Joshua 24:14-19 “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. 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. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”
Joshua was another of many Old Testament types of Christ. His name is the Old Testament name of Jesus.
Before Moses died, he was appointed to be Moses’ successor. He was given two important tasks to do: lead Israel into the promised land and destroy the Canaanite inhabitants; and divide the inheritance of the land among the tribes.
In Joshua 11:12 we read that Joshua “made war a long time with all those kings.” The conquest of Canaan was not a matter of days or weeks or months, but rather years. It took a long time to complete this part of his mission. When this task was finished Joshua directed the distribution of the inheritance to the various tribes. This was done by divine direction using the means of the lot.
The land now enjoys rest. The Canaanites are subdued, the people of Israel are settled on their inheritance, and Joshua is now old and stricken in years.
Joshua realizes that his days are numbered and he is determined to speak to Israel before he is taken away.
He called for the elders, the judges, the officers of Israel in order to give them a message that they should pass on to each of their tribes.
He reminds Israel of the lovingkindness and goodness of their God. He rehearses in their hearing all of the wonders God has done for them. He tells them that God has given them this good land as He had all along promised.
And now, amazingly, he tells them they have to make a choice. ”Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” Does Joshua know what he is telling the people to do? It seems preposterous–the height of foolishness. Choose between God and the heathen gods of the Canaanites. Elijah, years later, sends forth the same choice. Serve God or Baal–don’t try to serve both.
Joshua tells the elders and Israel to make up their mind. If you think it is evil to serve the Lord, serve the idol gods of the heathen. Choose one or the other. Don’t try to serve both.
Joshua’s discourse is about religion. According to the dictionary, religion is “the service and adoration of God or a god as expressed in forms of worship.”
True religion is defined in Deut. 10:12, “And now Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Thus, true religion is to serve the Lord.
Such religion is entirely a matter of freedom. It is not coercive or compulsory. True religion is spontaneous, not forced. Those who serve the Lord, do so willingly and eagerly and zealously.
This is the kind of worship that is pleasing to God. This is the kind of worship God desires from Israel. This is the lesson Joshua is trying to get across to them. Choose one or the other. Don’t try to corrupt the true worship of Jehovah by also serving idol gods on the side.
We, too, are faced with the same choice. We, too, as Israel of old know what the proper choice ought to be. With them we say, “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.”
And yet so often we foolishly forsake the way of true religion. Instead of serving God wholeheartedly we make allowances in our lives to serve the god of materialism. We prostrate ourselves to the gods of this world, and are unmindful of the God who has created us.
What an impossible choice. How evident that He, God, had to do more than just make salvation possible. That would not have been enough. He has to do more. He chose us, He saved us. He is the author of our choice, just as He was the author of Joshua’s choice.
The child of God’s choice is God’s choice. And in that choice His people declare a loathing for darkness, for sin, and for the world, and a love for God and His kingdom.
God befriends us and creates in us the desire to worship Him in sincerity and in truth.