Tuesday 19 September 2023

  ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’.                             

                       (Joshua 24 v.15)


Just for a change, I am turning to the Old Testament. There is a reluctance to read this part of the Bible as it is seen as history of Israel. There is a content of that, but we must bear in mind the Jews were God’s chosen people, who indeed have made a colossal contribution to the world with its brilliance of technology, finance, entertainment world, and shared such contribution to all nations. Jesus often referred back to that part of the Bible.

      Joshua was a great military leader who had served under Moses for forty years, and after Moses death became leader for twenty five years. Israel was standing at the crossroads of its history.  The people had then settled in the land God gave, and had under God’s guidance, conquered the land of Canaan, but there were still problems to overcome.

     Joshua is near the end of his life, so one day calls the leaders of the people together at Shechem to deliver his last message.   This was a most important place in Jewish history. 

It was where Abraham first settled;   where Jacob bought his first piece of land; where Joseph was buried .

      Joshua laid down the choice facing the Israelites.  As peoples over time have behaved, once the hard times were over, they began to fall away from God.  They began to mix with other races and followed a lifestyle which betrayed God, as they were tempted to worship local gods. 

      Joshua warned of idolatry, and how the wrath of God would fall upon them, so they had a critical choice to make.  He had made a clear decision. He said, ‘if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ 

     God had rescued them from Egyptian tyranny under Pharaoh, and gave them a good land flowing with milk and honey, and continually blessed them.  They were now being asked to reflect on their history, and Joshua was calling upon them to think of all the things God had done for them and make a choice.

     The principle of choice Joshua referred to, is still applicable in our day and age.  God gives us free choice.  We are allowed to say either yes or no. Everyone has to make their own choice, whether to serve God, or other gods.

     Life is all about choices, and bad decisions have their consequences.   Choices affect life here and for eternity.  Many people do not wish to consider, but will one day regret not doing so.  Serve the Lord, or serve the devil.  Joshua chose the deity. God had given firm command when He said, ‘I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods but me’ 

       We may not have the same idols as gods as did the Jews, but we have our own modern day gods. An idol is in fact anything which acts as a substitute above God, so we have to decide which to serve. People believe they can do without God.  They live as if there was no tomorrow. We see gluttony, alcohol and drug abuse, and unrestricted sex everywhere.    

      Paul said when tempted run,  Joseph did when tempted by Pharaoh’s wife, and God was with him and made him a great ruler over Egypt. Following God is a personal decision you must make for yourself, there is no such thing as proxy faith. Jesus said ‘you cannot serve God and mammon’.  It may mean denying ambition. Moses had the chance to be brought up in the luxury of an Egyptian princess’ home, but chose to serve God with suffering Israelites, not knowing he would have such a great future.

       So we must consider our priorities. Do we put the Church before all other calls for our presence?   There can be no compromise, no trying to accommodate society’s ways. In every Church there are Christians whose relationship is only formal and outward, a case of being associated with Jesus without being united.

     Sometimes the faith goes cold.  There is only one way to remain on course and that is to be close to your Church, not to have a periodic attachment. We are facing a time of ungodliness. If we are to faithfully serve Him, we must seek Him, which means we call on Him, remain faithful to Him, and give up doing things which are wrong in His sight..

     In our schools and universities there is an anti-God bias, and in intellectual circles the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature. Discord and discouragement is being sown in the lives of Christian people..  We have to resist on every front so as to maintain a Christian faith and presence.   

     The BBC has appointed people of other faiths to be directors of Christian programmes, and the Church accepted it.  You can be assured they would never appoint a Christian to direct Islamic or Hindu programmes. But that is just the BBC anti Christian bias.

       We need to let God know we serve Him, which I believe, is what God wants to hear. Choosing whom to serve affects not only ourselves, but our children.  Our families and homes are in constant danger. Parents must realise that having children means bearing responsibility for how they behave. 

      Young people today are facing many problems.  Many are uncertain. They are under peer pressure to do many things they would not normally consider.  Taking drugs, indulging in sexual activity, which accounts for the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Europe.  All are tempted, and the hardest word to use is ‘no’.  

     It is reported that one in five children under fourteen years of age regularly watch pornography on the internet. God provides a way out, but so many children know little about God, no one tells them about Him.

Our children need to be taught to be people of integrity and know of their Christian heritage, just as much as children of all other faiths are taught about theirs.   Jewish parents teach the history of their faith from a very early age.

      The Church will have to look and consider its position.  We are constantly being reminded by the press as to how people are turning away from the Church, with the blame being placed firmly on the Church.  Whilst to some degree this may be true, the true responsibility rests upon those who fail to attend and encourage children not to attend..  Society was more stable and balanced when people did attend.

     The average person sees the Church as out of date and the Christian message as irrelevant, even though they never go near a Church to establish that, which is why they live as they do without reference to God or eternity. This is just sardonic self justification. Our message then needs to be positive with no uncertain sound.

      Does the same fire which burned in the lives of the outstanding men of God in the past still burn in today’s preachers?    

     Many ministers are afraid of speaking out lest they be accused of some kind of phobia by minority factions. 

Ministers are however faced with a dilemma in faithfully teaching Biblical morality in these times as    many of their congregations would find a strain on their consciences in view of their lifestyles.   How heartening to hear the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster saying ‘I am not here to be popular. I’m here to be successful.’ 

      Joshua was not convinced the people were sincere when they promised to serve the Lord, and challenged them several times before accepting their word.  He knew that commitment and obedience were required.  He told them they were dealing with a God who would not be trifled with.  Eventually he believed them and erected a stone under an oak tree to commemorate the binding of people to serve the Lord their God.

     They did not however follow their commitment and a whole new generation grew up who had no knowledge of the Lord.  We see how history can repeat itself.  As Christians, we have a commitment to serve God. Just as Joshua reminded the Jews of all God had done for them, so must we reflect on all that which God has done for us, and respond accordingly.

      God speaks to us from the past, to show us the sins His people committed in order to help us decide.  God is still speaking.  We can either listen or ignore. 

        Making a promise to God is a serious matter. Each year a Covenant is re-made by Methodists, which many other Churches have adopted. In this covenant members pledge to yield themselves freely and wholeheartedly to God and declare themselves not their own, but His. How faithfully is it kept?  It means obeying, fearing and faithfully following His Word.  God is a jealous God who wants a complete loyalty.  We have to take away from our lives all that is unworthy and against His teaching.  He gave us guidance in Holy Scripture. 

     So many people in the present economic climate are worried and uncertain.  If they seek help from the Church we must see they get it.  We must realise our ways and actions are observed and can influence a person who is seeking a spiritual renewal.    

     We all have to ask, ‘am I ready to serve the Lord?’   There is no room for neutrality. Every person needs a God and every person must serve the God they choose. You cannot choose the true God by default or by inheritance.  


 Joshua made his choice, let us make ours, and say, ‘we will serve the Lord.’


No comments:

Post a Comment