Joshua 24:14-15 Choose for Yourselves

Joshua 24:14-15         Choose for Yourselves                                               WC McCarter
In chapter seven of The Story we read about Joshua leading the next generation of Israelites into the land that was promised to Abraham many years earlier. Joshua is an interesting character. I have always loved this man because of what we find out about him in his early years and what we learn about him in his later years. This was a faithful man. This was a godly man. From very early on, Joshua is Moses’ trusted assistant. When Moses went up on the mountain to speak with God and receive the ten commandments, Joshua went with him. When Moses would speak with God face to face in the tent of meeting, Joshua was there and would actually remain even after Moses left to return to camp. Joshua was faithful and devoted to his God. When the time came for Moses to die, there was an obvious replacement ready to step into the leadership role, Joshua.
In order to fulfill the promise, the Lord led the armies of Israel to rid the land of the Canaanite people. He used Joshua as his commander. We read about many cities being destroyed by the Israelites forces, some more miraculously than others. The first city to be attacked was Jericho, and it was taken in an extraordinary fashion. Rahab was saved from the destruction of that city. Unfortunately, a man named Achan disobeys the word of the Lord and takes for himself some of the plunder of Jericho. When the Israelites go to take the next city, Ai, they are unsuccessful. The Lord was not with them because of the sin of Achan. Capital punishment is carried out upon the man, and when they attack Ai the second time, they win. After this, many cities gather together to fight against Israel, but ultimately Israel is victorious on every occasion.
By the end of Joshua’s life, all of the major Canaanite centers belonged to Israel. The people remained faithful during his entire life. The leaders divide the land up among the tribes so that they can finally settle into the rest that God had promised. At the end of Joshua’s life, he leads the people in a recommitment to the covenant. He was truly a military and spiritual leader. He was certainly a warrior and a worshiper. In his farewell speech, he urges the people to recommit themselves to the covenant. He calls their attention back to their history from the time of Abraham to the Exodus event and from the wandering in the desert to the conquering of the land. Our main passage today is part of that farewell speech. Joshua calls the people to single-minded devotion of Yahweh. They are to utterly reject the idols of their ancestors and of the pagans that had lived in the land of Canaan.
Life is made up of crucial stages, isn’t it? A nation’s history is comprised of critical points. The heritage of a family is marked by key moments in time. Every once in a while you, or a nation, or a family is challenged to make a decision about which route you will take. Before GPS came along, did you ever find yourself lost in an unfamiliar town and you just had to make a choice between turning left or right? Life is like that, but thankfully we can make informed decisions on most of life’s major issues. When Joshua came to the end of his life, the history of the people had come to a defining moment. They had served God all the years of Joshua’s time in leadership, but as that era comes to a close, how will they respond? What choice will they make?
Scripture Reading (p. 101) – This is the Word of God
Fear and Serve
Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.
A person cannot fear God and worship other gods. To fear the Lord is to know that you must be single-mindedly devoted to Him. It is to submit to the whole of His revealed word. If I counted correctly, between v. 14 and v. 24, the word “serve” is used fourteen times. The fear of the Lord is the reason that one would serve Him. Joshua calls on the people to serve the Lord “with all faithfulness” which is to say with unreserved obedience to Him.
This phrase calls us back to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
Throw Away and Serve
Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
Since you cannot fear Yahweh and continue to worship false gods, the idols must be thrown away. It is amazing to think that this gross sin that violated the first commandment was not challenged until the end of Joshua’s life. How could the people have been worshiping idols after all that they had seen and experienced the Lord do for them? We know that the end of the book of Joshua says that the people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua, but they must have still have the idols of previous generations packed in their suitcases.
The Ultimatum
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
The Israelites have four choices: they can worship the old gods of Terah (beyond the Euphrates) or the old gods of Egypt; they can worship the new gods of Canaan (of the Amorites); or they can remain faithful Yahweh.
The Scripture calls for undivided loyalty to Yahweh. Neutrality was not an option. We know what Christ said to the church in Laodicea, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
“Choose for yourselves” was not a statement intended to encourage idolatry. Joshua was positive that the Israelites would be so taken back with the idea of worshiping an idol that they would take a strong stand against idolatry and make a whole-hearted commitment to God. How can we hear of this type of single-minded devotion and not think of the words of Christ? He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Likewise, you cannot serve both God and idols. You cannot serve both God and the things of this world.
The Ultimate Declaration
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Based on Joshua’s statement, this appeal was not made to only individuals, but entire households. Joshua’s words point us to the statement of Peter in the New Testament. Like Joshua, Jesus had asked His disciples if they would want to desert Him. Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) What in your life do you need to throw away? Notice that the people were still carrying idols that their parents and grandparents had handed down to them from the time of Abraham and the period in Egypt. They were still carrying a lot of sinful baggage. What kind of baggage are you carrying that you need to bury? It makes me think of what the writer of Hebrews said, “. . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. . . .
2) Maybe we can draw a comparison between the Israelites going into the promised land and our entrance in the kingdom of God. The people had entered the land; they had received the promise, but they still had an option of turning from the Lord or remaining faithful to Him. Likewise, you have entered the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ, but let me tell you that you still have the option of turning your back or remaining faithful to Him. The Christian life is not lived just inside the gate. We are to enter the gate of grace through faith and then continue to follow the path that is laid before us. The Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” There is a gate to enter, and there is a road to follow.
3) The question that has been on my heart for a long while now has been where are all of the Joshua’s? Where are the men and women who are completely devoted to God? Where are the men and women who will step forward as Joshua did to serve God’s purposes? What the American church lacks today is commitment. No one is willing to volunteer. No one is willing to make a commitment. I suppose it is because something better may come along. Our thoughts are, “Do not box yourself in, there may be something else that comes up” or “I’ll wait until the last minute to make a decision, and I’ll do it if I have nothing better to do.” That is not commitment to God or the things of God. That is selfishness and greed. That is sad. We need some Joshua’s in our churches who are single-mindedly devoted to God and are willing to step forward whenever the opportunity arises.
4) On a day like Memorial Day, when we think of all those who made commitments and honored them unto death, we should stop to consider ourselves. What great men and women have made sacrifices for their country! The same should be true and much more of Christians. We should be making even greater sacrifices for the church and Christ. You would be quick to pledge allegiance to the flag, but how quick are you to pledge allegiance to Christ?
*We know that the people responded to Joshua’s challenge by saying explicitly,
            “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”