Sometimes the hardest choice in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn. Consequently, we often waffle and stand still in the middle of the road.
If General Joshua were present today, he would say, “Stop waffling between two opinions. Because of God’s mercy, pledge your allegiance to serve God alone. Count the cost and mean what you say. But make a decision. Today!” That is the message Joshua delivered to the people of Israel in the last chapter of his book.
Nearing his death at the age of 110, Joshua gathered the people of Israel together at Shechem (Joshua 24:1). Shechem was a place where commitment and significant decisions were made. God promised the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:6) and Abraham responded by building an altar here (Genesis 12:8). Jacob buried the family idols at Shechem and recommitted himself to following God (Genesis 35:4). Joshua and Israel reconfirmed their commitment to the law at Shechem (Joshua 8:30-32).
Joshua encouraged Israel to remember the evidence of God’s mercy (24:2-13). Joshua mentioned four specific examples of God’s mercy and protection. He spoke of how God called Abraham out of idolatry, introduced him to the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants (2-4). God delivered Israel out of bondage and oppression in Egypt (5-7). God gave the Amorites into the hands of the Israelites. He turned the curses of Balak and Balaam into blessings (8-10). Lastly, Joshua explained that the Promised Land was not conquered by weapons, but by the power of God (11-13). Joshua’s emphasis was that we must recognize what God has done in order to appreciate the choice laid before us.
The overwhelming evidence of God’s grace placed Israel under obligation to serve the Lord exclusively. Just in case we might miss the point, Joshua uses the word “serve” seven times in verse 14-15. He presented a powerful, logical, and compelling argument. If this God, who acted as he did in space, time, and history for his people, calls for commitment, then commitment becomes the only logical and rational thing to do.
C.T. Studd, the famous English cricket player, gave away his vast wealth and became a missionary in 1885. His slogan was, “If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”
Joshua drew a line in the sand and challenged Israel to make a commitment. The people responded with wholehearted agreement (16-18). Joshua encouraged them to count the cost and to mean what they said (19-24).
Joshua established two witnesses for the commitments that were made that day (25-28). One was a written record of what took place. The second was a monument that would remind future generations. Both served to remind the people of what God had done.
The chapter and book close with three burials—Joshua, the bones of Joseph, and Eleazar, the high priest. All three demonstrate the joy of finishing well.
What are the gods that you have to choose between? What are the siren songs that call your name? Do you feel the pressure to cheat to stay competitive on the playing field, in the classroom, or in the boardroom? Do you find yourself sacrificing family events because of the demands of your career? Have you made your family into an idol and made pleasure and fulfillment the god you serve? Have you succumbed to the temptation to base your worth on possessions and material things?
Choose this day whom you will serve. Will you serve the gods of this world or the one who gave his life for you? Choose this day whom you will serve.
Joshua confronts us with the choice.
Joshua 24:14-15 – “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Whom will you serve?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 27, 2019. (It was scheduled for January 20, but we canceled our services due to snow and icy conditions.) It is part of a series of messages on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.