Decisions, people who get paid to do odd studies have estimated that the average person makes upward to 100,000 decisions a day. Some are pretty innocuous like what color socks should I wear and which foot should I sock first. Others are critical – should I hit my brakes before I hit that car head-on? Decisions, we all make them and how we decide will often make us.
For fifty years Joshua led his people in their conquest and settling of the Promise Land. Now Canaan was quiet, the Israelites established, and Joshua knew his time with them was coming to a close. Can there be any doubt that this man loved his people. He came out of Egypt with many of them, saw God open the Red Sea and cover Mt. Sinai with the smoke of His glorious presence. Joshua led in battle from Rephidim to Hazor. He ate manna and drank water flowing from a rock with them. He listened to their whining and encouraged them when their course became dangerous and hard, and the future uncertain. He was there when they crossed a flooding Jordan and guided them when the battles were over and the land was divided. Those were all memories, good memories, recollections of God’s providence, power and provision. And now it was time for him to go. His days of battles and leading were over. All that was left was to say goodbye. He would do this with one final challenge, a challenge to decide.
In what might be the most familiar and often quoted passages from his book, Joshua said, “choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” (v.15) Before diving into the challenge of this verse take a moment and read the chapter in which it is found. It is always best to keep Bible verses in their setting so that application to our day can be viable.
The broader context of Joshua’s challenge to choose must take in the opening verses of the chapter. Here Joshua walked his people through their history starting all the way back with Abraham. More than to show them who they are, the aging leader told them who the Lord was and all that God did from beginning to the present. He wanted Israel to turn their eyes to the acts of God and in so doing to see Him. Twenty-one times in the first thirteen verses Joshua recounts what God did for them; “I (God) sent…I brought…I handed”.
Then Joshua told them what they should do, “Therefore, fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship Yahweh.” (v.14) Is it not reasonable to think that considering all God did for them they should, at the very least, do this for God? What kind of an ungrateful lot would they be if they did any less? God called them to be His, delivered them from slavery, provided for their journey home, gave them a way to walk with Him, annihilated their enemies, and gave them peace. To this Joshua said, “Therefore”. In other words, “Because of all this here is what you should do.”
God has never been one who desired forced, coerced allegiance or worship. His is a heart that says choose. He shows that heart in Joshua’s challenge. “Choose today who you will serve,” he says.
Before he said, “choose this day” Joshua offered this thought, “But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh…” The words “doesn’t please” comes from a Hebrew word that can also be translated noxious, evil, wicked or harmful. Is he really saying, “If the thought of following the Lord makes you sick or sounds evil”? Yes he is. In spite of all God did for them was this attitude possible? Yes it was. Then Joshua gave them some options like serving pagan, false gods from their past, “beyond the Euphrates,” or present, “gods of the Amorites.” The choice was theirs.
For Joshua there was no choice. After reminiscing about all that God did and was doing, there was no doubt what he would do; and it didn’t matter if anyone stood with him. He boldly, unashamedly declared, “As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.” How could he do any different? He was a man who showed his reverence and expressed his gratitude to God. He was a man who remembered all that God did and the one thing He desired, to “fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth.”
It’s a good exercise to walk back through your memory, recalling all that God has done in your life from your earliest memories to today. See His activities that led you to His Son and your Savior and Lord, to Jesus. Recall how the Lord called you to be His, led you out of the slavery of sin, and His continual provision for your journey on the narrow road. Hear the promise that He is bringing you home. Listen to His words of invitation and love as Jesus calls you to “come unto Me.” See His act of love as He dies on a cross.
What is your reasonable response? Should it not be to “fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth and get rid of the gods”? But the question only you can answer and one that you must face is, “How have I responded?” As you ponder your answer hear again Joshua and a myriad of Joshua’s since that day, men and women who were willing to stand alone regardless of what it would cost them and knowing it would cost them dearly, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Now how will you answer? Now who will you choose?