Joshua 24: Choose for yourselves

So, I’ve come to the end of my journey through Joshua. And, as is fitting with any good message, I am compelled to make a choice. In what is quite probably the single most familiar verse in the book, Joshua confronted the people with the word of the Lord and bid them, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” It was a simple challenge, but through all the rest of the book, Joshua took great care to present the full gravity of what this choice would mean for Israel and for us. And there are three things about it that jump out at me.

The first is the record that Joshua presents. More specifically, God’s record that Joshua presents. Starting in verse two and running up through verse thirteen, Joshua laid out a very brief synopsis of all the things that God had done on Israel’s behalf. From choosing Abraham and making his descendants numerous, to delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt under Moses, to providing victory after victory over the peoples living in the promise land, Joshua presented the record of a god who was far more than the lifeless, powerless, graven images which Abraham’s ancestors and all the people of Canaan had worshiped. Indeed, the God that Joshua spoke of demonstrated time and again that He was the One and Only, the Living God, the I Am. So the choice that Joshua presented wasn’t between any number of co-equal gods. It was between all those other so-called gods who had done absolutely nothing for all who worshiped them, let alone Israel, and the one true God who had worked astounding wonders. And the choice is still the same today. We can choose to give any number of things the place of worship in our lives, but only one is actually real, living, breathing, almighty, and more. And make no mistake, we must choose.

The second thing that jumps out at me is the response of the people. When confronted with God’s record – much of which they had seen firsthand – and challenged to choose, the Israelites were quick to pick the one true God. But then again, who wouldn’t? I mean, even in today’s culture, according to Wikipedia, 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. And who doesn’t rise when they sing “God Bless America”? Why do we do these things? Because by and large, we recognize that God is real. He has shown Himself real in our history. And so it’s a no-brainer that people would claim to be Christians and say that they want to follow God. We instinctively, automatically want to worship something real, and so even huge numbers of us automatically say we’ll worship God because we know that He did something in our lives or even in the lives of our ancestors.

And the third thing that jumps out at me tonight is the fact that Joshua pushed back on the peoples’ snap decision. You see, Joshua wanted them to know that it wasn’t enough to just say that you’re going to worship the Lord. It’s not enough to say you’re going to serve one and only real God of heaven and earth. Why? Because, as Joshua points out, He’s holy. And jealous. And if, at any time, we decide to turn our backs on Him, we will invite His wrath. And for a people who had seen what the wrath of God could do – after all, that is why they inherited the promise land from the Canaanites – this was no small thing! And for a people who had seen the magnitude of God’s holiness when when Achan stole the wedge of gold and a robe, this was no trivial matter! Joshua pushed back because he needed the Israelites to understand the true gravity of the decision that they were making this day. If they were going to serve the Lord, it was going to have to affect every aspect of who they were and what they did for the rest of their lives, the rest of their children’s lives, and the rest of every generation to follow, ever. This was a huge decision! It was certainly not something that they should take lightly. And it is no less so now.

Indeed, the entire book of Joshua boils down to this chapter. God has done amazing things in the midst of His people, whether the ancient Jews or modern Christians. God is still doing amazing things in our midst, even now. We must still choose whether we will serve the God that does wonders, or something else that most certainly does not. And we must still make our decision not just as a knee-jerk reaction, but as a permanent, life-changing resolve.

So, truly, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

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