And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your grandfathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Apparently Joshua speaks foolishly here. He bids the children of Israel to choose—between Jehovah and the gods of the Amorites. As if Israel would choose anyone but Jehovah. Israel was the Lord’s portion. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness. He had led Israel about, instructed him, kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them upon her wings, so had the Lord alone led Israel. He had made Israel ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields, and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.
And what had not the Lord done before Israel’s very eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto his servants and unto all his land. These great wonders Israel had seen. Then He led them forty years in the desert. Their clothes had not waxed old upon them, and their shoes had not waxed old upon their feet. The Lord had brought His people in the land of Canaan, having driven out from before them all the (people. Thus He had given them a land for which they did not labor, and cities which they builded not, and vineyards and olive yards which they had not planted.
And now they are asked to choose between the Lord who had so marvelously befriended them and these other gods. Preposterous! As if Israel would now respect Jehovah, and choose these other gods. Such a choice would go against all reason, How unutterably foolish and amazingly wicked such a choice would be.
Who are these other gods whom Joshua places over against Jehovah? These other gods are vanity, the creations of the Amorites, the very work of men’s hands, idols with mouths that speak not, with eyes that see not, with ears that hear not, with noses that smell not, with hands that handle not, with feet that walk not.
How utterly absurd and inconceivably wicked to throw Jehovah over for other gods. The people facing Joshua feel and admit this. They say, “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God, He it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in the way. . . .”
Yet the people of themselves cannot will to do otherwise than to conclude that it is evil to serve the Lord and that it is good to serve other gods. Thus God is rejected as a reprobate being. Therefore Joshua said unto the people, “Ye cannot serve the Lord”. . . . But God had chosen Israel and for this reason only Israel chooses Him. How unbelievably foolish and sinful this Israel by nature is. The natural Israel forsook Jehovah. Waxing fat, Jeshurun forsook God which made him. It seemed evil unto them to serve Him. So they sacrificed unto devils, to gods whom they knew not. Of the Rock that begot them they were unmindful, and forgot God that formed them. So did they show themselves up as a froward generation.
“Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” We, too, must choose between Jehovah and other Gods. Will we not choose Him? We, His people, His portion? He found us dead through trespasses and sin, guilty, ill-deserving, condemnable, walking according to the course of the world, in spiritual bondage, a slave to sin, having our conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, by nature children of wrath. But He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as He chose us before the foundation of the world.
How rich in mercy He is. How great His love wherewith He loved us. Even when we were dead in sins hath He quickened us together with Christ and hath raised us up together and made us sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.
How He befriended His people. There is that inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven; that blessed state defined in Scripture as life eternal, a life with Him on the new earth, peopled by the redeemed race with whom the tabernacle of God will be.
The Israel addressed by Joshua was in Canaan, had entered the (typical) rest that remaineth for the people of God. The true land of rest is heaven, entered by Christ, the true Joshua. Having ceased from His own works, He entered His rest with His people. From the point of view of right, according to their state, this people is in heaven as well as the Israel addressed by the typical Joshua. We, too, can say that the victory has been won, that the enemy has been driven out from before us, that we have received a land for which we did not labor, cities which we build not, vineyards and olive yards which we did not plant.
True, we are still on earth, in the desert. But how tender His care over us. Is He not leading us about, instructing us, keeping us as the apple of His eye, bearing us upon His wings, making us to ride upon the high places of the earth? What a marvelous display of fathomless love!
Today, the true Joshua, Christ Jesus, speaketh to His people: Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods of this world, the gods of the Amorites in whose land we dwell.
Choose we must and choose we do between Him and other gods. We know what our choice ought to be. As Israel of old we say: “God forbid we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God He it is that brought us up out of the land of Egypt. . . .”
What is our choice? By ourselves we forsake Him and choose other gods. Herein it appears how unspeakably foolish, and amazingly wicked we are by nature. For we belong to Him; and the gods of this world are vanity, the vile creations of man, destitute of power, wisdom, might, mercy. Yet if left to ourselves, we prostrate ourselves before the gods of this world, sacrifice to devils, and of the Rock that begot us, we are unmindful.
What a choice! How evident that He had to do more than make possible our salvation. How evident that He must actually save us. How evident that the greatest possible display of divine mercy and righteousness can awaken not the slightest response in the sinner’s heart if that heart be not renewed.
We choose Him because He chose us and in and through us chooses Himself.
“Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve.” That He is the author of our good choice, that we choose as His instruments, does not remove the necessity of our choosing, nor renders our choosing superfluous. Man’s life is a perpetual choosing between good and evil, though it be true that the natural man can do nothing but will to choose the wrong, will to choose the gods of this world. Choosing is an action of the rational moral creature and sets man off from his fellow creatures as a responsible being.
God wills to be served only as a being chosen by His worshippers, chosen in distinction from darkness, from the lie, from gods that are no gods, from gods that constitute the dark and horrible reverse of His own blessed self. Therefore He not only places His blessed self within the range of our vision, but also confronts His people with the dark reverse of His adorable self, namely, the devils at whose shrine the world worships, and He bids us to compare, to appraise, to choose, to decide whether it is evil to serve Him. And in choosing Him we declare that we loathe darkness, hate sin, and love Him, as a being blessed forever.
That we are always under the necessity of choosing between God and Mammon, truth and the lie, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, heaven and hell,—means that life is an unbroken test trial. But in this trial we are kept by His power through faith.
“Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” ‘If Baal is god, if it seemeth good to thee to serve him, choose him.’ Such is the force of Joshua’s words. There was a reason for this exhortation. There are men who apparently do not choose, the double-hearted, two-faced persons, who think it possible to serve Jehovah and Baal at once. Instead of either choosing God or Baal, they choose both God and Baal. Instead of saying that either Baal or Jehovah is God, they say that Baal as well as Jehovah is God. They are people with two hearts, one heart for Baal, one heart for God, people with two faces, one face smiling upon Jehovah, the other smiling upon Baal. So it is apparently. In reality such men have but one heart—a heart going out to Baal. In reality there is but one face to these personages, a face smiling upon Baal.
It is quite impossible to love and be friendly with both God and Baal. The two are opposites from every point of view. God is light, Baal is darkness. The former is the inclusion of all that is lovely. The latter is the extension of the vile and corrupt creature. Friendship for Baal is therefore enmity toward God. One must choose therefore and in choosing one or the other every second of his existence.
He apparently friendly with both is choosing for Baal. This Joshua well understood. What he therefore exhorts the double-hearted in his audience to do is to come out into the open, and make a public choice, openly array themselves either on the side of Baal or on the side of God.
Let them compare, appraise, and reach definite conclusions, and take a definite stand. If Baal is god, let them serve him.
Let them declare him to be a being adorable and therefore worthy of their devotion.
Joshua’s exhortation, one feels, is holy sarcasm. Baal is no god. To choose him is to do the absurd, the unreasonable, the frightfully wicked thing. For Jehovah is God.