Joshua speaks his most famous words to the people of Israel today. These words adorn the walls of countless houses and hearts even today.
Joshua is making his farewell address to the people. He has called them all together one last time to charge them with keeping God’s word after his death. He already knows that some of them are failing in this at the time but he offers one last plea.
This is a most serious choice being presented before the people. They have been given this choice on several different occasions and they have always answered it correctly. BUT they haven’t lived out that choice all the time. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (verse 15b).
Joshua tells them plainly that they CAN choose to serve the same gods their fathers did in Egypt or the same gods the Amorites among them serve. “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord” (verse 15a), then you don’t have to serve Him.
“Consider carefully what I have shared with you. I have laid out the wonders the Lord has done for you, from the time He first called Abram out of the land of his father, until this very day. You have witnessed these wonders yourselves. You are standing today in a land that HE gave you and that HE fought for you to receive. He drove the inhabitants out of it ahead of you. YOU didn’t fight these battles in your own strength. ALL these things you know and have witnessed. But you still have a choice to make. It’s time to choose who you will serve.
There are two choices. You can serve the gods of the past and those of the people around you today OR you can serve the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Weigh carefully your choice. If you don’t want to serve the Lord, He will not make you. YOU have to make this choice.
‘But as for me and MY house, we will serve the LORD’ (verse 15c). The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The One who has brought us out of slavery and into His Promised Land.”
The people jump right in with their answer. They are on board with serving the Lord! They repeat back an even quicker synopsis of God’s blessings along the way as proof they recognize His hand in their lives. “Far be it from us that we would forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (verse 16b).
Did they take time to think about their answer or were they so used to being “Yes men” that they gave the answer they felt was expected? Did they examine the way they were currently living before rendering their answer? Did they consider the cost of their decision?
Joshua’s answer leads me to believe they were saying what they thought they were supposed to say without considering the cost. Following God is NOT easy. It costs you everything. It costs everything the world would offer in His place. There is no half way with Him. You either hold onto what the world is offering or hold onto God’s hand. You CANNOT do both.
“God is HOLY. God is a JEALOUS God. He will NOT forgive your transgressions or your sin WHEN YOU DO NOT REPENT AND TURN AWAY FROM THEM. If you leave Him to serve other gods He will turn away from you too and take His blessings with Him. He will NOT share your heart with another. Not because He is an angry child who can’t play well with others but because YOU stepped out from under His protection of your own free will. He has NO right to ‘interfere’ with your life when YOU snatch it out of His hands. You will reap what YOU have sown. The gods of this world have no power to save. All they can do is destroy and they WILL destroy you because ‘YOU are not able to serve the Lord’ (verse 19a).”
Imagine being told that you couldn’t serve God. Would it be a knee jerk reaction where you try and prove your obedience and readiness? Would these words cause you to pause and examine your heart for the truth in them? Would they strengthen your resolve? How would you react?
Knowing myself, I would probably go with “Just Watch Me!” I have a tendency to fly in the face of opposition, or at least I did when I was younger. MANY times when I was told I couldn’t do something because of some physical barrier and I would do everything I could to prove them wrong. Saying “you can’t” to me was like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull.
Joshua wasn’t waving a flag though. He was telling the people that they couldn’t do it alone. They needed God’s help to do this task. They needed to go to Him daily and with honest hearts for them to succeed. It wasn’t a “willpower” problem but a relationship issue.
The people’s response was simply to say “but we will do it!” No question about what Joshua meant. No consideration of what they needed to help them with this task. Just a “Yes we can!”
What Joshua comes back with should have knocked the wind right out of their sails. “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel” (verse 23a). For Joshua to say this it had to be happening at the time. It wasn’t a futuristic prediction or a comment on their past. It was a statement of fact about the “here and now” they were living in.
THEY STILL DIDN’T GET IT! They didn’t say, “Wait while we go gather them so we can burn them.” They didn’t ask for mercy while they repented. They just barreled ahead with their answer; “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey” (verse 24b).
Joshua stopped pushing at that point. He left them to make their own statement true. He called for everyone, including a rock, to be a witness to their promise. He also wrote their promise into the books. He confirmed the statutes Moses had given them and told the people plainly that they had to live by them. No more excuses. It’s time to do all you have promised.
I wonder if the people went through their houses when they got home and took all the idols out. Did they “clean out their closets”? Did they quietly get rid of anything they “found” that would be displeasing to God or did they have a “block burning” party where all the neighbors came together to reaffirm their promise? Did their promise become a private pledge or a public decree?
Personally I believe EVERY promise like this has to begin as a private pledge. It takes each individual committing to the same thing before it can become a large scale movement. God requires each of us give Him our hearts individually. After that, we can bind together as one body in Him. Then we can covenant together as a group or even as a nation to follow Him but it all starts with the individual relationship. Where is Your heart? What idols hide there? Where is mine? What idols hide here?
Holy Spirit, search my heart. Find any ‘idols’ hiding there and GET THEM OUT! Burn them to the ground!!! I want nothing standing between me and my Father.
Forgive me Father God for allowing other things to creep into my heart. Help me clean it again so I can offer You a TRUE promise. As for me and my house, we will serve You Lord! Help me live up to that promise every day.
Lord Jesus, thank You for making our relationship possible and personal. There was so much separation between You and the people in Joshua’s day. I’m grateful I live on this side of the promise! I love being able to come directly to You instead of having to seek someone else out to stand in between. I LOVE sitting down and listening to Your stories! Keep me coming back for more! Keep me hungry for Your presence in my life. Not because my hunger goes unsatisfied but because it is the SWEETEST thing I could ever hope to have and want to have more of it EVERY DAY! Better than ANY ice cream!!!