Joshua 24:15 (NIV)
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua has been leading the Israelites since Moses’ death. Now in his final speech, he challenges them to think about to whom or to what they wish to surrender control of their lives. Will it be to the God of Israel, who has shown them mighty power and trustworthiness, or to the gods and idols of the land?
It’s interesting that Joshua does not identify the “gods” themselves but rather the people who worship them. Idol worship tends to be a social phenomenon. Our beliefs and values are influenced by the voices we hear every day, whether in the workplace, on social media, or in our churches and neighborhoods. We conform, hoping to be accepted by the people we admire or fear or love. We look to celebrities and political parties and religious leaders to tell us “the truth” so we know how to live.
Joshua acknowledges that conformity can be subtle, so he forces the issue. “Choose!” he says. “Everyone serves a master. Choose who or what will be lord of your life, whether the God of Israel or the idols favored by your neighbors or your family culture.”
How can we identify the false gods we are serving? We can know them by their influence on our thoughts and decisions that lead us away from God. When I am tempted to cheat, to gossip, to envy, to mock, to deceive, to impress, to steal—I know I am serving an idol. Do I long for wealth? security? high social standing? physical beauty? Do I worship a political party or religious affiliation that tempts me to scorn others instead of loving them? Do I think so highly of myself that I don’t recognize my utter dependence on God’ saving mercy?
Joshua ends his speech with a declaration that he will serve Yahweh, the God of Israel. We, too, must choose whom we will serve, declare it to ourselves and others, and then live by our choice.
FATHER, this day I choose to serve you and you alone. Help me to recognize the signs that I am worshipping false gods; help me to identify them and renounce them in your strong name.
2 Kings 17:14-15; John 15:16
What do your temptations tell you about the idols in your life?