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Sunday, March 10, 2019

posted Mar 10, 2019, 7:35 PM by Site Administrator

WE WILL SERVE THE LORD

 

Joshua 22:1-24:33

Key Verse 24:15

 

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

 

First, Be very careful to keep the commandment(22:1-34). In chapter 22, we see Joshua sending the Trans-Jordan tribes back home. He said to them, You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. They were the very ones who fought the battle ahead of others all the time. Now they had completed their mission successfully and won the victory. How satisfied they were! Now, at the commendation of the General Joshua, how happy they were! Their commander-in-chief acknowledged their loyalty, faithfulness and fighting spirit! At this, many of them shed tears of thanks and joy. All hardships and difficulties they had encountered in serving the mission flashed through their minds – before, these memories were painful, but now as their mission was over successfully, they became beautiful memories in their hearts that they would talk about over and over. As they fought the Lords battle wholeheartedly, so now each one of them had so many great and glorious stories to talk about, which only God and each of them knew – how they fought the enemies who were on the iron chariots; how they defeated them on one on one battle by the power of God. When we finish our battle successfully and stand before our Lord Jesus Christ, we will be happy and satisfied; he will say to us, Well done, good and faithful servants!

 

Look at verse 5. Lets read this verse together:

 

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.

 

So far, during the conquest, they had been doing very well, serving God wholeheartedly. As a result, they were mighty warriors in God. No enemy could withstand them. They were very successful and prosperous. Now the war was over, and they would be in peace and prosperity. Joshua fully acknowledged how these Trans-Jordan tribes had served God wholeheartedly, but he still issued this direction so that they might love God and serve Him wholeheartedly all the more. What should they do to keep loyalty to God? Joshua said, Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you. The secret of keeping our loyalty to God continually even in the time of peace and prosperity is to carefully keep Gods commandment, striving all the more to live according to Gods will and purpose. 

 

In verse 5, Joshua defines what it means to keep Gods commandment in five different ways: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul. In the time of prosperity and blessing, there may be many things they could love - maybe, 80 inch big screen TV, or MercedesBenz, or Porsche sports cars, or their PhD degree, or peoples recognition; or a mansion in Beverly Hills. At that time, how could they keep Gods commandment? By loving God alone, by giving their hearts to God alone! Joshuas understanding of keeping the commandment and the law is really different from that of many Christians today. Many people say, In the New Testament, we are free from the law. They consider the laws of God something very bad and they try to avoid them as long as possible. But to Joshua, keeping the commandment and the law meant to love God. Loving God is Gods commandment. Those who love God keep the commandment, but those who do not love God do not keep it. Jesus says, Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (Jn 14:21) He also says, If you love me, you will obey what I command. (Jn 14:15) Today, be very careful to keep the commandment and the law.

 

During the time of the conquest, they carefully walked in the ways of God, following his instructions, because it was the matter of life and death. But now when there was no challenge or no danger, it would be very easy for them to take everything easy and do things in their own ways, according to their own desires and convenience. In that situation, what does it mean to keep Gods commandment? It means to walk in Gods ways, doing all things in the way God desires - in the matter of choosing a major, or career; in the matter of marriage, in the matter of business, in all things. Surely, walking in Gods ways or obeying Gods commands requires a lot of struggle; it is the life of walking in the narrow path - no compromise. Maybe, they had to deny their own desires and plans, and even do what they do not want to do. But thats how they would keep Gods commandment, living according to Gods will and purpose and enjoy Gods blessing continually.

