“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.”
What’s it like to live in a relationship where one party is committed but not the other? Many (if not most) of us have experienced that, at some point; it’s sad, to say the least, and even worse when the commitment is intended to last a lifetime. But it happens in our world. And it happens all the time to God. He’s always faithful, but sometimes...we’re not. If we don’t commit ourselves to him—our ways, our hearts, our strength—we miss out on the blessings he longs to give us. Fidelity of our hearts and minds to God is essential to an intimacy he develops to transform us and give us the life we want and desperately need. It's a life filled with his power and provision.
The last chapter of the book of Joshua concludes with Joshua’s death. He’s meeting with the people of Israel at Shechem. It’s his farewell speech, and he wants to leave the people with a choice. It's a chance to be blessed by the same God that brought them out of Egypt and gave them the land promised to their father, Abraham. The choice they face is whether they will worship false gods or serve the God who was faithful to them. Joshua offers them the choice to commit.
Joshua is spelling it out for them. Everyone serves something. If they don’t want to serve the Lord— if that’s undesirable, hard, boring, limiting, or however they excuse it—then pick a different god. They have several options. They could pick the gods of Babylon or the gods of the Amorites, or maybe the gods of Egypt he mentioned in the previous verse (v. 14). The Amorites worshipped Molech and had cultic sex with prostitutes. If the people of Israel wanted illicit sex, maybe they wanted to try the gods of the Amorites. But then again, Molech demanded infant sacrifice. If they wanted gods who let them do whatever they wanted—and a lot of people in our world want that kind of god, one who lets them do anything they feel like—then maybe they wanted to try the morally permissive gods of Egypt. But then again, the true God of Israel proved them to be powerless. Or maybe they wanted the gods of their ancestors beyond the Euphrates (i.e., Babylon). The Babylonians had thousands of gods, one to satisfy every desire. But then again, these are the gods Abraham left behind in pursuit of God's promise. Or, Joshua says, reject all of these and serve the one true God—the one who rescued you and blessed you. The Lord our God is One (Deut. 6:4). He’s powerful, and he’s holy. Joshua lets them know that's his (and his family's) choice.
We're a lot like the people of Israel, and we face the same choice: A choice to trust God or not. In the end, we all choose something. We don’t call sex, moral permissiveness, or a thousand-different urges by the names of ancient gods, but we elevate them above the true God. When we do, we make them the object of our worship and desire. Competing cultural values are the gods of our time. Sex, choice (do-whatever-you-feel-like), unbridled consumerism—these are the gods of our time. They're not so different from the options Israel faced. Either choose those things or choose the Lord. In the end, your commitment is solitary; your heart can’t be divided. You can only serve one master (Matt 6:24). The gods you choose will control how you live. They will modify your priorities, play on your affections, demand your obedience. By default, culture will choose a god for you.
Or, you can choose the source of life, love, and power. The God who rescued Israel from captivity and handed them thirty-one unlikely victories in Canaan in fulfillment of his covenant with Abraham is the same God who has committed to you. That same God wants to prove his love for you and lead you to the life he planned for you. The question is not whether he is committed to you; he has made a new covenant with all who rest in the completed work of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20). The question is whether you will commit to him. In comparison, the world's options seem shallow. They demand our time and hearts but deliver nothing that truly satisfies.
Any commitment starts with a vow. A vow is a point in time when you’re all-in. Are you all-in for Jesus? In Shechem, in response to Joshua's challenge, the people of Israel took a vow: they’re all-in (Josh 24:21-25). I want to challenge you to consider, as the Lord leads, if this isn’t a time to take a vow. To be all-in. To make a decision to give up affections that divide your heart. To commit your heart and mind to the one who loves you. To draw close to him and walk with him. Thousands of years from that scene in Joshua 24, the one true God reveals his love and speaks his commitment to you this very day. He will lead you to a place of joy and power in your life.