“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 KJV)
Joshua was one of the greatest leaders of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament. He was a faithful servant of God. He was responsible for leading Israel in taking possession of the promised land (Deuteronomy 3:28). Then, after he fulfilled his mission, he had something important to tell the people. He knew that idolatry was a major problem for them, so he had to confront the people about it. They had a choice to make. Whom would they choose to serve: the idols or the Lord?
#1: The Problem with Idolatry
Joshua reminded the people that their ancestors worshiped idols back in Egypt. He also noted that their new neighboring nations worshiped other gods. But he knew that God had commanded: “thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) and “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). These verses tell us that the Lord wants our full devotion, not because he needs it, but because we do. Idols are illusions that turn our hearts away from the only true God.
Back then, in Joshua’s time, idols were easier to identify. They were carved in stone or wood. They were “the work of men’s hands” (Psalm 115:4). But there are many idols that creep into a person’s heart more subtly: money, power, pride, sex, another person, or even themselves. Anything or anyone that takes the place that belongs to God in our lives, as our most beloved one, is an idol.
#2: The Most Important Choice in Anyone’s Life
Joshua said, “choose you this day whom ye will serve.” He gave them a choice, even though he had the authority to order them what to do. He had authority even to force them to worship the Lord. But He knew that God wanted his people to “serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Joshua 24:14).
God didn’t want His people to just perform outward worship rituals or to repeat empty words of praise. In the times of the prophet Isaiah, God said that His people “draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). That was terrible! Jesus even used these very words to accuse the Pharisees, calling them “hypocrites” (Matthew 15:7-9). That’s not what God wanted at all.
So, Joshua reminded them of everything God has done so far (Joshua 24:2-13). Then, he presented them the choice they needed to make willingly and freely: “whom ye will serve”? We also need to make that choice. There are many idols out there. Even good things can be turned into idols if we make them the object of our devotion, our ultimate love. But the Lord wants our sincere and undivided adoration, He wants to be our most valuable treasure (Matthew 6:21). Think of everything the Lord has done for you, the sacrifice that Jesus made for you, and make up your mind.
#3: Be Confident about Your Choice
Before the people had a chance to decide, Joshua wanted to make it clear what his choice was: “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” There was no hesitation, no conditions, no second thoughts. Joshua was the nation’s leader. His example was critical. He knew that, so he made it clear that he had chosen to serve the Lord.
Whatever the people would choose, that wouldn’t change Joshua’s mind. He wasn’t going to be influenced by the other nations’ practices either. He was a faithful servant of the Lord and he wasn’t going to change. We should learn that from him: to be confident of our choice, announce it to the world, and not let other people’s influence drive us away from God.
#4: The Example Begins at Home
But it was not only about Joshua personally. He also included his whole family. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a choice, or that they had to do whatever he wanted. It meant that he knew them, he knew that they had chosen to serve the Lord too.
We can assume that Joshua taught the commandments of the Lord to his family, as Moses had ordered the people to do: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7). His family learned from him how to love the Lord with everything they had.
We cannot force our family to choose the Lord, but we can teach them about Him. We can show our love for Him in our words and our actions. They will learn to love the Lord from our example. And, when the time comes, they will also have to make their own choice.
Each person who listened to Joshua that day had a decision to make. So do we. Many things in the world fight in our hearts and our minds to take the place that belongs to God alone. Israel knew too well about this. But after hearing Joshua’s words, they chose to serve the Lord. They said: “The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey” (Joshua 24:24). Now, it is up to you: whom will you serve?
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.