Few choices last a lifetime. Most require daily, deliberate reminders. Joshua knew this well. Immediately after he and the young nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, they made a beeline to a particular valley between two mountains.
God had commanded half the people to stand before one mountain and the other half to position itself before the other. Each group was to shout either the blessings or the curses that Israel would experience as a result of their response to God’s Law (Deuteronomy 11:29).
As they shouted, their voices echoed in the city of Shechem, which lay in the valley between these hills. Before God’s people would conquer and settle the land, they affirmed their obedience to God in the very place where God had promised the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7).
The significance of the place served to strengthen their commitment to God.
If we’ll listen, it can strengthen ours as well.
Remember Where You Came From?
Years later, after Joshua and the twelve tribes had control of the Holy Land, Joshua assembled the nation at Shechem—one more time—just before his death.
- Joshua reminded them that Abraham first came to the land after leaving a life of idolatry (Joshua 24:2).
- Joshua rehearsed the history of the young nation, recounting God’s tremendous faithfulness and power that had delivered the people.
Shechem’s significant history and the weight of the Lord’s mercy worked in tandem to drive home Joshua’s application point.
- Twice Joshua gave the command: “serve the Lord”—the principal application of the whole chapter (24:14).
- Serving the Lord “in sincerity and truth” means serving Him completely, consistently, and authentically.
Interestingly, Jesus would say a similar thing in this same location many centuries later.
- Jesus’s name in Hebrew is Yeshua—or Joshua.
- Just around the corner from where His namesake spoke of serving the Lord “in sincerity and truth,” Jesus would tell a woman at Jacob’s well that the worshipers God seeks are those who worship Him in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
- Jesus’s words would echo Joshua’s, referring to complete, consistent, and authentic obedience.
Where Making Good Decisions Begins
Next in Joshua’s final speech to the Israelites came the most famous verse in the book that bears his name:
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. —Joshua 24:15
Regrettably, most modern-day wall plaques that quote this verse replace half of it with an ellipsis. Many Christian gift shops assume that the parts about the “gods which your fathers served . . . or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living” have no bearing on twenty-first-century believers. How wrong!
By principle, Joshua’s words urge God’s people the secret to making good decisions:
- We can choose to live the way our parents and grandparents did—following their poor priorities and choices.
- We can also choose to chase the idols of the people in the culture in which we live today.
- But the best choice? Joshua demonstrated it by example: “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Even for those who grew up in Christian homes, making good decisions still remains a personal choice. Every individual needs to come to the place where Jesus is his or her God, not just the God of his or her parents. What’s more, although the decision to believe in Jesus occurs one time, the decision to obey Him occurs today—and every day.
Although some choices last a lifetime, most require daily, deliberate reminders.
Joshua’s Secret to Making Good Decisions
Joshua used both history and geography to reignite a dedication to the Lord. We can do the same.
What physical reminders can we keep in our lives to act as memory triggers of God’s faithfulness to us? Some ideas:
- A place we pass on the highway
- A plaque on the wall
- A communion cup
- A smell or fragrance
- A photo album
Simple reminders can prompt us to renew our personal decision to serve the Lord each day. In making good decisions, we need daily reminders in order to renew our minds—to draw us close to God and away from the carnal tugs of our culture.
There’s no magic bullet to increase faithfulness. No sanctification pill to swallow. No sermon or study Bible to offer us the “secret” to forever faithfulness.
Rather, our dedication to serve the Lord “in sincerity and truth” must occur today—and every day.
Tell me what you think: What reminds you to serve God each day? To leave a comment, just click here.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Joshua’s Choice,” in Famous Last Words, 17-20.