Decisions. We make them every single day. Most of our daily decisions are thankfully not life-and-death ones. But now and then we are faced with extraordinary decisions with serious consequences. These are the ones we cannot afford to be careless about.
Israel was presented by Joshua with the most important decision in their thus far short existence as a nation, a decision central to their survival and prosperity.
Joshua declared to Israel the word of Jehovah their God, reminding them of what God had done for them (cf. Joshua 24:1-13). He followed that with an exhortation.
“Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah (Jos 24:14).”
The aged leader understood only too well that this was a decision that each and every Israelite must make for himself and herself. As much as the people loved and respected him, he could not decide for them.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah (Jos 24:15).”
The people, perhaps because of the solemnity of the occasion or the euphoria of conquest, gave a resounding answer.
“And the people answered and said, Far be it from us that we should forsake Jehovah, to serve other gods; for Jehovah our God, he it is that brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and that did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the peoples through the midst of whom we passed; and Jehovah drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites that dwelt in the land: therefore we also will serve Jehovah; for he is our God (Jos 24:16-18).”
The wise old leader shook his head. These dear children were too quick to reply; they had not given due consideration. He could see they were caught up in the emotions of the moment.
“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve Jehovah; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgression nor your sins. If ye forsake Jehovah, and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you evil, and consume you, after that he hath done you good (Jos 24:19-20).”
But the people insisted: “And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve Jehovah (Jos 24:21).”
So Joshua held them to their words. Very well, since you insist you know what you are doing; since you make your decision with both eyes opened.
“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you Jehovah, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away, said he, the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto Jehovah, the God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, Jehovah our God will we serve, and unto his voice will we hearken. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of Jehovah. And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it hath heard all the words of Jehovah which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness against you, lest ye deny your God (Jos 24:22-27).”
Israel was true to their covenant made at Shechem for as long as Joshua and his generation of leaders continued to lead them.
“And the people served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of Jehovah that he had wrought for Israel (Jdg 2:7).”
But the history of Israel tells us of the tragedy that followed not very long after. Joshua died, and soon the other elders as well. The hearts of the people began to turn away from God.
“…and there arose another generation after them, that knew not Jehovah, nor yet the work which he had wrought for Israel. And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and served the Baalim; and they forsook Jehovah, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the peoples that were round about them, and bowed themselves down unto them: and they provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and the Ashtaroth (Jdg 2:10-13).”
Decisions. We make them every single day. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” This decision Joshua presented to ancient Israel passes to every one of us of the spiritual Israel. The Lord says:
“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13).”
What is your decision? Who will you serve?