by: Gary L. Hutchens
We all make choices everyday. Many of them are rather routine, not terribly significant. What will I wear today? What do I want for lunch? But some choices can have life-changing effects. Marriage. Buy a home. A job change. A decision to change locations. After leading the people of Israel into the promised land, and then through battle after battle to secure the land, Joshua called upon the people to make the most important decision of their lives: “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Josh. 24:15).
Joshua instructed the Israelites that to choose to serve God would have to be a choice made with absolute sincerity. “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth…” (Josh. 24:14). We cannot give God lip service. John the apostle wrote, “…let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn. 3:18). As Jesus said, we must love God all of our heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37).
It is easy to make a verbal commitment, even to feel sincere as we make it. However, actions must back up our words. Joshua called upon the people to put away the idols that their fathers had served (Josh. 24:14-15). It’s stunning to realize that, even after forty years in the wilderness and having been blessed by God with victory after victory in possessing the land, they were still mixing idol worship with their worship to God. If they were going to choose to serve God they must purposefully get rid of all of their idols. Anybody who chooses to walk with God in faithfulness must make up their mind to lay aside anything that might hinder them from in that commitment (Heb. 12:1-2).
The people acknowledged that God brought them and their fathers out of the bondage they were under in Egypt, showed them great signs and sustained them in the wilderness, and it was God Who gave them victory over their enemies. They chose, therefore, to commitment themselves to serve God alone: “We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” (Josh. 24:16-18).
Joshua warned the people that they must follow through on the commitment they were making. They could not go back to their idols, or God would punish them severely. They could not just talk the talk, they would have to walk the walk. They affirmed their choice: “No, but we will serve the LORD!” (Josh. 24:19-21).
Joshua then told the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” They responded, “We are witnesses!” (Josh. 24:22).
On that basis Joshua instructed them to put away the idols that were among them and turn their hearts “to the LORD God of Israel.” (Josh. 24:23). They declared once again, “The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” (Josh. 24:24).
The people of Israel chose, emphatically, to serve God. For awhile they remained true to their choice. But after awhile they slipped away, and God punished them just as Joshua had warned that He would. You need to choose whom you will serve. Make up your mind. Stop giving God lip service. Choose, and stay true to your choice…
Gary L. Hutchens