Summary: Calling people to serve God with all faithfulness in the power of Christ
As For Me and My House – Joshua 24:14-24
Aug. 31/Sept. 1 2002
Joshua is now quite old; and he has seen a lot in his lifetime. His early, formative years were spent in service to the great liberator, Moses, and his later years were spent leading God’s people into battle in the promised land. He has seen the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the trip through the desert to the edge of the promised land and then the trip back into the desert for 40 years of wilderness wanderings. He saw God part the Jordan river, crumble the walls of Jericho, and send the enemies into a panic. He also saw the punishment of Achan after his sin, and then the restoration of the blessing and presence of God.
And now he is quite old. He has led a full life, he has been strong and courageous as God commanded, he has the scars from a hundred battles, he has known the power and presence of God in his life and in his leadership, and now he recognizes his death is near.
So he gathers the people together, summons their leaders, and gives his final address. And it is quite shocking. Joshua Chapter 24 records this address, with the first section recounting all the mighty things God has done for His people, concluding with the affirmation that God has given them this great land. Then we come to verse 14.
Read Joshua 24:14-24
1. A Call to Commitment (14-15):
Here, on his deathbed, Joshua calls the people to commitment. To “fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.” He calls them to “throw away” all the other gods and make a choice to serve God alone.
The call is the same to us today.
Who are you going to serve? It was relatively easy for the Israelites to worship the other gods – they didn’t demand much. It was easy to carry a wooden carving, throw a bit of grain at the feet of an altar, bow to the sun. But God demands all. It is relatively easy for us to carry our own dreams and desires and live for them, throw a bit of money at a charitable cause, raise our hands and shout praise to a sports hero. But God demands all.
Maybe Joshua is getting less patient with age, but he lays it out pretty bluntly – either serve the Lord WITH ALL FAITHFULNESS or, if you don’t like that, then choose some other god to serve. It will probably be a lot easier serving another god – they don’t demand too much now. Neither do they offer much in return. Joshua says “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” And he concludes with his own testimony: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
I want you to notice the standard of service Joshua demands: “with all faithfulness.” He doesn’t leave room for casual faith, for serving God when it is convenient or when things are going well or when life is easy. He doesn’t leave room for doing faith on our terms. He calls us to serve “with all faithfulness.” What if there is no reward? No appreciation? Nothing but opposition? Joshua says “serve the Lord with all faithfulness.”
I know that is not easy – it isn’t easy to hear and it isn’t easy to say because I know it applies to me as much as to anyone else. I’ve had a whole bunch of conversations with people this week that have left me just longing for heaven, when all the struggles and pains and difficulties and unfairnesses of life will be over. Joshua knew the struggles – he had lived through more of them than you or I combined. And you know what I think he is saying here is, “it is worth it.” Serve God with all faithfulness because it is worth it. You will be glad you did, even though it is tough and even though the alternatives are easier, the best road is serving God with all faithfulness.
As blunt as it is, this is not the shocking part of Joshua’s final address.
2. The People respond (16-18):
We get the expected reply from the people. We won’t serve any other God’s! We know how much God has done for us, and they list a bunch of the miracles, and so we will serve Him only. It is what we expect, it is what Joshua has been calling them to.
The shocking part comes next.
3. Joshua’s response (19-20):
Trent Butler, in his commentary on Joshua, calls verse 19 “perhaps the most shocking statement in the OT” (p. 274). After spending an entire chapter – actually, an entire lifetime – trying to get the Israelites to commit to serving God, and after getting the affirmative answer he was seeking, Joshua says: “You are not able to serve the Lord.”