“A Call For Commitment”
Commitment is one of those words we throw around but often times do not stop to consider the cost. Jesus told a set of parables that illustrate this point. A man will not set out to build a house unless he first makes sure that he will be able to afford to complete it, and a king will not declare war on another king unless he is sure he will be able to defeat him. Commitment costs us something.
The same is true about Christianity, about our commitment to God. Many professing Christians fail to consider how costly their relationship to God will be. They think that commitment is simply walking the aisle and getting saved, but my friend, that is only God’s commitment to us. Our commitment to Him is lived out for the rest of our lives after we leave the church building. This morning Joshua is going to call the Israelite people to a commitment to God and it will cost them the pet sins that have crept into their lives over the years.
I. The Cost of Commitment (vv. 14-18)
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, 17 for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
- (v. 14) “Now therefore fear the LORD” in light of all that God has done, and God has just spoken through Joshua reminding them of all that He had done for them. To “Fear the Lord,” is to treat him the way he deserves and requires that we treat him. When we were younger we loved, depended on, respected, and feared our parents. We know that if we stepped out of line or disobeyed then there would punishment.
- “And serve him with all faithfulness.” Joshua says you know that God loves you, because he just went through a brief history of the Israelite people. Now in light of this love serve him. But notice that fear comes before service.
- When we serve first, without fear, then it is done to make us feel good, or to make us look good, or for any other reason then to bring glory to God. But when fear comes first, we serve out of love, a humbleness of who we are before a mighty God, we serve out of a thankful heart.
- “Put away the gods,” or “Throw away the gods” – In the minds of the people, these gods were much like the Greek and Roman gods: very petty in their jealousies, childish in action. They would fight and kill one another only to be resurrected again. The religion appealed to the Hebrews because it was very materialistic. “Fulfill my needs,” they said. “Give me pleasure.”
- “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” –To serve comes from the Hebrew word “avath” which means “to be a bondservant.” A bondservant was a person who placed himself in service to another man. He gave himself as a slave to that man because of a debt he owed him or because he was too poor to support himself or his family.
- Hebrew law said that after six years, the slave was to be set free, but if he said, “I love my master, and I will not go free,” he was to be taken to the door of the temple where he would receive the mark of a bondslave, an awl would be driven through his earlobe, and he would serve the master forever.
- “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” – “No irresolution, no more debate, no more discussion; I am determined. I am resolved. I have decided, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
- A person can not be in-between. He’s either dead or he’s alive. He’s saved or he’s lost. He’s justified or he’s condemned. We’re with God or we’re against Him. Jesus said that: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30). We’re either one or the other.
- You either give yourself as a bondservant to God by faith in Jesus Christ or you give yourself as a bondservant to the rulers of this world, the powers of darkness, Satan himself. There is no neutral zone. You cannot serve “no one.” You cannot serve “both”. You must choose to whom you will give your allegiance.
- Matthew 10:32-33 “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
- Romans 10:9-10 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
- There are two ways that you can not follow the Lord – First, you simply decide not to choose at all. All you want to do is to live for yourself. But to live for yourself is to take yourself outside of God’s grace and to place yourself in Satan’s realm. Second, you decide to grab all of life that you can. Enjoy yourself. Eat, drink, and be merry. But know that the rest of that sentence says, “for tomorrow we die.”
- That’s the bad part of serving Satan. One day your life will end and where all delusions and lies of the world end up. The Bible says that those who follow after the things of this world will find themselves spending eternity in Hell. That is a hefty and costly commitment. Our commitments cost us something.
- Notice also in “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” He does not give his family a choice. He does not say “Hey kids do you want to go to church today, or do you want to help at this church event, or do you want to be apart of this program?” He says we will serve the Lord.
- Duet. 6 “as you go . . .” encourages us to take them with us as we seek to serve the Lord, and develop this relationship in the context of love for the Lord. I believe that a family that serves the Lord together is just as powerful and meaningful as sitting in a stadium or going fishing. A mother and daughter helping another family, or making cookies for a neighbor is just a powerful if not more than going to the mall shopping. Serving God does not have to be independent of family time – make service family time.
II. The Choice of Commitment (vv. 19-21)
“But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.”
- The reason “You are not able to serve the LORD” is because you cannot serve God and the world at the same time. Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
- With regard to prayer James 1:6-8 says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” We cannot serve God because we are double-minded.”
