It was presumably sometime shortly before his death at 110 that Joshua called the people of Israel around him to hear his final sermon. It contains that familiar call: “choose this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

But it also reveals a confusing and perhaps disconcerting strategy.

Obviously, Joshua called the people to make a choice, a choice to serve the Lord (v.15).

To this the people responded with a promise to serve the Lord (vv.16-18).

But Joshua was not satisfied. He told them they were incapable of truly following the Lord (vv.19-20)!

The people—a bit taken aback—cried out that they were serious! They would indeed follow the Lord (v.21).

In the face of their insistence Joshua redoubled his call and demanded that they choose to serve the Lord (vv.22-24).

So why the hard sell, Joshua?

Why did he respond to the people’s pledge this way?

I hear Joshua here as saying something like this …

“Look, I’m an old man. I’m about to die. I don’t have time to mess around with you or play religious games. I’m going to stand before God just a few breaths from now, so I’m calling you to Judgment Day honesty and seriousness! I’ve seen and experienced more than you can imagine. I’ve seen it all … from agony in the brick factories of Egypt … to miracles in Pharaoh’s court … from the death angel passing over my home … to the waters of the Red Sea opening up before us … from the manifestation of God’s holy fury on Mt. Sinai … to the folly of idol worship at the foot of the mountain … from desert wastelands … to a river flowing from a rock … from following a man most people called crazy … to being called to step in and lead in his place … from wars on the east side of Jordan … to wars on the west side … from impenetrable walls falling down at a shout … to the sun standing still in the sky … from graces untold … to the ground opening up and swallowing liars and thieves … I’ve seen life given through miraculous provision … and lives taken through divine plague. Don’t you mess with me! I need to know you are serious when you say you will follow the Lord!”

As I was contemplating this possible motive behind Joshua’s final and somewhat strange sermon-strategy a Johnny Cash song came to my mind.

Yes, that’s what I said …

I suddenly heard a weathered, aged Johnny Cash singing, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

If you’re not familiar with the song, take a refresher course here: I’ve Been Everywhere

So here is the weathered, worn, weary, soon-to-be-in-heaven Joshua mustering his last breaths to call God’s people to faithfulness. Only I hear the words going like this …

I’ve Seen Everything


I was toting my pack along the long dusty desert road
When along came a man with a high and canvas covered load
If your goin’ to the Promised Land, Josh, with me you can ride
And so I climbed into the cart and then I settled down inside
He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand
And I said, “Listen, Yo! I’ve traveled every road in this here land!”

I’ve seen everything, man
I’ve seen everything, man
I’ve seen what the deserts bring, man
I’ve been carried on eagle’s wings, man
I’ve drank from rocky springs, man
I’ve seen everything

I’ve seen,

  • Hittites
  • Canaanites
  • Perizzites
  • Girgashites
  • Hivites
  • Jebusites
  • Amalakites
  • Amorites
  • Amonites
  • Moabites
  • Edomites
  • Mountain heights
  • What a sight!
  • Anakim
  • Rephaim
  • Philistines
  • A hill of beans!

I’ve seen everything, man
I’ve seen everything, man
I’ve seen what the deserts bring, man
I’ve been carried on eagle’s wings, man
I’ve drank from rocky springs, man
I’ve seen everything!

Ok, I know … kind of weird. But can you hear Joshua’s anguished plea? “I’ve seen too much to pander and play nice. Take this call to serve the Lord with the utmost solemnity and seriousness!”

I think we can hear then in Joshua’s call to Israel our Savior’s call to us as He marched toward the cross: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:27-30).

Consider carefully the cost. Don’t play religious games. Make your decision. Follow hard after Christ!