One of the most hilarious experiences I’ve had as a pastor is offering a bucket filled with different candies in it to children on a Sunday morning. It was during the service time and they had come down front for a special emphasis of some kind. The details are fuzzy. All the details that is, except the look on one little boys face as he attempted to make a choice on which candy he wanted to pick. He studied on it for a good minute or two as he tried to make up his mind between a jolly rancher, or maybe a kit kat, or boy those starburst look good as well. Eventually his brother had a enough and he said something along the lines of come on you have to pick one! He was frozen between so many tasty options. Joshua 24 tells the account of a choice that is eternally more significance than which form of sugary goodness we may want. This passage gives our options for who we will worship, the One TRUE God or our pick of the not gods. Choose well.
Once the history lesson, in verses 1-13, is over Joshua draws a line in the sand and says, “choose this day whom you will serve,” (Joshua 24:15). The choice presented is fairly simple. There are two choices. God or the not gods. The evidence of God’s worthiness of worship has been presented with evidence going back around 600 years! So the obvious choice is the Lord God who had brought them this far. But Joshua wants to shock Israel into a decision, he says if you won’t worship God then take your pick, there are the false gods of the ancestors, or if the people are looking for something new, there are the false gods of the Amorites. Joshua’s point is that they will worship and serve someone and something, so if not the Lord God, then who? He proceeds to set the example for everyone present. Regardless of what the rest of the people choose, Joshua and his family will serve the Lord. As the old song says, “though none go with me still I will follow.” I pray we take the same approach as Joshua today.
Joshua 24:16-18 is the people’s confident affirmation that they have chosen to follow the Lord. They recount all that the Lord had done for them. The choice to serve the Lord is based not on emotion but fact! Any baptist preacher giving an invitation would call this a revival. Joshua on the other hand is not convinced, maybe he knew something about what was in the hearts of the people just like Jesus (John 2:23-24).
Joshua’s response in, Joshua 24:19-20, is anything but what we might expect. He in effect, sends the group that has come down the aisle back to their seats and says you need to think this thing through. Not unlike what Jesus was prone to do when people came in emotional excitement without counting the cost (Luke 14:25-33,John 6, Matthew 8:18-22). He is trying to get through to the people that this commitment is not something to be taken lightly. They are doing business with the holy God who is a consuming fire and He will not tolerate His holy name to be taken in vain. God will not allow people to claim to be His without actually being wholly His. We could learn a lot from that boy trying to pick a piece of candy, this is serious! Verse 21 records their response and doubling down of their commitment. So Joshua in essence says, “ok well it’s on you then, I warned you that you need to take it serious and you say you’re going to take it serious.”
The problem is, it looks like they still had not taken him serious.Joshua 24:23 are the next steps of those who feel the desire to serve and follow the Lord. They are instructed to put away the false gods they still had with them. All this time and they still have not learned. If they are serious about their faith, there will be concrete actions that show outwardly the commitment they claim to have made inwardly. This is what James talks about in James 2 when he says that faith without works is dead. They agree to the terms so Joshua puts it in writing (Joshua 24:25-28). The imagery of the place they stood would have been impossible to miss. On one side was Mount Ebal the mountain where the curses were read from and the other Mount Gerazim where the blessings of the covenant were proclaimed. They had two choices in front of them, the same two Moses left them with in Deuteronomy 28, blessings or cursing, life or death. the choice was theirs and the choice is ours, but we must pick one!
Who will you serve today? The God who made you and is remaking you in the image of His Only Begotten Son or the not gods of this world?