“The Lord, the God of Israel” has worked redemptively for centuries on behalf of this particular people. Joshua has led the people across the Jordan and into the Promised Land. Near the end of his life, peace at last reigns. But Joshua does not want them to forget all that God has done for them and the great work the Lord has for them to do in the world. So he gathers the people for a ceremony of covenant renewal. He begins by recalling the great history from Abraham and Sarah to Moses and Aaron to the present day. Then Joshua challenges the people to a faithful response.
They have to choose afresh: “Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods your fathers served . . . choose this day whom you will serve” (esv). Is this really necessary? Surely everyone worships only the God who has done so much for them.
Have you ever thought, If only I lived in Bible times, it would be so much easier to believe? Not so! Even so close to the miracles of the Exodus, the people constantly feel a tug toward the local gods. Even when Moses is delayed briefly on the mountain, they smelt their jewelry into a golden calf and worship it. (See Exodus 32.) Serving God requires constant choices of fidelity.
We are prone to want easier gods—less demanding, less exclusive, more manageable, more fashionable. Gods who promise a more appealing path where we can be ourselves instead of dying to ourselves. Gods who say they want to help us have a life more like our dreams.
Oh, we are prone to wander. Joshua knows it. He demands that the people choose once again. He leads by declaring his intention first: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (esv).
Dear Lord, make us bold to choose you first, last, and always. Amen.
Although God miraculously has brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, some continue to worship foreign gods. Joshua tells them that they must choose whom they will serve and warns of the dangers of unfaithfulness. After they declare that they will follow God, Joshua reminds them of the laws given by God. The psalmist affirms the importance of this kind of reminder; telling the story of God’s faithfulness in the past encourages us in the present. The New Testament readings address Christ’s return. The Thessalonians are concerned that those who have died might miss the final resurrection, but Paul assures them that this will not be the case. Jesus tells a parable to highlight the fact that his return will be unexpected, so we should always be ready.
Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. We are prone to wander. When have you failed to keep promises you have made to God?
Read Psalm 78:1-7. How do you put your hope in God? What are you doing to awaken faith in the next generation?
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How does the promise of the “coming of the Lord” provide hope when present authorities seem to have a stranglehold? How does the notion that the coming Lord will hold us all accountable encourage you?
Read Matthew 25:1-13. How do you daily choose your faith? How do you keep awake?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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