 

Keeping Gods commandment also means to hold fast to the LORD. This expression means to grab on him firmly that you are not taken away from him. When a tornado attacks you, sucking up everything into the air, while both of your feet are already in the air, what should you do? You must hold fast to something that is firmly secured on the ground wholeheartedly as the matter of life and death. During the conquest, they held fast to the LORD literally as the matter of life and death; they wholeheartedly held fast to him so that they might win and conquer the land. But now in the time of peace and prosperity, while things went well, it was very easy to lower their guard. Then, when temptations came, or some challenges came, they would be blown away and not found in God any longer. Thats why it was really essential for them to hold fast to the Lord with a hearts complete determination to choose God and remain in himActually, this was the very expression Moses used in his final message to the Israelites right before they entered the promised land. During 40 years training in the desert, they didnt have that much distraction. But then, as they entered the promised land and began to enjoy so many desirable things, it was very easy to be distracted and side-tracked and thereby, taken away from God. What should they do to overcome this danger in the promised land? Moses said to them in Deuteronomy 10:20, Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. In Deuteronomy 11:22, he sums up all the commandments, saying, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him... He again says in Deuteronomy 13:14, serve him and hold fast to him. Finally he says in Deuteronomy 30:20, you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. This was the instruction Moses gave them with such an anguished heart and earnestness so that they might not be blown away, but remain in God and enjoy Gods blessing continually in the promised land. And now Joshua delivered the same message using this expression two times - in 22:5, and in 23:8. Hold fast to the Lord so that you may remain in God and enjoy his blessing in the promised land, in the time of Gods blessing. Indeed, Joshua was Moses disciple. Keeping the commandment of God means to hold fast to the LORD so that you may not be blown away by temptations or difficulties, but remain in him to the end and enjoy Gods blessing continually.

 

Keeping Gods commandment means also to serve God with all our heart and all our souls. Some people think that they are serving God because they do what they should do as Christians - they do basic duties as believers such as going to church once a week, occasionally read the Bible, or bring offerings to church. But doing basic duties of Christians does not mean that you serve God. Doing some basic obligations or duties does not mean that you keep Gods commandment. No one can serve God in that way. Only when we serve God with all our heart and soul, when we serve God wholeheartedly, canwe really serve God, and thats how we can keep Gods commandment.

 

Look at verse 8. Joshua blessed them, saying, Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies. As they served Gods conquest wholeheartedly, now the time of enjoying wealth and prosperity had come. They became rich and successful. How happy and excited they would be when they divided the plunder with their brothers and sisters. One for you, one for me. This diamond ring is for you, and this ruby bracelet is for me. They would divide expensive and precious jewels and articles of gold and silver, which they had not worked for, as if they were theirs. What a great thing it is to divide the plunder which you have not worked for. Jesus says, I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30) We must believe that God blesses us even materially when we love him and serve him wholeheartedly.

 

Joshua 22:9-34 talks about an episode that shows the zeal of the Israelites for God. The Trans-Jordan tribes left Shiloh to return to their own home, Gilead on the east side of the Jordan, but before they crossed the Jordan River, they built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. When the Israelites heard about this, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them, thinking that the Trans-Jordan tribes rebelled against God. They were ready to fight against their own people, if it was for God. In this way, they valued their relationship with God above their relationship with their brothers. Later, when they found that the Trans-Jordan tribes did so because of their desire for God, they were glad and praised God. The Trans-Jordan tribes built the altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as the replica of the Lords altar as a witness.

 

Second, So be very careful to love the Lord your God(23:1-16). Chapter 23 is Joshuas farewell message for the leaders of Israel. When Joshua was very old, he summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and gave this message. In verses 3 through 5, Joshua talked about what God had done for them – how God had fought for them and given them the land – and what God would do for them – he would drive out the nations among them. He said, The Lord your God himself will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land. The Israelites served the conquest in the land of Canaan, but they were not able to destroy all of their enemies, because of their lack of faith, or lack of fighting spirit, or zeal to complete the task. Despite their struggle, the conquest was only half-done. But if they remained true to God continually, God would do the rest of the job and complete the task. God would drive the enemies out and give the land to the Israelites as he had promised. So, in view of this hope in God, what should they do? Look at verses 6 through 8. Lets read these verses together:

 

6Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.

