the desert, and has led them, through Joshua, to conquer the nations who lived in the lands He promised He would give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
As a national force, Israel saw victory. But what of their relationship with God? The author records that, “Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel” (Jos. 24:31). Not only did Israel follow the LORD, but they genuinely wanted to serve Him. And not only did they choose to serve Him by oath when Joshua gathered them together at Shechem, but they were adamant to serve Him even after Joshua warned them of how serious the consequences would be if they then chose to forget His goodness, and forsake Him to serve foreign gods instead.
Given Israel’s memory of God’s faithfulness to their ancestors, His mighty acts of power through the exodus, His patience and provision during their affliction in the desert, and of His conquest over nations far stronger than they, one might expect that Israel’s desire to serve and worship God would last. Who could go back to worshipping idols, after all, when all Israel remembered how God had extended his arm of salvation to them with such clarity and strength?
Yet as people, we are so prone to forget His faithfulness and turn aside to trust in things other than Him, and Israel was no different. God knew this of them, as He knows this of us. This is why, when the poet Asaph is wrestling with the surety of God’s promises and unfailing love towards him, he writes in Psalm 77, "then I thought, 'to this I will appeal: I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds."
Remembering the work of God not only reminds us of His power, but also of His character, His nature, His attributes, and His call on our lives to love and serve Him, above all other things we love. We see Asaph remembering God's holiness and greatness, his miracles, and His mighty arm in delivering His people from Egypt, and we see Joshua calling Israel to remember the same.
And in like manner, we, too, must make a practice of remembering the faithfulness this same God has extended to us, through the salvation and new life He offers us when we come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Joshua’s generation knew the works of the LORD and chose to follow. May we remember His works, lest we become like the generation after, who “knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel” (Jud. 2:10) and turned back to idols, responding with unfaithfulness to a God who is always faithful.