- When we seek to live for ourselves and follow the ways of the world; then we are committed to the world. Service to God then becomes trifle and meaningless. We are also seeking to serve God “in the flesh” or doing it in our own strength. Instead of being guided by the Holy Spirit’s wisdom we are guided by what seems right to us at the time.
- “He is a holy God”– He is unapproachable in His being set apart and different from mankind. He alone is sovereign, He alone is perfect, He alone is all knowing, and ever present. Because of these things He alone is worthy to be praised and worshipped. When anyone worships another other than God, His response is one of jealousy. God’s jealousy is just because He alone is God.
- “He will not forgive your transgressions(rebellion) and your sins.” – We should not always count on forgiveness of sin as being an option. The fact that we are forgiven is due to the miracle of grace. There is always punishment of sin by a holy God. His wrath and jealously must be poured out on someone, someone must pay the price of the people’s rebellion and sin. God in being a faithful and just God cannot wink or ignore sin.
III. The Consecrated Life in Commitment (vv. 22-27)
“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.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for zit has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.”
- The whole context of this passage is that the nation of Israel is confirming their covenant with God, so the dialogue takes on the feel of legal proceedings. In this legal context witnesses are called to witness the agreement between two parties.
- They would never forget the solemnest of this day; but, if hereafter they should break this covenant, he assures them that the professions and promises they had now made would certainly rise up in judgment against them and condemn them; and they agreed to it: “We are witnesses; let us be judged out of our own mouths if ever we be false to our God.”
- “Then Joshua said to the people,” – “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD” – In light of this supposed commitment, and a saying that they followed the Lord, Joshua commands them to throw away gods still in their possession.
- There must always be a calling to commitment and a purging of sin from the family and home because it constantly creeps in. Sin seeks to imperceptibly slow and make it’s way into the heart.
- You take an action further that you have ever gone before, you watch something longer than you know you should, but the next time you watch it longer. Influences that may have bothered you a year ago have become a way of life.
- Where did these people get the gods or idols? v. 15 “whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living” They got them from their parents who got them from their parents. In other words the family tradition that is passed down is one of hidden sin and rebellion not of righteousness and right living. The legacy is one of sin and not faith. Is there anything that goes on in your family that is not glorifying to God that you learned from your parents and that you are passing down to your children?
- They also get these gods from those whom they have conquered! The Israelites had won victory after victory but they were also exposed to these people. It is in this exposure that they begin to take on the characteristics of the enemy. Mainly, their gods. It was God who gave them the victory, but they are secretly bowing to other gods. We must be an influence in the world, not allowing the world to influence us!
- It is entirely possible that where Joshua sets up this memorial under the oak that it is the same spot where Abraham had worshipped (Gen 12:6), and at the root of which Jacob buried the idols and charms found in his family (Gen 35:4: cf. Josh 12:4, Allon-moreh, oak of Moreh or Shechem).
- It is time not to dig up the idols of the past, but to dig another hole and bury more idols next to it. We need to come back to a place in our lives where we evaluate whether something has crept into our lives that does not please the Lord.
- There has to be a time in every generation where the people say I renounce the false gods (even of my father) and choose to follow the One True God. As Joshua is about to die, he demands a commitment from the next generation to follow God wholeheartedly. There will be a time, as this aged father knows, when the next generation has to step up and make a commitment. He is about to die, and someone will have to be the leader. Joshua is about to go the way of all men, who would stand for God in the tribes as they go on their ways?
- When we make a commitment that engages the whole person, heart, mind and soul, then we will never forget it. I remember the classroom where a pastor led me to the Lord, the baptismal pool that I was baptized in, and the first Bible that I truly studied until it fell apart so that is was unusable anymore. You remember the places of the commitments because of the cost of commitment.
- When we make steps of commitment toward God we don’t forget about it. Shechem would be a special place for these people, because it was there that they renewed their commitment to the Lord. The rocks and geographical features of the landscape would remind them of their commitment.
- Why have this public display and call to commitment, why not just send them off to claim their promised land? When people are at rest and they have no battles to fight, when they have no armies on the horizon, or enemies to their rear, they forget God. They forget all that God has done for them and it this relationship with Him is the reason that they are safe and at peace.
- As the Israelites are going to a land of peace and rest, Joshua wants to give them one last reminder and encourages them to re-commit to the Lord. If they turn from God, it will not be long before all the work and battles they had fought for, would be taken away by the enemy and God would allow it to happen in judgment.
- Let us have the wholehearted commitment to the Lord as Caleb and the resoluteness to stand for Him as Joshua.
 (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
 (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)