 

Through his life of faith for the past 100 years, Joshua learned a very important lesson. He learned that when they trusted in God and remained faithful to God, they were strong and powerful. One of them routed a thousand because the Lord fought for them. But when they rebelled against God, they could not stand at all; they were weak, and powerless, and even God was against them. He really learned that his nationfuture was totally up to their attitude toward God. Moses learned this long time ago, and right before his death, he shouted to the Israelites, See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live,… (Deut 30:15-20) 

 

So, in the same way, with such an anguished heart, Joshua told them, Be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning to the right or to the left.

 

God set before us life and death, blessings and curses. Which one will you choose? When you remain true to God, you will enjoy life and prosperity, but when you become untrue to God, you will suffer. The history of Israel proves this; so many Christians whose lives have been devastated prove this. Many Christian families are broken. Many Christians live in great sorrow and pain. They cry on someones shoulder, saying, I dont know why my life is so hard. It is Gods will to bless us. But why such terrible things happen in the lives of many church-going people? Why are their lives so miserable? It is because they have not been careful to obey Gods commandment. As Gods people, life and death, curses and blessings are set before us. If we are very careful to obey God, we will enjoy life and blessing. Choose life and blessings! 

 

In verse 11, Joshua also shouts, So be very careful to love the Lord your God. Usually, people think that the Old Testament talks about keeping the Law. But when we study the Old Testament, we see that Moses and Joshua keep talking about loving God. Moses received the Law and gave it to the Israelites, but he was not legalistic. He loved God and enjoyed Gods love. He kept encouraging people to love God: Deuteronomy 6:5 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 30:20 – You may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. Joshua also says, So be very careful to love the Lord your God. Those who love God really obey his command. The Israel people tried to live as Gods people by keeping the laws, but when they did not struggle to love God, they became only legalistic, and thus, failed to become children of God; instead, they became children of the devil who killed the Holy Son of God to the cross. Modern day, Christians do not make efforts to love God; instead, they think that they become children of God by simply saying, I believe in Jesus. At least, the Israel people tried hard, but modern Christians even do not try to seek God that muchIn order to love God, we must be very careful, because the minute we relax, we end up loving something else or someone else rather than God. There are so many good looking, or attractive looking things in the world. Sin looks very attractive. Many students love computer gamesspending tons of time, but they are very reluctant to spend even one hour a week for Bible study. People love sports; they love basketball or football more than God. So at the sacrifice of worship service, they play sports or watch sports games. Many people love their dreams and future plans. Many people love money or pleasures. In this confusing world, we must be very careful so that we may really love God, not something or someone elseWe must make all possible efforts to love God. Joshua commands us, So be very careful to love the Lord your God.

 

Third, We will serve the Lord (24:1-33). In chapter 24, verses 2 through 13, Joshua delivers Gods message to the Israelites. Before, the Israelites lived as slaves worshiping idols – such a life of slavery and idol-worship was meaningless and worthless, but God saved them from such a miserable life and brought them into the freedom of God. Moreover, God brought them into a land on which they did not toil and cities they did not build; and they lived in them and ate from vineyards and olive groves that they did not plant. Surely, Gods grace upon them was marvelous. When we read Gods message in this passage carefully, which Joshua delivered to the Israelites, we can see that God did not mention about anything else, but just what He had done for them – simply, God wanted them to remember what He had done for them, what marvelous grace He had shown on them. When they remembered this grace of God, they would love and thank God deeply

 

Now, based on this, Joshua instructed them what to do. Look at verses 14 and 15. Lets read these verses together:

 

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the 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 forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

 

Joshua challenged them to make their hearts determination utmost clear – either choose to serve God, or serve the idols. Many people experience Gods marvelous grace; they even shed tears; but they live their life without making their hearts concrete decision to serve God and worship Him only; as a result, despite Gods marvelous grace, they do not have any steadfast commitment to God, and thereby, they never grow up as mature Christians; even after attending church for 10 years or 20 years, there is no true or fundamental change in their life. Instead, as challenges rise and temptations come, they easily forget what God has done for them, and even they become sinful and worldly. Without making a hearts concrete decision to serve God only, no one can live as real Christians; simply, people receive Gods grace in vain; it is the matter of time they are blown away from God. Joshua challenged them to choose either to serve God or serve idols. 

