Though Moses led the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage to the brink of entering into the promise land, it was Joshua that succeeded Moses and actually lead them into the promise land.
The book of Joshua records that entry into the land of milk and honey and the distribution of the land to the twelve tribes of Israel. Joshua was a great leader, one that inspired allegiance and obedience to God all the days he led and even lasting beyond. The scriptures say that, “…Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).
Just prior to his death, Joshua placed a decision before the children of Israel that they would have to make. Joshua had made the decision for himself, now he emphasizes the need for them to make the decision. He said to them, “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). Though we will never stand where the children of Israel were standing; faced with living under the old law of Moses and dwelling in a physical land that was delivered to us by the hand of God, there are four important lessons that we need to glean from this statement by Joshua.
The first lesson we need to note is that we have to make a choice. Regardless of those who spout the doctrines of John Calvin, man does have a choice as whether to serve God or not. How much sense would Joshua’s words make if they really had no choice because God had already determined who would follow Him and who would not? Since man was created and placed on earth, man has had a choice in whether to obey God or not.
When God said to Adam, concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “…thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17), choice was available to man. Just one simple verse in the book of Deuteronomy will serve to present the choice man has had from creation until present and will have until the Lord returns. God said, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19). The specifics of what is required in obeying God for the specific time would change, but the choice has always belonged to man.
The second lesson we need to note is that the choice is an individual choice. Each individual that was addressed by Joshua had the same choice to make. There is no doubt that one’s family can have great influence in the life of an individual and the decisions that individual makes, but in the end, the decision has to be made by the individual himself. Ezekiel said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20). Tradition is a frail and vain support for one’s decision concerning being obedient to God or not. If Saul of Tarsus had followed the traditions of his fathers, he would never have had his sins washed away, for he would never have become a Christian. Our ancestors made the decision concerning what they would believe and follow, and so must we.
The third lesson we need to note is that we need to choose now. Solomon said, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth…” (Ecc. 12:1). Though we may be well past our youth already, the gist of those words is that we need to turn to God at our earliest opportunity. There are three great dangers in procrastination when it comes to obeying God. First, no matter how many people talk about the signs of the times and such, we have no idea whatsoever when the Lord will come again (Matt. 24:36; II Pet. 3:9-10).
Once the Lord has returned, it will be too late to try to obey God. Secondly, we have no idea when we will die. Some get warning that because of some disease they will die shortly, but in general, we do not know when we will die. As the Lord said to that the rich man who was laying up his riches, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee…” (Luke 12:20). Again, once we die, it will be too late to turn to God, the choice has been made. The third danger of procrastination is that one can experience hardness of heart so that they just cannot make the right choice (Heb. 3:13; Eph. 4:19; I Tim. 4:2). We should make a once and for all decision as did Joshua, though each day is another chance to make the right choice.
The fourth and final lesson concerns who we will serve. There are only two options of whom one will serve. When Jesus was questioned by the Jewish leaders concerning His authority, He presented two possibilities, “from heaven or from men” (Matt. 21:25). Those doctrines of men are those that have fallen into the trap of Satan, for the truth is, we will serve the Lord or we are the servants of sin which results in death (Rom. 6:16; John 8:34).
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.