Joshua 24:15 “But if serving
the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you
the most important breakthroughs in my recovery from divorce was the
recognition that I have choices. I can’t
always (or even usually) choose the circumstances that confront me, but I can
always choose how I will respond to those circumstances. If I am insulted, for example, I have many
options. I can hurl my own insult back,
I can sue for slander, I can ignore it, I can tell the world about it, I can try
to understand it, I can consider if it might be true and try to learn from it,
I can respond with kindness…the list goes on and on. It is like that with any situation; there are
ability to choose our responses seems to be one of God’s many gifts. Certainly God gave Israel choices. Even when it came to the Ten Commandments,
God did not impose those laws on the people.
God presented the commandments and asked Israel if they were willing to
accept them as their law. Now here,
after 40 years in the wilderness, as a new generation prepares to enter the
Promised Land, they are asked to make the same decision their parents made. It’s sort of like Israel’s Confirmation. Joshua reminds them of the story of those God
brought out of Egypt,
starting way back in the time of Abraham.
Once they have heard the history, it is time to decide: will they continue to serve this God.
It seems like a rhetorical
question…of course they’ll serve God, they say.
There will be no other gods for them.
But Joshua pushes them. This
isn’t just a ceremony. This is a real choice,
and they need to think about it since the choice they make will have
consequences. God will take their vows
seriously and expect that they mean what they say. This is not a church begging for
members. This is the leader of Israel saying,
“Think about it, folks. You have a real
choice; and a choice for the God who led you through the wilderness comes with
a set of expectations for behavior and life together in community. Don’t make it lightly.”
The choice before Israel is
before us every day. We often treat the
question of whether we will follow Jesus as a rhetorical question, but it is
not. It is a lifetime commitment with
life-changing consequences. When I
decided to follow Jesus instead of some other religion, I willingly bound
myself to a certain set of laws and choices.
I decided that I would limit the choices I would have in responding to
those who hurt me, and I obligated myself to sacrifice to protect those being
hurt by others. I accepted the
obligation to behave as a steward rather than an owner of the earth and the
resources given to me, and I decided that I would put God rather than other
things at the top of my priority list. I
signed up to help the poor and to advocate for justice rather than sticking my
head in the sand.
Israel didn’t always live up to its promise, and neither do
I. But I’m trying as best I can to live
according to the choice that I made. You
have that choice as well. God does not
force us to make it. God doesn’t say,
“Here are my commandments, do them or else.”
God says, “Here are my commandments, will you join the community of
people who live this way?” Choose for
yourselves this day whom you will serve.
God of choice and
promise, help us to truly see the choices before us. Amen.
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