And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
This week we have come to the end of the book of Joshua and have read what is probably the most famous words Joshua ever spoke to the nation. Joshua has led the nation of Israel into the promised land, into the battle, into inheritance the Lord had given them, and into the victory the Lord had promised them. Now at the end of Joshua’s life he calls the nation together for last speech, one last exhortation. These words spoken to the nation Israel are meant to be an encouragement and a challenge for us today as well.
At this point, Israel had come into the promised land and God had defeated their enemies before them. And yet as Joshua looks at the nation he sees the seeds of compromise beginning to take root. Joshua sees people claiming to follow the Lord and yet serving the false gods of the nations they have destroyed. What Joshua does in response, is to remind the nation of Israel of what God has done in their lives.
Joshua reminds them of how God saved them and delivered them from slavery. How God brought them to the promised land and led them into victory. Then in dramatic fashion, Joshua calls the nation to put away the false gods of this world and to serve the Lord only. Joshua calls Israel to make a choice, to choose this day if they will serve the Lord or the gods of the pagan nations in the land.
The words of Joshua remind me of Romans 12:1-2 where we are urged by the apostle Paul, in the light of God’s great mercy, to present or surrender our lives completely to the Lord. Jesus told us in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve two masters because we will love one and hate the other. The exhortation is to stop living for the things of this world and to surrender our lives completely to the Lord.
Not only does Joshua call the nation to a whole hearted devotion to the Lord, Joshua leads by example. Joshua tells the people of Israel that no matter what they decide that he and everyone in his house, they will serve the Lord. Joshua made a decision a long time ago in his life to follow the Lord, and at the end of His life he is letting everyone know that he is still going to serve the Lord. Much like the lyrics in the old hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back…though none go with me, I still will follow.”
What an encouragement this is to us today as the children of God. When we look at the life of Joshua, we see that Joshua has settle the issue of who is in control of his life. Joshua has done the math. Joshua has seen the faithfulness of God, the mercy of God, the goodness of God. In the light of who God is and what God has done, Joshua has made a choice to serve the Lord. The challenge then goes out to you and to me, just like it did to Israel. Who are you going to serve? I know for me and for my house, like Joshua, we will serve the Lord!