 

Idol worship is mans struggle to find happiness and prosperity through something else rather than God. In the ancient times, people expected that these idols would bring them the sense of security, happiness and success. Now people look for the sense of security, happiness and success in money, career, and fame; these people do not worship God, but give their hearts to these things. They are idol worshipers. We should not be idol worshipers, but worshipers of God. As we have experienced Gods grace personally, now is the time we must make our hearts complete determination to serve God and worship Him only.

 

Joshua said to them, But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. No matter how others would do, Joshua was determined that he would serve God alone. Even if the trend in our society is idol-worship, I will serve the Lord. Even the whole world may go upside down, we will serve the Lord.

 

Look at verses 16 through 18. At this challenge of Joshua, the Israel people shouted, saying, Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!... They remembered what God had done for them – how God saved them from the life of slavery, and how God fought for them and gave them the promised land. Based on this, they said to Joshua, We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.

 

How did Joshua respond to their decision? Did he say, You have made a good decision? No. Instead, he said, You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God… What he meant was, I dont think you can serve him, because he is holy and you are not holy. He showed them that serving God would not be done with just a lip service; instead, in order to serve God, they had to make practical efforts to be holy by removing all the idols from them. Serving God is not the matter of offering a lip service, saying, I love the Lord. I believe in Jesus. Instead, practically, we must remove all idols from our hearts and life and turn to God. We must practically make our hearts determination that we will not seek the sense of security, sense of success and fulfillment in a career, money, or in marriage, but in God; God should be our security; God should be the meaning and purpose of our life; thats how we can serve God, not just a lip service alone. At this challenge, the people shouted all the more, saying, No! We will serve the Lord. Then, Joshua said to them, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord. They replied, Yes, we are witnesses. Look at verses 23 and 24. Lets read these verses together:

 

23Now then, said Joshua, throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel. 24And the people said to Joshua, We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.

 

Making hearts determination cannot be done with lip service alone, but with practical turning of their life to God. In order to serve God, they must throw away other idols from their hearts and lives. At this challenge, they were fully determined that they would serve God alone. On that day, Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. He took a large stone and set it up there as a witness. Then, Joshua sent them away, each to his own inheritance. In helping them make their hearts decision to serve God, he had them make their confession of faith three times; they shouted, We will serve the Lord three times - in verses 18, 21, 24. This reminds us of how Jesus helped the apostle Peter make his confession of love three times. Through making their confession of faith three times openly, they were indeed determined to serve the Lord alone; they were really determined to remove all the foreign gods that were among them and to give their hearts to God alone. Thanks to Joshuas help, they remained faithful to the Lord all the days of their life, until that whole generation died.

 

Verses 28 through 33 is the epilogue of the book of Joshua. Here, in the last passage of the book, we see the scene of the death of three people – Joshua, Eleaser, and Joseph. Other people died and were buried in the desert because of their disobedience and rebellion against God, but Joshua and Eleazer died and were buried in the Promised Land because they followed their God wholeheartedly. Their lives were fully dedicated to God, and as a result, their end was meaningful and inspirational. Joseph also lived in the hope of the Promised Land, so he was buried in the Promised Land. 

 

The last scene of these three men teaches us how we must live our lives here on earth. All men die, but how we die shows how we have lived, and each person is responsible for it. Then, which way is the true way of life we should live? How should we live our life? The life of following God wholeheartedly like Joshua, like Caleb. We must live our life that is fully dedicated to God – thats the way of truly successful life. We must live the life of serving God wholeheartedly putting our hope in the kingdom of God! This day, choose for yourselves whom you will serve! Choose God, choose life and blessings for yourselves!

 

One Word:Be Very Careful To Love The Lord Your God

 

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