Doormats & Wallhangings
This familiar verse has been placed on many a doormat or wall hanging in Christian homes, usually very sincerely displayed as a true Christian witness. “Choose for yourselves whom you will serve…..but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It’s worth looking into the context and rich significance of Joshua’s words. Whenever we fix our attention on a verse or verses of the Bible that really attract us, it is important not to neglect a careful look at the context.
The People of God
Joshua said these words before a solemn gathering of the entire nation of Israel (Josh. 23:2). Several times throughout the history of Israel we see the whole nation gathered like this, particularly in the time of Moses and Samuel, and after the people returned from exile under Ezra and Nehemiah. It was possible to gather the majority of the people of God then because they were a nation. Today it would be impossible to gather the whole church on earth to issue a solemn charge like this. The closest thing we have to an international gathering is on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out according to OT promise and the gospel went forth through Peter’s preaching (Acts 2). That was a great day of renown and fame for the gospel, and many were converted and took the gospel back to their homes throughout the empire. We as individuals and families are part of the people of God that is spread over the world, and the lives that we live and the commitments we make for Christ and His work in this generation where we live and worship are even more significant than those which Joshua was calling for in Josh. 24:14-15.
Chapters 23 and 24 of Joshua represent a covenant renewal ceremony in Israel. Joshua is not just giving a pep talk or trying to fire up the people to be “sold out for God.” He is calling them to re-commit to the covenant of grace and the goodness of God in unilaterally coming to save a people for Himself. Life in God’s covenant (then and now) involves the reception of His grace, the remembrance of His great saving acts, righteous living according to the stipulations of the covenant, and constant decision by which we present ourselves to the Lord of the Covenant for His service. This is what Joshua was calling the people to do on this day (Josh. 24:1, 14-28). We live under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood and have been given so much more than they! I believe that Joshua is saying two things in 24:14-15.
Serve the Lord with everything you have or choose another god
Yes, choose another god if you cannot give yourself wholly to the God of the Covenant! God cannot be worshiped in part – part of Him, or part of us. Notice in 24:14 that he charges them to “fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth.” This is a related expression to John 4:24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” God created us (unlike the animal creation) to commune with Him in the depth of our beings. It is implied in John 4:24 that man is spirit, and explicitly stated that God is spirit (Spirit). We worship Him in our spirits (Joshua’s “sincerity”), and most importantly, we are taught, informed, regulated, fueled, by the glorious truths that God reveals to us in His word. So Joshua is calling on the people of God (in all ages) not to be half-hearted, lukewarm (see Rev. 3:16), undecided, or hypocritical (serving two masters……). This is why he charges them in such arresting language – serve the Lord with everything or choose another god! Don’t dishonor His glorious name by duplicity.
Follow me and my house
This is the second thing that Joshua is saying. He is putting himself forward as an example for them. We need examples! Exemplary living for the Lord encourages others to “get with it” spiritually – to live right and righteously for our great, gracious, and glorious God, and not keep one foot in the world and the other in the church and Christian life, just trying to squeeze out a little time for God in our busy lives. Joshua is giving his confession and testimony by what he said to them that day. He was “planting his flag.” He was renouncing the world and proclaiming his course. This is what we need to do. Rom. 12:1-2 puts it in the language of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices. He was also expressing his commitment to the covenant. This kind of confession and commitment is what the covenants of God are designed for. We, in the New Covenant, were graciously chosen to be a people for His name, and thus we desire and determine to say with Joshua “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And service has two parts to it: worship (adoration, devotions, praise, offering) and work (deeds, ministries, gathering with the people of God in this world). Finally, Joshua is speaking as a man and a leader. Men were created by God to lead. Women complement men in the design of God and godly women are endowed with all kinds of wisdom and abilities that bless others. But men must take the lead, as Joshua was doing. He is an example of leadership, and family leadership. Joshua reminds men and families that one great aim under our overarching purpose in life to glorify God and enjoy Him forever is to serve the purpose of God in this generation in the building of His church, with our families.
What will you do with Joshua 24:14-15?
Click on our Sermon Audio Tab (sidebar) and look for the sermon preached on this text on June 21, 2015.
Pastor John Reuther Or, just click here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/code_sourcefeatured.asp?iframe=TRUE&reversecolor=FALSE&showoverview=FALSE&flashplayer=TRUE&tiny=FALSE&minimal=TRUE&eventtype=EVENTID&speaker=SPEAKERNAME&sermonid=623151938357