Joshua has said everything he wanted to say, at least all he could find words for, and has come to the end of his life, the end of his season of leading the nation of Israel to follow after God. At the beginning of Joshua 24 he gives a quick recap of their heritage from before Abraham, through their exodus from Egypt, the wilderness, and all the ways God fought for them as they conquered the promised land.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”Joshua 24:14-15 ESV
As the people of Israel sit around their proverbial campfire of decision, Joshua verbally singles out each one to make a choice. He states his choice clearly, and prompts them to also choose which path they will take. When they quickly jump in to say they will follow God also, he opens their eyes to the harsh reality before them, and the seriousness of this decision:
“You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”Joshua 24:19-20 ESV
They still affirm their choice, and the seal it in rock.
Joshua dies, Israel begins to settle into the land and life, and time goes by.
And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.Judges 2:10b ESV
And so begins the tragically familiar cycle of the book of Judges: idol worship and sin => God’s anger => judgment => crying out in repentance => God raises up a judge => Israel is saved and serves the Lord. Repeat. Again and again.
What happened to the, “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God”? That beautiful sentiment did not stick generationally.
How often do I make easy commitments? Speak quickly of faithfulness and worship? How long do those campfire promises last when I am back in the real world?
I draw two challenges from this passage for myself.
- Choose seriously
God has blessed me with a spiritual heritage, godly examples in my own life and family as well as throughout the history of the church. Taking time to remember how He has worked in my life and in the lives of those before me will give me the strength to press on and persevere when opposition crops up.
When a time to reaffirm my faith arises, I need to carefully weigh my words, discern my heart. If I ruthlessly remove sin instead of covering it up and humbly follow God’s leading, He will help me as He did Joshua, and as He did for the people of Israel when they were making the right choices. He will fight for me as He has for all His followers.
Dear God, help me to uphold my “campfire promises.” May I never commit to you casually, but with sincerity of heart, and perseverance of spirit. Open my eyes to temptations and habits that threaten to drag me away from you. Align my actions and thoughts with my heart for You. In Jesus name, amen.