What does it say?
The land is now allocated and the final part of Joshua deals with settlement in the land and the passing of Joshua. The standing army has finished its mission and the two-and-a-half tribes return to their homes on the east side of Jordan (Jos 22). As they retreated, they built an altar on the west bank of the river as a memorial for future generations, but it is immediately misinterpreted as a rival worship point. Civil war is narrowly averted as attempts at communication succeed and the other tribes listen to the heart of the two-and-a-half tribes.
Joshua challenges the people in a fitting summation of what has happened (Jos 23). The same faithful obedience to God that gave them initial victory would also result in victory during the final phases of the occupation in finishing their missional task.
Israel assembles together in Shechem where God first met with Abraham when he entered the land (Jos 24). This is also where Jacob buried his idols upon his return to the land. Here, Joshua again challenges the people to obey God and they respond by affirming their devotion. The book ends recording the death and burial of Joshua.
What does it mean?
Poor communication is a plague; even worse is poor listening. When minds are made up before genuine communication takes places the results are often catastrophic. When the two-and-a-half tribes build the altar, the nation stands on the verge of civil war. The salvation was the wisdom of the other tribes in waiting to hear the motive for altar before pulling the trigger. This chapter is a great illustration of the importance of communication and listening.
Shechem is one of the most sacred spots for the nation of Israel, not a central spot like Shiloh where the tabernacle rests for 350 years, but a sacred spot that spiritually transports the people back to God confirming the land to Abraham on this very spot. We all need a Shechem, a sacred place to come back to in special moments of life. Americans often imagine a cabin by the lake, the woods or other place of solace. Other cultures can experience the same effect in the presence of thousands of people, as is the case here.
The connection with Abraham also connects with the mission. Blessed to be a blessing to the families of the earth. More than a worship spot, it is a missional worship spot.
How will I respond?
Where is my Shechem that puts me in a sacred spot with God? A favorite corner of my house, a special bench in the park, a favorite coffee shop?