Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord , the God of Israel, ’Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord , choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord .”
When Moses finally got everyone into the wilderness, they gathered at Mt. Sinai and received the Law from God. The Law was a combination of things. It helped them have rules on how to live as a community, it was a theological treatise explaining things about God, it set up the structure of their religion, and it elaborated the rights of people that only knew slavery for the past 400 years.
The basis of the Law was “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. Have no other gods except for Me.” That might sound familiar because it’s #1 of the Ten Commandments.
At this point in the life of Israel, Joshua is about to die. The whole nation has entered (most of) the promised land and they are about as settled as they are going to get. There are more battles to be had without Joshua. Joshua is about to die and he wants to set them all on a good path, so he does what he knows to do.
He does exactly what Moses did.
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” sounds just like the first commandment. Joshua has retold their history and now brings the people into that history.
Just like our parents and grandparents served God and we entered this land, now you and your children: serve God and you’ll keep it!
Joshua learned how to be an old leader from Moses and you can see that he learned it well, but did it in his own way. He urged everyone to follow God alone because he knew anything else they did would thrive from that.