Joshua challenges the people to make a decision that moment and declare it publicly. But before anyone can reply, Joshua takes a bold stand in declaring his allegiance to the Lord. It works. All the people cry out their loyalty. A great celebration should follow.

But Joshua doesn’t buy it. In effect, he says, “You can’t do it. You won’t stay faithful, and it will be worse because you broke another promise. If you stand here swearing faithfulness and then go after other gods, the Lord will turn against you.” Imagine your preacher responding like that on commitment Sunday. I think I’d look for another church.

But I also know that Joshua’s critique is true. I have made sincere promises to God and broken them before the day is out. I’ve repented of sins with contrition and then committed them in my mind before I even finished praying. We’re pathetic.

At this point, we each may want to say just what the people said, “No, but . . .” (esv). No, but what about grace? No, but doesn’t God understand? No, but I really mean it, and hey, we’re good people. God’s got to take us! We join them in their demands to declare their loyalty.

So Joshua lets them pledge. He reminds them, “You are witnesses against yourselves” (esv). Choice has to be made. They will fail in that choice. But in all their naiveté, pride, hope, yearning, and hubris, they swear they will serve the Lord alone. The burden is heavy. The consequences are frightening.

Our God acts to save. Our redeeming Lord requires response. God calls us to choose daily. We say “Yes” even as we know during the day we will say “No.” And like the text, I will leave you to stay in that contradiction.

Great Lord I Am, we choose you. We leave you. We fail you. But we still choose again this day. Help us to stay true. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 25:1-13

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Lectionary Week
November 2–8, 2020
Scripture Overview

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.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

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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