Joshua, the author of our scripture
reading, offers us a challenge this morning just as he offered
all the tribes of Israel many years ago. Hear Joshua's words
again as found in verse 15 of our scripture reading: "If
serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then 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."
Joshua the successor to Moses asked
"all the tribes of Israel" to gather a Shechem. He gathered
them all together because he had something important to tell
them. So all the elders, chiefs, judges and officers gathered
at Shechem presented themselves before God and Joshua.
Joshua then begins his speech if you
will, with, "This is what God, the God of Israel says." This
statement is important because it means that what Joshua is
about to say isn't coming from Joshua, but from God.
Essentially through Joshua God is reminding the people of
Israel all that God has done for them. God reminds the
Israelites that their ancestors had worshipped other gods,
before he called Abraham to follow and obey. He reminded them
of the land of Canaan he gave them and how he multiplied
Abraham's descendents as he had promised.
And God reminded them of how he sent
Moses and Aaron to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt to
the edge of the Red Sea, and then provided protection as they
moved to safety on the other side of the sea.
Joshua continues to remind the
Israelite leaders of all that God has done for them and then
gets to the heart of the matter in verse 14. Therefore "fear
the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the
gods of your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in
Egypt, and serve the Lord."
Joshua is telling the leadership look
because of what God has done for us we are being asked to give
our full allegiance to God and it's time we either fish or cut
bait. No more fooling around, no more walking the fence about
where we place our trust and hope.
Also notice the choice given isn't to
serve the Lord God or no God at all; it's serve the Lord God
or the gods of their ancestors. This in effect is why the
gathering was called. It was now time to renew their covenant
You see most of the people who
initially made the covenant with God were now dead. Son's,
daughters and grandchildren had now assumed the
responsibilities of leadership and the covenant, so it was
time to renew and recommit to the covenant made long ago.
In our service of commissioning of
both our VBS staff and our Work Camp team just a few minutes
ago we reaffirmed our faith in Jesus Christ and our commitment
to serve in his name. When we experience commissioning
services, sacrament of baptism, and the service receiving new
members we too reaffirm our faith.
This is why these acts of worship and
others like them take place in a public worship setting, so we
as well as those directly affected by the acts of worship, are
given the opportunity to recommit to our covenant to serve
So, God through Joshua puts forth the
challenge, and it was time for a decision to be made. And
Joshua led the way by saying "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
And people responded to the challenge.
They recognized it was the Lord, and
not the gods of their ancestors or the Amorite gods, who had
delivered them from persecution and who had protected them for
many years. So they responded, "Far be it from us to forsake
the Lord to serve other Gods!" "We will also serve the Lord."
Now I would imagine most people might
think that Joshua would be pleased by the decision the
Israelites made. But listen to Joshua's words in verse 19
which was not part of our scripture reading this morning. "You
cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous
God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins."
You see Joshua knew how easy it was to
get caught up in the high emotions of the moment. He knew that
a commitment made on emotions and nothing more is not likely
to survive the tests that come to all of us.
How many of us have gotten all pumped
up and newly committed to a new diet, a new way of living, a
new activity, something that at the moment put us on an
emotional high, only to see our commitment dwindle as our
emotions returned to normal.
This was Joshua's concern, so he had
to make sure the people really meant what they were saying. So
he warned them that if they began to follow God, and then
turned away from God, God would consume them even though he
had treated them well in the past.
We need to be reminded of Jesus words
in Luke 9:62, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks
back is fit for the kingdom of God." This means once our hand
is on the plow, we must till a straight row. In other words,
once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and begin to
follow him, we can't veer off the path; we can't turn back to
our old ways.
This point is certainly something we
need to be reminded of today as well. Most of us find it
pretty easy to make promises to God when are emotions are
running wild, "God if you will just, fill in the blank, I will
do such and such."
But many of these promises will
certainly be dismissed and cast aside along our life's journey
unless our promises come from a sincere and committed heart.
Joshua had to make sure his people understood the seriousness
of the promise they were making to God.
Now in the end the Israelites assured
Joshua they were serious about their promise and they were
committed to following through with the promise they made, and
they took an oath that they would be true to their pledge. So
Joshua made a covenant with them that day.
Now when Joshua said to the people,
"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve," he
packed three very important ideas into these nine words.
First Joshua said "choose." Our life
demands that a decision be made. Regrettably some of us just
kind of go with the flow through life allowing others to make
decisions for us. We simply go with the flow as we move into
or out of a vocation or job, flow into or out of
relationships, or flow into or out of the church. But Joshua
points out the importance and the responsibility for making
our own decisions.
Second Joshua said "choose this day."
Now there are times when it is very appropriate to delay a
decision allowing time for reflection and so forth. I know I
have experienced the mistake of making a decision too quickly.
Nevertheless there comes a time when a
decision must be made or it's too late. Opportunities can pass
us by, or we get stymied by analyzing a situation for too
long, or we get stuck in the rut of cutting bait because we're
not sure if it's the best time to fish yet.
Joshua was convinced that his people
were at that point. They had promised long ago to follow God,
and only God, yet many of them were still worshipping idols.
We see this today don't we?
There are many folks that have
committed their lives to following God only to continue to
worship the idols of this world: cars, houses, jobs, movie
stars, sports figures, and so forth.
Well as far as Joshua was concerned it
was time. It was time for the Israelites to make a firm
commitment one way or the other. "How long will you waver
between two opinions?" Elijah asked the people of his day. "If
the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."
(1 Kings 18:21). And this is exactly what Joshua was saying,
choose whom you will follow, choose whom you will serve, the
idols or the Lord God.
Third, Joshua said, "Choose this day
whom you will serve." Now no decision we make in this lifetime
is more important than this one. Most people today are not
tempted to worship idols, yet we are tempted to make gods out
of the things of this world. Meaning we allow "things" and
"other people's opinions" to control us, our decisions, and
the path we ultimately decide to follow. But it's time we set
aside all these distractions and make our own decision.
Jesus offers this guidance from the
Gospel of Matthew (6:24), "No one can serve two masters.
Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be
devoted to one and despise the other."
Yet isn't it true we try very hard to
serve two masters. Sure we want to serve the church and Jesus
but we also want to serve ourselves. We want it both ways; we
want it all and we want to do it all.
But Joshua reminds us, even as Jesus
Christ himself did, that we must "choose this day whom we will
serve." Will it be the false gods and temptations of this
world, or the Lord God?
- Who is the giver of life and
- Who is the redeemer who sacrificed
his Son so that our sins might be forgiven,
- Who is the sustainer who through
the Holy Spirit walks with us and guides us,
- And who is our Savior who through
the resurrection of Jesus offers us eternal life!
So choose this day whom you will
serve; "As for me and my household we will serve the Lord."
The following resources were used in
part, or for inspiration in preparing this sermon: Ham, Howard
M. and Brady B. Whitehead. Favorite Bible Passages, Volume 1.
Nashville:Abingdon Press, 1989
Read other messages by Pastor Wade