“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve.”
The well-known part of this statement of Joshua is “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Of course, that is well and good; but think about the first part of his statement. Joshua says to the people of Israel,
“Long ago your ancestors, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods.” (Joshua 24:2, HCSB)
Joshua reminds them that essentially the Lord chose them and brought the people out from the region beyond the Euphrates River when he took their father, Abraham. The Lord says,
“I gave you a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build, though you live in them; you are eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.” (Joshua 24:13, HCSB)
“Therefore (because of this truth), fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship Yahweh.” (Joshua 24:14)
Don’t only do what your mother and father do, worshiping a god — or the Lord GOD — who grand-dad and grand-ma worship. Don’t only do what everyone else is doing. Make a decision for yourself. Mom and Dad’s salvation is not yours.
If it seems evil in your own mind to worship the Lord God, then don’t. But if you decide this, then actively choose the god you are going to follow. Don’t stumble along in life; make a choice. Don’t just do what others have done before you, mindlessly going through the motions of worship. Whatever your decision, make it your own.
Then Joshua tells the people his own choice.
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Everything created for the tabernacle in Moses’ day is created as a perfect pattern of Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant — a covenant “superior to the old one, and […] founded on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6) The old covenant between God and the people of Israel has “something wrong” with it, “for if there is nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place is sought for another.” (Hebrews 8:7) A new covenant is needed because “God finds fault with [His] people.” (Hebrews 8:8) Because His people are incapable of obeying the rules and regulations established in that first covenant, God provides a means of “putting [His] laws in their minds and writing them on their hearts.” (Hebrews 8:10) God knows His people can not “remain faithful to [His] covenant” so that He must necessarily “turn away from them.” (Hebrews 8:9) God provides a new covenant — one which is not like the old. “No longer is a man to teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know [God], from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:11)
God says, “For I forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) This is the answer — not that we love God, but that He loves us.
Jesus apparently is not sent to his hometown to perform miracles, but to tell his neighbors that He is not going to be accepted by them. He says to them, “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24) Then He proceeds to provide two examples of this truth. Jesus speaks of the widows in Israel that Elijah was not sent to “when the heavens were shut up for three years and six months.” (Luke 4:25) Instead Elijah was sent to Zarephath, a widow from the land of Sidon. Jesus also speaks of the many lepers in Israel that Elisha was not sent to cleanse. Instead Elisha was sent “only to Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27)
Yet, when the Canaanite woman asks Jesus to have mercy on her and drive out a demon from her daughter, Jesus ignores her completely. So, she cries out to His disciples. They beg Jesus to “send her away.” (Matthew 15:23) He says to them (and not to her), “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The Canaanite woman persists, saying: “Lord, help me.” (Matthew 15:25) Jesus responds, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) The woman does not appear to be insulted or even surprised by our Lord’s attitude. Instead she agrees with Him. She says, “Yes, Lord.” But then she uses a perfectly logical argument with Him. She continues, “Yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27) Jesus is impressed with the level of this Gentile’s faith, and He proclaims, “Be it done for you as you desire.” (Matthew 15:28) He gives her the desire of her heart because of her persistence and her logic.
The Canaanite woman’s persistence, her acceptance of Jesus’ rejection, and her logical argument are opposites from the reaction of the crowd in Nazareth when Jesus finishes reading from “the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.” (Luke 4:17) When Jesus tells His friends and neighbors that He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, at first the crowd “speaks well of Him and marvels at the gracious words that are coming from His mouth.” (Luke 4:22) But when Jesus gives examples of how the prophets Elijah and Elisha were sent to persons not within the house of Israel, “all in the synagogue are filled with wrath.” (Luke 4:28)
Jesus’ neighbors “rise up and drive Him out of the town and bring Him to the brow of the hill on which their town is built, so they can throw Him down the cliff.” (Luke 4:29)
Jesus “passes through their midst” and literally leaves them behind. With the Canaanite woman, He turns the tables just as Elijah and Elisha once did; He gives her that which is meant only for Israel, only for the children of God. He gives her the desire of her heart.
“You have not given glory to God, in whose charge is your very breath and in whose hands are all your ways.”
“You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for His own chosen purpose.”
Paul assures “it is impossible that the Word of God should prove false.” (Romans 9: 6) God does not lie; He is not the author of evil. Yet, all our ways are in His hands, says Daniel. And, Paul writes that “it is God who works in you…for His own chosen purpose.” Paul explains God’s sovereignty in his letter to the Romans. He writes of Rebekah’s children, Jacob and Esau. Despite having the same father, “in order that God’s selective purpose might stand, based not upon men’s deeds but upon the call of God, [Rebekah] was told, even before they were born, when they had as yet done nothing, good or ill, ‘The elder shall be servant to the younger’; and that accords with the text of Scripture, ‘Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.’ ” (Romans 9: 11-13)
“Thus He not only shows mercy as He chooses, but also makes men stubborn as He chooses.” (Romans 9: 18) Paul refers us to Pharaoh — how God hardens this man’s heart repeatedly so that he does not let the Israelites leave Egypt.
Paul acknowledges that this does not, on the surface, appear fair. But he answers the objection: “But what if God, desiring to exhibit His retribution at work and to make His power known, tolerates very patiently those vessels which are objects of retribution due for destruction, and does so in order to make known the full wealth of His splendour upon vessels which are objects of mercy, and which from the first are prepared for this splendour?” (Romans 9:22-23)
“God’s choice stands.. for the gracious gifts of God and His calling are irrevocable.” (Romans 11: 28, 29)
God demands that we stop sinning. We are not to deliberately go on sinning, choosing to do that which we know is against His will. The author of Hebrews warns us that our punishment will be worse than the punishment of those who “set aside the law of Moses” who “died without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” The witnesses against us, God’s people, are Jesus, the new Covenant, and the Spirit of grace. If we spurn Jesus, who is the Son of God; if we profane the blood of the new Covenant; if we outrage the Spirit, then we will discover that indeed “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The Israelites wander around in the desert for forty years because of their grumbling and disobedience. God continues to feed them His Manna, but He frustrates their plans and prevents them from entering His Sabbath rest. These persons must continue to wander, essentially in circles, with fear, trembling, distrust, self-loathing, and anger. Many die.
“For who are those who hear and yet rebel? Is it not all those who leave Egypt led by Moses? And with whom is He provoked for forty years? Is it not with those who sin, whose bodies fall in the wilderness? And to whom does He swear that they will not enter His rest, but to those who are disobedient? So we see that they are unable to enter because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3: 16 – 19)
Therefore, today when you hear God’s voice, when He calls you — obey. For it is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of our living God.