This week we will focus on Joshua 24:15. We had an excerpt of the verse last week, but we observed it as simply closing up Joshua’s speech. I would now like to go a little deeper into the verse itself.
It is a popular Bible verse, and people have it placed on their walls and in their doorways, but we need to examine it in Joshua’s context to show the exact wealth of precision in which he spoke these words. As we look at the verse, we know that it is contained in his final farewell speech, and the battles are concluded. We also know that there are still non-Israelites living in the land as evidenced by the Biblical text. Joshua begins speaking: ” ‘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. 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.’ Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.’ “
We must remember from our previous study that Joshua listed over 800 years of The LORD’s actions in the history of the people of Israel, and that our passage today is why he gave this history lesson. Joshua instructs the people to fear The LORD, and to faithfully serve Him in sincerity. They are to put away all other gods that might have crept into their lives through their time on the other side of the Jordan River and while they were in captivity in Egypt. He then draws a line in the sand for all to see, and calls for action on the part of each individual person. His clarity is a thing to behold.
In order to fully understand this text we must examine the use of the Hebrew word, רַע, which is translated “evil” here. This word carries with it a sense of opposition in the ancient Hebrew mind. Evil is not simply a thing that exists by itself, but it is opposition to The LORD who is the standard of good. There is no middle ground. We must also see that this is in contrast to family tradition. Joshua says that you must choose between the gods of your fathers on the other side of the Jordan River and The LORD. He follows with you must choose between the gods of the Amorites and The LORD. The final observation is that this was a decision that was not to be put off. He said “today” choose whom you will serve. There is a clear and definitive deadline for this choice.
I believe the ancient Israelites understood Joshua’s words to be something like the following: If you think in your own eyes, mind and heart that it is a bad thing to serve The LORD, than you need to make a choice here. If you think opposing the God who did all of these things over the past 800 years of our history is a good idea, than you need to pick your side. Today, choose whom you will serve. You may choose the God that has done all these things for you. The God that gave you a standard that protects innocent life, the God that tells you to love people, but to stand firm and resolute in His will against wickedness. The God who’s commander is not on your side, not on your enemy’s side, but on His own side and will fight to accomplish His will whether this be for you or against you. You must now make a choice. You can worship other gods like Baal that supposedly takes pleasure in children being sacrificed in horrendous murders for the benefit of getting rain on the crops, or you can choose the God who told Abraham not to kill his son in Genesis 22. You must choose between The LORD and your family traditions, and you must choose between The LORD and what are the important things in the lives of your neighbors. It’s your choice, but, make no mistake, it is a choice that carries significant consequences. As for me? Joshua? I will serve The LORD and I will lead my family to serve Him as well. Make your choice.
The words of Joshua should ring loudly in all of our ears, but most clearly in light of our recent events. Joshua is telling the people to choose to live according to The LORD’s commands that respect life in contrast to life being subjugated and destroyed without legitimate cause. This is our choice today just as much as it was when Joshua spoke these words. I pray that all reading this understand the importance, depth and validity of this choice.
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Joshua 24:15a – “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve. . .”