Joshua 24:14, 15
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth…
The most solemn engagement we can make is to bind ourselves to be the servants of Jehovah. Such a bond not even death dissolves, it is entered into for eternity. There are periods, however, when it becomes us to ponder the meaning of the covenant, and to renew our protestations of fidelity. To consider the exhortation of Joshua here recorded will benefit alike the young convert and the aged believer, and may lead to a decision those "halting between two opinions."
I. AN APPEAL FOR HEARTY RE-DEDICATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD.
(1) Its necessity arises from the proneness of man to settle down upon his lees, neglecting the watchfulness observed on his first profession of religion. Enthusiasm cools; men sleep and tares are sown among the wheat; the Christian athlete rests content with the laurels already gained; the warrior, having defeated the enemy, allows him time to gather his forces for another battle. The temple was beautifully cleansed, but inattention has allowed it to grow filthy, and it needs a thorough renovation.
(2) Its leading motive is gratitude for Divine goodness in the past. How skilfully Joshua, in the name of Jehovah, enumerates the chief national events wherein His mercy had been conspicuous. Brethren, review the past! Your mercies have been numberless, like the drops of the river flowing by your side. If you can tell the stars, then may you catalogue the blessings you have received. The retrospect teaches the character of your God, and may inspire you with hope for the future. Reverence the Almighty, and your highest expectations will not be disappointed but far surpassed.
(3) Its method prescribes severance from idolatry and a sincere determination to follow the Lord fully. Self examination will reveal many sins still cherished in the heart, like the gods which Israel had allowed to remain in the camp. It were well for us, like David, to go in and sit before the Lord (2 Samuel 7:18). In the presence of Him who has leaded us with benefits temporal and spiritual, our vision will be clarified, and we shall be filled with an earnest desire to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." All avowals of a change of heart are to be distrusted which axe unaccompanied by evident renunciation of evil habits. The outward act not only affords an index of the inward feeling, but also materially contributes to its strength.
II. AN ALTERNATIVE PRESENTED. Notwithstanding all that had been done for the Israelites, some of them might deem it "evil," unpleasant, irksome, laborious to serve the Lord. Hence the option of forsaking Him, and bowing before the gods whom their fancy should select. The alternative suggests that, in the opinion of the speaker,
(1) some kind of service is inevitable. Without acknowledging some superior powers, the Israelites could not remain. Absolutely free and independent man cannot be, though his idol may assume any form or character. In every breast there is some predominating principle or passion, be it piety, morality, intellectualism, aestheticism, or love of selfish pleasure.
(2) The freedom of the will is seen in the power of choice. Choose man must; but he can choose what seems best to him. God has a right to demand our homage; but He is content to let us decide for ourselves the equity of His claims. He appeals to the judgment and the conscience. He makes His people "willing in the day of His power," not by enchaining their wills and constraining obedience, but by appropriate motives and inducements, leading them to consider it their glory to lay themselves at His feet "Who then is willing to consecrate this service this day unto the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5). Freedom of choice is too frequently a beautiful and dangerous gift, which, like a sword in the hands of a child, injures its possessor. Yet we are unable to divest ourselves of the responsibility that attaches to free agency. Some plan of life is ruling us, even if it be a resolve to live aimlessly. We may deliberately weigh our decision, bringing to bear upon our comparison of conflicting claims all the strength of our moral nature and power of discernment, or we may refuse to face the points at issue, and let our judgment go by default, imagining that we shall thus escape the onus of a formal determination; but in the latter case, no less than in the former, we have made our choice, and are serving some master, though we recognise it not. The alternative indicates
(3) that neutrality and compromise are each impossible. If God be not the object of adoration, then any occupant of the throne must be considered as God's enemy. Multitudes think that if they are not found openly opposing religion there is naught to be complained of in their attitude and conduct. Herein they are terribly at fault. "He that is not with Me is against Me." Those who advance not to the help of the Lord are treated as His foes (cf. Judges 21:8 and 1 Samuel 11:7). Nor will God accept a divided allegiance. Dagon must fall from his pedestal when the ark of God's presence enters the chamber of the heart. How could the Israelites be true at once to Jehovah and to idols? "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Religion modifies the character of every action, transforming it into an offering laid upon the altar to the glory of God. All that we have and are we send to the Royal Mint, and receive it back, stamped with the Sovereign's image, and fashioned according to His desire.
III. A FIXED RESOLVE. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua set a noble example, which powerfully affected his followers. The expressed determination of a pastor, a teacher, a parent may produce widespread beneficial results upon those under their charge. Joshua showed himself fit to lead men. He did not wait to see what the majority of the people would approve before he committed himself to a particular course of action; but boldly stated his intention to cleave with full purpose of heart unto the Lord. The Ephraimites, slow to come to the rescue in the hour of danger, but swift to claim a place of honour when a victory has been won (Judges 12:1, 2), have found many imitators in every age. Men who wait to see in which direction the current of popular feeling is setting ere they risk their reputation or their safety by taking a decided step. We may dislike isolation, but are not alone if the Father is with us. Joshua's resolve was never regretted. What man has ever been sorry that he became a follower of Christ? Even backsliders confess that they were never happier than when they attended to the commandments of the Lord. True religion furnishes its votaries with self-evidential proofs of its Divine authority in the peace of mind and satisfaction of conscience which they experience. To enjoy the favour of God is felt to be worth more than any earthly friendship or worldly gain.
CONCLUSION. This theme is suitable for the beginning of a year, when untrodden paths invite you to choose a method of travel. Or perhaps some crisis is occurring in your life, when you are entering upon a fresh sphere of employment. Use it as a time to commence a period of devotion to God's service. Young people, decide which is the more honourable, to serve God or the world. Do not spend the finest of your days in a manner which will hereafter pierce you with remorse. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.