. . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b

Joshua was old and stricken in years, but before he died he called for all Israel, for their elders and for their judges and for their officers, and he made a long speed to them, rehearsing in their ears all the deeds of wonder and loving kindness which the Lord had wrought, giving them the land flowing with milk and honey.

Moreover, he warned them sternly about ever leav­ing the Lord and going awhoring after other gods, after the gods of the heathen who still dwelled in their midst. He rebuked them sternly and witnessed unto them of the righteous judgment of God that should overtake them if they would turn to other gods and forsake Jehovah God of Israel.

And toward the end, he exclaims within their ears: But for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

It sounds like a challenge! Do what ye will, I am going to heaven, and my house is going with me! At first flush it does not sound like a man who had been commissioned to bring God’s people to the holy land. It seems as though he is using the wrong kind of pe­dagogy.

Listen to him, who is called to be a leader, a spi­ritual leader, of God’s chosen Israel: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

Does it not seem very poor leadership to leave the people, as it were, to the inclination of their own heart? Would it not sound much wiser to say to them: “Don’t you ever dare to serve other gods!

Don’t let me see the semblance of idolatry in your midst!” Would it not work much better to whip them into shape like a dictator?

Oh, but Joshua is not the leader of a political party which must be kept intact by hook or by crook. He is no dictator who will stand or fall, all according to the size of following he may muster for his schemes and plans. Joshua is the great servant of Jehovah and the type of Jesus Christ the Lord!

And the theme of his discourse is religion, the ser­vice of the God of the heavens and of the earth. And I assure you that this makes a tremendous difference.

Religion, the service of God, is entirely a matter of freedom, of liberty, of spontaneous endeavor. There is not an inkling of compulsion in religion. On the great day of the Lord God of Hosts, He will have a people that are very willing and very eager to do His sovereign will. Religion is this: we submerge our will entirely into the will of God. And that will of God is this, namely, that we love Him, know Him and obey Him from the motive of purest love in the heart.

And Israel must learn this. Therefore, Joshua casts the ball their way: Choose ye this day whom ye will serve: either heathen gods and their idols or the Jiving God who brought you from the cruel bondage of Egypt into this blessed land of Canaan.

To serve the Lord!

That is very seemly, that is entirely proper, it is an holy obligation for every man, woman, child, spirit, be he angel or devil. Even the devil has no business to be what he is. All ought to praise the Lord and serve Him in loving fear.

I assure you that we are so hardhearted by na­ture, so foolish and indifferent to the truth, that we are getting used to the most profound truths, and to such an extent that the tremendousness of these truths does not touch us anymore. I have in mind the ground for the proposition I mentioned, the proposition, name­ly, that it is entirely proper, that it is wholly obligatory to serve the Lord God in all our lives, with all our heart, and mind and soul and strength, all the days of our lives.

That ground is this: He is our Creator.

When we hear this we are inclined to say: We know that God is the Creator of all men and that we therefore must serve Him. And then we are inclined to let the matter rest. But that is exactly our failing. We let the matter rest, and hasten to serve ourselves, the lusts of our flesh, the inclinations of our hearts, the cause of humanity, etc. And I assure you that they all are the idols of this horrible age in which we live.

We must serve God for He has made us, He is our Creator.

We think of this truth, if we think of it at all, as if God made us even as a carpenter makes a house. When the man is ready with his work, he walks away. And so also we think often of God who made us. We are all practical deists. Deism, as you may know, is the theory that God is infinitely exalted above His creation, but denying the truth of Holy Scriptures that God is in His creation, that He is pervading the whole universe with His almighty presence and that His glorious Being touches all things at all moments in history.

For remember, God did not walk away after He had made the universe. He made us, and we are, as it were, in the very hollow of His hand. He has made us and He sustains us every moment. Suppose the impossible: if God would take away His almighty and provident Hand from you at any moment, that very moment you would cease to exist. You would simply disappear, fall into nothingness, out of which you are taken. He preserves our being, and He it is that gives us our being now and forever, whether we will arrive in the heavens and be gloriously happy forever, or whether we will weep and gnash our teeth in eternal desolation. God’s omnipotent and omni­present power is around us and will be around us and within us forever. In the whole universe there is not an atom that is not touched by Him. He is so great and glorious that Paul bids us to fear and trem­ble before Him. He is so close to us every day and all the day that we ought to be filled with awe and re­verence forever and ever.

We belong to Him, whether we be good or bad. He made us and keeps us in the hollow of His hand.

We belong to Him for He made us for Himself. The very devil is God’s own property. Satan will find that out at the end of time when God shall cast him into the lake of fire. Nobody even owns himself. We all are His. You cannot even call a mere thought of mind or of the heart your own. The Bible tells us that the thought of the heart and the answer of the tongue is of the Lord.

All that is and breathes is God’s own property, and His good pleasure. That is a truth worth pon­dering.

Do you now see that it is entirely obligatory and proper to serve God?

But there is more.

We ought to serve Him because He is the ruler, the judge and end of all things. Whether you are a heathen or a churchman, a man, woman or child, whether we are good or evil spirits, we all ought to serve God, for we are created for His glory.

The definite, determinate, absolute purpose of this whole universe and its fullness is that it all should be unto the praise of His glory.

That truth is revealed.

Even the brute creation teaches this. God has re­vealed these things through the things that are made. They all shout aloud of this glorious purpose. They tell, nay, they sing a beautiful song regarding the in­visible virtues of God. And singing of them they re­veal His eternal power and Godhead. Paul has told us these things in the first chapter to the Romans. And you find the same truths in the 19th Psalm of David. There also we hear that the created things sing aloud of the glory of the Lord. And the purpose of the song of brute creation is that we should serve Him and thank Him. We shall have no excuse in the day of judgment if we have not served and thanked Him all our lives. Paul tells us that too. The Lord has revealed the invisible virtues of Himself, so that they will be without excuse in the day of judgment.

Think of that when you see the whole world of color, of sound, of form and of the beauties of crea­tion. Think on it when you hear the sounds that pervade the day and the night. It is the song of created things which do sing unconsciously of His praises. And at such times, think on it, that they are the mes­sengers of the Almighty God, telling you, calling un­to you that you should serve Him with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength. That is the purpose of creation.

Moreover, He is the Lord!

And that means that He is the God of His ever­lasting covenant. The name Jehovah means that He has thoughts, eternal thoughts, of everlasting peace, harmony and unutterable loving kindness toward the men of His good pleasure and they are the elect.

He has beautifully revealed Himself as such. He revealed Himself as the covenant God first of all in paradise. And when man broke that covenant from his side, and fell away from all righteousness, becom­ing a friend of the devil, God revealed that He was the Lord in going to paradise and calling out to Adam and Eve who had hid themselves from the face of the Lord, by saying: Adam, where art thou? That call in the morning of history is the second revelation of the covenant Jehovah. For at the same time He killed an animal so that He might clothe the nakedness and shame of sin of His first children, Adam and Eve. This killing of the innocent animal which suffered for the sin of man, was a clear type of the great Lamb of God who was to come, Christ Jesus the Lord.

Yes, the Lord has revealed Himself as the cove­nant Jehovah in that He gave our fathers the sacri­ficial animals, the altar and the priest of the Old Test­ament. Moreover, He spoke time and again to our fathers by the prophets and that speech of God re­garding His eternal covenant of love and friendship is saved for us in the Holy Bible.

Oh yes, you should serve Him for all such love and loving kindness.

As the years rolled by in the Old Testament times, the speech of the covenant God became ever clearer, ever more glorious. Later they saw the tabernacle and the temple of God, telling us that God promised to dwell with us under one roof. They told us of the eternal peace and joy in His communion. Oh yes, God is the covenant God. And Joshua knew of it. When the people of His choice groaned in bondage in cruel Egypt, the Lord remembered His covenant and bowed down to them in sweetest mercy and gave them Moses so that they might be delivered and go to the land of Canaan which they received for an inheritance.

Shall we then not serve Him?

But there is more. And remember that Joshua did not have as much of the revelation of this cove­nant God as you and I have.

He did send His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Lord God caused ,all the sin of His elect Israel to come upon the head of this sacrificial Lamb, and He bore it away, never to return. You sing: Though your sins be as scarlet! I will make them white as wool. And it is well. But remember, the sins of God’s people become like wool and freshly fallen snow, only because Jesus went to hell for us. And as a re­velation of the eternal covenant love of God. So that He might be praised and thanked forever.

Note the greater glory of this second revelation, rather than the first one in Paradise. Adam and Eve glorified God because of His loving kindness to them in the gift of created things. But we thank Him and serve Him for the sake of His wondrous love in Je­sus, who suffered our hell, damnation and the curse, so that we might be to God’s praises forever.

Shall we then not say with Joshua: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord?

I ask you, in the face of such wonderful revela­tion of power, eternal Godhead, love and mercy in Christ, where shall the man and woman appear that turn their evil and stiff neck against the Almighty and taunt Him to His face, saying: Depart from me, O God! I have no pleasure in Thy ways?  Yes, and they say this while they receive life, health, and strength, bread and water, the very air they breathe in their nostrils, from this same God. Can you not justify the Almighty in eternal damnation of the evil and unthankful?

O yes, God is just when He judges. Even Satan will presently admit this.

I think that I have proven to you, that we all ought to serve Him and thank Him and glorify Him forever.

But here is the sad sequel: we are unable to serve Him as we are by nature. Here is the indictment of human nature and I will quote from God’s own mouth: And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. That is the Biblical evaluation of the heart of man, of every man. Such is the case whether you are born in Japan and India, or in America or Europe.

How then could Joshua say: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord!?

Here is the answer: God has made him willing by the operation of His Holy Spirit in his heart and mind, transforming him into a willing child of God. With­out that operation, we remain obstinate and rebellious to God, fill up the measure of wickedness and are lost forever.

But Christ Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit on Pentecost and since then that Spirit is working, labor­ing in order to bring the elect children of God to His eternal Home.

And if you are drawn you will know it. Your name is written in His Word. If you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, if you are weary and heavy laden, if you are a lover of that which is good and comely, such as God’s own virtues of goodness, loving kindness, power and wisdom, then it is a sign that He is calling you Home. Then you will also find within you the resolve of Joshua. Then you will say: What­ever the world may offer, I choose for God and His Kingdom. The fathers that died for their faith in past ages have proved it in blood and tears. But now they sing in glory! They served Him in misery on earth, but now they serve in great happiness above.

Serve Him with fear!                                

G. Vos