“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 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. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV).
Who will we serve? Will we follow God or will we serve something, anything else? This is a question that people have had to face since time began and one that all people will continue to be challenged with. Even though many, or even most, in our society don’t want to make a choice, that in itself is a choice. “You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God” (James 4:4 CSV).
As Joshua spoke one last time with the leaders of Israel he challenged them with this choice: Who were they going to serve? God had brought them out of Egyptian slavery, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The land was now theirs. They had homes and a life of their own. But would they stay faithful to God? If not, they needed to choose who they would serve.
This is the same choice that we must make. Paul expressed it this way: “Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). It is either sin or obedience. It is one or the other – there is no third option. So what will our choice be?
Notice the choice that Joshua had already made: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” To Joshua there really was only one choice he could make. God had freed them from slavery, taken care of them, provided everything for them that they needed. God had kept his promises. They were now a free people in their own land. Was there really any other choice that they could rationally make but to serve God?
Christians, too, have been set free from slavery – slavery to sin. We have been set free to serve a new master. “But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the outcome is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).
Notice that we are still slaves, but we are now slaves of a better master with a better reward. When we were slaves of sin we got paid what we earned: death. Now that we have a new master we receive a gift: eternal life in Jesus. We produce fruit which results in our being made holy for God.
That day Israel chose to serve the Lord – although it only lasted for a while. “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31 NIV). As long as they served God, they received great blessings. When they forsook God, their life was difficult.
What will our choice be? Will we serve God throughout our life so that we can receive God’s gift of eternal life? Or will we earn the wages of death that sin gives us? May we make the choice that Joshua made: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”
Readings for next week:
26-30 June – Free week to catch up if you are behind. If you want to read ahead, we will begin Matthew in July