“I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive-yards that you did not plant. ‘Now therefore revere LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River of the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’ Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; … Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.’ But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and swerve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘No we will serve the LORD!’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’ He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.’ The people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.’” Joshua 24:13-16, 18c-24
The grace of God precedes all we/I do, God loves us/me long before we/I love God. We are able to love because God first loved us, we are able to respond to God’s grace because of God’s grace. This passage reminds us through Joshua’s exhortation to the Israelites that God is the subject of worship, not idols because God is the creator, the provider, the giver of life and life support. We/I am to serve God only. Joshua leads his family to do so, he declares publicly they will do so; then Joshua leads the people to declare to do so 3 times in succession (18c, 21b, 24b). Here at the beginning of Holy Week, the home stretch of the Lenten season, is a great time to assess who we/I really serve. Do I really serve God, or a bank account – mine personally or that of the local congregation or some mission or ministry? Am I willing to forego personal desires to feed hungry families by cooking and taking them a meal, or serving at a feeding ministry? Am I more interested in fundraising with no purpose other than to build a bigger balance or to feed, clothe, house, care for those who need? Who do I worship? Who do I listen to? Who are what dictates the desires of my heart and the thoughts in my head? If anyone other than God, then I am allowing myself to be separated from God. O Lord, reveal to me those situations where I am off track, where my focus is unclear, where I have talked myself into something that is not about you, not about making/developing disciples of you, that is not about transformation to Christ likeness.