Monday, December 31, 2012

Watchnight Sermon: Joshua 24:15 Choose This Day

Lose weight; get fit; eat more healthily; save money/spend less; get a new job; spend more time with people who matter; try new experiences; get out of a rut; visit a country you’ve never been to before; read more. These were the top ten resolutions in the UK last year. I wonder if you’re making any resolutions?

As we come to the end of the old year, and begin a new one, it’s a great opportunity to think again about the choices we make. You could start a new fitness regime any time of the year, but there seems to be something about the change of date that provides a fresh start, a clean break, a new choice.

In our reading tonight, we hear of a watershed moment in the history of the people of Israel. It’s the end of an era, and a new period is beginning. Joshua has been leading the people of Israel since they moved into the promised land. Moses had brought the people out of Egypt and right to the borders, but Joshua had led the people in.

But now Joshua is old, he’s about to die (at the age of 110), and so he gathers the people together at Shechem. There, he speaks to them on behalf of God, reminding them of their recent history - from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, down to Moses and the people standing there. It’s a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness to them, in giving them a land which wasn’t theirs, and a prosperous inheritance which they didn’t have to work for.

The LORD, the covenant God has done all this for them, and yet - here’s the surprise - Joshua says to them in verse 14: ‘Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness’ - so far, so good - keep on serving God as you have done; worship him, give him the reverence and respect he deserves... but look at what comes next:

‘Put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.’

They have received so much blessing from the LORD; they’re enjoying the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; they’ve seen God do all this, and yet they’re still clinging to other gods! It’s not so much that they’ve turned their back entirely on the LORD, as that they’re trying to serve God AND gods.

After all, this talk of exclusive worship of God is a bit excessive, surely? Why not keep a multitude of gods happy, just in case you need them in the future. Surely the LORD doesn’t mind if we hold on to the odd idol?

Probably just as much as a husband or wife would mind if their spouse kept meeting up with their old boyfriends or girlfriends... Just as we pledge marital faithfulness to the exclusion of all others, so the LORD calls on the people to choose who their husband is - the LORD, or these other gods?

It’s unthinkable that they even need to make the choice, isn’t it? After all, what have these other gods done for them? Absolutely nothing! But we’ve heard the litany of the LORD’s loving provision, calling their ancestors, rescuing them from Egypt, giving them the land...

Yet here and now, they have to make a choice: ‘Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living...’ What’s it going to be?

Joshua is speaking to the people of God, who have been rescued, who have received so many blessings, and yet are wavering. They still hold to idols and false gods. Is there a possibility that we are the same?

We’re glad to have the promise of sins forgiven and the hope of heaven, but are we content to cling to our own idols - I’m going to heaven, but I’ll hold on to my pride; or my money; or God, you can have 95% of me, but leave that alone (whatever that is)...

Joshua lays the choice before the people, but he boldly declares his own decision: ‘choose this day... but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’

As we begin this new year, may we too devote ourselves to the Lord, the one who has given us his blessings and faithfulness in the Lord Jesus, who promises that he will be with us. No excuses, no delays, no idols. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

This sermon was preached at the Watchnight Service on New Year's Eve, 31st December 2012 in Aghavea Parish Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment