Forming Faith Blog

God in Our Stories (Joshua 24)

Joshua retells God’s story with the Israelites, challenging them about who they will follow in the future. Can we really do the same thing?

A family reading stories from a book
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on
Living Faithfully in God’s Promise

In this sixth week of the 2022-2023 Narrative Lectionary, we move to our second thematic unit. Our first theme, God’s Promises Bring Hope led us through the promises to Noah, Abram, Joseph, the Israelites at the Red Sea, and the covenant on Mt. Sinai. This theme, Living Faithfully in God’s Promise, covers stories from Israel’s time inhabiting the Promised Land when they are faithful—and unfaithful—to God.

Retelling the Story

Our passage today takes place just after the people of Israel have conquered and inhabited the land of Canaan. Their leader, Joshua, is about to die and gives his final sermon to the gathered people. And what does he say?

He begins by retelling the story of how the Israelites got to where they were on that day as the chosen people of God, specifically, God’s actions on their behalf. He starts with the call of Abraham and traces his descendants to Egypt. Joshua moves to God delivering the people from Egyptian slavery with miraculous plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. He recounts the people’s time in the desert and then the settling of the land they are currently standing in.

Throughout it all, Joshua emphasizes that it has been God’s actions that have accomplished all these things.

The Past, Present, and Future

So, why does Joshua say this? What is his point? His point is rather simple. He traces how God’s actions in their past have brought them to their present moment. This is all to set up the challenge: how will all this affect how they act in the future?

Will they faithfully serve the God who has brought them this far, or will they turn from God and worship instead the gods of their neighbors?

Perhaps the people are sincere. Perhaps they are swept up in the moment. But the people do commit to serving the God who has done all these things for them.

Unfortunately, the stories of the people in the land of Israel that we read in the Books of Judges through 2 Kings show that they broke this promise more than they kept it.

Scripture and Our Stories

The good and natural application of this passage is to challenge our faith formation participants—and ourselves—to look back on our own stories, see what God has done for us, and commit to serving God in the future. This time, we can also trust in God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in Jesus for the times we will inevitably break our promise.

There is one difficulty in this. The stories chosen to be in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, are specifically chosen as extraordinary, miraculous stories. God’s actions are clear because the storytellers identify them as such. In our own stories, God’s presence isn’t necessarily as clear.

God in Our Stories

Two things impact our ability to see God’s work in our stories: what we believe and how we are trained.

  • What We Believe: This is our theological understanding of how God works in the world, whether they are based in formal church teachings or stuff we have picked up along the way. Do we believe in predestination or free will (or predestination and free will)? How does God’s providence work, or do we not believe that providence exists? Does God cause suffering, allow it, or cannot do anything about it? Note: it doesn’t matter if people have heard of any of these terms or even thought through the consistency of their beliefs.
  • How We Are Trained: Inextricably linked to our beliefs is the practical skills and effort to see these beliefs play out in our stories. On one extreme are those who identify every single action and experience as caused by God, from the parking space we find, to the job we are offered, to the indigestion we experience. On the other extreme are those who reject the idea that any actions or experiences are caused by God. Most of us fall in the middle somewhere. I would say the most common is to see God’s work in the good things, which can both be the usual experiences of joy and the experiences of suffering that we see redeemed by some positive outcome.
Faith Formation Connection

So, what do you do with this in your faith formation context (preaching, worship, teaching, pastoral care, etc.)?

  1. Recognize your own beliefs and the teachings of your church, denomination, or tradition.
  2. Be sensitive about others’ beliefs. People are going to be coming from different places, even if they don’t realize it. Depending on your church’s teachings, you can either help participants think through what they believe or take the time to explain those doctrines (at the appropriate developmental level).
  3. Train participants in what to look for. Don’t assume that participants will be able to identify and explain God’s work in their lives. If appropriate, help them do so.

God’s presence and wisdom be with you,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “The Stories of Our Lives” a reflective activity from our Living the Word: Youth (NL) curriculum. This activity can be used also with adults and families.

2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources

The program year is upon us. Have you made all your decisions for your congregation’s faith formation needs? It’s not too late to order! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the Fall, Winter, and Spring lessons for our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary resources.

At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:

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