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Choose This Day

Recently, I wrote a short “article” for my Facebook profile in which a small part of Joshua 24 was utilized. Often, when we look to this passage, our focus is on the words of Joshua in verse 15 where he says, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This is a wonderful sentiment, but we are honestly doing this passage an injustice if we ignore the context in which Joshua said these words and ignore that attitude and zeal through which he pushed the children of Israel to serve the Lord.

Throughout the first 13 verses, Joshua reminds the children of Israel about the wonderful providence of God: the deliverance of the men of Jericho, the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and the Jebusites into their hands, and how many others were driven by God out of their lands, and how the Israelites were able to simply walk in and take over existing homes, farms, and vineyards. What was Joshua’s point? That God was not only ABLE to do such, but that He HAD done it. What had the idols of Egypt done for the Israelites?

Joshua tells the Israelites to fear the Lord, but why? Because He actually IS powerful, but the idols are not. He also tells them to serve God in sincerity and in truth. In this phrase we find the depth of Joshua’s message; he is telling the Israelites to make a conscious decision and to commit to it. Serving God in sincerity means that they were to give themselves over entirely to God and truly mean their service to Him. Serving God in truth meant that they were to do His will and only His will. Both of these commitments meant that the Israelites HAD to put away the idols that they had “served” in the land of Egypt. They could not serve both the idols and the one true God. Thus, Joshua’s statement about his personal commitment to God has even deeper meaning.

However, the passage does not end there and neither should our examination of it. Upon hearing Joshua’s very moving words, the Israelites acknowledge the providence of God and tell Joshua that they too would serve the Lord for He is their God. Joshua does something rather unexpected though…he tells them that they cannot serve God because God is holy. In other words, he justifiably insinuates that the Israelites would renege on their commitment to serve God. Why would Joshua take this approach?

After Joshua’s initial refusal, the Israelites become more adamant that they will be faithful, and so Joshua explains to them that they were essentially making a vow to serve the Lord and tells them that they were “witnesses against” themselves concerning this decision. He further explains that this commitment meant that they were to put away from among them the foreign gods and idols, then “incline” their “heart to the Lord God of Israel” (24:23). To this the Israelites reply, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” Joshua pushed the Israelites to do more than just say that they would serve God. He pushed them to understand what this commitment meant, he turned it into a covenant, and set up reminders of this covenant. Additionally, Joshua explained the consequences of going back on this commitment by telling them that God would “harm and consume” them (24:20).

Christians today should learn a lot from this passage; we need to serve God in sincerity and truth. This means that we are honestly serving Him and not simply wearing the name of Christian so that we can feel good about ourselves. It means that we are doing so in truth; His will, His way. This means that we are obeying God no matter what He commands us to do. Joshua told Israel to make a choice and to stick to it: if you are serving God, then SERVE GOD. If you are not serving God, then stop pretending to do so!

Often, Christians think that they can somehow “ride the fence” in order to make everyone happy, but is God pleased with such? Consider Revelation 3:15-17:

    I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
Jesus says that those that “ride the fence” believe that they are doing the right thing and that they are righteous, but do not realize that they are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Riding the fence does nothing to further the cause of Christ, nor will it save us in the day of Judgment. In fact, the verbiage that Jesus uses expresses a severe repulsion of those who would ride the fence…He says that He would vomit such from His mouth!

Christians today need to make the conscious decision to commit themselves fully to God in sincerity and truth. They need to make the choice to put away the world as Israel was to put away the idols. Don’t try to serve both because it cannot be done.

“…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”