Sermon on Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Text: Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
2 Joshua said to all the people, 14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”
“I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” These are familiar words that you have probably spoken many different times. However, how often do we think what these words mean? With these words, we are committing ourselves to be true to our country. We will support her. We will protect her. We will remain true to our country. This morning, we want to look at another pledge that was, first of all, made by an individual and, later, by an entire nation. It is a pledge that we, as Christians, also make. Let’s look at THE CHRISTIAN’S PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. 1. The LORD Pledges Himself To Us. 2. We Renew Our Pledge To Him.
Our text is found in the closing chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua, as he nears the end of his life, calls the nation of Israel to himself for some closing words and encouragement. As he does so, he lays before them a choice that had to be made. He said, “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.” (Verses 14-15) There were two choices that he laid out for the people. They could either choose to serve the LORD or the gods of the peoples around them, as well as the gods that their ancestors worshiped.
However, Joshua didn’t want the people to make a knee-jerk choice. In verses 3-13 of Joshua 24, we have recounted the history of the people of Israel, going back to the calling of Abraham from the land of Ur. He had brought Abraham to the land of Canaan and promised that, one day, it would belong to his descendants. This promise was repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Then, Joshua recalled their captivity in Egypt. God had rescued them for that land of slavery and had wiped out the Egyptian army. God had protected them throughout their forty years in the wilderness. The nation had finally reached the promised land and, as you read through the book of Joshua, God had driven out all of the people that were living there, in fulfillment of his promises. The LORD had been faithful to them by defeating all of their enemies. Now, they were living in the land of promise in peace. Now, the people were asked whom they would serve. They could serve the gods of all of the nations around them, who had done nothing for them, or they could serve the LORD, who had given them everything. These were the facts. Now, they were to make their decision. To whom would they pledge their allegiance?
So, also, today, as we make our pledge of allegiance, let’s look at the facts. We don’t want this to be a knee-jerk or an emotional pledge. Let’s, first of all, look at what the LORD has done for us. Just as the LORD chose Abraham to be the forefather of the nation of Israel, the LORD has chosen us. What makes the choosing of the LORD so amazing is when he chose us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4, “[God] chose us . . . before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Before you or I had a chance to do anything, God chose us to be his own. It wasn’t because of some merit or worthiness on our part. In his love, God chose us. Because sin entered the world, we are born sinful. In addition to our natural sinfulness, we have sinned against our God in our thoughts, words, and actions. This fact would have excluded us from God’s kingdom, because only those who are perfect are allowed to enter. As a result, the Father sent his Son to be our Rescuer. He defeated the enemies that had enslaved us. Jesus did this by coming to the earth to live a perfect life. He did what we could not do. Then, in a bloody battle on the cross, Jesus defeated sin. The Father punished him for all of the sins that we have ever committed. Because those sins have been taken away, we have the perfection that God requires for entrance into his kingdom. Because of Jesus’ victory on the cross, the devil’s grip on us was broken. No longer can he accuse us of a single sin, because they have all been paid for. When Jesus rose from the grave, death was defeated, as well. We know that, because Jesus has risen from the dead, we also will rise from the dead. Just as the LORD gave the people of Israel the Promised Land and settled them there, we also have a Promised Land that is waiting for us, namely, heaven. This is what the LORD has done for us. Here we have one choice as to whom we will give our allegiance.
On the other hand, there are the gods of this world. A god that is served is anything that we devote our time, attention, and resources to. What are they? They come in many forms. It might be the leisure time that we dedicate ourselves to. It could be wealth. It could be the many pleasures that the world offers. Note that there may be nothing wrong with many of these things. However, what place do they have in our lives? If they have become more important to us than anything else, they are a god for us. So, whom are we going to pledge our allegiance to: the gods of the world around us, who have done nothing for us, or to the LORD who had done everything for us?
The choice is obvious, isn’t it? It was obvious to Joshua. After he laid out the choices for the people, he made a personal pledge of allegiance in verse 15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Whatever choice the people made was not going to be a deciding factor in his decision. Looking at all that the LORD had done for him, it only made sense to pledge his allegiance to the LORD.
The people of Israel responded to the choices that Joshua laid out before them by saying, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!” (Verse 16) They couldn’t imagine following after other gods in light of all that the LORD had done for them. It didn’t make sense! They concluded by echoing Joshua’s pledge with a pledge of their own. “We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” (Verse 18) It’s worth noting that this was not always the case with the Israelites. Joshua points out that their ancestors had worshiped false gods in Ur and Egypt. We recall the golden calf that the people of Israel worshiped while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. In addition, the gods of the nations that surrounded them pandered to the base desires of sinful man. There would be a great temptation to follow those gods. However, on that day, the people of Israel rededicated themselves to following the LORD. It was time for a new start. They pledged their allegiance to the LORD.
So, also, we, in the light of all that the LORD has done for us, want to make our pledge of allegiance to the LORD. Obviously, we haven’t always done this. We know how many times we have sinned in the past. Yet, because the LORD has rescued us and made us his own, we want to pledge our lives to him. However, this doesn’t mean that the gods of this world will stop their siren song. Think of all the things that clamor for our attention. There are, of course, those things that are clearly sinful. The world calls to us and says that doing them is far more fun than doing it God’s way. They promise that this is true happiness, but they offer empty promises. However, there are many things that can be good, which are often turned into gods. God has given us the gift of rest and leisure. It is good to take a break occasionally. Yet, when our rest turns into laziness, it becomes our god, because God has said that we must work, as well. When our leisure time becomes our excuse for not spending time with God, that has become our god. Work can become our god when we spend all of our time at it at the expense of our families. Our families are blessings from the Lord. However, when we overlook something that is a sin that they are doing, that person has become our god. Ultimately, whatever occupies the most important position in our lives becomes our god. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:31, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” My dear friends, let us rededicate ourselves to the LORD. When we see what he has done for us, it is only natural that we will want to follow the LORD.
There is one final phrase that I would like to call to your attention. Joshua said to the people, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” The decision to follow the LORD was not to be put off until a more convenient time. Today was the day to make the decision. May we feel that same urgency, as well. It is a trick of the devil that tells us that we can always decide to follow the LORD later. Right now, we are having too much fun. Then, the gods of this age take a seat in our hearts and push God to the side. Even though the Israelites made this wonderful pledge that day, over the years, they forgot all about it. If you read through the rest of the Old Testament, you find the Israelites failing to keep their pledge and running after all of the false gods of the peoples around them. May we, this day and every day, continue to rededicate ourselves to following the LORD.
Every once in awhile, you will run across a news story saying that this school or that school is removing the Pledge of Allegiance from their classrooms. They don’t want to offend anyone. They may offer a moment of reflection in its place or they will just omit it altogether. When many people hear about this, their sense of patriotism is offended. They ask, ‘Who would refuse to pledge allegiance to the United States in light of all of the liberties and blessings that are enjoyed here?’ It is true that we do enjoy great blessings and liberties in our country. For that reason, it makes sense that we will do our best to protect and support her. However, as wonderful as the blessings and liberties that we enjoy in our country are, they pale in comparison with the blessings and freedoms that the LORD has given to us. The LORD has been faithful to us in the past. He will continue to be faithful to us in the future. We pledge our allegiance to him. May we, every day, renew our pledge to be faithful to him. What a wonderful way to start our day using the words of Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” May the LORD help us to this end. Amen.
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