I love the story of Joshua! His is a story of power and courage and strength and faithfulness! He certainly lived a passionate life and was faithful until the end. He stood in the face of incredible opposition, incredible odds, and through simple faith in our great God and through the Spirit, he overcame them all. God worked through him to lead the children of Israel to their promised land.
Joshua wrote this book sometime before 1000 B.C. He obviously wrote the book looking back on the events that took place so that we would have a record of what the Lord did! Courage is a theme all throughout the book…in chapter 1, he tells us that when the Lord spoke to him and called him He told him to “be strong and courageous!” Right off the bat in chapter 1 verse 6. Then in verse 7 it says the Lord told him to “be strong and VERY courageous.” Then again in verse 9 again He tells him to “be strong and courageous.” It is definitely a theme throughout the entire book and Joshua lives up to the calling and direction of the Lord from that first chapter!
What I want to focus on today is found in Joshua 24. Joshua gathers all of the people of Israel together to give his last big message and word from the Lord. All of Israel is present including the elders, leaders, judges, and officials…this is a big, important gathering. Then Joshua begins to speak from the Lord and walks them through their history and all that God had done for them. He talks of the battles, the obstacles, the enemies they overcame, the deliverances by the Lord from the Egyptians, the walls of Jericho coming down…he walks them through all of this. Then he says to them these powerful words found in verse 14, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” Then he says something very strange…listen to this…he says, “But 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.” He is putting before them an incredible choice. It is the choice to follow and serve God or follow and serve the false gods of those around them. I love verbs in Scripture because they are directives that I can follow…here he says “choose” meaning “you choose.” Not let the Lord decide for you, but you make the decision! Powerful principle here!!
Did you know that you and I have the exact same choice today? Did you know that each and every day…really each and every second, you and I have a choice to make. We can choose to serve the Lord and Him only – or we can choose to serve any number of other gods. Today, our temptation isn’t to serve other “gods” in the form of false gods or idols, say, of other people groups. But our “gods” are definitely “gods” nonetheless. We serve the god of the culture, the god of money, success, political correctness, popularity…are any of these hitting home yet, i’ll keep going…relationships, not offending anyone, pressure to fit in, etc. These are all “gods” that you and I choose to serve on a daily, hourly, moment by moment basis.
You see, we are all faced with a decision. It really is that simple. I hear people talking a lot, especially lately, about our culture and how muddy things have gotten as it relates to the church, the world, serving the Lord, loving our neighbor, standing for truth, not offending people, etc. But I think it is actually very clear…choose you this day whom you will serve. Joshua summed it up so succinctly.
I don’t really like categories and labels and schools-of-thought mentalities, but I think, over the years, one of the reasons I have resisted Calvinism and gravitated toward Arminianism is for this one factor…the choice, as it appears in the Word of God…is yours. You get to choose. People try to over-spiritualize this and place a meaning or theological/philosophical understanding of this principle and define it from God’s perspective for us, when God’s Word was written for our perspective and understanding. We can definitely seek to understand things from God’s perspective, but none of us can even come close to understanding even remotely from God’s perspective so why not just simply, as the Word says, come to Him with a child-like faith and understand that each and every day we have a choice to make. It’s sort of like if we all jumped in the ocean to swim to England some of us would swim farther then the rest of us, but ain’t none of us making it. Some, who are blessed with extra sharp minds and IQs might understand it a little more then the rest of us, but ain’t none of us going to understand it.
Take going to lunch for example. When I wake up in the morning I’m not sure what I am going to do for lunch…Did you catch what I said there…I’m saying that even I don’t know what I am doing for lunch and I am the one that will make the decision. That is the incredible miracle of free will. I get to choose. So around 11:00 I start to make plans…maybe call a friend and see what’s happening, then I decide what I am going to do. Does God already know what I am going to do? Yes. Did he know from the foundations of the world what I am going to do? Yes. Does he care? About lunch? I guess He does. But, I can’t really understand all of that and put it into words that could convey the miracle that happens when I think I am making a free choice but it is under the sovereignty or our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God! Well…the same is true for “whom you will serve.” It’s your choice (if you want to add as far as you know to that, I would allow that, but let’s just suffice it to say that is the mystery of the sovereignty of God in creating us with a free will under His sovereignty…something that we will never be able to comprehend until we “know even as we are fully known.”)
Now back to the story of Joshua…after asking this powerful question to the people of Israel, Joshua then declares before them, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” I have to ask you this: were some of the people offended at such a strong and dogmatic statement? Didn’t seem to bother Joshua. Were some of the people not ready to hear that or be asked that? Didn’t seem to bother Joshua. Were some people angry that Joshua would draw such a strong line in the sand and force them to have to make a decision that day about this weighty matter? I mean, what is this meeting all about anyway? Didn’t seem to bother Joshua. Funny, I don’t hear much talk like that today. In fact, just watch some old Billy Graham crusades and you will be taken aback at how direct and forward he is compared to today. Today, we seem to be caring A LOT about what people think…what their feelings on the matter are, what mood they might be in or what political stripe they represent. When I read the Word, only one things matters…choose. Jesus made this proposition often! He had people walk away from Him not choosing Him! Whoa! I think one of our problems today is that we have made “sharing” our faith about US sharing and trying to convince people that if they like us and think we are cool then they will like Jesus and think He is cool. That is borderline heretical thinking (I might even should take out the word “borderline” there). It places the power of the gospel on our shoulders and personality instead of relying on the Holy Spirit and what foundations He has already laid in a persons life that we know nothing about! I’m sure you have experienced this before as well, but I have known people who get saved and in my own strength…in my own power, I wouldn’t have even wasted my time or breath telling them about the Lord because in my own thinking, there wasn’t a chance in all of creation that they would have responded to the gospel, but I have no idea what the Lord is doing in someone’s life…that’s not my job.
So, what about you? On this day, today, who will you serve? The eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is sovereign over all things, loving, merciful, gracious, generous, and all powerful? Or will you choose to serve the gods of this world…the choice, as we have seen today, is yours.
“Lord, make me a fork in the road so that when people come in contact with me, they will have to make a decision about you.” ~ Jim Elliot