First of all, the material we’re covering with the kids skips the bulk of Joshua. We go straight from Joshua 10 to Joshua 24. Why? I’m guessing that a lot of conquest narrative isn’t exactly easy to teach to the elementary age group.
There is one story from that section that I do want to bring up. Joshua 22:10-34 highlights how the tribes that went back to the other side of the Jordan built an altar. That altar copied the official altar, and sparked fears of idolatry and a downright hissy fit by the in-the-land tribes.
The purpose, though, was to be a unification reminder between the two groups. This makes me wonder: how quick are we to judge the behavior of others? How rapidly do we assume they are sinning just because their behavior does not make perfect sense to us?
You have a few mentions of places where the Israelites were “unable” to drive out the inhabitants. There is a necessary understanding here regarding theology: the inability was likely due to an unwillingness. It is also possible that there were fewer Israelites than we perhaps may have thought, or the diminished numbers of independent tribes had an impact. That could be part of it: the tribes were unwilling to conquer territory they didn’t really need yet—which led to them being unable because of the judgment of God on their disobedience.
Finally, we hit Joshua 24. Joshua expresses the situation, and then gives his assessment. He recounts the history of Israel and gives it as the Word of YHWH, which means he is not simply reading a cue card. He is speaking the Divine Word, which is a big deal.
In that recitation, Joshua highlights that Abram/Abraham was truly the first of the family to follow YHWH as God exclusively, and that God called Abram out of His own will, not for anything in Abram.
Then Joshua tells the people to choose between serving local gods and serving the One True God who has brought them this far. He tells them that they will turn on God, and it would be better to simply abandon Him now than to lie to Him.
They then declare, publicly, that they will serve YHWH, the One True God for all time. But they don’t.
In fact, the book of Judges really seems to push back that they don’t really even try.
The question for the kid Bible study is How can we show we love God? The answer given is a little simple: serve, worship, and obey God. That takes fleshing out in your life—(my life, too)
How do you serve, worship, and obey God through your days?